4 Trends in Sustainable Development We Heard at SXSW

Every year thousands of tech gurus, cutting-edge musicians, and pioneering social good innovators flock to Austin, Texas for SXSW. The conference brings together the world’s trendsetters from nearly every sector — including non-profits and social good driven businesses.

PATH demonstrating a water chlorinator at the UN Foundation Booth

Here are four trends we heard at SXSW:

Private sector takes the lead — The flexibility of the private sector allows businesses to take on challenges in bold ways. The World Food Programme is replicating the same process by hosting boot camps, sprint programs, and a dedicated R&D department in their Innovation Accelerator. Based in Munich, Germany, the Innovation Accelerator identifies, nurtures, and scales bold solutions to global hunger.

Millennials? More like the Green Generation — Millennials are part of the most eco-conscious generation ever. From purchasing reusable canvas bags to a distinct preference for recyclable packaging, millennials are poised to be an ecological and economic tour de force for good. As millennials age from consumers to investors, the green economy will become more robust.

Data is the new gold. How can you make sure sustainable development is truly sustainable? How can one market to the socially conscious consumers? Data. To truly understand how to make a difference, one has to learn the landscape first.

The democratization of everything. Thanks to the internet, every sector of the economy is undergoing the rapid democratization of knowledge and thus leading to a new generation of bootstrap scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. National Geographic Explorer David Lang put it best: “The science community is looking to the garage scientists who are giving the public its curiosity in science back.” By providing access to knowledge, people now have the opportunity to participate and innovate in previously high-barrier to entry markets.