Awesome Foundation clocks up £25,000 support in Liverpool
In February this year a group of ten people in Liverpool gave away £500 of their own cash to help fund the Nasty Women exhibition in Liverpool. In the process, they raised the overall total that they, Awesome Liverpool, have given away to support projects to £25,000 in the four years since they formed.
I joined Awesome Liverpool as a Trustee in late 2014, a couple of months after they formed, and have been an on-and-off trustee and ardent supporter since. I joined initially because I was thrilled to be asked by a couple of people I respected who were trustees at the time, despite not really understanding what it was. But also intrigued by the fact that a group of people would meet each month to voluntarily pool £500 of their own money to support projects that might not otherwise get funding. At the time I was freelancing and so didn’t really have a spare £50 per month, but it felt right to do it as there had been plenty of times over my working life at that stage that I’d have loved the opportunity to pitch for £500 to help me get a project of the ground.
The Awesome Foundation is a network of self-organising chapters in cities around the world, from Australia to Canada, and everywhere in between. It was founded in Boston in 2008 and today there are almost 100 of these chapters, including ours here in Liverpool. Each chapter largely defines for itself what to spend its money on, what it considers awesome, but the general rules are the same – ten or more trustees, each put £50 (or in the US – $100) of their own money in, pool it, and give it away, no-strings-attached, to support something cool in their city from people who apply to have their project funded. In Liverpool, we do that at monthly pitch nights where we invite our favourite three applicants for that month together with the trustees and pick a winner. Some chapters just meet each month as a group of trustees and sift through the applications to pick a winner. In total, chapters have given away over $3 million to date combined.
Being part of Awesome has enabled me to do some wonderful things in four years, including trips to Ottawa, Seattle and Washington to meet trustees at other chapters at the foundations almost annual gathering for chapters, Awesummit, where I’ve made genuinely valuable friendships. I’ve also been the winner of an Awesome Liverpool grant. But the key to Awesome being awesome is the giving, and the people that we’ve funded that have been the biggest joy, for me at least.
Because it’s a group of ten different people (it’s been a revolving cast too – they’re a bit like the Avengers in that respect), who are into different things, we’ve all had our own favourite projects over the years. James Noakes really loved The Plasticine Archive of 5416 Mammal Hearts because ‘it was just so far removed from what we normally see, and it was a mad enough crazy project that it instantly brought joy!’ It was mad, too, as you can tell by the name of the project. Not usually a man of few words, Lee Omar, emailed back a pretty direct, ‘Pawbella’ to my question. A nice choice. We funded that on our first gift night specifically targeting young people and Pawbella was Liverpool’s youngest entrepreneur at the time. She makes dog coats and accessories and uses some of the profits to create dog coats, blankets and other things to give to Homeless people’s dogs. Mammal hearts and dog coats – that’s kind of how we roll. I may get that designed as a slogan onto a t-shirt. I know a group of people that might fund that.
Looking back at the list of things we’ve funded (thanks Zarino for collating it) it’s striking just how different everything is. There’s a zombie walk, a boxing gym, beekeeper outfits for children, a ukulele club, a coffin club, a toolshed and musical shoes. What a weird and wonderful group of things to happen in a city over four years. What a joy to be a little part of them happening.
As I write this, the current trustees of Awesome Liverpool are now a few winners into their next 50, and I have every faith that there will be another 50 winners, 100 even. Maybe you’ll be one of them?
In a city that needs an Awesome chapter and know nine other people that can help you get one set up? Ace. Get started here…
~ Andrew Beattie