Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Awesome Foundation’s inaugural Awesome Summit. For those of you who do not know the Awesome Foundation, it’s a wonderful and successful experiment in philanthropy: Through local chapters in cities around the world, groups of about 10 pool their money together each month to different projects in their local communities. This funding can be for anything—literally. In DC, the local Awesome Foundation chapter supported a reenactment of the bolder scene from Indiana Jones. The funding has no strings attached; they just want to support cool ideas.
The Awesome Summit was a time for people to get together and talk not only about the future of philanthropy, but the future of doing good. There were a lot of creative thinkers in the room and interesting ideas were flowing. The conference had a tech feel to it, with a lot of talk on how the internet and social technologies can create the infrastructure for a new way of creating (and funding) social change.
One thing that I appreciated about the conference was that it not only was focused on open and collaborative ways to create change, it was also open and collaborative in its structure. People were encouraged to speak up during the sessions and each panel relied on questions from the audience. It also has a user-generated session towards the end of the day based on suggestions from the attendees. Tapping into my critical thinking skills, I suggested the topic “How are we wrong?”
Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, this breakout session was well attended. People wanted an opportunity to critically analyze the way of thinking that brought us all to the Awesome Summit. This gave me hope that I’m not the only person who likes being in the metaphorical back of the room, throwing proverbial spitballs at people trying to do new things.
The conversation we had was a good critical look at the hot new trends in philanthropy and funding—mostly we talked about crowdfunding and its limitations: it isn’t a sustainable way to fund long-term projects, it’s best suited for arts funding, its hard to use crowdfunding for organizational capacity funding. But we also talked about what we could be missing as a member of the Awesome Foundation community and affiliated organizations, in which I would include UnSectored.
As I’ve said in other posts, it’s important to get outside your comfort zone and expose yourself to people not like you. The Awesome Summit had a great group of people, and the UnSectored community is made up of people doing inspiring and innovative things, but we only make up a small part of those thinking about and working for social change. No matter how smart you are, most of the smartest people in the world aren’t you, and they have no idea what you are doing. Learning from the plethora of other smart people is never a bad idea.
So, I’d ask you to join me in the metaphorical back of the room to throw a few spitballs. As you go about your work, whether you are an entrepreneur, intrapreneur, infrapreneur, or just someone trying to make a difference somehow, keep asking yourself that question: How am I wrong? How are we wrong? Answering it truthfully can only make things better.