South by South Lawn (Blog Post)

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Blog Post
Title South by South Lawn (Blog Post)
Author Julia Wang
Series Government and Policy
Content status Published
Publication date
Notes Published as "Obama in the White House"
©, 2016


This blog post looks the White House's newest initiative South by South Lawn, a festival inspired by Austin's South by Southwest to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs who create impactful change through ideas, art, and action.

Blog Post

With only three months left in his presidency, it is time to start examining President Barack Obama’s actions toward small business and entrepreneurship. Over the years, his policies have received mixed reactions from small business owners and entrepreneurs. Some have been frustrated with big-business bailouts, feeling that small businesses are paying to support these bailouts. Many still question the effects that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have on small businesses. However, Obama has launched initiatives like the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2009 and Startup America in 2011 to encourage the creation and growth of startups in the United States and around the world. His recently proposed startup visa would allow foreign entrepreneurs to stay in this country and grow their startups.

South by South Lawn

President Obama’s latest project concerning entrepreneurship and innovation, South by South Lawn, drew inspiration from his visit earlier this year to Austin music and media festival South by Southwest. On October 3, 2016, the White House invited innovators and entrepreneurs from across the nation to discuss how they are impacting social change in the United States and moving the country forward. Through panel discussions, leaders discussed how they have been innovating in areas like technology, food, art, inter-organizational collaboration and social impact to solve the problems that we see today.

South by South Lawn was a call to action to innovators around the country to see how they could use technology to create positive social change. On the technology panel called “Fixing Real Problems”, entrepreneurs like Chris Redlitz of Transmedia Capital, Jukay Hsu of Coalition for Queens, Nina Tandon of EpiBone, and Stewart Butterfield of Slack addressed some of the main problems of society today. The impact that the growth of companies has on surrounding communities was one of the main topics that the panelists discussed. They emphasized the importance of creating inclusive access to the new opportunities brought about by societal transformation and technological change. Other issues they noted included criminal justice reform, rising healthcare costs, and exclusivity in jobs and education.

The “Cancer Moonshot” interactive exhibit allowed visitors to virtually experience the future of cancer care through wearable technology. Vice President Joe Biden visited Rice University in September to discuss this Cancer Moonshot initiative in an event co-sponsored by the Baker Institute and outlined new measures to accelerate science research and collaboration and double the rate of advancement in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. “Startup in the White House” showed the power that technology has to improve the efficiency with which the government functions. Visitors saw how design and technology could potentially achieve tasks like modernizing the immigration system, improving veterans’ access to benefits, and increasing cancer patients’ access to clinical trials and new treatments.

The first SXSL - and the last?

Seeing as neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump have mentioned clear policies toward entrepreneurship during their presidential campaigns, it will be interesting to see how they will promote entrepreneurship and innovation if they enter the White House. Do they see innovation as the way to solve some of the issues in their platforms? Will they host the 2nd South by South Lawn? Will they continue the Global Entrepreneurship Summit for the 8th straight year? It seems that we will have to wait until after January 2017 to find out.