Brace yourself. For the next few weeks it will be impossible to turn your head in the media without seeing a story featuring 4 little letters - SxSW. So here's what I'm gonna do. Write another one, but with a challenge: You will all make SxSW 2013 the year of Social Good. Yup, I'm totally serious. No, I haven't started on the tequila yet. Just hear me out.
Since its genesis in 1994, the South by Southwest Interactive festival (SxSW-i) has evolved from the horn-rimmed redheaded stepchild of a successful music festival into a massive international event that draws thousands to Austin every March. For those who have never been, let me attempt to describe the SxSW-i experience (or what I call it, Geek Spring Break). Take your brain, stuff it full of innovative thinking, new technology mashups, and the insight from the smartest people you've ever seen in one place. Then douse it liberally in free beer, wrap it in a tortilla, and set it on fire. Everyday. For 5 days.
Now picture this: You've come to SxSW-i to gain inspiration or launch your social good mission into the wild. But because of the crowds (25,000 in 2012), the crazy overlapping schedule of events, and your aching feet, you're overwhelmed and exhausted. Desperate to recharge yourself (and your devices), you're dying to chill out someplace with speedy WiFi, comfy couches, ample power strips, and the company of really cool like minded people.
Enter, The Beacon: Lounge with a Conscience, an oasis for SxSW's do-gooding Geekerati to meet up, catch their breath and change the world together. Now in its fifth year, The Beacon has hosted hundreds of crazy-smart tech folks who have networked and napped in our beanbag chairs. Through sponsored events, we have raised thousands of dollars for charities including Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, Capital Area Food Bank of Texas and UNICEF. We have brought together a community of passionate people who show that doing good is not only a worthwhile enterprise, but also really sexy. And yes, we have served some beer. (OK, a lot of beer.)
Back to that challenge. Margaret Mead said it best - "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." It's time to make this dynamic intersection of technology and social good the most incredible story to come out of SxSW-i ever.
How do we do it? Easy as tequila-pie.
1. Make The Beacon Lounge your home base at SxSW-i
Between March 8-12th, come stake our your own beanbag chair in The Beacon Lounge on the 3rd floor of the Austin Convention Center, room 8B. We're open from 9-6 everyday, with a full schedule of great events like breakfast, lunchtime conversations and happy hours with live music. Follow @beaconfire for the latest updates.
2. Get to know the movers & shakers in the Social Good space
It takes a village to Lounge with a Conscience, so come by The Beacon and meet our tribe. First learn about the organizations & companies that make The Beacon Lounge possible:. Change.org, Salsa Labs, Colorado Health Foundation, NTEN, Blackbaud, VolunteerMatch, Small World Labs, and Cause.it. And then chat up some of the rockstars in the social good space including the contributors of Groupon Grassroots's PhilanthroTech blog series. Think about it this way - Instead of stalking your twitter crushes, now you can meet them in person and do some good at the same time. TOTAL win/win.
3. Make #sxgood trend
Before, during and after SxSW-i, share social good tech news as you see it with the #sxgood hashtag on Twitter and follow Change.org's Twitter list. Go ahead and tag your Instagram, Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest posts too, while you're at it. Oh, and if you adopt a pet, have a baby or get a tattoo in the next few weeks, why not use #sxgood too? C'mon - it's all about the greater good, folks.
I know you've got it in you, SxSW. Let's DO this. Game on.
Eve Simon is Creative Director at Beaconfire, a web design & development firm that only works with social good organizations. On any given day at SxSW-i, she can be found running The Beacon: Lounge with a Conscience, so come by and say hi.