What Am I Doing At SXSW in 2015?

For anyone in the interactive, creative, film, cause, technology, media, education, music, marketing, entertainment or startup space, the annual South-by-Southwest Interactive Festival is (still) a must-attend event.  It is one of the most exciting gatherings of smart, passionate people – amateur and professional alike – who are looking at ways media and technology are changing society (and how to build, grow, sustain, shape and re-shape whatever that society will look like in the future).

This year at SXSW, I will be working on a variety of things.  Here is a quick rundown:

1) Can Media Save Us From Disaster? I will be co-convening a Core Conversation about how to re-think our approach to disaster preparedness and management.  Here is the description:

Disasters are not “won” in the moment. The before (preparedness) and after (recovery) that are the most important times when an emergency situation arises - not to mention the most ripe for disruption and innovation.  Instead of spending so much energy focusing on ‘managing’ disasters (reacting, responding, surviving) - we should be looking at how to improve the ways we prepare, learn from, and rebuild when bad things happen. And the key to that conversation - media.  Media is a resilience infrastructure. It makes us smarter as individuals, more connected as communities and groups. This session will focus on how we can better use media to train and mobilize individuals to prepare for disaster, and the role that media can play in rebuilding faster and better.

Full session information here.

2) Disaster Dialogues. Disaster Dialogues is a project I have launched to help prompt some new thinking about our approach to disaster preparedness. There are huge gaps in how we think about disaster preparedness, particularly by individuals — including the information we collect and share, the tools we use to connect and communicate, the steps we take to educate and support people to insure they take the necessary steps to be ready when disaster strikes. 

While at SXSW, I will be interviewing people about the specific challenges related to disaster preparedness, and then publishing the output of those conversations.  I have also launched a short survey - and would welcome your thoughts and ideas on this topic. 

3) Innovate for Good. I am honored to be part of a session hosted by the UN Foundation entitled #2030NOW: Innovations for the World We Want.  Here is the session description:

Innovate for Good: How Technology & Innovation is Advancing Humanity:
This session is built around the knowledge that in an ever-changing world, entrepreneurs, non-profits and companies are using their creativity to develop new ways to impact the world and help the greater good. This conversation will introduce a range of voices from across industries to discuss innovation in issues ranging from refugees & cookstoves to energy access & tech accessibility.

I will be participating in the session in my capacity as Project Director for the Hive, a skunk-works type initiative powered by USA for UNHCR that is designed to transform how people in the United States are engaged and mobilized on issues relating to refugees.

Full session details are here.

4) SXGoodGuys. I have teamed up with Liba Rubenstein to launch SXGoodGuys - powered by Tumblr.  This is a modest attempt to kick-start this much-needed conversation about how to address serious issues in our society differently.  Here is a brief overview:

SXSW’s original goal was “to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas.” As it’s grown exponentially to serve musicians, filmmakers, technologists, marketers, and their fans, it’s become increasingly difficult to actually bring diverse communities/disciplines/industries together and cross-pollinate. Nowhere is this more true than in the social good space; as SXSW has responded to demand and begun to program official social good content (http://sxsw.com/sxgood), the philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and policymakers are pretty much keeping to themselves. And yet no space could benefit more from the cross-pollination of ideas, experience and expertise that is represented at SXSW than social good.  Our hope is to help direct people who are not already part of the social good discussion to get involved, and to encourage those deeply invested in social good to do more to take advantage of everything else that SXSW offers in terms of expertise and ideas.

The project can be accessed here.

5). Solutions for Survival. I am helping to organize a special ’solutions session’ that will bring together a diverse mix of the smartest, most creative social entrepreneurs from different areas of expertise and perspective to discuss and develop specific, actionable ideas and solutions for some pressing challenges related to refugees.  Below is some background information:

Many of our fellow Americans are blind to the issues facing refugees. We are uncertain how to help. We don’t appreciate the importance of the issue - or the meaningful role we can play. And too often, we allow marketing to glamorize tragedy in the name of creating relevancy, and we become overloaded with images and stories reminding us of dire straits around the world - and easily de-sensitized to the point of inaction.

These issues deserve greater awareness. But more importantly, we must re-imagine the idea of engagement and advocacy to get people to act.

How do we break through to audiences in the United States? How do we get one of the most urgent challenges facing humanity – refugees – and make it relevant to today’s millennial, boomer, donor, academic, reporter, celebrity… everyday American?

Want to join us to spitball, learn and solve the world’s problems? The event details are here

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If you are going to be at SXSW and want to attend/participate in any of the things I listed, consider this your invitation.  Drop me a note to coordinate, show up and say hello - all are welcome.  If you won’t be at SXSW, but still want to connect or get involved, have ideas or questions to share, let me know that as well. Thanks.