Articles by Natalia Martinez

  • Article

    Making Miami awesome, $1,000 at a time

    September 25, 2013 by Natalia Martinez

    Making Miami awesome, $1,000 at a time


    Knight Foundation supports The Awesome Foundation Miami to help local innovators benefit from its micro-grant opportunities. Below, Natalia Martinez, the dean of The Awesome Foundation Miamiwrites about the group’s objectivesPhoto credit: Bruce Pinchbeck. Pinchbeck's Frame It Up Project received $1,000 from The Awesome Foundation Miami.

    The idea of starting an Awesome Foundation chapter in Miami came to me because, frankly, I was anxious about moving back here. I’d lived in the greater Miami area from the time I was 10 until I was 18, but I spent most of my adult life living in Boston and New York. I knew several people involved in other Awesome Foundation chapters, so I put my foot down halfway through the summer of 2012: If I was going to move back and feel happy about it, I needed to connect and invest in my new home. Out of my anxiety and the incredible support of my partners in planning/crime, Tony Jimenez and Jessica Goldfin, our chapter was born.

    Since each Awesome Foundation chapter is autonomous, the first handful of trustee meetings last fall was spent discussing our vision and goals.  Despite diverse backgrounds (we’re a mix of lawyers, creatives, non-profit professionals and more), it became apparent that we shared a common motivation: wanting to increase the self-efficacy of the Greater Miami area. In our vision of nirvana, the average person - a neighbor, student, business owner, a stay-at-home mom or dad -  would feel that our grants were accessible and our process easy to understand.

    We have sought to reach those involved in creative industries, technology and startups, and the nonprofit sector, but to maximize our impact, we also wanted our applicants to reflect the socioeconomic, political and ethnic diversity of Miami. Ideally, applications would be coming from pockets of the community that have not traditionally felt engaged in the development or decisions of our city. For instance, to better reflect Miami’s composition, we translated the application into Spanish and Creole. We are only the second chapter in the world to accept applications in secondary languages.

  • Article

    Awesome Foundation MIAMI reaches funding milestone: $30,000 awarded to small local projects

    July 15, 2014 by Natalia Martinez

    Awesome Foundation MIAMI reaches funding milestone: $30,000 awarded to small local projects

    Photo: Connective Quotes, a June 2014 Awesome Foundation MIAMI grant recipient.

    It is a typical day and you are sitting in traffic, daydreaming in class, or rushing back from a little-too-extended work lunch, when suddenly, inadvertently two dots connect and a light bulb fires up - an idea!

    No one said having ideas was easy; in fact, Walter Bagehot went a little further, “One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.” But ideas are also the great exception to my bootcamp instructor’s favorite anthem: If it were easy, everyone would do it. To our great benefit, all of us are small-scale idea-generating machines in our own right.

    Unfortunately, many potentially ideas are put down through self-critique or dismissed as not relevant, many are left unwritten over the course of our multitasking days, and many interesting observations are forgotten by the time we get out of the shower. This draining of awesome observations represents a colossal loss in our community, but Awesome Foundation MIAMI is here to help.

    We believe your ideas deserve an ear to listen and a partner to provide feedback. We believe bigger is great, but smaller is not too shabby either. We believe awesomeness can be promoted in our city only if all parts of our diverse community feel engaged and find avenues to participate. With this in mind, we launched in January 2013 to award self-funded, no-strings attached micro-grants to ideas in Miami.

    Now, a year and a half later, I am immensely thrilled to report that Awesome Foundation MIAMI has exceeded $30,000 in funding to local projects.

  • Article

    Awesome Foundation Miami exceeds $50,000 in funded ideas

    August 7, 2015 by Natalia Martinez

    Awesome Foundation Miami exceeds $50,000 in funded ideas

    Above: Code Fever was provided Raspberry Pi processors. Photo: Carolina Wilson.

    Natalia Martinez is a dean of  Awesome Foundation Miami, which Knight Foundation supports as part of its commitment to develop a network of innovators and entrepreneurs in South Florida.

    “Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow.”

    It may be crass, but we at Awesome Foundation Miami stand by this Thornton Wilder truism.

    From the first micro grant we awarded in January 2013, we stepped into Miami with incredible optimism. We had hoped that Awesome Miami would become the bridge that helps connect our neighbors to the resources they need, the opportunities they want, and a community at large that wants to know about them. Today, we are thrilled to announce that we have exceeded $50,000 in awarded funding for local projects.

    Small can be powerful

    Our informal guiding theory is that a rising tide lifts all boats. Larger, community-wide tipping points are the result of the gradual accumulation of individual tipping points, of people “turning on” to trust their own potential, and that of their ideas and projects. Over the past two and a half years, we have witnessed with great respect the talent and curiosity of Miami residents who have come across our radar in the form of applications for our grants. The people we interact with every month have a passionate sense of place and a desire to tackle problems, fix inequities and highlight beauty all around our communities. In response, our role has never been to generate these ideas, but rather to be the engine that helps make small, powerful.