An Awesome theory for change in Miami

Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected].

Asset mapping is the practice of gathering an inventory of the strengths and resources of a community to help uncover solutions and address community needs. Imagine a neighborhood that wants more public space, but keeps getting denied by their municipality, coming together to map its assets and finding that they have many of the resources they need to create a park themselves. These assets can come in the shape of a business with a tract of spare land they have no plans for, a few retired carpenters who volunteer to build some furniture, a handful of small businesses who commit to chipping in for maintenance, or local artists who agree to paint murals and beautify garbage cans.

If we don’t ask, we often do not know what assets are hidden in plain sight, and perhaps more unfortunately, those assets won’t understand and feel empowered about the role they can play.

So, what is in Miami’s asset map? What assets come to mind when we build these maps by issue, by neighborhood or by street corner? I ask these questions often, in part because I keep coming across unsatisfactory answers, but also because I cannot shake the feeling that there are so many of them.

This is not unique to Miami – holistic discourse around our assets and opportunities is a challenge in every major city – but it is perhaps more salient here in some ways. Miami consistently ranks at the bottom of the list when it comes to civic engagement in major U.S. metropolitan areas. We also have the second largest wealth disparity in the nation. We are deeply entrepreneurial and immigrant powered, but we often lead and innovate from a scarcity mindset.

In short, we are very much still a young city in progress.

Wait, weren’t we talking about assets? Oh, but we are. Each of the gaps and issues facing our community has an untapped world of resources that could be activated lying dormant around them. Awesome Foundation MIAMI’s theory of change is based precisely on this – that the very citizens and ordinary people who make up our city are one of our biggest assets, if we remind them of their role and empower them to take it.

We do this in part by awarding monthly micro-grants of $1,000 to grassroots, local ideas. But the most important aspect is not the fiduciary contribution, but rather the opportunity given to individuals from every corner of Miami to submit their ideas for consideration. To feel that there is someone to turn to, in order to receive some encouragement, validation, and support.

If seeing a monthly list of Miamians that care about something enough to apply for $1,000 to make it happen  does not make you optimistic about how much we do care, how much creative spirit and grit and inspiration we have, and how much effort and concern for others our neighbors exhibit, I don’t know what will.

Earlier this year, we celebrated our six-year anniversary with our most significant milestone yet – the awarding of our 100th grant! This documentary was produced to showcase our work and impact over the last six years, and we could not be prouder. Through it all, we have remained guided by a desire to highlight and support moments of invention, courage, empathy, and connection across our city. Whether that is in the form of artistic expression, a novel solution, an educational experience, an attempt to move the needle, or to bridge a gap.

We hope you join us in celebrating these milestones, not because they are an accomplishment for us, but because they are a reflection of our city. The list of grantees we have funded may seem random; they range from activations and events to nonprofit and business ideas across many sectors and topics. But in reality, this reflects the plurality of assets in Miami, and the diversity of ideas that surges from all of us who call this city home.

We hope you take a moment to watch the documentary, and that it bolsters your faith in the power of grassroots, small, bottom-up, individual contributors adding up to change communities. Afterward, if you are left with an urge to get involved, here are some options to consider:

Apply! If you have an awesome (pun intended) idea that has an impact on Miami, go for it! The application deadline is the 15th of every month.

Share with others! Help us spread the word that we are truly meant to be a resource for everyone.

Become a trustee! If you’re interested in learning more about joining our board, email us at [email protected]

Propose a partnership! Over  the years, we have partnered with numerous institutions to award grants on specific topics. From Akerman, LLC and Refresh Miami, to The Children’s Trust, Miami Dade College, the World Happiness Summit, Catalyst Miami, and many others. If you have a specific area of focus you think could be interesting for us to grant-make around and are willing to collaborate with us on it, send us an email at [email protected]