What does the intersection of music, film, tech, social good, government, and health look like? In March, I boarded a plane to Austin, Texas to find out! This year was my first time at South by Southwest (SXSW) and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was in for a whirlwind!
This year, the United Nations Foundation partnered with SXSW to challenge attendees with a social good treasure hunt for the chance to win some awesome prizes. The treasure began at the Social Good Hub, a creative content space designed to unite and celebrate people from various industries that are driving social innovation. Throughout my time there, I used Instagram Stories to give UN Foundation follower a VIP pass to SXSW’s coolest activations.
While roaming the Social Good Hub, Conservation International caught my attention with their beautiful pictures of the Amazon rainforest. They’re an organization which strives to protect the nature we deeply depend on. For over 30 years, they’ve harnessed science, policy, and partnerships with countries, communities and companies to help safeguard over 601 million hectares of land, marine and coastal areas. In their activation, they took you on a virtual reality trip to the Amazon in Ecuador! Virtual reality has become a powerful tool that non-profits are using to tell compelling stories and build empathy amongst people that are worlds away. You can watch the video they showcased here.
Conservation Org activation at SXSW. Picture by Nicol Perez.
Throughout my time at SXSW, I noticed a common theme in many panels was building uncommon partnerships. The public and private sectors are finding innovative ways of partnering to help advance the global goals and positively impact communities. For example, IBM, in coordination with former US Vice President Joe Biden, is leveraging cloud technology to help the fight against cancer. Last year, IBM announced that its Genomics technology would help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Precision Oncology Program.
I also had the privilege of interviewing Elaine Weidman Grunewald, Ericsson’s Chief Sustainability Office, about how they’re is using their broadband technology to help when natural disasters hit communities in need. To companies considering corporate responsibility programs, she gave the following advice:
- Be authentic. Look at your business and think through how you can use your product or services to solve a problem in a community/ the world. Connect to causes or projects that have a connection to your business, industry, or employees.
- Drive impact. Don’t just create these programs for PR purposes. Consumers and shareholders see straight through that. Make sure you’re doing these programs for the right reasons and that you’re fully focus on adding value to people’s lives, not just profit.
Watch the interview on the UN Foundation Facebook page.
People may be surprised to learn that many of these partnerships start with a simple conversation or email. They are born when people take a chance and contact those who might be interested in joining forces for a good cause. Conferences like SXSW are breeding grounds for collaborations. As I walked through the conference, the air was buzzing. Introductions, stories, and ideas were ready to become actions. The conference was a reminder that solving the world’s biggest challenges requires effective collaboration. Everyone must play their part, and roaming SXSW reinforced the idea that people from all walks of life, ages, industries, and places can come together to create solutions that we might’ve never thought possible.
Stay tuned across all UN Foundation channels for opportunities to learn more and go behind the scenes at conferences like SXSW! Connect with me on social media @USyouthobserver for more ways to get involved.