What I learned at SXSWi

March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

For nonprofits wondering whether to send staff to SXSW Interactive Conference (SXSWi), we say a resounding “YES!”  Social-good sessions were a major part of this year’s conference, and that’s probably here to stay.  Besides networking with other nonprofit types, there’s a ton of information about how to make your websites better, on the ground collaboration opportunities, and the latest information on free technologies.  Our Online Marketing Director, Lisa Goddard; and Online Development Coordinator, Aimy Wiley; share their highlights:


One of the most useful sessions I attended was “How the Other Half Lives – Touring the Digital Divide.” Librarians by day, Jessamyn West and Jenny Engstrom shared their unique struggles in providing support to those least likely to have access to technology. Their message was clear and practical: digital literacy, as well as broadband internet accessibility, must be factored into design, functionality and language choices when designing web pages for target low-income populations.  With this knowledge, I’m redesigning our “Get Help” section on austinfoodbank.org to be even more helpful.


SXSWi is a great place to find things you didn’t know you didn’t know about. At the “City as a Platform” panel, I learned about new developments in interactive cities.

Technologists from MIT to Manor, TX talked about new sensors and web applications that help buildings and streets “talk” about what’s going on in a city. This helps city officials clear up crime, fix potholes, and make other improvements more quickly.

The panel made me wonder how nonprofits can use these technologies in Central Texas cities to better our communities. We could gather real-time data about how many people are in line at a food pantry or how many people are sleeping on a sidewalk tonight, and use that information to be more effective. I’m keeping my eye out for those interesting opportunities.

For more information, check out this preview of the panel by A Smarter Planet.

Were you there? Tell us what you learned. Was it worth it? Why or why not?


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