SXSW 2015: What motivates these Dewey honorees?

What gets you up in the morning? You know you’ve found your true calling when the thing that motivates you the moment your eyes open is the same thing you do all day.

That’s why we asked these remarkable SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Service Award winners what gets them up in the morning. The Dewey Awards honor people from all over the world who take advantage of digital technology and media to do help and inspire others. If what they’re saying resonates with you, maybe you should reevaluate your own work.


Dewey2015_Libby Powell_courtesy RadarLONDON – Libby Malone founded On Our Radar, which trains and enables citizen reporters from the most isolated, poor and forgotten parts of the world — slum dwellers, disabled youth, rural women and girls. By empowering them with a simple mobile phone, On Our Radar gives these people a voice in the democratic process.

“Every time we log into our hub there is another gem from one of our trained reporters — an SMS flagging a new female candidate in the Nigerian election, a voicemail from Sierra Leone about the opening of schools following the Ebola outbreak, a WhatsApp message from Lake Victoria on how young people are tackling HIV. The diversity and depth of their insight is compelling and motivating.”


Dewey2015_Karen Kocher_courtesy K KocherAUSTIN – Karen Kocher is a digital media storyteller, producing pieces like the interactive documentary about Barton Springs and Zilker Trek, an innovative iPod-based scavenger hunt/nature journaling project that brought new media to underserved kids at the Austin Sunshine camps.

“That ‘aha!’ moment people have when they learn something new just give me so much joy. For example, recently I was interviewing a man who had been very active in the environmental community for a dozen years. I mentioned to him that I thought part of the reason why there was not more support for the protection of the Springs from the African-American community is because it had been a segregated facility for many, many years. That just blew his mind. He had no idea.”


Dewey2015_Brittany Martin_courtesy AbleThriveSINGAPORE – Brittany Martin founded AbleThrive, a support network of crowd-sourced tips and advice for people with disabilities and their families to overcome challenges and thrive. In her own experiences with disability in her family and a community as a volunteer, she saw that learning from others in similar situations helped her family adapt and she envisioned using technology to replicate such support globally for all disabilities.

“The truth that I took a leap and that no matter what challenges or triumphs are ahead, I have to get up and pursue what I set out to do. We only live once, so I want to get after it.”



Dewey2015_Rebecca McDonald_courtesy R McDonaldNEW YORK – Rebecca McDonald founded Library for All after witnessing the profound lack of books and resources in Haiti, especially after its devastating earthquake. Her vision is to create a digital library from the world’s collective resources that would be easily accessible to those living in poverty.

“More than 250 million children are going to school and not even learning the basics of literacy. We believe they deserve to learn, they deserve the opportunity to read. I desperately want them to have a hope and a future.”



Dewey2015_Dr. Abdullah Saleh_courtesyICC-blogEDMONTON, CANADA – Dr. Abdullah Saleh, a native of Iraq, is a surgeon and founder of ICChange, which crowd-sources talent and creates new models, technologies and social enterprises, improving the quality of life and security of vulnerable populations. Saleh also co-founded the Kenya Ceramic Project in 2007 and developed programs for vocational training for Burmese refugees in Thailand. Dr. Saleh launched the Kibera Medical Records Initiative and the Kenya Trauma and Injury Program.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to fight for vulnerable populations and use the opportunities and education I’ve been fortunate to have. I myself come from these vulnerable populations; the only difference is that I have been given an opportunity, which they deserve to have as well.”



Dewey2015_Tembinkosi Qondela_courtesy Whizz ICTCape Town, South Africa – Tembinkosi Qondela co-founded Whizz ICT Centre, an organization that seeks to facilitate the use of information communication technology (ICT) tools for development efforts of the community in Khayelitsha, which is one of the largest and poorest areas of Cape Town, South Africa. He observed that marginalization of poor people in the use of ICT and the lack of access to information perpetuates the inequalities and poverty that face most young South Africans.

“I’m most motivated by people’s gratitude for our service. I’m driven by those who show appreciation of our service even if by just saying thank you. “



Justin Graves, Student Success Center.Washington, DC – Justin Graves committed himself to a personal goal of meeting one new person every single day and chronicles that journey on He uses his unique frame – seated in a wheelchair – and energy to denounce common assumptions about those with disabilities, to motivate his friends in his communities and to forge connections with the “strangers” he just hasn’t related to yet.

“My answer to the question ‘What gets you up in the morning?’ no doubt would be the promise of the stories I’ll get to hear and by virtue of those stories the people that I will get to learn about that day. I have a goal of meeting one new person every single day and that goal has taken me on some pretty remarkable adventures.”


Read more about the other Dewey Award Winners and get inspired.


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