Kristine Frech and Erika Fiola are looking for ideas. Good ones. And they have ice cream.
Frech and Fiola created Cincy Sundaes, a collaborative opportunity that provides a space for locals to hear or pitch ideas that benefit the city.
A lot of times, these solid, community-based ideas can get lost due to lack of funding, but Cincy Sundaes — where guests pay to hear, pitch and vote on ideas while eating frozen treats — is an experiment in microfunding. Everyone pays $5 to attend and, after hearing all the presentations, votes on their favorite idea. The winner is granted all the money from the door.
Frech and Fiola found inspiration for Cincy Sundaes through similar events happening in St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago and Brooklyn, N.Y., each of which consistently grant between $500 and $1,200 per event.
The Detroit model, Detroit SOUP, uses soup instead of ice cream: People come together to eat a hot bowl of soup (plus salad and bread) and share ideas.
According to its website, the microfunder averages about 225 people at each dinner and has granted more than $55,000 to local projects over three years. Frech and Fiola are hoping to do the same in Cincinnati.
“We thought Cincy Sundaes was appropriate because Cincinnati has a huge ice cream culture,” Fiola says. “This is happening in other communities, and we just thought we should be doing this here. We want to help these ideas get funding and choose which one could be most impactful.” Dojo Gelato will provide gelato and a non-dairy sorbetto option for attendees to load up with a variety of toppings.
Frech, a Cincinnati native, works for Vision 2015, Northern Kentucky’s 10-year strategic plan for growth.
Fiola, a recent transplant from St.
Louis, works for Agenda 360, the counterpart to the same project in Southwest Ohio. For both women, passion is intertwined with community development.
Frech attributes her passion for the community to growing up in Cincinnati.
“It’s really neat to be a Cincinnatian doing such impactful work in Northern Kentucky,” Frech says. “We’re catalyzing talent on both sides of the river...I think that we’re ready as a community. The more we’re able to function as a region — the better. It will be incredibly encouraging when people start telling a different story about Cincinnati. The future is really bright.”
What makes Cincy Sundaes so unique is that you don’t need to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to present an idea — individuals and informal groups are welcome.
Frech and Fiola want people who will present on community ideas and things that will make the region a better place, such as a community garden or a small neighborhood music festival.
Participants have to apply a week before each event, where four presenters will have four minutes to share their idea. The application isn’t intensive; the only requirement is that the idea must benefit the community in some way.
Applicants can submit anything from a formal paper to a drawing, as long as it expresses their vision. After the presentations, attendees will vote for their favorite idea and 100 percent of the money collected at the door will go directly into that idea.
Not only will the winner receive the money to fund their project, but they will also be held accountable for making that idea a reality. “[Presenters] have to be willing to come back in three months to reengage the group and talk about the progress they’ve made with their micro-grant,” Frech says.
The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Big Idea Challenge will match the money raised at the first two events, which means twice as much funding for the winning ideas. There will be a total of six events in 2014 — and it’s B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bowl). The events will alternate between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, creating an interactive hub of awesome ideas and community support.
“Before moving here I didn’t really know much about Cincinnati,” Fiola says. “Since coming here, I’ve been super impressed. There’s this energy and excitement and so much potential — and that’s what we’re trying to leverage. We want to make something big out of this.”
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