Having ideas is easy. Each one of us probably woke up at least once, thinking that we would have run the world if we had the chance. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world but it is also the one that does not last for long. Just one question – “Where am I going to find money for that?” – and reality can slap us down pretty quickly.
That was the case only for the people living a generation ago. The digital world provided opportunities they would never imagine were possible. Getting 1000$ to develop an idea, no strings attached: fiction or reality? If you thought reality, you were right. That is a short description of what Awesome Foundation does.
Awesome Foundation is an international charity organization which “forwards the interest of awesome in the universe, $1000 at a time.” It was founded in 2009 and has received media coverage from The New York Times, BBC, and The Boston Globe since then. Thanks to the efforts of Albert Poghosyan, an Armenian entrepreneur, Yerevan also got a “chapter” in the book of awesome in 2013.
When living in Germany, Albert Poghosyan met with the creators of the Awesome Foundation, Berlin, who invited him to the monthly pitching events. He immediately thought that the project was what Armenia needed. He pitched the idea of opening a branch in Yerevan to BarCamp’s organizers. They loved it, and he found 35 like-minded people willing to donate, and the project took off. To ensure the consistency and the project’s resistance to economic recessions and inflation, the board of trustees consists of more than 40 members. Together, they donate 1000$ to the best idea from submissions every month.
Now, everyone gets an opportunity to pitch ideas to the board of trustees each month, united by the mission to contribute to the awesome in Armenia. Together, they donate 1000$ to the best project from submissions.
The Awesome does not have a single definition. So, yes, of course, the selection is biased. But the bias is defined. According to Albert Poghosyan, they look for six things in each project. Whatever it is, it should
- Be unique and awesome – it should have never been done in Armenia before.
- Have social impact – it should make people happier.
- Change the whole environment – it should foster a belief that small changes can make a big difference.
- Positively influence as many people as possible (or one person, but if it is truly awesome).
- The money should cover the entire project.
- Be memorable and leave a mark on the society.
Awesome Foundations gives money to projects that would have had problems finding funding from the government, NGOs or banks – the crazy ideas. The scope of projects they are ready to accept is large. It does not need to be a charity in itself. It can be an art project, tech innovation, or even startup. If you think about it, business projects can benefit the country just as much. “Right now, I am doing a startup,” Albert Poghosyan shared his experience. “We are starting out with an equal amount of money, and it might not be easy, but certainly possible.”
The Awesome Foundation Yerevan has already funded many projects. They placed a large box in the Lovers park for people to donate their old clothes to charities. It was so popular that they were eventually asked to remove the box from the park. The foundation donated money for the piano in Mashtots park on which Tigran Hamasyan famously gave a street concert. Though the chapter is called “Yerevan,” the awesome was never limited to the city’s borders. The money also covered a street art festival in Stepanakert and lantern festival in Yeghegnadzor. Recently, the funds went to Ara Harutyunyan’s NorShenLab and Marianna Pahlevanyan’s Puppet Therapy. With projects like these, it is fair to say that the trustees taste of awesome can be trusted.
Above all, there is no bureaucracy: no need to fill in lengthy applications, do the drowning paperwork, or other anxiety-triggering things. All it takes is an idea and a little bit of courage. After you get the money, the most they want is photos. Even if you end up becoming a millionaire and forget to invite members of the foundation to the celebration, they will not mind. The project is “no strings attached” indeed. In other words, the opportunity to do awesome is there. All you need is to make a little effort to take it.