Why Austin is poised to be the Social Innovation Capital of the World

This morning, the Austin Business Journal published a contributed piece with my take on why Austin is gearing up to take the title of Social Innovation Capital of the World. Below are the hot points. To read the full article, head to the ABJ website and boost their Google analytics. Enjoy!

If you’ve flown into Austin recently, you’ve heard the now-familiar welcome to the “Live Music Capital of the World.” But while live music and entertainment are undoubtedly one of our city’s biggest claims to fame, Austin is poised to take on a new title: Social Innovation Capital of the World.

Thursday, on the eve of the Social Venture Partners conference — a global event in Austin bringing community leaders, philanthropists and corporate executives together to discuss challenges in social entrepreneurship — Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell named October as Social Innovation Month in Austin.

It’s a fitting proclamation for a community which, over the past several years, has made a name for itself as both one of the most philanthropic cities in America and a growing hub for technology and innovation. Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to lead the global charge in social innovation, but it’s up to Austinites and our community, nonprofit and business leaders to pave the way. Austin’s passion for social innovation is nothing new.

In order to maximize impact both in Austin and globally, however, it’s now time to bring structure and focus to that passion in a number of ways.

First, we must find ways to bridge business concepts and strategies with nonprofit missions and social causes. The for-profit and nonprofit worlds shouldn’t operate in isolation: working in silos limits opportunities for innovation on both sides of the equation. Finding creative ways to bring other similar, successful business practices into the nonprofit space will be imperative in order to create scalable, sustainable models and ensure maximum impact in the long term. And businesses could likewise benefit from adopting the lean, cost-conscious creativity that so many nonprofits rely on.

Second, we must leverage our local business leaders and develop the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Austin is home to a growing number of successful entrepreneurs who have a few things in common: building and scaling successful businesses; access to capital; and teams of employees primed to become donors and volunteers.

Getting those business leaders and their companies involved and invested in the nonprofit community will go a long way in driving our city’s social innovation. The increasing interest and participation in our annual pitch-contest-style “Philanthropitch” event has proven there’s a top-down appetite for getting involved. Plenty of other creative social opportunities have emerged as well with “Hackathon” style events like GiveCamp, CreateAThon, and many more. Since engagement among younger generations is changing, providing a variety of creative ways to get involved will help both drive engagement, and give nonprofits much-needed access to mentorship, capital, resources, and volunteers.

Third, we need to tap into our city’s ever-expanding events calendar. Several times a year, Austin plays host to events such as SXSW, F1, ACL Fest and X Games, placing our city squarely on the global stage. Let’s use those opportunities to raise awareness of, and action around social causes!

Imagine an F1 that coincided with a solar car competition or a STEM-focused expo where area middle schoolers got to explore aerodynamics and the inner workings of the world’s fastest cars. This year’s ACL Festival was all about going cashless. What if that wearable technology not only paid for your beer but supported a mobile giving effort for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians?

The world is watching, Austin. Let’s give them something worth tuning in for!

Read the full article here.