Thank You for Your Support in 2020!
I want to start this end-of-year letter by thanking everyone who supported the Austin Forum on Technology & Society in any way in 2020: our advisory board and annual partners, our speakers and moderators, our bloggers and interviewees, our amazing team, and of course our awesome attendees and advocates, our fantastic followers and friends! If you’re reading this, then you fall into at one least one of these groups and thus you sustained and supported our success this year. 2020 brought tragedy, strife, and stress for many, but the Austin Forum found ways to transform itself, to execute our mission and sustain relationships and a sense of community, and even to be a source of education and support on the challenging topics of the year. For that, I want to thank each and every one of you. I am forever grateful for the support we received in a year in which everyone had so many other things on their minds and agendas.
The Austin Forum aims to increase awareness, understanding, advocacy, and active participation in the creation, adoption, and usage of technologies that have positive impacts in society. Our tagline is connect, collaborate, contribute—those are the desired outcomes of our programming, activities, and efforts. For 14 years we had achieved this by bringing people together, in-person, to build the relationships after experts and thought leaders shared information on diverse topics. Under that in-person model we thrived: we became the largest monthly tech event series in Austin and a pillar in the Austin tech community! We added podcasts and blog articles, too, but our in-person events were our foundation—until March 2020. With the onset of the pandemic, we had a decision to make: do we pause the Austin Forum until it is safe to meet again in person since ‘in-person’ had been an implicit foundation for achieving our outcomes, or do we go online and attempt to continue achieving our objectives and sustaining the learning and sharing, the opportunities to engage, and the calls to action? After much discussion and analysis, we leaned into the new ways of interacting online, embracing Zoom and Slack and learning how to use these tools more effectively for our purposes. We even increased our number of events and addressed the issues of the pandemic and of racial injustice and inequities with extra events. We extended our reach beyond Austin, attracting participants from around the country and world (without a massive PR campaign). Most importantly, we remained an open, inclusive, welcoming community, modifying our format and our usage of Zoom to be more than just another webinar or meeting. It was a challenging year and transition, but in the end, we sustained a large community, dealt with tough issues, made new friends and fans, and had a record year in terms of number of events. I have never been prouder of the Austin Forum. And we learned how to be better: stay tuned for information about how we’ll have even great impact (and fun) in 2021—more types of events, better networking online, and more—when we share our program of activities at our January 5 event to kick off the year!
So, as we close what has been a challenging year for everyone, I want to close this post as I opened it: by thanking you for your support on behalf of our team, board, and partners. We are more excited about 2021 than we have ever been about a new year. We look forward to sharing our new program with you as we learn and share together, meet new potential collaborators and bring new people into our community, and inspire and accelerate collaborations and creative solutions that advance society and protect people. It’s going to be amazing—all the more so because of all of you.
Jay Boisseau, Ph.D.
Executive Director & Founder of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society
p.s. I hope you’ll stay connected in the Austin Forum Slack workspace over the break! I look forward to hearing what cool tech things Santa brings you!