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Awesome Ottawa: Three years of making the city a little more amazing

By Gabrielle Tieman on June 4, 2013

Editor’s note: Apt613 itself received an Awesome Ottawa grant in 2012 for our lecture series. 

Doesn’t everyone want their city to be a little more awesome?

Awesome Ottawa – a group devoted to promoting awesomeness in the universe – will be celebrating its third birthday and the contributions they have made to the worldwide ecosystem of awesome on June 11 .

The first Canadian city to have an Awesome chapter, Awesome Ottawa is part of a global movement of self-organizing groups made up of ten or so individuals who hand over $100 of their own money each and every month. The money all goes to a project that they believe can make life in their city just a little bit more interesting.

No strings attached, no obligations or ownership asked – simply $1,000 to help build a dream. Awesome.

The experiment has been manifested into a range of projects, with close to $34,000 having been donated since May 2010 – from underground music and reverse busking to an organic gardening system. 

The free birthday party, held at Shopify Lounge (126 York St) in the ByWard Market, will host past winners and five fresh groups, allowing party goers a chance to hear past stories and vote on who should be the June Awesome recipient.

Apt613 got a chance to speak to Avi Caplan, the dean of Awesome Ottawa, about what is great about the foundation and what makes a project truly awesome worthy.

“It is just fun,” Caplan said of his motivation to get involved. “It’s fun to have to agree on something every month and it is a fun exercise in group decision making – we never vote on things. We talk it out until we agree. And we all get very excited about the projects we give money to.”

Receiving an average of 15 applications a month, Caplan said there is a metaphor they use to break down the applications – since everyone does not have the same ideas of awesome quality.

“The Orphans vs. Flame Throwers paradox,” said Caplan. “On the orphan side you have the socially minded, do good types of projects. With flame throwers, they are the dinosaurs – the quirky projects that I like to support. I believe it is a space that is not well supported in a traditional sense.

“It is nice to give a kick to something small, something that probably wouldn’t happen without a little bit of help and acknowledgment,” said Caplan. “We also like to support those things that will happen within Ottawa and leave you entertained.”

For more information on the birthday celebrations, visit Awesome Ottawa’s event page. You can also follow Awesome Ottawa on Twitter @AwesomeOttawa.