SXSWi: What You Can Do To Continue The Journey / by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson

obama2Last night I returned home to my family after a whirlwind few days at SXSWi!  As I reflected on my time in Austin, there were a few thoughts that struck me.  President Obama best encapsulated the potential of a gathering like SXSWi during his keynote address. "The reason I’m here is to recruit all of you.  We can start coming up with new platforms, new ideas across disciplines and across skill sets to solve some of the big problems we’re facing today." - President Obama

In many ways, President Obama's call to action is a "JFK 2.0" where we hold ourselves accountable to what we can do for our country.  And what we should do for our country is blend our sectors, siloes, and party affiliations in ways that align towards achieving change as opposed to focus on what divides us.  But what will that take?

  • Build "3.0" Cities - As Mayor Kevin Johnson shared in his remarks during our SXSWi panel Bootstrapping Your Cities Innovation Ecosystem, we need to move towards the vision of the next generation city that will be a beacon of opportunity.  This city is not built around ports and railroads (1.0), or large industrial companies (2.0).  Instead, 3.0 cities rely on being hubs of technology.  When it comes to building technology hubs, Mayor Johnson saw my 4 "Is" and raised them with three of his own- Innovation, Infrastructure, and Inclusion.
  • Upgrade Technology Focus - When it comes to INNOVATION, we will have to commit to technology that is focused on more than what is just new, entertaining, or quick.  As I shared with my alma mater, Duke University, the next frontier for my fellow engineers is not what product or service you create, but what problem you solve.  Steve Case, founder of AOL, describes this phenomenon as "Web 3.0".  We need to channel our INNOVATION towards solving the world's most complex problems, and frankly, we are missing the boat.  Venturebeat suggested that SXSWi in particular needs an "upgrade"  if we are going to ensure that the passions and proficiencies of the SXSWi platform are channeled towards the problems that matter most.
  • Fuel the Capitalist Renaissance- Before it was popular, I shared thoughts about how the shift from local to global capitalism has led to disinvestment in our local communities.  Similarly, several professors from my other alma mater wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review about investing in the "business commons" to enable our economy to thrive.  We've also seen efforts by leaders like John Mackey with Conscious Capitalism or Tony Hsieh with his work in Las Vegas to support inclusive economic prosperity.  Regardless of what we call it or who says it, these comments are essentially all about INFRASTRUCTURE.  The United States is uniquely positioned to channel its talent and energy in solving the world's biggest problems instead of fighting for scraps in the shrinking pie of our current zero sum game model of capitalism.
  • Adopt the Inclusion Growth Model-   The "third rail" of Mayor Johnson's 3 "Is" is inclusion.  The major impediment to inclusion as a superior growth model is the perception that a focus on inclusion is somehow undermining our nation's global competitiveness.  I am a woman of color who was trained to have data drive my decisions.  I instinctively shy away from arguments purporting gender and/or ethnicity as the reason for changing our economic approach.  But the data shows that the fastest growing demographics (people of color), often can't afford education and are also disproportionately incarcerated.  Regardless of your politics, our country cannot deport our way out of this problem.  Furthermore, while it is easy to shorthand people of color into model ethnicity Asians and resource drain African-Americans, all people of color ultimately benefit from policies that do not leave large swaths of our population behind.

I hope we can take these ideas and work together over the coming year to continue our journey to improve our cities and our country, and I welcome your thoughts on the most powerful and productive next steps!