Blue1647’s Emile Cambry Recognized for Community Empowerment at SXSW

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This is the third of five EQ stories from SXSW. Read the previous ones here.

They say good things are worth waiting for.

After skipping SXSW for a whole decade, Emile Cambry finally had little choice but to travel to Austin this year. The business professor, filmmaker and social entrepreneur received the prestigious Dewey Winburne Community Service Award for his community empowerment work with tech innovation center Blue1647.

Credit: SXSW 2016

“The award gives us more credibility for what we do and really shows we’re doing a good thing,” said Cambry at the award ceremony.

Named after SXSW Interactive Festival co-founder Winburne, who passed away in 1999, the Dewey Awards honor Americans who use digital technology to help others. Recipients each receive a $1,000 grant to their favorite 501(c)(3) and complementary registration to the conference.

This year, four of the 10 honorees came from abroad: Richard Bbaale of Kampala, Uganda for manufacturing affordable and eco-friendly sanitary pads to keep village girls in school and create jobs for local women; Ali Gohar of Peshawar, Pakistan who founded  Just Peace Initiatives; Robi Damelin of Ramat-Efal, Israel, a spokesperson and member of the Parents Circle Families Forum; and Priya Verma of Alberta, Canada for her nonprofit (Child, Youth, Women and Environment).

South By South West has exceeded all my wildest imaginations,” the Chicago native said. “It gets me to think about all the youth that we work with and how do we get them out here.”

Cambry said he will prioritize SXSW in his schedule from now on, and that he already has ideas for next year’s SXSW, including chartering a bus and organizing a hackathon. “We want our people to feel like they belong there just like anybody else.”

Read more EQ articles about Emile Cambry and his work here and here.

What does this award mean for you and Blue1647?

What it does for Blue1647 is just give us more credibility for what we do, really showing how we’re affecting communities and doing a good thing. Our team has really been rewarded in terms of knowing that good things are happening and that we are hopefully continuing to do great work.

The award recognizes people who use technology to empower communities, and that’s what we do. We want to go into communities other people don’t want to go to. We want to make sure we provide the same expectations for people as if they were in affluent areas. We have created a culture of technology development and we want to make sure it continues to happen and build, and continues to foster.

What specifically did they say about what you do that make you deserve the award?

Dewey Winburne was an educator, innovator and technologist who really wanted to empower communities and idealist as well. I consider myself one of those things, maybe all of those things; I’m an idealist in the way we approach community economic development through technology. I feel like what Dewey Winburne represents, I embody that in some small way.

This has been your first South By South West. How was the overall experience for you?

South By South West has exceeded all my wildest imaginations. I’ve been wanting to come for 10 years but always had some initiative that crept into my time capsule and taking that up, but this year I had no choice. Being here has been amazing, because it gets me to think not just about myself but about all the youth that we work with, how do we get them out here? All the adults we work with, how do we encourage them to be a part of this and say ‘Hey, how does Blue1647 have a presence here next year?’ Do we charter a bus, do we have a hackathon here, do we bring people and gather together to celebrate innovation and say ‘You belong here just as much as anybody else,’? That’s what we’re excited about.

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Benjamin came to Missouri all the way from Germany to get a Master's degree in Communications at Lindenwood University. In the spring of 2013, he sailed around the world on a ship with 600 college students and 10 startups, which made him realize that he wants to pursue a career at the intersection of journalism and entrepreneurship. He is an avid traveler, football player (American football, yes), and collector of new ways of thinking.