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Boston, The New Austin?

HUBweek, an innovation festival organized by MIT, Harvard, Mass General Hospital, and the Boston Globe, is the city’s answer to SxSW.

Boston, The New Austin?
[Boston Photo: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva via Shutterstock]

Next month, between October 3 and 10, Greater Boston will host a weeklong festival called HUBweek that focuses on the city’s burgeoning innovation scene. HUBweek’s organizers have likened the event to South by Southwest. Brendan Ryan, the executive director of HUBweek, does point out that Austin has been working on its event for 26 years, while Boston is only just getting HUBweek off the ground—so its goals will be somewhat more modest. Still, it’s a festival that he hopes will draw an eclectic mix of artists, entrepreneurs, companies, and partygoers.

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HUBweek is an unusual collaboration between several of the biggest institutions in the area: MIT, Harvard, Mass General Hospital, and The Boston Globe. “What sets HUBweek apart from other attempts to build community in this area is that these four founding partners have been willing to put their money, resources, and institutional weight behind it,” Ryan tells Fast Company. “We at HUBweek have created very little from scratch: what we’ve done is created the circumstances for all the parties in this area doing really innovative work to come together in a coordinated fashion and share their work with the public.”

HUBweek will consist of over 40 events including hackathons, lectures, art exhibits, and cultural performances featuring the city’s most innovative organizations and people. The week will be kicked off with a flagship event on October 4 at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. It will be transformed into a 37,000-seat “master class” in which Professor Michael Sandel will give a talk based on a philosophy course he teaches at Harvard called “Justice” that tackles difficult ethical questions that arise in everyday life. (His lectures, which are also available online, have been among the most popular in Harvard’s history.) He will also lead a panel of guests that will include Arianna Huffington, Yo-Yo Ma, and Whitney Cummings, among others. Tickets to the lecture will cost $20. There will also be a large, interactive street exhibit outside Fenway on the weekend of October 3 and 4 that will be free and open to the public.

Michael Sandal’s course “Justice” is one of the most popular in Harvard’s history.

HUBweek also announced the events taking place in Kendall Square, the tech district between Boston and Cambridge. Home to Microsoft, Google, Novartis, and a slew of startups, the Square will open itself up to the public on October 8. “We asked the Kendall community, ‘What would you like to do and see?'” Ryan explains. HUBweek learned that local residents and workers wanted to learn more about what different companies were doing. HUBweek has organized an “Open Lobbies” program where the public can visit places like the MIT Media Lab and the Koch Institute.

The day’s activities will also include a block party that features an exhibition of jellyfish, a global documentary film festival, an opportunity to learn about bees on a rooftop with the Urban Bee Laboratory, and an interdisciplinary discussion at MIT that aims to tackle issues of inequality.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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