Urban Wire Why does the Urban Institute belong at SXSW?
Nicole Weissman
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Public voting helps decide who gets to present at SXSW each year, and the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center is asking you to vote for our panel, “Reducing Violent Police-Citizen Interactions,” before the deadline on September 2.

Each year, tens of thousands of the most visionary people you’ve ever seen gather in Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest (or SXSW, if you’re in the know). It’s a conglomerate of convenings focused on everything from film and music to education and digital innovation.

If it sounds eclectic, that’s because it is: it’s a melting pot of thoughts, case studies, showcases, and performances that leaves participants’ minds buzzing. (Last year’s SXSW Interactive featured a sentient orb art installation in one room and a panel discussion on whether social media can be used as a predictor of gun violence in another.)

The SXSW audience is at the forefront of so many fields and always on the lookout for interesting perspectives and opportunities to grow. That’s what attracted us to the event and inspired us to submit a panel concept for next year’s SXSW Interactive, scheduled for March 10–16.

The panel, “Reducing Violent Police-Citizen Interactions,” was developed by Urban’s Justice Policy Center in response to ongoing tensions between communities and law enforcement.

Police shootings of citizens—and citizen shootings of police—have led to a complex and often tense relationship. Our hope is that a candid and evidence-based conversation can shed light on how best to elevate community voices in promoting public safety.

This conversation and the broader work it’s tied to will help develop cutting-edge strategies to solicit community perceptions of and experiences with the police, often employing the latest technology solutions. Austin police chief Art Acevedo and Black Lives Matter Austin founder Margaret Haule have graciously agreed to join Justice Policy Center director Nancy La Vigne and senior research associate Jocelyn Fontaine for the panel.

Though not many Urban scholars consider themselves the kinds of “early adopters” and “social influencers” who typically roam the streets of Austin during SXSW, our research represents the forefront when it comes to elevating the debate around social and economic policy.

We value democratizing data—in this case, on citizen perceptions of law enforcement. We believe it will enhance communications, engagement, and accountability. It’s not just about elevating the debate with influencers: it’s about taking the debate to neighborhoods.

If SXSW is where bold opinionators and talented creators have been gathering for years to talk about what’s important and how we can advance the issues we care about, it’s a place Urban Institute belongs. 


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The Urban Institute podcast, Evidence in Action, inspires changemakers to lead with evidence and act with equity. Co-hosted by Urban President Sarah Rosen Wartell and Executive Vice President Kimberlyn Leary, every episode features in-depth discussions with experts and leaders on topics ranging from how to advance equity, to designing innovative solutions that achieve community impact, to what it means to practice evidence-based leadership.


Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center