Ideas for Us is a big program. It's taken me a minute to peruse their website and get a sense of what they're up to. It's easier for them to tell you directly what they're about.
"IDEAS For Us is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and United-Nations-accredited charity organization with a presence in over 20 countries around the world. We help people create innovative solutions (i.e. social enterprises, projects, initiatives, inventions, and campaigns) and fund local action to advance sustainability by addressing problems locally."
They are headquartered out of Orlando, and they have gatherings called Hive Meetings where local members get together and brainstorm, come up with ideas. These ideas then get funded and launched in different places. You can always tell where the funding flows by the style of the organization. This kind of a meeting reminded me of a Rural Development Initiative up in Oregon, through the Ford Family Foundation, (loggers, not automobile) which was a similar program to fund local groups doing local projects that I participated in over the winter of 2012 and 2013. Theirs was a five year program, with several month long classes for community organizing and project planning. Myers Briggs personality tests, activities, lectures. Corporate seminar kind of programs.
Ideas for Us was kind of like that, from what I saw. I liked that they were tuned into local economics, with good focus on community and ecological awareness.
I’ve worked on the periphery of non-profits for almost nine years now, but never as a participant or employee of a well organized, big budget charity or foundation. I’ve been rolling agorist style, working with projects like Gateway Gardens, which Jerry Frazier and I put together up in Gleandale, or Pacific Community Resource Center, run by my friend Cass. Winging it. Cass got money from bigger programs, and he did some good work around Glendale, but with Jerry, we used our own money. Jerry’s mostly, but mine as well. This way we just did whatever we wanted. It was nice to not have to deal with a bureaucracy, or to answer up to anyone about our projects.
Of course, bureaucracies have their advantages, too. They are a sure sign of good funding. Most people cannot do what Jerry did (though if more who could, did, would we start to see some changes!) so local communities have to keep an eye out for good sources of sponsorship for different initiatives.
The meeting we attended was a brainstorming session for new programs they might introduce. They already had a children’s program running, with credits of some kind that the kids earned by doing activities or learning skills. We sat down in groups and came up with ideas, at the prompting of the facilitator, for new credits (they called them something else though, I think…) the kids could earn. Ideas like bicycle repair, music classes, and know your rights classes all floated around. One of the issues we all discussed was school, and what was wrong with the public schools. The guy next to me drew a great cartoon of it, though I took the picture too early… he added more and it was a great piece by the end. A good way to sum it up.
They served a huge salad, as well as chips and hummus and veggie sticks. It made for a nice evening, and I got into conversation with several people afterwards. The venue for this meeting was at a happening place called the East End Market. Several earthy, organic businesses shared a nice plaza with shops, food, drink, seating, and a meeting space upstairs. It was a Wednesday night, and that place was hopping, even beyond the fifty or so people who were at the meeting. A fun place to hang out.
Ideas for Us, who took part in creating the Fleet Farming program and Compost Orlando, has some really neat programs. I didn’t learn about many of them at the meeting that night, but I looked through their website and they’re really on top of it. Tons of projects in Africa, and many in the US too. It sounds like they accept applications to start chapters in new places, too.
Ideas are going to be what changes the world, but only if people have the vision to try them out. To actually build them. Building a better world, together, is what we want do.