The Power of SXSWedu: Connection & Collaboration

The Power of SXSWedu: Connection & Collaboration

I am 1 of 28,600,262 (last count) people that has watched the great TED Talk by Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability. In that talk, she states…

“The ability to feel connected is why we’re here.”

I’ve been going to SXSW since 2010 and have had the opportunity to meet and spend time with many great people over the years. It’s definitely one of my favorite events to attend and I spend most of my time in an observation role…fascinated by great talks, panels, films, expos, you name it. But the connections I’ve made with people have proven to be the most meaningful piece for me and by far, better than any event I could possibly observe during my brief time in Austin each year.

However, nothing could have prepared me for a connection I made last year, nothing.

Last year, I attended SXSWedu and arrived to Austin pretty early. In fact, they weren’t even giving out the name badges in the convention center at that point. So I went across the street to grab lunch while I waited for registration to begin. Being the only one in the entire place, I sat at the bar and was watching ESPN when a guy came up to the same bar and sat three seats down.

Life has an amazing way of connecting people. It was at that bar, on that day, at that time, that I met Jeremy Richman. Our ensuing conversation was so powerful that I blogged about it that night. It was also powerful enough to change the way I think about education, what we do at Noble Impact, and how we create meaningful change.

Since that day, Jeremy and I have become good friends and he provides priceless wisdom regarding our purpose at Noble Impact, while also running The Avielle Foundation. We even had a facetime meeting this week! Our relationship has grown so strong that he’s been to Little Rock to visit our classrooms and was a William J. Clinton Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

Avielle Richman was six years old when the trajectory of Jeremy Richman’s life and the lives of many others changed drastically. Avielle was murdered in her first grade classroom, along with 19 other elementary students and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Like many other events in U.S. history, many people remember where they were when that tragic shooting occurred. When Jeremy told me this story during our first encounter, I said, “I can’t imagine…” Then he said,

“You can imagine…”

The trajectory of my life changed when I met Jeremy Richman because he made me think differently. He connected with me through his stories and I connected with him through mine. As we continue our relationship and begin a new partnership between Noble Impact and The Avielle Foundation, I’m so optimistic about our work together and I can only imagine the impact we will be able to create together going forward.

If you’ve watched Brene Brown’s TED Talk, you know that being vulnerable is a healthy habit and provides the avenue for deep connection. Jeremy and I were vulnerable with each other exactly a year ago this Sunday and those vulnerable stories created a relationship where collaboration is happening.

I challenge every SXSWedu participant to be vulnerable this coming week while sharing stories that might create the opportunity to connect and collaborate so that we might make a positive difference in education.

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