Friday, October 28, 2011

It was a Ring-a-Ding-Dong Dandy!

Last night's Thousand Dollar Thursday took place in the Kasian Gallery in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary.

According to Wikipedia, Environmental Design is the process of addressing surrounding environmental parameters when devising plans, programs, policies, buildings, or products, which made the location an ideal venue for an AF-Calgary Pitch Night.

Of course, what made it more awesome was the presence of a Pterodactyl.

It was with that backdrop that Calgary's Top4 Finalists for the month of October took the stage in order to attempt to WOW the AF-Calgary Trustees within 90 seconds and convince them why they should be awarded the $1,000 prize.

Hosted this month by our very own Trustee of Awesome Jeff Wielki, he started off with a brief overview of the Awesome Foundation, and even plotted a map showing how Awesome Foundation chapters are starting to pop up around the world. He mentioned that AF-Calgary, despite being only seven months old, is leading the Awesome movement by mentoring new chapters such as Edmonton, Alberta and Turin, Italy, and that many chapters are experimenting with adopting some of the concepts that were developed right here at AF-Calgary, like Pitch Nights.

Jeff, wanting to demonstrate that we do indeed eat our own dog food here at AF-Calgary, launched into a 90 second pitch of his own describing who he was and why he's excited to be a part of Team AF-Calgary. In this writer's opinion, I think he summed it up quite nicely at the end when he said the reason he sticks around is because he "drank the kool-aid, and it was delicious," although he forgot to mention how "awesomely delicious" that kool-aid truly is.

And with that, the night began in earnest with October's Top4 Pitches:

Pitch 1: The SoJo

First up was Trevor Gair, speaking on behalf of his SoJo project, an online destination that would help inspire and empower youth to dream big and engage in social entrepreneurship, providing them with the tools and resources to help turn their ideas for social change into reality.

Trevor spoke very passionately about his project, and according to him, his SoJo project is all about people with ideas, giving them a platform to connect and the tools they need to launch their social programs, projects, ventures, and enterprises that, through execution, will ultimately improve the quality of life for people in communities around the world.

The $1,000 would be used to help further develop the SoJo online web portal, which is currently in closed beta phase, as well as help the team expand the outreach of the program.

Pitch 2: AcceleratorYYC

Up next was Christian MacLean, speaking on behalf of AcceleratorYYC, an entrepreneur lead co-work space tailored to the unique needs and challenges of pre-launch and pre-product startups. They aim to be an incubator and accelerator space for early-stage technology start-ups based in Inglewood that the community can draw resources from.

In their original submission, they indicated that they would have liked to use the $1,000 to help with setup costs, to bring in knowledgeable speakers that people can learn from, and to help fund other community events in their space.

However, come pitch time, in an act of generosity, they decided to change up their pitch at the last minute after seeing and connecting with Trevor Gair as he pitched his SoJo idea, saying that if AcceleratorYYC won the $1,000, they would match it and donate the funds to the SoJo project and allow Trevor use of their space to help implement his idea.

Connections such as this one are routinely made at AF-Calgary events, which is one of the hopes that we had when we originally came up with the whole Pitch Night format (which at the time, wasn't done at any of the AF chapters around the world). Knowing that there are so many Awesome Ideas here in Calgary, we wished to expose as many of them as possible to anyone who's watching or paying attention. As there is only one $1,000 prize that we can award (mainly because the prize money comes out of our own pockets each month, and since many of us are ordinary Calgarians ourselves, we ain't rich), by exposing the ideas to others, the hope was that someone somewhere might see those ideas and offer to help those people bring it to fruition in whatever way they can.

So thanks AcceleratorYYC for donating your pitch time to SoJo and for being so generous!

Pitch 3: The B.J.'s Gym Show

Third up was Angie Annis, wishing to put on a community event entitled the B.J.'s Gym Show, an event that would celebrate over 40 years of history at the historic B.J.'s Gym in Calgary's East Village.

For long-time Calgarians, B.J.'s Gym plays an integral role in Calgary's wrestling history. Many famous Stampede Wrestlers trained and performed here over the years, and those who know about the lineage of B.J.'s Gym and how it came to be knows how tightly strong that gym is tied to the Hart family, a family known around the world for their contributions to professional wrestling (the gym was founded by B.J. Annis, Angie's father, who married Georgia Hart).

Angie wishes to throw one last big hurrah at the gym before it's torn down, celebrating over 40 years of rich history at the gym as well as honouring Stu Hart's legacy, while at the same time, looking forward to the future. With live music and artists showcasing their work, plus hosting some very special guests who've all had an important role in the history of B.J.'s Gym, Angie hopes to throw one giant bash that all Calgarians can participate in at the gym over the final weekend of November.

Angie and her team submitted a detailed cost breakdown of how they would use the $1,000. Most of the money would go to advertising and marketing materials, while the rest would go towards attaining the proper city permits and licenses, as well as be spent on logistical items such as equipment rentals and other items needed to host and run the event.

They also brought a Pterodactyl.

Pitch 4: L.E.G.A.C.Y.

Final pitch of the night went to Shana Ng speaking about the L.E.G.A.C.Y. Program.

L.E.G.A.C.Y. stands for "Lift, Empower, Guide, and Advocate for Calgary Youth" and wishes to pass on valuable skills and knowledge to generations of high risk youth so they can make healthier and safer choices.

Conceived by four nurses who work at Wood's Homes, a social service agency that serves 20,000 vulnerable children and their families every year, the L.E.G.A.C.Y. Program will focus on areas to teach youth the skills to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a positive sense of well being. Areas include smoking cessation, physical activity, health topics, nutrition, and hygiene.

The $1,000 would help operate the L.E.G.A.C.Y. Program by helping to fund supplies, educational materials, transportation, and other program costs.

It was another tough night for the Trustees to decide which project idea to award the $1,000 to, but after a very long deliberation, a decision was made.

And the winner is...

AF-Calgary's October 2011 no-strings-attached $1,000 winner is the B.J.'s Gym Show. Angie and her team will be hosting the farewell party on the final weekend of November, and all of Calgary is invited. Stay tuned here as we'll let you know more about the details of the bash as they become available.

Thanks to the Faculty of Environmental Design and the University of Calgary for allowing us to host our event this month at the Kasian Gallery. It's a wonderful space with innovative exhibits, so if you're ever on campus, you should make time to check it out.

Kudos to everyone who submitted an idea for consideration this month, and congratulations to all of our Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions this month!

Finally, a special thank you to Elissa Lynn for helping us with photography duties for the night, and Tara Prudhomme for helping with the live-tweeting.

Congratulations Angie!

We're currently accepting submissions for the final Thousand Dollar Thursday event of 2011, taking place on Thursday, November 24 at the Endeavor Arts Gallery. As the fourth Thursday of December falls awfully close to the holidays, we're going to take December off and figured it would be fitting if we ended the calendar year where we began back in April (has it been that long?). It's going to be a big one, so save the date and we hope to see you there!

The deadline for submissions for the November 2011 prize is 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, November 10. To apply, fill out this handy-dandy web form!

Thanks again to everyone who made time to come down last night, and we hope to see you again in November!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Awesome Foundation Melbourne Write-up

To give you some more insight into how Awesome works around the world, here's an article from Australia online magazine The Weekly Review which offers some great insight into Melbourne's experience so far.

Go, have a read. There's a ton of ideas there that you can use to inspire your own creativity.

Totally Awesome in The Weekly Review

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Awesome Around the World

As you may have gathered by now, Awesome Foundation Calgary wants to foster unique and innovative ideas here in our own town. I am a firm believer that great ideas, more often than not, spring from other great ideas. It's a rare occasion when I have a great idea that blooms as a unique and singular event. In almost every case, it rises from some external inspiration.

To help to foster the generation of awesome ideas (some of which we hope you'll submit to us, desirous of our soon-to-be-legendary monthly grant of $1,000 to help bring your idea into reality), we intend to give you some regular updates of the ideas that have won grants in other cities around the world. There are now two dozen chapters of the Awesome Foundation, each one helping to bring what they deem to be awesome ideas from the unconscious to the conscious, from the ether to the Earth.

Three recent grants of note were from Melbourne, Boston, and the Food Chapter. (The last one, unlike the first two, is not a place. There is no city of Food. It's a chapter dedicated

Melbourne gave their grant to two ladies who presented an idea called I Have I Need. A series of community notice boards will be painted onto blank walls of coffee shops, vacant walls surrounding construction, or other such places. The black chalk-board paint will allow community residents to write what they have and no longer need, or what they require, along with contact information. The boards are meant to transform otherwise blank and unused walls into public spaces encouraging people to meet and interact with their neighbours, as well as encouraging greener communities and reusing or repurposing things that might otherwise be headed for the dump.

It's seems that painting things, in one way or another, was a common theme in September. In Boston (where, you may recall, Awesome Foundation got its start), the grant was awarded to mural artist Caleb Neelon, granting him the funds necessary to transform a walls at Tobin School. Instead of a leaving them as the blank canvases that they were, attractive (and permitted) graffiti was applied.

Awesome Foundation, Food Chapter gave their grant to Compost Mobile, a Miami-based residential compost service that provides a pick-up service for food scraps, delivering them to urban farms and community gardens. This can't have been easy, as 600 applications were received for Awesome Food's inaugural grant. Compost Mobile was itself a project of a Miami non-profit, and with this grant, can expand the service that they are presently providing to the community.

So what do you think? Have any ideas been shaken loose from the idea tree? Are there some barely perceptible, yet still there, proto-ideas sprouting?

Awesome Foundation Calgary has a monthly deadline for the submission of ideas. In order for your idea to be considered for any given months' grant, we must receive your idea on or before the 10th day of that month. Our next deadline is November 10, so get your ideas in!

Yes Awesome is for real. Now let's make real your awesome, shall we?

Monday, October 24, 2011

October's Thousand Dollar Thursday Awards Night Details

If you haven't heard by now, this month's Thousand Dollar Thursday will be taking place at the Kasian Gallery in the Professional Faculties building (room 2145) at the University of Calgary. Doors open at 6 p.m. See the map above for more details on the exact location.

If you're a transit user, the University is easily accessible by C-Train or bus.

If you're planning on driving down, there are a couple of lots that you can park at. Lot 28 is the closest to the Professional Faculties building and is $3.50 an hour. Lot 32 is still close and is $5 flat rate. Off campus, Capitol Hill Crescent has sections of non-permit free parking and is alongside the LRT station.

So lots of transportation options if you're thinking of making the trek down.

Now that said, there is a small change in program to the night.

You see, when we evaluate the monthly submissions, we do our best to strip away any identifiable information that was submitted along with it so that we can judge the idea based on the merit of the idea itself. It's always tough to narrow down the choices to a Top4, and some months (like this one and the last few) are especially close, but we usually end up with a final four at the end of the night's deliberations somehow, even though some Trustee blood may have been spilled in the process.

The cool thing about how the entire Awesome Foundation is set up is that you can apply for a grant at any of the chapters around the world. Most chapters have a preference to fund projects in their own communities, but as we like to say around here: "Nothing is off the table." In fact, the Awesome Foundation - Food Chapter takes entries from around the world, and its Trustees reside all around the world as well.

Sometimes we here at AF-Calgary get submissions from outside of Calgary, and on our form, we do our best to notify people not to apply unless they can be at the Awards Night. But sometimes, life happens and they can't make it.

One such thing happened this month. Nick Oswald, who pitched us his Bee-utiful City idea which wanted to set up bee hives in the city to help pollinate flowers planted in urban gardens, made AF-Calgary's Top4 for October, but as Nick resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he couldn't make it down in time to pitch his idea this Thursday.

So in his place, our Honourable Mention for this month, The Accelerator Calgary, which hopes to become an incubator and accelerator space for early stage technology start-ups in the city, will be pitching in his place.

Therefore, the night will look like this:
  • The Accelerator Calgary by Victoria Maclean: "To create a startup accelerator in Inglewood."
  • L.E.G.A.C.Y. by Shana Ng: "Lift, Empower, Guide, and Advocate for Calgary Youth – passing on the skills and knowledge to generations of high risk youth so they can make healthier and safer choices."
  • SoJo by Trevor Gair: "SoJo will be the foremost online destination to inspire and empower youth to dream big and engage in social entrepreneurship."
  • B.J. Gym Show - Honoring 40 Years of Calgary's Community and Artists by Angie Annis: "To bring together Calgary finest artists to honour 40 years of arts and community in Calgary."
Congratulations to Nick for making our Top4 this month, and best of luck in getting your idea implemented in other cities! And congratulations to Victoria; we definitely look forward to learning more about your exciting idea to help foster the tech industry in this city and in this province!

In the meantime, we'll try our best to do better to communicate that we prefer people to submit an idea only if they can make it to our pitch nights, and we hope that you can join us at the University of Calgary this Thursday to learn more about four very awesome ideas that hope to make Calgary a better place.

And just a reminder, we're currently taking submissions for our November 2011 prize. The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, November 10. To apply, fill out this handy-dandy web form!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reel World Videos making a real difference!

Here's a quick update from Chris Hsuing & Kate McKenzie  - September 2011 Awesome Winners

"It's very, very exciting to see the girls in the class start to work with their story idea. The audio equipment we spent the money on has made a big difference." ~Chris Hsuing
Follow their exciting journey with the kids as they capture amazing stories from their lives and life around them!  Read (and see!) their blog here: Reel World Youth

Week 2: - Winning the Awesome $1000 grant

Exciting news! Kate and I have managed to secure funding from a couple sources to purchase small video kits for our student teams. 

First we got one thousand dollars in cold hard no-strings attached cash from Awesome Calgary. And I have to say we rocked that pitch. Take a look at our 90 second pitch and answers to the Q and A.
Next we have received word that the Calgary Foundation Stepping Stone grant is also helping us out with another six hundred dollars.

With this money we’ll be able to build video kits that the twenty student teams will be able to use to shoot their story. It means a lot to us because this means we can take Reel World Youth to other schools or groups of youth that may not have the resources to afford their own equipment.

I’m very excited by the prospect of what hordes of kids with video cameras and a desire to seek out inspirational or important stories will find. It seems that others have found the project interesting as well. I’ve had a few people approach me with other ideas such as taking it into the homeschooling network or even into organizations who work with kids.

Lots of great opportunities but the first things first. Let’s get some film projects off the ground!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Announcing October's AF-Calgary Top4 Finalists

Another tough month, but somehow we were able to whittle down the list of this month's submissions to four.

So without further ado, here are October's Top4 Finalists and Honourable Mentions, in no particular order:

Top4 Finalists:
  1. Bee-autiful City by Nick Oswald: "Set up Bee Hives in the city to help pollinate all the flowers that are planted by both residences and businesses."
  2. L.E.G.A.C.Y. by Shana Ng: "Lift, Empower, Guide, and Advocate for Calgary Youth – passing on the skills and knowledge to generations of high risk youth so they can make healthier and safer choices."
  3. SoJo by Trevor Gair: "SoJo will be the foremost online destination to inspire and empower youth to dream big and engage in social entrepreneurship."
  4. BJ Gym Show - Honoring 40 Years of Calgary's Community and Artists by Angie Annis: "To bring together Calgary finest artists to honour 40 years of arts and community in Calgary."
Honourable Mentions:
October's Thousand Dollar Thursday will be held at the Kasian Gallery (room 2145) in the Professional Faculties building at the University of Calgary on Thursday, October 27 starting at 6 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

And remember: We're now taking submissions for the November prize. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, November 10. To apply, fill out this handy-dandy web form!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Someone's gonna get a thousand dollars!

Well folks, it's that time again!

Tonight, the AF-Calgary Trustees will meet to pick October's Top4 Finalists (as well as the Honourable Mentions) from the list of submissions we've received this month, who will then be invited to pitch at next week's Thousand Dollar Thursday.

This month, we'll be hosting the festivities at the Kasian Gallery (room 2145) in the Professional Faculties building at the University of Calgary on Thursday, October 27 starting at 6 p.m.

Further parking, transit, and other details will be provided as we get closer to next Thursday, but make sure to hold the date, and we hope to see you there!

And just a reminder: We're currently taking submissions for the November prize. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, November 10. To apply, fill out this handy-dandy web form!

Hope to see you all there, and stay tuned tomorrow for the announcement of AF-Calgary's October Top4 Finalists.