SXSW is one of those events can change you. The festival, which started as a music festival which later became a film festival and later still became the interactive festival, is one of the most eclectic festivals in the world. It’s art, meets tech, meets music, meets CEOs, meets hipsters, meets revellers, meets students, those into social good and everyone else and in between. Here are three things that I have learned from my trip.
Social and enterprise converging
This may come as no shock to anybody involved in the social enterprise movement but it is becoming increasingly clear that social and enterprise are merging. The rise of B Corporations in America, Community interest companies in the UK and other models appearing around the world have gained interest in the enterprise in capitalist markets. A number of the CEOs speaking told the phone measuring shareholder value is not as important is measuring the customers and the employees satisfaction. They were much more concerned about how the company was making progress in tackling the issues and making sure all their stakeholders involved.
Impact investing and venture capital
A lot of people still haven’t defined what impact investing really means. Whether you are an impact investor or an impact investee, figuring out what to measure and why is still a hot topic. In one of the breakout sessions in the social good hub, just such an argument broke out to the amusement of the audience. Some investors were very clear and on how the investees should make their case known. But the investees are quick to point out that the investors didn’t always know what was best for their organisation. The conversation drew parallels with how investment started with venture capitalists in the 50s, 60s and 70s. No doubt we’ll be hearing a lot about impact investing in the next decade.
People are ready for change
One of the first sessions I was able to attend was that of Al Gore who talked about a number of topics but wrestled with drought in his presentation. A lot of people in SXSW feel as if they’re the enlightened. but how engaged are we globally with environmental issues and man’s impact on the world. One of the solutions offered was to make energy more local and communities more empowered. This may seem obvious, but tech is really trying to grapple with some of the major challenges of our time including food security, access to clean water, floods and droughts, and remote healthcare amongst other things.
Wrapped up in all the talks was this external view of the world that we don’t always see. We need to think outside of just our square mile or our city to the wider impact and what might be possible. And those ideas get seeded in places like Austin during SXSW. For those interested in attending, log on to sxsw.com for next years event.