SXSW Community Service Awards

The SXSW Community Service Awards is a celebration of the spirit of community unique to SXSW. Honoring six individuals and six organizations, the ceremony will take place on Monday, March 12 at the Driskill Ballroom from 6-9pm. This event is FREE and open to the public and does not require a SXSW credential of any kind.

SXSW Community Service Awards

2018 SXSW Community Service Awards Honoree - Urban Roots



The SXSW Community Service Awards celebrate the spirit of community in Austin that we think is unique to SXSW. Each spring, we recognize six individuals and six organizations for their commitment to community service. They each receive a grant, complimentary entry to SXSW, and an opportunity to spread the word about their work to the SXSW community.

Find more details for the ceremony below:

SXSW Community Service Awards Ceremony

Monday, March 12, 2018
Driskill Hotel – Ballroom (604 Brazos St)
Reception 6pm | Ceremony 7pm
FREE and open to the public
Heavy hors d’oeuvres and beverages

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SXSW Community Service Awards for Individuals


Six individuals will receive a grant to an eligible 501(c)(3) or eligible charity of their choice as well as a complimentary registration to SXSW 2018. The Community Service Award is intended to honor the breadth of community service work of 6 individuals rather than organizations or groups. We are looking for individuals whose creative community service work bridges the digital divide, impacts the community positively and includes some degree of grassroots or hands-on organizing. This community service award celebrates the life and work of SXSW Interactive co-founder, Dewey Winburne. Learn more about Dewey’s life here.

For grants for nonprofit charitable organizations, please see SXSW Community Service Awards for Organizations below.

2018 Honorees: SXSW Community Service Awards for Individuals

Chris Diaz (Philadelphia, PA)

Chris is currently working towards his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. He completed an accelerated BS/MS at Drexel with an emphasis on military psychology, where he became a peer-reviewed published author, speaker and advocate for Veteran issues. In 2013 he was awarded the prestigious Pat Tillman scholarship. Chris helped form the Action Tank in 2016 with a group of post 9/11 Veterans with a mission to solve tough problems aimed at improving the social conditions of their community by harnessing the experiences, skills and relationships of service-minded citizens. The Action Tank has spent the past year working to combat the opioid epidemic by introducing policy and legislation that will reduce the opioid related overdoses and save lives. They believe that the ultimate, most holy form of theory is action. Always striving to be the best version of himself, Chris seeks experiences that force him to grow. He holds a black belt in the martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro and is always on the search for the next adventure, while appreciating the present moment.

Catalina Escobar (Medellín, Colombia)

Catalina is a civil society leader and social entrepreneur with 17+ years of experience in the social sector, digital development and international cooperation. In her six-year career at the World Bank, she managed web-related projects that promoted collaboration and knowledge sharing. She co-founded MAKAIA and has led it since its inception 11 years ago, transforming an idea into an organization that has served hundreds of non-profits and social projects in Latin America. MAKAIA is a not-for-profit that promotes social development through cooperation, technology and innovation. MAKAIA´s work is based on two pillars: technology for social change and international cooperation and partnerships. MAKAIA has reached more than 25,000 people and 3,600 organizations in Colombia and abroad. Catalina has a Mechanical Engineering degree, an MBA, a specialization in International Cooperation for Development, and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management. Catalina is the President of the Board at the local NGO Association Federación Antioqueña de ONG and Board Member at CorpoAyapel.

Char Hu (Austin, TX)

Char has dedicated his career to one goal: improving the lives of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. He received his PhD in molecular biophysics from Baylor College of Medicine where he researched the underlying mechanisms for diseases like Alzheimer’s. He went on to build and run Georgetown Living, a certified Alzheimer’s living facility in Georgetown, known for its beautiful environment set on 15 acres, evidence-based design building, and pet therapy ranch animals. Dr. Hu also founded and is CEO of The Helper Bees, a technology company in Austin which provides intelligent in-home caregiver-to-senior matching. Thanks to The Helper Bees, seniors with early dementia can extend the time they can live at home, an affordable and life-affirming choice. Dr. Hu serves on related boards including Family Eldercare, AustinUp, Texas Alzheimer’s, and A Gift of Time. He recently helped to organize and host an Innovation Summit on Aging at Dell Medical School to help raise awareness around the need for technological development for age-related issues and speaks at events such as SXSW and LeadingAge. He supports and volunteers for additional community activities with a focus towards finding new and better ways to deliver care to seniors.

James Jack (Los Angeles, CA)

James has devoted his career to digital inclusion programs, practices, and policy work. James co-founded the nonprofit human-I-T as a platform to divert electronic waste (e-waste) from landfills into the hands of someone that can use it. He built a system to collect unwanted technology from businesses, refurbish the devices, and redistribute the technology back to underserved households. This model reduces the staggering number of e-waste produced annually. Best of all, it empowers underserved communities with the tools for self-sufficiency.

James’s dedication to digital equity ensures that low-income families, students, veterans, persons with disabilities, schools, and LGBT centers have access to technology. His work has helped 4,000 individuals get connected since 2012.

Linda Novick O’Keefe (Austin, TX)

Linda is the Founding Chief Executive Officer of Common Threads. Her experience, desire to develop innovative solutions to social problems, combined with her passion for food, led her to start Common Threads with chef Art Smith and artist Jesus Salgueiro in May 2003. Under her leadership, Common Threads has grown from the basement of a Chicago Hyde Park church to providing in-school, after-school, teacher, social service training and family programming to more than 750 schools and community partner sites in nine major US cities and will expand throughout Texas this year as a SNAP-Ed Program Provider. From Common Threads’ inception, Linda has prioritized the development of nutrition education programs that have led to true behavioral change. She is a champion of rigorous evaluation and external collaboration with academic experts and recently led the strategic expansion of Common Threads’ programs into community health care settings, including primary care clinics. Linda is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. A recipient of the Anti-Defamation League’s Rising Star Award, she currently serves on the Smithsonian Institutes Kitchen Cabinet and as a Babson College Social Innovation Fellow. Linda lives in Austin with her husband Nick and two children, Zack and Julia.

Celeste C. Smith (Pittsburgh, PA)

Celeste is the chief executive officer for 1Hood Media, a collective of conscious Hip Hop artists and activists who utilize Hip Hop as a means of raising awareness around issues affecting oppressed people around the world. She is an Association of Performing Arts Presenter fellow and recently served as an Artist in Residence at the School of the Art Institute – Chicago. Additionally, she was named a Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards nominee for her multi-disciplined artistry, is a published author and a Walker’s Legacy Power 50 honoree. Celeste is the business partner and manager of artist/activist Jasiri X and oversees his day-to-day business affairs; while counseling Jasiri X on professional matters, long-term plans and personal decisions as necessary. Celeste is a founding member of the Nefertiti Alliance, an organization dedicated to raising awareness around the importance of self care and protecting the cultural capital of Black women in the arts, and serves as the organization’s chair. A member of the Heinz Endowments Transformative Arts Process Advisory Board, the Pittsburgh Symphony Community Advisory Council, The Arts and Education Collaborative, Women of Color in the Arts, and an independent arts and community engagement consultant; Celeste lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband and their three children.

SXSW Community Service Awards for Organizations


Six organizations will also receive a grant to continue or begin their work and will be honored at the SXSW Community Service Awards. To qualify, an organization must be a charitable organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) or be otherwise qualified to receive charitable contributions.

The selection committee chooses organization grantees based on their connection to one of the following aspects of SXSW: Interactive, Film, Music, Edu, or Gaming.

This grant process is goal and outcome focused. We will ask all grantees to measure and report back the outcome of their work or project. These grants focus on hands-on solutions to community issues, especially where they improve the lives of the underprivileged or disenfranchised.

These grants are designated to to further the work of organizations, not individuals. (For grants geared toward individuals, please see Community Service Awards for Individuals above.)

For questions not answered here or in the application, please contact us at

2018 Honorees: SXSW Community Service Awards for Organizations

Formerly called the SXSW Community Grant, the 2018 SXSW Community Service Awards for Organizations honorees are listed below. SXSW arrived at these honorees through an application process and selections were made by an outside selection committee working in conjunction with SXSW.

Allies Against Slavery

Allies Against Slavery works to build Slave­ Free Cities: places where traffickers cannot exploit the vulnerable and where survivors have access to all they need to heal. We build Slave ­Free Cities by empowering survivors, connecting partners and building tools that help professionals overcome human trafficking together. Allies is working to solve the problem of victim identification by developing a screening tool that helps frontline agencies rapidly & effectively identify sex trafficking victims. The online tool, called the Tier 1 Screener, also helps users see, understand, and report the data they collect in order to improve the delivery of services to victims. Our victim identification solution is the first screening tool in Texas that 1) helps users identify possible victims of child sex trafficking and 2) see and understand the data they collect through the tool. That means agencies using the tool will both improve their ability to find and help victims more quickly, and simultaneously use that data to improve how they allocate resources, build case plans for youth and report on the scope of the problem to access much needed new funding.

Creative Action

Creative Action is a nonprofit, arts-based, youth development organization that provides dynamic and engaging creative learning programs in the classroom, in after school settings, and in the community. Our mission is to spark and support the academic, social, and emotional development of young people. When youth develop their creativity, compassion, confidence and critical thinking skills, and build meaningful connections with peers and positive role models, they become successful adults who contribute to their communities and thrive in their careers and relationships. Delivered in partnership with the Alamo Drafthouse, Youth Cinema Collective is a Creative Action Teen Program that provides a space for teens who are passionate about filmmaking and film’s ability to share stories that may otherwise go untold. YCC members delve into all areas of the filmmaking process as they see their projects from script and storyboard to shooting on location to a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse. Teens explore a variety of filmmaking techniques and genres to produce original films that speak to their communities, tell new stories, and address social issues they care about. Through hands-on film education, YCC empowers teens as thoughtful, compassionate, and engaged leaders who use their creative voice to affect positive social change.

Gamers Outreach

Gamers Outreach is a 501(c)(3) charity organization that provides equipment, technology, and software to help kids cope with treatment inside hospitals. The organization aims to inspire and heal patients through the power of interactive play.
One of the organization’s primary initiatives is called “Project GO Kart.” GO Karts (Gamers Outreach Karts) are portable, medical-grade video game kiosks which enable nurses to easily provide bedside activities to children unable to leave their rooms in hospitals. Each GO Kart is equipped with a gaming console, monitor, and assortment of games. The carts provide a safe, flexible, and efficient way to ensure kids have access to entertainment and coping mechanisms during long-term hospitalization. Each unit also has an internal lift mechanism, which allows healthcare staff to adjust the GO Kart to a patient’s bedside, accommodating a variety of medical scenarios which may limit a patient’s mobility.

Jeremiah Program

Jeremiah Program’s mission is to transform families from poverty to prosperity. Researchers have determined that two-generation models like Jeremiah Program achieve significant educational, health, and economic benefits for both children and their parents. Jeremiah’s holistic program model provides five two-generational services, all supported by individualized coaching: 1) support for career-track college education: each mom must be enrolled in a two or four year college program at the time of admission; 2) empowerment and life skills classes: before entering the program, all moms complete a 12-week empowerment course, which introduces tools for self-reliance. While in residence, they attend weekly life skills classes covering career exploration, financial planning, positive parenting and health and wellness; 3) high quality early childhood education: to establish a strong foundation for life-long educational achievement for children ages birth to 5 years, Jeremiah Program offers high quality early childhood education in our Child Development Center; 4) safe and affordable housing: Jeremiah families live in furnished apartments in our new facility or in duplexes next to the campus. Participants pay only 30% of their income for rent; and 5) a supportive community: camaraderie develops among families in the empowerment classes and grows as they move through the program together.

Kids In a New Groove

Kids In A New Groove (KING) provides Texas youth in foster care with a committed one-on-one mentoring relationship through weekly, private music instruction, giving students the ability to build concrete strategies for life-long success. By creating a consistent and nurturing environment, we empower youth in foster care to transform their future through music mentorship. Music Mentors travel to students’ homes, following students to each new placement, creating consistency in otherwise unstable lives. KING provides each student with an instrument, lesson materials, and a reward system – to help create a sense of achievement and confidence. A student’s mentor often becomes the one stable adult they can count on, with a strong bond that follows them throughout their time in foster care. For the past three years, 100% of KING’s eligible seniors have graduated from high school, with 95% of those students going on to attend college, technical school or enlist in the military. This compares to the national average of less than 50% of foster youth graduating from high school and less than 3% going on to college. The program succeeds because it invests in a long-term commitment to students’ growth and success.

Urban Roots

Urban Roots mission is to use food and farming to transform the lives of young people and inspire, engage, and nourish the community. For the past 10 years, they’ve provided paid internships to young people on their 3.5 acre farm in East Austin. Together they grow more than 25,000 pounds of fresh food each year, 40% of which is donated to those in need through hunger relief partners. This grant will support the Farm Internship Program, which will provide opportunities for 45 youth to spend five months learning to grow food while serving the community and growing as leaders.

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Past SXSW Community Service Awards Honorees


The SXSW Community Service Awards (formerly Dewey Awards) honors community do-gooders who employ new media tools and strategies to make the world a better place. From 2000 to 2011, all honorees lived in the Central Texas area. Beginning in 2012, we opened the process to recognize national and international community activists.

2017 Honorees – Individuals

Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Blair Glencorse, Nicolas Hazard, Teresa Y. Hodge, Kwaku Kyei, Bobby Moore, Barbara Moser, Mgr. Ing. Dita Přikrylová, Courtney Santana, Dese’Rae L. Stage

2017 Honorees – Organizations

Austin Youth River Watch, Moms-in-Film, The Nobelity Project,, SongwritingWith:Soldiers

2016 Honorees – Individuals

Kara Andrade, Richard Bbaale, Maria Rose Belding, Emile Cambry, Jr., Robi Damelin, Ali Gohar, Marissa Jennings, Meghana Reddy, Marty Tenenbaum, Priya Verma

2016 Honorees – Organizations

Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, Miracle Foundation, Reel Grrls, Skillpoint Alliance, Swan Songs

2015 Honorees

Karthik Dinakar, Justin Graves, Jukay Hsu, Karen Kocher, Brittany Martin, Rebecca McDonald, Libby Powell, Tembinkosi Qondela, Dr. Catalina Rojas, and Dr. Abdullah Saleh

2014 Honorees

Gwendolyn Floyd, Clara Tsao, Marie Duffy, Noeline Kirabo, Stephanie Downs, Alejandro Maza, George Luc, Mark Horvath, Raymar Hampshire, and Tony Carr

2013 Honorees

Madhura Bhat, Elizabeth Davidson, Arlene Ducao, Rey Faustino, Gene Gurkoff, Elena Lagoudi, Simeon Oriko, Amanda Quraishi, Ben Sawyer, and Rich Schwerdtfeger

2012 Honorees

Judy Brewer, Laura Deutch, Brian Elliot, Izzy Johnston, Jacquie Jones, Becci Manson, Jose Gomez Marquez, Aleph Molinari, Josh Nesbit, and Humberto Pérez

2011 Honorees

Jim Allan, Tricia Barry, Lisa Byrd, Roberta Przybylski, Brian Ramos, Mando Rayo, Connie Reece, Carl Settles, Allan Weeks, and Monica Williams

2010 Honorees

Meredith Beal, Stacy Bouwman, Sue Cole, Dario “Marty” Martinez, Gordon Montgomery, Maria Morrissey, David Neff, Angela-Jo Touza-Medina, and Ken Starks

2009 Honorees

Anthony Bertucci, Andres Carvallo, Julia Cuba, Laura Donnelly, Juan Garcia, Leroy Jones, Lisa McWilliams, Joanna Nigrelli, Alicia Rascon, and Sam Robertson

2008 Honorees

Maria Morrissey, Diana Prechter, Betty Sue Flowers, Linda Litowsky, Ron Lucey, Lisa Moretti, Heberto Ochoa-Morales, Christian Raymond, Lodis Rhodes, Gene Rodgers, and Glenda Sims

2007 Honorees

Branda Adrian, Shahed Amanullah, Donny Branam, Rodney Gibbs, Bobbie Guerra, Kathy Keller, Joyce Lauck, Pat Pound, Harvey Smith, and Stefan Wray

2006 Honorees

Silona Bonewald, Jeanine Christensen, Thea Eaton, Joe Faulk, Sheena Harden, Sheri Graner Ray, Dave Sanders, Dr. John Slatin, Dale Thompson, and Richard Yu

2005 Honorees

Tiffany Galligan, Steve Guengerich, Wendell Handy, Josie Hughes, Adina Levin, Nick Lewis, Chip Rosenthal, Randi Shade, Roger Steele, and Artis C. Street

2004 Honorees

Janet Blake, Perce Collins, Tim Harell, Katherine Jones, Walter Lenoir, Herman Lessard, Rich MacKinnon, Trent Sharp, Adam Weinroth and Kevin Zappernick

2003 Honorees

Bianca Bickford, Gary Chapman, Jaynes Cravens, Teresa Ferguson, Richard Halpin, Rondella Hawkins, Jan McSorley, Monica Roesch, Leroy Smith, and Sharon Strover

2002 Honorees

Ilekna Abounader, Steve Amos, Dennis Borel, Lisa Goldman Carney, Ana Cisnette, Danny Gomez, Mona Gonzalez, Jon Lebkowsky, Sharron Rush, and Melvin White

2001 Honorees

Ana Cisnette, Karen Krepps, Keith Rutledge, and Rachel Muir

2000 Honorees

Dave and Jennifer Evans

1999 Honorees

Dorothy Winburne

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