Canadian cities finding new ways to be awesome
A handful of Canadian cities are getting a healthy dose of awesome every month.
In Calgary, awesome was hiring a skywriter to write “Yes!” across the sky, while in Toronto, it was hosting a cardboard fort night with $1,000 worth of cardboard refrigerator boxes and duct tape.
In Ottawa, old phone books will be sterilized and inoculated with mycelium, a part of a fungus, so they can produce edible mushrooms — a pretty awesome way to recycle.
The Awesome Foundation, created two years ago in Boston, hands a brown paper bag stuffed with $1,000 cash to whoever has the most amazing idea of the month, according to its founder, Tim Hwang.
“It’s a worldwide network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe. That’s the catchphrase we use, but really, it’s an alliance of people who want to make really interesting, fun things happen,” he said.
Hwang and his co-founders had their eureka moment after their friends had a rough year of trying to get funding for their small projects.
“They just came across this enormous bureaucratic wall. It turns out that it’s really difficult to get $1,000. There are opportunities for $10,000 or $100,000, but if you want to do a small proj- ect, it’s tough to get the resources for it,” he said. “So we started this casual thing of hearing ideas and giving the best one a grant.”
By August 2009, Hwang and nine trustees each handed more than $100 to a professor who constructed a 10-metre hammock so dozens of people could relax in the middle of the city. It was the foundation’s first grant.
But the simplistic model of “a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance” gained speed quickly.
There are now more than 20 chapters around the world, including Sydney, Australia; Berlin; London and Zurich and another in the works in Sri Lanka.
Canada’s inaugural chapter opened in Ottawa by May 2010 after a Boston trustee, Emily Daniels, moved to the nation’s capital. Through word of the mouth, locations popped up in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Kitchener-Waterloo.
In Calgary, where five grants have been awarded so far, there are 13 trustees and the group holds pitch and party nights to choose their winners, spokesman Reginald Tiangha said, noting that the foundation faced some challenges at first.
“When they started to see the types of ideas submitted, they realized that an awesome idea doesn’t necessarily have to ever make money and it just gets them thinking about the sorts of awesome things they can come up with.”