Interactive Scholarship Program Identifies Community Heroes Worldwide

The SXSW Interactive Scholarship program recognizes individuals from all sectors and from anywhere in the world who are using new media to tackle community problems. This program tries to identify people whose tech-focused work (whether it's a job, a hobby or volunteering) helps other people. Non-profit leaders, grassroots organizers, individual citizens, and civic-minded entrepreneurs are all eligible to win.

This summer, SXSW Interactive put out a call for do-gooders making the most impact in their communities. You answered the call, and introduced us to some of the most amazing projects and personalities from all over the globe. The SXSW Interactive Scholarship program has a mission to recognize individuals, from all sectors, who are using technology to tackle community problems. Please meet this year's winners:

Momo Akade

Momo Akade, a former teacher and lifelong maker, is the founder of Gigabryte. Akade created GigaBryte to help close the racial and ethnic divide in the field of computing. GigaBryte is a learning platform that introduces elementary school children to programming through wearable electronics. GigaBryte originated as Akade’s thesis while she was a graduate student in the Learning, Design, and Technology program at Stanford. Akade has since introduced more than 500 kids to programming in the Bay Area through workshops at partner schools and science and technology museums. She is an alumna of the Imagine K12 and StartX accelerator programs in Silicon Valley, and earned her BA at Yale University. Currently she is an Open Society Foundations Black Male Achievement Fellow powered by Echoing Green and she is passionate about designing tech-enabled experiences that amplify kids' creative potential. 

Esra Al Shafei

Esra'a Al Shafei is the founder and Director of, an organization that aims to amplify diverse and progressive voices advocating for change throughout the Middle East and North Africa using digital media. She is also the founder of, and She is a recipient of the Berkman Award from Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society for "outstanding contributions to the internet and its impact on society," and is currently a Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. She was featured in Fast Company as one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business." Most recently, she was awarded the Monaco Media Prize, which acknowledges innovative uses of media for the betterment of humanity.

OR Dashevsky

OR Dashevsky is Chief Solution Architect for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). He has over 16 years of Information Technology experience. He joined CRS in July of 2000 and since then, has played a key role in the design and implementation of relief projects all over Africa. In Sierra Leone he designed, programmed and administered a nationwide malaria survey to over 6,000 households. In Central African Republic, he used smartphone technology and barcodes to facilitate the purchase of quality seed by 6,000 poor farmers. He is versatile on many technology platforms and has been recognized inside CRS and by external organizations for his use of innovative solutions.

Jennifer Pan

Jennifer Pan is a founder and Chief Village Elder at Prior to founding, Pan was an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company. In addition, she is a PhD candidate at Harvard University and holds a B.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs at Princeton University, where she first began running non-profit organizations. Pan has also worked for the Clinton Foundation and Chinese Center for Disease Control.

Cara Willis

Cara Willis is the Director of Communications for Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan, multi-sector national campaign comprised of businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits and civic organizations working together to expand economic mobility in the US. Opportunity Nation advocates bipartisan policy change at the federal level and promotes public and private sector engagement. The campaign accelerates the good work being done on the ground with data-rich tools and resources, specifically the Opportunity Index, a unique measure of a region’s economic, educational and civic health. Willis is not only responsible for driving the communications strategy of Opportunity Nation, but also for outreach to its grasstops leaders, including Opportunity Nation’s Leadership Council, donors and other high-profile stakeholders. Follow her at @CaraSWill.

As with many of the best aspects of SXSW, the Interactive Scholarship program is largely powered by the expertise of the online community. Also, be sure to browse the impressive list of Interactive Scholarship program winners from 2013.

Finally, look for the 2015 SXSW Interactive Scholarship Program to accept nominations in July 2014. Watch this website for complete details on how you can nominate your favorite digital do-gooder.