Imagine a world where people eat to raise money for a cause they support. That's what STEW is doing in Baltimore. Their inaugural dinner kicked off last weekend in a beautiful old church known as 2640. STEW was inspired by a national movement of grassroots fundraising solutions for community-supported projects. By most accounts, this trend was started by Chicago's InCubate and spread to STOCK, in Portland, Oregon, and FEAST, in Brooklyn, before making its way to the mid-Atlantic.
The 70 people who attended the dinner each paid $10 for a four-course meal that was made with donated food from local farms and was served by volunteers. Presentations by local organizations filled the time between each course. Each described what they do and why they need money to run their operation. When the presentations ended, the diners voted on which group should receive the money. In this case, they voted that the three groups split the $700 that was raised.
Imagine the possibilities for designers.
Designers are looking for new solutions to deep-seeded social problems but finding money to support these projects proves to be a major obstacle. Sustainable micro-lending solutions like STEW are viable alternatives to the painful cycle of grant writing. On a larger scale, Kickstarter.org and Kiva.org add to the fundraising options but look for events like STEW as they pop up in cities near you.