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CULTURE
Awesome Without Borders
Greasing the wheels of greatness around the world with a new project each week—from experimental art to humanitarian causes
by Hans Aschim
on 11 March 2014
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Acting as a sort of reverse Kickstarter for do-gooders and action-oriented creatives worldwide, Awesome Without Borders (AWB) is non-profit funding mechanism like none other: there are few barriers to being eligible for the groups grants, whether it's a non-profit, an art project or something entirely outside the box, there's very little red tape to cut through. The NYC-based organization—a chapter of the Awesome Foundation—combines a truly global reach with a wide-ranging area of influence. The organization fosters creativity, innovation, community building and flat-out "awesome" ideas with no-strings-attached grants of $1000 to new organizations each week. Born out of a partnership with The Harnisch Foundation and working closely with Ruth Ann Harnisch, the foundation's president, AWB has funded projects ranging from site-specific light installations in Georgia to infant health initiatives in Afghanistan.

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"The only negative part," says executive director Jenny Raymond, "is that we hear from so many projects." The AWB team fields around 50 applications per week, each vying for the one-off grant to make their project a reality. "The board has to reach a unanimous decision, even if I really go to bat for something, it's a group decision," Raymond adds with a laugh. The wide-reaching nature of the organization—both geographically and in terms of outreach—sets it apart in the world of cause and project funding. "Each project is so different, and all of the successful projects are things where we say, "Wow, that's awesome."

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Upon browsing through some of the successfully funded projects, it's clear there are truly no limits to the "awesome." One grant helped NYC-based EpiBone—a biomaterial startup that allows patients to grow their own bones—move into a new lab at the Harlem Biospace. While Raymond struggles to pick a single favorite project, she sites the Blogologues—a female-led live comedy group that "performs the internet" live on stage from Craigslist missed connections to viral memes—as a standout. The group's funding led eventually to improv workshop curriculum development for teenage girls, with laughter an added benefit of the leadership and self-confidence the classes help to develop. "It's a totally bizarre niche but there's this strong value that came out of it. All from a one-off grant," Raymond says.

Check out all of Awesome Without Borders' funded projects online and keep an eye out for new grants added each week.

Images courtesy of Awesome Without Borders

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