March 12: Community Service Awards

The Forrest Four-Cast: March 3, 2018

Hugh Forrest
4 min readMar 3, 2018


Scheduled on Monday evening, March 12 at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin, the SXSW Community Service Awards honor six individuals and six organizations for their outstanding commitment to community service. Today we talk to Teresa Sansone Ferguson (pictured above), who will again serve as emcee of this inspiring and heartwarming celebration of the human spirit. Preview the 2018 honorees by visiting this page. The SXSW Community Service Awards are free and open to the public — you do NOT need a badge to be part of this special evening. So please join us for hors d’oeuvres, beverages and to hear the incredible stories of the award winners! Reception begins at 6:00 pm on March 12 and the ceremony starts at 7:00 pm. Get a reminder about this event by signing up on this Eventbrite page.

Do you remember the first year you got involved with what was then called the Dewey Winburne Awards? If so, what memories do you have from then?
I was a Dewey Winburne Community Service Award honoree in 2003, and joined the selection committee in 2012. At that time, the award application process was pretty informal, and committee members often looked for “digital do-gooders” among our own social circles. Now that the application and process have matured and SXSW has expanded the search globally, the job of the selection committee is more difficult — but so much more enriching.

Why do you think the Community Service Awards are such an important part of SXSW?
SXSW is a diverse melting pot of people, perspectives, talents and accomplishments. ALL of that is on display at the Community Service Awards, except that the main focus is community and innovation. What’s not to love?!

What is your most powerful memory of the community service awards from the last few years?
This memory from 2016 really stands out. The day after the Community Service Awards presentation, I got to take honorees Richard Bbaale (Uganda) and Priya Verma (Alberta, Canada) on a mini-tour of Lake Travis and the Texas Hill Country. It was so fun to share a meal with them and show them a bit of Austin scenery. But more importantly, I got to learn even more about their interests and their work. I enjoyed every minute!

With the context that the event is free (and no badge is required), what kind of people should attend the SXSW Community Service Awards on Monday evening, March 12?
There are no excuses! Anyone interested in real-world examples of good people doing good, creative things for their communities should attend. You will be inspired — I promise!

Are you excited about the Driskill Hotel, which is the new host venue for 2018? Do we think that the ceremony will waken the rumored ghosts at this hotel?
I’d like to think that the Driskill ghosts will be cheering for these individuals and organizations, right along with the rest of us. But they probably won’t eat/drink much. More for us!

Over the last few years, more and more outstanding innovators from outside the US have been honored at the Community Service Awards. For 2018, we see an even stronger international presence at SXSW, with Opening Remarks from Josephine Goube of Paris, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and a keynote from London Mayor Sadiq Khan. What do you make of this growing global presence in March in Austin?
One world, y’all. Enough said.

What other panels / presentations / events are you most looking forward to attending at SXSW 2018?
I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the panels and presentations. I go to as many as I possibly can! Because the nonprofit that I work for (AustinUP) deals with issues related to the future of aging, I am truly excited about the following panels/presentations (just to name a few): The Elder Boom: Aging Tech’s Explosive Growth, Bracing for a New Age of Longevity, Cities as Incubators for Successful Aging, Hacking the Brain: The Power of Neuroenhancement and Extreme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability. But I also enjoy going to presentations covering topics I know nothing about. There’s always something to learn!

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.



Hugh Forrest

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.