The SXSW Role in Trump’s America

The Forrest Four-Cast: November 19, 2016

Earlier this week, we held one of our large meetings for the Programming Group at SXSW. I say “large” because this meeting pulled together everyone who works on Conference activities (for SXSW Interactive, SXSW Music, SXSW Film, SXSW Eco and SXSWedu), as well as people who create content for the various Festivals that happen in Austin in March. In total, there were about 50 people attending this gathering.

This kind of large meeting is something relatively new — it reflects a revised approach in which badge-holders have much more access to all kinds of SXSW programming (watch this short video to better understand this increased badge functionality). This is the third large meeting of this type that we have conducted for the 2017 season.

But the meeting that week was very different than the previous two. The main point of discussion for the 50 people in attendance was how we as an event would change (or not) programming in relation to the November 8 results. Over the 20+ years that I have worked at SXSW, I have sat through plenty of meetings — some of them less engaging than others. But, I can’t remember a meeting with as much passion and as much emotion and feeling as this one. Some of the conversation focused on re-dedicating ourselves to content that can more significantly inspire our attendees. Other portions of the conversation centered on how an event like SXSW can better break down barriers — between different kinds of industries as well as different kinds of people.

Towards the end of the 90-minute discussion, one person mentioned how proud they were to work at an organization that can have such a positive impact on the next four years. My feelings too. While I’m still grieving about the HRC defeat, I’m very excited about the kind of role SXSW will play in paving a more progressive path to the future. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we reveal specific strategies to achieve these goals.