Gravel > time for Generator.

(ideas.)  At the end of this post, I’m going to ask you to help Generator get off the ground with a tax-deductible donation. I believe in this concept more than most things – and I believe that while our future may be full of uncertainty, there’s no doubt your generosity will generate momentum behind good and urgent ideas for the world.

I believe we are in the early stages of a dramatic and ultimately radical transformation in the way we build the world around us and the way we live our lives. We should talk about what that transformation looks like – everything from mass global urbanization to electric scooters – but our response to the challenges that come with these changes can’t rely on the smaller, separate arguments we have about issues like autonomous vehicles or gentrification. We need to focus intentionally on cultural revolution – and on our ability and willingness to shape that revolution to deliver the kinds of lives that we want.

I’m not talking about a political revolution, although this does have implications for politics. I’m talking about culture and a revolution fueled by our changing cultural expectations – the values we hold and the expectations we have for our lives. I usually frame these changing expectations in terms of infrastructure, but we can also see them reflected in our growing collective attention to equity, social spaces, locally-sourced food, gender identity, other forms of diversity, the maker movement, the shared economy, and in all kinds of related disruptions in the arts, business, and technology. Like the movement that made the Atlanta Beltline come to life, our changing expectations often start as personal and later translate to our view of the larger community.

By responding to change – either as the architects of change or as mere consumers of it – we become revolutionaries. And whether we like that label or not – whether we acknowledge our role in that change or not – our changing preferences are radically restructuring the larger economic, social, and cultural forces that will ultimately reshape all of our lives. What we buy, where we live, where we travel, who we date, how we vote, and what we do on Saturday night – all these decisions define how both the public and private sectors shape the world in ways as impactful as infrastructure, finance, and technology.

We can choose to not acknowledge our role in shaping that change and risk change that comes at our expense – mounting housing costs, eternal political polarization, and the suburbanization of the same structural inequities that defined poverty in the last century, for example. Or, we can embrace our role as revolutionaries and engage fully and deliberately in shaping change to support our best interests. Ideally, we will go further than that by working together to support people with ideas that can help deliver a broad, inclusive, and shared vision for our lives and for the places we live.

Tackling these big challenges may sound daunting, but that is where Generator comes in.

Generator’s mission is to help people generate, pursue, connect, and deliver ideas that support the future of cities. We envision a world where everyday citizens, armed with ideas and ready for action, can create real and lasting change for their communities and for the world. While we could wait for others to lead, we prefer engaging ourselves directly with the people, ideas, and related efforts that can achieve the broader, systemic change that we need.

Embedded in Generator’s mission is a confidence in the power of ideas to achieve that scale of change. We see three big challenges, however, for the kinds of ideas that we need.

  1. Big ideas are complex, and their implementation requires us to vet and refine them with deep topical expertise across many disciplines – think ecological rehabilitation or digital privacy. Access to this kind of knowledge, however, is often limited by the siloed nature of expertise and the opaque language of experts.
  2. There’s a lot of money to be made in the maintenance of the status-quo. Leaders in the public sector, private sector, and in philanthropy, therefore, are often unable or unwilling to challenge current conditions, making even good ideas unpopular, unwanted, or at least chronically underfunded.
  3. To address the scale and range of the challenges we face, no one idea will be enough. We need a movement of ideas. We need to cultivate a community ethos that is open to ideas and can translate the best ideas into action.

Energized by these challenges, Generator is designed to address them head-on. Our first major undertaking is the creation of a meeting ground for this movement of ideas – a physical and digital platform for seeding, cultivating, vetting, and sharing ideas about the future of cities. And because we know all the great social and cultural movements in world history come out of bars and restaurants – we are starting this effort with Aftercar.

Opening in 2019, Aftercar will be an independent, for-profit, full-service restaurant that provides both a physical space and a reliable source of funding so that Generator can focus on its mission. Generator, in turn, will enliven and differentiate Aftercar with its unique programming, diverse audience, and engaged partners. Together, they will create a one-of-a-kind, experience-driven destination built around ideas that nobody is asking for, but that just might change the world.

Our location is on the Atlanta Beltline in the Telephone Factory basement. Other details about Aftercar will have to wait, but our leading idea is that by providing a venue for food and drinks along this highly-sociable corridor, Generator will tap into an intrinsic aspect of our humanity – that by breaking bread together and sharing a meal, we are more likely to see each other, understand each other, and work toward a shared vision for our lives. Aftercar will provide the condition for those connections – complete with a Blade Runner vibe – and provide a casual public interface to the often heavy and uncomfortable work at Generator. Maybe you’ll just come by for a beer but end up imagining a new kind of future.

With generous support from the Kendeda Fund, MailChimp, and others, we’re already 25% through a $1.6 million campaign that includes both capital and start-up operational costs. Your generosity will not only help create an amazing space for this movement. By building it, we will also buy down our lease sufficiently to establish an ongoing, sustainable revenue stream for our operational costs over time. That means we won’t have to keep asking for money.

I hope you see what a timely and unique opportunity this is – and I hope you want to be a part of it. Please check out our website. Share this post or the links below with your friends and employers. Own a little piece of the Generator. And when you think about your year-end tax-exempt gifts – claim your role as a revolutionary, invest in Generator, and get more involved in shaping your future.  >> Ryan Gravel


Generator at a glance.

  • We are a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
  • We are happy to tailor sponsorship agreements with your company.
  • Our website is:
  • Sample tweet-length message for your friends: Beltline guy starting a new nonprofit called GENERATOR – says it creates a platform for people with ideas – “a one-of-a-kind, experience-driven destination built around ideas that nobody is asking for, but that just might change the world.” Donate to make a difference >
  • Related story on WABE 90.1, Atlanta’s NPR station: Ryan Gravel’s Next Big Idea: Eat, Drink, Save The World


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