How to Do Good Well at SXSW This Year

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Heading to SXSW Interactive this year? You won’t be alone. Attendance at the year’s coolest tech conference – where digital creatives, techies, do-gooders and marketers come together to figure out the future — tracks the tech bubble. And with apps these days selling for this many zeros, you can bet SXSW will see more than the 30,000 people who showed up last year.

A round-up of technology for social good sessions at SXSW Interactive 2014.

In years past, SXSW was trumpeted as a great place to launch new products. That’s changed recently, as fewer apps have kept their mojo after getting lots of attention during SXSW. These days, what’s keeping SXSW hotter than ever is an increased awareness of the power of SXSW conversations and ideas to have an impact in society.

That’s great news if you work in technology for social good. When everyone is focused on the hot new app, it’s hard to get in a word edgewise about things like online organizing, new forms of digital activism, digital cause marketing, or microvolunteering. But with the focus on the change that can be wrought with all this new technology, we nonprofits and social do-gooders can finally seize the day.

So without further ado, here’s my roundup of what I think are the important sessions, lounges, and events that will focus on social good this year at SXSW.

The Beacon Lounge

The Beacon Lounge will be back at Austin Convention Center for its sixth year, and it remains as vital as ever, with four days of meet ups, expert-led discussions, beer, live music, food, and casual hanging out. This year the Beacon debuts the Do Good Dialogues, where pretty much everyone is invited to grab the mic and share how you are using design, technology, and communication to lean in to solutions for us all.

SXSW Social Good Hub

The action moves offsite from the convention center to two nearby locations for this series of talks and sessions on social good. The awesome teams at Change.org, Participant Media, and the UN Foundation have put together an amazing agenda of counter-programming on topics like design strategy, innovation, conscious consumption, and more. Plus, a party…of course. (It’s SXSW, after all.)

Why Clicktavisim Is Not a Dirty Word

After a decade of Facebook helping billions on the Web learn about issues, it’s amazing that people still doubt the power of social media. But we see time and again how sharing stories about important issues, filling out petitions, and even just liking organizations can be incredible ways to support an organization. Come hear folks like Tumblr’s Liba Rubenstein set the record straight.

Ethics & Future of Crowdfunding for Communities

There’s so much hype about the awesome power of crowdfunding that the ethical questions – like what makes for a good social impact investment, and what happens to the money – often get ignored. This session with social good tech ombudsman David Neff is definitely ahead of the trend.

Multiplatform Strategies for Making Good Happen

Tons of conversations at SXSW this year will be about multiplatform planning – that is, using all kinds of media formats to keep a story going and influence people to get involved. Nonprofit folks can definitely learn a bunch in this session with some of the best minds in the business like Caitlin Burns and Lina Srivastava.

How Tech Companies Can Renew Capitalism

Over the years I’ve seen dozens of web services get launched purporting to have a business model that will change the world. Most fell flat. That’s why I think tech founders with truly innovative approaches like Ben Rattray from Change.org are worth a listen.

Hackathons for Social Good

With so many smart folks around, it’s hard not to be inspired by the possibilities. The idea of getting down to business to make the future come to life is why hackathons are so incredibly popular at SXSW.

The list above just scratches the surface. Here’s a big hot tip: Follow #sxgood to keep up with events and real-time memes during and round the conference.

How about you? Are you headed to SXSW this year? Let us know what’s inspiring you about technology for social good.

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6 thoughts on “How to Do Good Well at SXSW This Year

  1. Pingback: How to Do Good Well at SXSW This Year | CauseHub

  2. Thank you so much for the shout-out to our session, “Multi-Platform Strategies for Making Good Happen.” We’re excited to see you there!

  3. This is a really great list – thank you so much for compiling it. I’ll definitely be following the #sxgood tag on Twitter.

    I hope that all of these developers will involve nonprofits, charities and other mission-based organizations in their decision making – not just say, “Hey, here’s a fabulous tech tool we developed for you!” Those tools and initiatives come and go so quickly because they forgot to include the potential clients in the development.

    And don’t forget if you are at SXSW – it’s music that started it all, and you’re really missing out if you don’t take in at least a couple of music events at the conference! Back in my day, the best free daytime party was behind Yard Dog on Congress, but I don’t know if that happens anymore…

  4. Thanks for the roundup – this is really helpful. I want to put in a shameless plug for our session, if you don’t mind.

    Hacking Attention: Media, Technology & Crisis
    http://schedule.sxsw.com/2014/events/event_IAP23263

    Superstorms, bombings and protests around the globe are challenging the way people use technology to respond to crisis and conflict. Journalists, hackers and local people are collaborating to better cover, communicate and support their communities. Using new technology, people all over the planet can participate in providing aid in various forms.

    Come play with new tools and apps being designed to document and fight human rights abuses and help rebuild after natural disasters. Learn how ad-hoc networks of digital first responders are keeping people informed and connected through chaotic and frightening moments of crisis. These new networks are challenging old institutions, but do they lack the longevity to sustain longterm change?

    With examples from around the globe, we’ll examine how media coverage and Internet activism shapes our responses to natural disasters and ongoing conflicts.

    See you there!

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