Jigyasa Labroo: Transforming Arts Education through Social-Emotional Learning

Ladder works is a publishing platform for various picture books and online programs whose mission is to empower more than one million children to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features our interplanetary journalist Spiffy’s interviews with inspiring social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders advancing the UN SDGs.

Hi friends! It’s Spiffy, back on planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a fairer place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise with Jigyasa Labroo, the co-founder and CEO of Slam Out Loud. Let’s see what she does to make a positive impact.

Nice : Thanks for joining me, Jigyasa! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?

Jigyasa: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! Did you know that 131 million children in Indian public schools do not have the opportunity to develop social-emotional learning (SEL) skills such as empathy and compassion?

Nice : No, I had no idea! It’s a big problem.

Jigyasa: In effect! Most of the education initiatives for children from disadvantaged communities in India focus on getting jobs. At Slam Out Loud, we believe in nurturing creativity and empathy in children from disadvantaged communities to help them reach their full potential. We are working to transform the way arts education, which facilitates SEL education, takes place in India. We do this by creating arts-based SEL educational resources, training teachers and artists to develop SEL skills in children, and creating platforms for children to showcase their learning.

Nice : What prompted you to tackle this problem?

Jigyasa: Well, I’ve run 76 spoken word poetry workshops across India. The 77th workshop in Kashmir changed my life. I started the workshop by asking the children to write a poem about an emotion. In my experience, students almost always chose emotions like happiness, joy. I was caught off guard when a 13-year-old girl named Zaira chose to write about hate. His classmates chose sadness and confusion. I was confronted with thoughts and feelings that had never had an outlet before. That day reinforced my belief that spaces for creative expression were a necessity for children. A majority of Indian students in public schools receive less than 20 hours of arts education per year. To fill this inequality of choice, three months after this 77th workshop, I co-founded Slam Out Loud (SOL).

Nice : How are you and your SOL team working for a fairer world?

Jigyasa: We work to transform the Indian art class and change the way SEL education takes place in India. Our goal is to develop the social-emotional skills and mindsets children need to become the leaders of tomorrow and create a more inclusive society. Each child involved in the Jijivisha Fellowship received more than 60 hours of arts education per year (as opposed to the national average of less than 20 hours). Through surveys of scholarship recipients, teachers and parents, we also found that: 96% of artists felt that they contributed positively to society; 83% of respondents strongly agreed that our resources build SEL skills in children; and 75% of children who are in a Jijivisha class for a year progress at least one level in the rubric of creative confidence skills.

Nice : Tell me about a recent stage of SOL. What impact does it have?

Jigyasa: Our beneficiaries are Indian children between the ages of 8 and 16 whose annual family income ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 USD in urban areas and 1,000 to 2,500 USD in rural areas. They study in public, affordable private and open schools. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we distributed short art lessons via WhatsApp and state education portals, reaching 4.7 million children across India and 19 other countries through to more than 125 partners. As of March 2020, we have produced a content library of over 90 hours of content. 83.3% of parents said their children did not receive similar content during school closures.

Nice : Congratulations on these accomplishments! Please share an experience where you faced failure and didn’t give up. What did you learn from this experience?

Jigyasa: When COVID-19 hit, we had to stop all of our physical programs. The children we work with do not have access to the Internet, so it was not possible for us to rely on online teaching methods. However, they had access to their parents’ phones. This led us to design a program called Arts for All, which uses partnerships to distribute our library of content to children via Whatsapp, IVRS or state education portals. The most important thing for us during this difficult time was to make sure that we kept our children at the center and to remember that, even if the situation looked like a short-term failure, it was an opportunity for us to exploring what access to arts education on low-tech platforms might look like.

Nice : Thanks for sharing this. Is there anything else you would like to tell our audience?

Jigyasa: I would like to tell the story of a 17 year old boy named Supriya, one of the SOL students living in a household with an annual income of INR 2 lakhs. When she joined SOL’s programs five years ago, she was frugal with her words and careful with everyone around her. Today, Supriya is an active member of SOL’s “BOL Poetry Crew”, and she has performed on several national and international platforms. She is interning at two organizations, helping her family at home, teaching her younger brother and developing her skills through online courses. She uses the power of creativity not only on stage to speak her truth, but also in her daily life to negotiate change at school and at home.

Nice : Thanks for talking to me today, Jigyasa, it was an honor!

Jigyasa Labroo is the co-founder and CEO of Slam Out Loud (SOL), where she leads program development, fundraising and partnerships. She is a 2020 Emerging Education Leader with WISE and a member of Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia Class of 2022. She was recently a KC Mahindra Fellow at Harvard University and a 2021 Fellow of Falling Walls, Berlin. She deeply believes in the power of finding her own voice and engages in music, travel and coaching to constantly evolve hers. (Nominated by Alex Parks of Harvard Innovation Labs. First published on the Ladderworks website August 19, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy artwork by Shreyas Navarre. For the Ladderworks Digital Curriculum to help children in K-3 advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy’s Corner here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.