SXSW Community Service Awards

The SXSW Community Service Awards celebrate the spirit of community in Austin that we think is unique to SXSW. Each spring, ten recipients are recognized for their use of digital technology to help others. Each honoree receives a complimentary badge to SXSW, a $1,000 grant to their favorite 501(c)(3) and a chance to spread the word about their work to the SXSW community.

SXSW Community Service Awards at SXSW 2016. Photo by Rob Santos.

SXSW Community Service Awards at SXSW 2016. Photo by Rob Santos.

About SXSW Community Service Awards


Dewey Winburne was one of the original co-founders of the SXSW Interactive Festival, but he was many other things in the Austin community: a family man, a teacher, a visionary, a connector and an innovator. He believed that technology could bridge the digital divide and help those less fortunate than others. Although Winburne passed away in 1999, his legacy continues. His life exemplified how one individual can truly make an impact in their community.

Nominations for 2017 are now closed.

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2016 SXSW Community Service Awards Honorees


Kara Andrade (Austin, TX) is a PhD student, researcher, journalist and entrepreneur who focuses on Latin America, media and technology. Andrade founded, a network of regional citizen information websites in Latin America. Contributors share and discuss information in various languages, including local indigenous languages. Built on mobile phone networks and Internet “hub” sites, Andrade’s HablaCentro model has rapidly spread, as grassroots demand for reliable sources of information surges. Andrade has worked tirelessly to promote citizen-based investigative journalism and built the HablaCentro platform to facilitate community action calls by the users themselves, such as sending help to disaster zones or disseminating information about recent political events.

Richard Bbaale (Kampala, Uganda) is a social entrepreneur who founded BanaPads in 2010. BanaPads is a 2012 Global Social Benefit Incubator Social Enterprise registered in Uganda and Tanzania with the aim of manufacturing affordable and eco-friendly (100% biodegradable) sanitary pads to keep village girls in school and create jobs for local women. Bbaale holds a Master’s in Business Administration and is also the founder of SOVHEN – a non-governmental organization supporting orphans and vulnerable children for better health, education and nutrition. In the past three years he has focused on the design, manufacture and distribution of affordable health care products through locally sourced materials.

Maria Rose Belding (Washington, DC) is the co-founder and executive director of the MEANS Database, a nonprofit online communications platform for emergency feeding systems and their donors. MEANS has users in 19 states and counting, rescuing thousands of pounds of food since the site went live in February 2015. Belding is an experienced food insecurity writer and advocate, with her work on the subject in the hands of audiences in nine countries. She is the principal author of ‘Fighting for Food’, a guide for high school students running food drives, which has been distributed digitally free of charge to more than one thousand students and schools in the U.S. and abroad.

Emile Cambry, Jr. (Chicago, IL) is a business professor, filmmaker, and social entrepreneur from Chicago. Cambry founded the technology and entrepreneurship incubator, BLUE1647, now in several locations across the Midwest. Cambry is the President of the Chicago International Social Change Festival that showcases films that heighten public consciousness. Cambry was named one of Crain’s Chicago Tech 50, a Top 100 Innovator in Chicago by the Chicago Tribune and an Urban Business Roundtable’s 2014 Game Changer Under the Age of 40. Cambry is also a recipient of the 2014 Impact Award by the Social Enterprise Alliance, and sits on Depaul University’s Social Enterprise Collaborative.

Robi Damelin (Ramat-Efal, Israel) is the Israeli spokesperson and member of the Parents Circle Families Forum, a group of 600 Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost close family members to the conflict and who work together for reconciliation and a just resolution to the conflict. In 2002, Damelin’s son, David, was killed by a Palestinian sniper while guarding a checkpoint near a settlement during his army reserve service. Damelin has spoken to people all over the world to demand that reconciliation be a part of any peace agreement. Damelin was named a 2015 Woman of Impact by Women in the World, selected by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice as one of four Women PeaceMakers and is featured in the documentary, One Day after Peace.

Ali Gohar (Peshawar, Pakistan) is a scholar, restorative justice expert and the founder of Just Peace Initiatives. Gohar served as Additional Commissioner Social Welfare Cell for Afghan refugees – a project of UNHCR. He sought public awareness for the plight of street children, drugs, HIV/AIDS, community development and peace building in 258 Afghan refugee camps. A Fulbright Scholar, he holds a Master’s in Conflict Transformation, was awarded a grant by United States Institute for Peace to explore the principles of Jirga (a community based conflict transformation institution) and worked with Oxfam to end “honor” killing and violence against women in Pakistan. Gohar is also the founder member of “Quami Jirga” a recent initiative for people to people dialogue for sustainable peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Marissa Jennings (Washington, DC) is CEO of SOCIALgrlz, the first mobile Web publishing company creating content specifically for African-American girls, ages 13-17. SOCIALgrlz provides an opportunity for the voices of African-American girls to be heard, and is a resource and safe space for girls. Jennings is a visionary leader who developed partnerships with Washington, D.C. app developers and international corporations like Microsoft – to encourage tech development among African-American girls. Jennings has worked with national organizations like Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of America and the BET Foundation. Jennings was recently honored by The White House as a 2015 Champion of Change: Young Women Empowering Their Communities.

Meghana Reddy (La Mesa, CA) builds and provides custom made prosthetic hands to children and adults all over the world using 3D printer technology. She is passionate about innovative technology and underprivileged youth, and has combined these two passions by founding a nonprofit called Limbs with Love to raise funds and provide these limbs at no cost to the recipient. Her strategy to reach out to the needy includes dealing directly with local community members, and partnering with nonprofits in developing countries to reach those in need. Reddy is currently developing a prosthetic hand controlled by electronics to increase finger functionality and add a variety of sensory perceptions.

Marty Tenenbaum, Ph.D. (Cambridge, MA) is the founder of Cancer Commons, a nonprofit network of physicians, scientists, and patients that Newsweek dubbed the “LinkedIn of Cancer.” The network provides treatment recommendations from leading experts, which are continuously refined based on clinical results. By learning what works, for whom, and why, Cancer Commons is optimizing the use of existing drugs, with the potential to save millions of lives. Earlier in his career, Dr. Tenenbaum was a world-renowned AI researcher and Internet commerce pioneer. He is a Fellow of AAAI, a founder of five successful startups, and currently an advisor to Austin-based Cognitive Scale. He has been honored by both the Melanoma Research Foundation and the Society for Melanoma Research for his work as a patient advocate.

Priya Verma (Alberta, Canada) is a state, national and international award holder in the field of environmental protection and community service. The founder of nonprofit (Child, Youth, Women and Environment) Verma has worked for the betterment of the world since her childhood. Verma was the recipient of a Diana Award in 2009 from Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of UK and the United Nations Outstanding Youth Achiever Excellence Award 2010 for her outstanding contribution to humanitarian services and social entrepreneurship. A member and writer of UNEP, UNO, UN CHRONICLE, UNESCO, World Bank, British Council and other international environmental and youth organizations, she continues to be actively involved in environmental and youth programs.

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