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Awesome Miami: Making Miami More Awesome One Grant at a Time

A few weeks ago, we introduced you to the awesomeness that is Framing it Up. We thought the idea was great and the fact that it was funded so simply by the Awesome Foundation was even greater! Just in case you wanted a bit more information before tossing your creative hat in the ring, here’s a closer look at the Miami chapter of the Awesome Foundation.
awesome miami, awesome miami logo, awesome foundationLaunched in January 2013, Awesome Miami seeks to supply innovative individuals and groups with the funds they need to pursue ventures within the realms of technology, education, art, social media, and anything else you might think of.

Awesome Miami dean Natalia Martinez says the ideas pitched to their chapter could only be thought up in Miami.

“The Awesome Foundation is a very decentralized framework. Any chapter will be different from another,” Martinez said. She along with fellow trustees, sift through ideas and decide which ideas get funded.

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Martinez knows how long and complicated requesting money can be. One purpose of the foundation is to streamline this. She wants the point of access for grants to be much simpler. Many people have great ideas but are completely overwhelmed by the grant writing process, Martinez said.

“Overall, the goal of the Miami chapter is to minimize the barrier of entry for the average person hoping to fund a project,” said Martinez.

The $1000 is an intentionally small amount. Awesome Foundation trustee Christina Xu explains founder Tim Hwang’s reasoning at a 2011 TEDxBoston event. Hwang found it very difficult to secure small amounts of funding and decided to get a few of his friends to create an organization that would. What started as “an experiment in guerilla funding” has turned into an impactful global network with over 20 chapters around the world.

Most of the ideas this local chapter of the “MacArthur grant for micro-flashes of brilliance” gets are interesting but a few in particular stick out, one of those being the Lot to Land project for the Little Haiti Community Garden. Martinez loved that Lot to Land encompassed so many different areas that she felt were important.

“It’s not a spin-off of any other idea but even if it was, we’d still love it. It served as a community center. It was a microcosm, an ecosystem, a garden that served more than one purpose. It created a hub,” said Martinez.

Awesome Miami doesn’t have a standardized measure of success for projects because they’re all so different. The foundation interacts with a particular project by seeing how many people were impacted. It also tends to take a more qualitative approach to determining success.

Though Martinez loved Frame it Up, many of the frames were eventually taken down. One aspect of the Little Haiti community garden she really enjoyed was that it was able to be maintained. “It was sustainable, not just a one-time event,” she said.

Grants are given, no strings attached, but the foundation keeps a close eye on the goings-on of their recipients. In one situation, an organization was awarded a grant but it wasn’t disbursed until much later after the event was rescheduled.

And after an Awesome-funded event or idea has been implemented, Martinez hopes the grantees want to continue the relationship.

“We follow up with them. We hope they feel comfortable enough to send updates and try to stay in touch,” she said.

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Others believe what the foundation is doing is pretty awesome too. Awesome Miami recently received a $20,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to expand its program. Some of the funds will be used for marketing and promotion to get a more diverse applicant pool but the money will primarily be used to supplement grants.

“Having more money will allow us to be more flexible with the ideas we fund,” Martinez said, “We can say that we’ll give $500 for this, or $1000 for that,” Martinez said.

The first anniversary of Awesome Miami is coming up and a big goal for January is to delve into what the foundation has accomplished and think of ways to get even more awesome at what it does.

Martinez also hopes to see more applications from typically underrepresented areas of Miami like Overtown, Homestead, Liberty City, and Little Haiti. She knows those residents feel very passionate about their communities too.

Said Martinez: “Brickell and downtown are great and we welcome their ideas, but we want to also showcase different areas in the community.”

Got the next awesome idea?
Apply for an Awesome Foundation Miami grant here!
Deadlines are the 15th of every month.