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Keeping it Weird in Austin, Reflections on SXSW, Tech for Social Good and Serendipity

Craig Zelizer

March 14, 2015

PCDN was very fortunate to be invited to participate in SXSW Interactive this year, the world's leading festival connecting thousands and thousands of professionals/companies from around the world who are engaged in using tech for health, social good, good governance, and much more.

Dr. Catalina Rojas, the Director of Innovation for PCDN, was very fortunate to be selected as a receipient of the Dewey Winburne Community Service Award. Last night was the award ceremony, and Dr. Rojas/PCDN were one of ten amazing/people organizations featured as digitial do gooders. It was a beautiful event that honored the legacy of Dewey Winburne, one of the Founders of SXSW Interactive, who gave his boundless energy and enthusiasm to serve others in Austin and around the world.

The awardess included amazing organizations, like Library for All,  a nonprofit that exists to unlock knowledge to those without access to books in developing countries. To achieve this, they have built an application that delivers e-books to people living in developing countries at a much lower cost than building physical libraries. The content is available on low-cost devices such as tablets, mobile phones and PC’s. Another inspiring awardee (all are amazing) is Radar, which trains citizen journalists in some of the poorest regions of the world.

I would encourage everyone to look up all the Dewey Awardees this year and be inspired by their work, and also be in contact with each respective org to see how you might engage, learn or partner. Below also see the speech Dr. Rojas gave when she received the award.

Being at SXSW is hard to describe. There more than 32,000 people from over 80 countries attending this amazing event. It is part carnival, festival, a feast of sights and inspiration, a networkers dream, a place to connect with like-minded individuals and also with completely different sectors.  There are is also a lot of serendipity just attending the events, running into people and starting up conversations and being open to the unexpected.

My first 24 hours have included attending the Dewey Service Awards, listening to a panel with leading business leaders and nonprofit communication professionals from Change.org, the World Wildlife Fund, Virgin America (The Airline). Some key lessons are the need for all orgs to find ways to better engage their audience, to build in creative and fun  ways to have people become brand advocates for your cause, to take risks, and move fast.

The World Wildlife Fund, disussed how they are the world's largest conservation org and how they grow their supporters and social media audience, to take direct action on some of the world's most pressing environmental challenges.

Walking around  Austin, whose motto is "keep it weird",  there are many adventures one experiences, from sampling food from the city's amazing fusion food truck culture, to hearing country music on the street, to walking down a street and being  invited into a tech startup's offices to hear from the CEO about their new app.

The first 24 hours have been an adventure and wonderful opp for PCDN to link and share with the global changemaking community.  We look forward  to the next few days at SXSW.

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