Calling All Superheroes

Paint the World
Paint the World

The Pollination Project wants to change the world. Scratch that: they want to help other people, people with vision, with passion, with creative and exciting ideas that will change communities and lives and create a more compassionate, joyful world. That just might be you.

The Pollination Project was founded by Ariel Nessel, a real estate developer, vegan, and philanthropist who wanted to have a deeper connection with work happening on the ground. He decided to give away a small grant each day, investing in others who share his entrepreneurial spirit, and created The Pollination Project. Each day in 2013, they’ll give away $1,000 to a different project.

I had a chance to talk with Alissa Hauser, the Executive Director of the Pollination Project, and she told me, “There’s something quite magical about the way that we’re approaching this. Pollination in itself is magical. Every time that a new plant is born, it’s kind of a miracle. Think about a dandelion: all these seeds blow, some take, some don’t take, and new plants emerge…”

Halfway in to the second month of the year, they’ve already invested in some exciting things, like Paint the World. Founded by high school junior Michael Meng, who understood the power of the arts because of the way it has changed his own life, Paint the World brings teams of volunteers who create hands-on pop-up arts experiences in homeless shelters and elementary schools. There’s also Megan Pinctus Kajitani, a mom and vegan who’s creating an e-book and other resources at the Giraffe Revolution, so other busy parents have support to try healthy plant-based diets.

Alissa and Ari are parents themselves, and Alissa told me, “As a mom and a working parent of a three year old, there’s nothing more exciting to me than parents doing this work, inspired parents— we have so little time to change the world, we’re so busy trying to make ends meet and raise our kids, yet it’s incumbent on us because our children are inheriting the world.”

When I asked Alissa what she hopes she’ll see at the end of The Pollination Project’s first full year, she said, “I hope to see some that go so far beyond our wildest dreams, with some growth and blossoming we could’ve even imagined. I hope to see a handful of projects that just become something, like a new movement, that might not have happened without a little seed funding.”

A Pollination Project grantee
A Pollination Project grantee

They’re doing more than offering a little financial fertilizer to help projects bloom: they’re investing in superheroes. Alissa explained, “Everybody who applies is a superhero, even people we aren’t funding, because they have a vision and they do want to change the world.”

Feeling inspired?

Here are a few ways that you can get involved in their work supporting people poised to make a difference.

First, you can read about the funded projects. For me, learning about these inspiring people and exciting projects combats the heartbreaking stories of violence that fill the daily news, and demonstrates that the power and potential of regular people to make a difference.

Or, you can support some of the projects themselves. Very soon, The Pollination Project will post a few projects that can be adopted by the community, and you can contribute money of your own, or share your time and expertise with budding superheroes and world changers.

And, finally, if you’ve got a plan of your own, one that will benefit a broad part of your community or the world, you can apply for a grant from The Pollination Project. You don’t need to be a formal nonprofit organization or have a 501©3. The Pollination Project wants to seed projects that are in very early stages, led by people with deep commitment to the work they’re doing and a thought-out plan, who just need some money to get to the next stage with their work. Projects can be across a range of issues, from arts and culture to the environment and justice.

Most of all, the Pollination Project is looking for efforts that, as Alissa says, “create more compassion in the world. We like projects that we’re not just funding a thing, but we’re funding a shift in the human spirit in some way … projects that are education people and helping them be more purposeful and alive.”

The Pollination Project believes in the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Maybe their next superhero is you.