SXSW impressions: Doing good is the new cool

Last week I had the pleasure of attending SXSW Interactive Festival 2017 to immerse myself in new and emerging forms of storytelling. What impressed me most was the rate at which the social impact community is growing. It’s now cool to do good — and that’s great.

SXSW, which started in Austin as a music festival, has evolved into a 40,000 person conference of everything from celebrity-driven film events to the latest in emerging technology across industries like health, government, journalism, social media, etc.

Social impact everywhere

One of my primary goals during SXSW was to attend seminars focused on social impact, but there were often four or five panels on the same topic happening at once, making it difficult to choose which to attend. The rooms at Techspace Austin were completely dedicated to social entrepreneurship-focused speeches, workshops and panels. There were also a wide variety of activities at three other locations around downtown for the first weekend of SXSW. Lines wrapped through the corridors and many sessions sold out early. But why?

Good is the new cool

One panel summed it up perfectly: Good is the new cool. Two advertising and marketing professionals spoke about their book, diving into the importance of social responsibility for brands. They discussed how now, more than ever, people demand more of the companies they work for and buy from, and how many consumers will switch to a competitor for a good cause.

It also wasn’t uncommon to overhear conversations in the convention centers deriding companies like Uber for cultural issues and lack of an apparent social mission.  

Several organizations discussed a new enthusiasm around core social issues in the midst of the current geopolitical shifts across the United States and Europe.

What does this mean for social entrepreneurs and changemakers?

My hope is that this rising interest in the social impact community will translate to more support and funding opportunities for social impact entrepreneurs.  We’ve already seen significant efforts by the Knight foundation and Ashoka at SXSW to foster a new generation of innovation and entrepreneurship around social impact.

In the same way that venture capital firms, angel investors and incubators offer support for tech startups, I hope we’ll see greater support for entrepreneurs who measure success by the social impact they achieve and not merely the profits they reap.

In my second and final post sharing my SXSW impressions, I’ll discuss the latest storytelling trends in virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as key tips to keep in mind for new people diving into this space.

By Matt Ford

Matt is an avid experimenter of new forms of visual storytelling. He worked as a multimedia journalist for The Associated Press covering the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the Arab uprisings, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Before journalism, Matt worked in the Los Angeles film industry as a set and studio lighting technician on productions such as Spiderman 2 and The West Wing.

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