SXSWEdu is always a whirlwind and this post sums that constant feeling of FOMO I had no matter what decision I made on how to spend my time. FOMO aside, the thing that makes SXSWEdu powerful is the people. There will forever be a debate if there is the right balance of educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, government folks, nonprofits, and students involved in SXSWEdu. My take on this is that we can always use more educator and student voices at these events, not to mention an authentic increase in diversity of all sorts. But of the educational type conferences I get involved with, it is that mashup of folks from the classroom, startup, government, non-profit, and research lab that, when given the space and time, can challenge perceptions, extend thinking, and even change perspectives–if we let them.
This year, on the heels of a challenging decision to walk away from a startup I was involved in for the last three years, SXSWEdu was pretty hard. I struggled to find my tribe and get my bearings on where I was headed and what my purpose was. I had no less passion to make positive changes in the education space, but the power-horse through which I had imagined I would make those changes was headed out to pasture. I am sure these feelings weren’t lessened by the prevalence of hip, young startups with wild eyes to make their mark in education and my obsession with events in the Capital Factory space.
Early on during the first day of the conference I made a decision. I would focus on listening and learning. I would engage with those sharing ideas that challenged or extended my thinking, not just those who I knew or who would likely think like I did. I would leave margin to have conversations in the hallway, on rooftop dining establishments, and approach folks I wanted to meet. I had no ulterior motive, I had no intention of creating a company partnership or getting a new customer or getting feedback on my MVP. I would simply focus on taking the good, the vision, the deep desire for positive impact and see where it might take me.
The series of reflections that follow are a little piece of what happened after making this choice…