The other night we went to saw the premiere of the movie Bikes vs Cars in a park in Austin. It was a beautiful evening and a shared experience with families on blankets, groups of friends and all the bikers that provided pedal-power to screen itself. The notion that stayed with me afterwards as we steered our bikes towards 6th street and new encounters was extreme presence and awareness that we have a large problem to adress in city planning. A deadly issu. Copenhagen has named as a model-city in the movie, in contrast to São Paolo where a cyclist is killed by traffic every seventh hour.
Just as things seem to come natural here at SXSW (another example is how we just happened to stumble upon a speaker we'd wanted to meet just hours after his speak, an it is by no means just a few people in Austin at this time...) I find myself sitting in a room where the panel is made up by Michel Rojkind, Rojkind Arquitectos, Mimi Ziegler and Leslie Wolke discussing ”New civic engagement”. They present several examples of how creatives together with city developers and property owners can create a more including community. As simple as turning a parking lot into a green meeting space – it doesn't have to be harder than that. The movement of creating miniature parks of parking spaces, parklets, is already a phenomenon that started as guerilla movement. But now, many cities are formalizing a set of tools for citizens to develop their own in their neighborhood. I keep thinking though that maybe the politics should focus on other initiatives instead of formalizing a grass-root movement. Even so, it does add towards the objective of a more attractive city.
Rojkind also show how they've created a department store with a three meters wide facade creating dynamic spaces that could be used for performances, product launches, office space - you name it. The sad part is that the surface still hasn't been put to use. This would be a natural assignment for the communication specialists working with the department store. Help them to create ideas that align with their brand. By involving more disciplins into each process we can help more companies become a generous and sincere part of the community. We often talk of how much we like people that are inclusive. An inclusive brand is equally lovable. To have people engage with spaces that you as a company has contributed to creating gives far larger effect than "likes". And that's probably my best summary of SXSW when I'm trying to make some sense of all the impressions. That in order to tackle all the complex challenges we're faced with we need to work together – across fields and companies. And if we all take a little more responsibility as humans for what we give back we will be able to create a better society and a far more entertaining day-to-day life.
So stop thinking so much about ”the next big thing” and focus on being honest and generous instead. Then your hole content strategy will come naturally and we find ourselves back at the core of storytelling: people that take their time to sit down and listen to you because they want to. I'm sure that works even without the camp fire.