Wouldn't it be great if you could get money just for having an awesome idea?
The Detroit Journal, a local online video project, was awarded $1,000 Friday, becoming the first Detroit winner of a new Awesome grant -- and yes, that's really what it's called.
The Awesome News Task Force Detroit, the 30th chapter of a loosely-knit global organization, launched here earlier this year. Each month, the local branch, comprised of Dean Marshalle Montgomery and 19 trustees, awards a grant to applicant with a community media project.
Projects range from journalism to art to technology -- Awesome News encourages applicants to think outside the box. The winner gets $1,000, no strings attached.
Instead of requiring grant winners to meet benchmarks or show exactly how they use their funding, Christina Xu, who organizes across the different Awesome chapters, said the organization takes the opposite approach: "What can we help you with after you win the money?" Oftentimes, that means using social media and personal networks to give projects a wider audience.
"We think most of the people applying for these grants are so motivated, passionate and driven, we want to keep the stipulations low and focus on trust," Xu said.
On Friday evening, the Taskforce held a party at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center in downtown Detroit to celebrate its launch and The Detroit Journal. The Journal's founders, Andy Miller and Ben Potter, have been self-funding their monthly video profiles of Detroiters and their stories.
"We are both surprised and excited, but most of all we are thoroughly motivated to keep on going," said Miller. He added they will use the grant to fund The Detroit Journal's fourth video episode.
Xu said Detroit's Awesome trustees appreciated the craftsmanship of The Detroit Journal's work as well as the producers' ideas.
"They liked the mission of what The Detroit Journal is trying to do ... show the story of Detroit through one complicated and amazing individual at a time," she explained.
The Awesome Foundation, which provides some oversight and structure for the different chapters, started with one group in Boston, where trustees pledged $100 a month to fund projects out-of-pocket. Detroit is the first chapter to get outside funding -- a $244,000 Knight News Challenge grant from the Knight Foundation will support funding and operational expenses for two years in Detroit, the pilot city, as well as two more unchosen locations to come.
The trustees will look for a wide range of proejcts that think outside of the box. Awesome's simple application process opens the door to those who might not ususally think to apply for a grant.
"A lot of the excitement in Detroit is happening around these smaller projects that don't fit into a category but are still doing amazing work," Xu said.
"I think almost everyone can have a $1,000 idea," she added. "Once they get their first grant, who knows where they can go."
The Awesome News Taskforce awards micro-grants on a monthly basis with a rolling application deadline. For more information and to apply, see the group's website.
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