Of food and funding


What: Bham SOUP

When: 6 pm Mon., Jan. 21

Where: Goat Mountain Pizza, 211 W. Holly St.

Cost: Suggested donation is $10 at the door


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ten dollars will go further than usual at an inaugural Bham SOUP event taking place Mon., Jan. 21 at Goat Mountain Pizza.

First off, those in attendance at the first-come, first-served event will be dished out a delicious bowl of warm goodness made by the eatery’s Charlie Pasquier—you can choose from ginger chicken noodle or shiitake miso soup—and a generous serving of bread.

But that’s not all the suggested $10 donation will get you. The entry fee for the micro-funding dinner celebrating and supporting creative projects in downtown Bellingham also entitles attendees to a vote for their favorite of four proposals of the evening. The Bham SOUP proposition with the most votes at the end of the night will receive the cash that’s been collected at the door—meaning they can start implementing their project almost immediately.

“The four we chose seemed to fit the SOUP format best,” says Alice Clark, executive director of Downtown Bellingham Partnership and a known force for good when it comes to promoting and elevating the city she calls home. (Clark is organizing the kickoff event with Pasquier, former Temple Bar owner Chelsea Farmer, and Bank of the Pacific’s BJ Van Leeuwen.)

While Clark wouldn’t spill on the specifics of the four proposals that were culled from a list of about 10, guidelines for those who signed up to have their ideas heard by the public included the directive that their project must demonstrate it will have a positive impact on downtown Bellingham, and that projects could range from placemaking and art to entrepreneurial and social enterprises.

Each contender at the dinner will make a verbal pitch directly to the people—and without the use of visuals, musical instruments, supplements or collaborative partners. They’ll each have eight minutes to make their case, and will take questions from the audience. After patrons have voted on what they think will benefit the downtown core the most, and what they think will be the most easily implementable with the funds available, the winner will be announced. 

“SOUP is basically a conduit for ideas to happen,” Clark says of the event, which was inspired by a similar micro-funding dinner series that started in 2007 in Detroit, and has since spread to scores of other cities and nations throughout the world.

“I really like that it is community driven and immediate, that people present their ideas to the community and they decide who to support,” she adds. “I also like that the winner can get the funds at the end of the night and get started on their project right away, and the way that it offers a forum for ideas so even if a project doesn’t win that night it gets to be presented to others who might step up and offer to help make it happen anyway.

“I’m excited that this could be a really great way to make all kinds of projects happen downtown that otherwise might just stay in someone’s head as a ‘I should do that’ idea. There is the money that can be raised at SOUP for a project, but more importantly there is the conversation and the act of getting the idea out there, which inspires people to offer support and might even inspire others to pitch their own ideas at future SOUPs.”

To keep the momentum going at the quarterly events—the next gathering will take place in April—the winner of the funds from the previous Bham SOUP must agree to attend the following one to discuss the progress of their proposal. And Clark says downtown neighborhood community members who are interested in engaging others in making cool projects happen where they live and work are encouraged to help organize the food-enhanced shindigs.

“I think it is a really powerful tool for making some incredibly righteous and powerful things happen downtown,” Clark says. “It has the capacity to really build over time with real, tangible results that we can all experience and be proud we supported and got off the ground.”

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