Are you awesome? Quite possibly, and you might just have the most awesome idea – small, perfectly-formed, of benefit to the local community and on the cheap, to boot – with little idea of how to get it off the ground.
Luckily there is such a foundation that recognises and rewards awesome ideas in the city (that’s enough saying awesome now – Ed) – think of them as Dragon’s Den, but without the comfy chairs and overweening sense of predation.
The Foundation is made up of ten local Trustees and is on the hunt for individuals, groups and small businesses with ideas that will make Liverpool an even better place to live, work, learn and play. They make no claim on your idea and there are no strings attached – they’ve has already rewarded a pop-up B&B for footie fans – using local residents’ spare bedrooms to accommodate visitors to Anfield – and a shop-window makeover team.
They meet every month and if you have an idea that’s really, er, excellent, they want to hear about it. We caught up with Lee Omar, to learn more about how, why and what.
SevenStreets: So, why are you awesome?
Lee Omar: Awesome Liverpool is the Liverpool Chapter of the international Awesome Foundation. The Awesome Foundation was set up in Boston in 2009 and now reaches across the world with Chapters in places as far ﬂung as the USA, Brazil and Mongolia.
Our Liverpool Chapter is made up of ten Trustees and an additional Dean. We are a varied bunch and include an oceanographer, technology innovators, a Smart City champion, a creative business writer, a digital marketing CEO and comedy writer, a media and marketing MD, a creative industries management consultant and a design guru who also makes rather fabulous jewellery from waste.
We all love Liverpool and share a passion for bringing people, ideas and resources together to make great things happen. We want to play our part in making the city region an even better place to live, work, learn and play. By the city region we mean Liverpool and our neighbours in Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral.
Francis Irving, Chief Executive of data science specialists ScraperWiki is our Dean. Inspired by the Awesome Foundation’s work, he got the ball rolling and started the search for Trustees earlier this year.
SS: Where does the money come from?
LO: Each Trustee donates £50 of their own money every month to create a £500 gift that will help to make an awesome idea happen. We call this a gift, rather than a grant, because there are no strings attached and we claim no ownership over the projects we fund.
We’re independent and not bound by anyone else’s rules – so we can fund projects that could struggle to find mainstream support. We encourage applications from individuals, community groups and young people who may never have applied for funding before.
SS: How do people pitch to you and how do you decide who gets money?
LO: Awesome applicants complete a simple online submission. Our Trustees then review all applications and vote online to create a shortlist of up to five applicants each month. We judge applications against our criteria and what we each believe to be awesome.
The shortlisted applicants are then invited to an awards evening to tell us more about their project and answer some questions from our Trustees. After everyone has pitched, our Trustees take a majority vote for our winner.
All our short-listed applicants get constructive feedback – so, if they don’t win this time, they’ve got an opportunity to re-work their application and have another go.
SS: What’s appropriate – and not appropriate?
LO: We have four simple criteria for short-listing submissions. Projects should solve a problem; have a budget – and stick to it; bring joy and be local.
We’re looking for projects that will make the most impact through the £500 gift. If a project can be delivered in full for £500, then that application would really stand out. We’re also looking for projects that can be delivered in a reasonably quick timescale.
However, we don’t want our £500 to be consumed into a much bigger funding pot and we’re not looking to fund larger organisations or big businesses that may have other funding sources already in place.
SS: What sort of pitches have you received?
LO: We’d encourage anyone to have a go – however innovative or challenging their project sounds. Our first winner, Home Advantage Liverpool, is setting up a virtual hotel in Anfield, working with local people to turn their spare bedrooms into B&B accommodation for football pilgrims and city visitors.
To some people, that could sound mad. We decided it was awesome.
Image by Félix Brassier