Featured Image: Shuan Sim, Shreyas Navare and Klo’e Ng during the discussion stage of the book THE FLOOD ON FANOOLU.
By Sonia Toledo, Founder, Dignity of Children
We encourage children to explore creativity for a lot of reasons. We want them to express themselves and learn new ways of communicating. We want to cultivate 21st century skills and teach strategies for creative problem-solving. We want them to become conscious citizens who are aware of themselves and others.
Making the connection between creativity and social consciousness is easy when you think about the fact that creativity is one of the 4 C’s of 21st century skills. But, finding real-life examples can be harder.
Luckily, I found one! Earlier this month, after moderating a panel about creativity, I spoke with Shreyas Navare, Founder of Ladderworks Publishing, about his creative journey and how he’s achieving his goal: to inspire at least a million kids and youth globally to become social entrepreneurs.
Find out below!
Hi Shreyas! Thanks for chatting. Can you tell me a little bit about how Ladderworks Publishing got started?
At the outset, thanks for conducting this interview. With the help of friends, I started Ladderworks late last year as a publishing startup of picture books created by diverse storytellers. We officially launched at the 2018 World Bank Youth Summit and subsequently partnered with them to create a picture book inspired by the story of their award-winning startup PROJECT CUBE. This is the first in our series of picture books on startups to inspire at least a million kids and youth globally to become social entrepreneurs.
And this picture book, The Flood on Fanoolu, was illustrated by you. Have you always known that you wanted to be an illustrator?
Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated by drawing. In my seventh grade, I began drawing political cartoons and soon started getting published in local newspapers.
My passion converted into a profession over the years. I worked for the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English daily newspapers, for over ten years as their editorial cartoonist and some of my original artworks from that period have now found their way into the collection of the Library of Congress.
While I did practice other professions in parallel, including technology and finance, I always found time to nurture my cartooning and illustrations career. My creativity as a cartoonist helped me greatly in my other professions and my experiences from the other professions have helped my career as a creative entrepreneur.
Eventually, this journey helped create Ladderworks, which in its essence is a creative ecosystem aimed at enhancing the mental and economic well-being of all sections of society.
What are some of the key skills that you learned to develop and practice as an illustrator, and in your other professions?
As a cartoonist, I have travelled to cover many elections in India and two Presidential elections in the US. I got the chance to interact with people of various backgrounds with multiple shades of opinions. Listening to these different opinions helped me grasp a better sense of reality and people’s desires; resulting in my drawing better cartoons. I have continued to nurture and grow this habit of listening to diverse views and opinions and it has greatly helped me as a creative entrepreneur too.
So has working with others—and these concepts of diversity, collaboration, and teamwork—been important during Ladderworks’ early days?
The whole foundation of Ladderworks is based on diversity, collaboration and teamwork.
Diversity has helped us to look at any topic through the prism of multiple perspectives. Collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds as a team has not only helped us to enhance our understanding of one another but also that of our common humanity.
For instance, PROJECT CUBE’s founder Klo’e Ng helped us in better understanding the inequities in our world when we met her to discuss the book. Her inspiring startup PROJECT CUBE aims to provide mobile classroom infrastructure to disaster-affected areas in developing countries. It took the magic of writer Shuan Sim’s creativity to convert PROJECT CUBE into the endearing story of THE FLOOD ON FANOOLU, which I had great fun in illustrating.
Apart from the book’s creative team, we had a great support system in the Ladderworks management team and our friends, who are helping us spread the word about our book to make our vision of inspiring the next generation of “entrepreneurs with empathy” possible.
Do you feel that teaching kids to be creative will have a role in them developing into entrepreneurs with empathy?
I believe that all kids are creative and curious by nature. It is society which needs to learn to let kids be themselves and allow that creativity and curiosity to bloom and become lifelong companions.
I was really lucky to have been blessed with parents who encouraged my creativity to the fullest and even allowed me to draw with oil crayons on the walls of our house! At school, my teachers encouraged my cartooning and did not raise any objections when I drew caricatures of them.
Without such freedom both at home and at school, I would never have become a cartoonist and a creative entrepreneur. Hence, in all of our Ladderworks picture books, our emphasis will always be on finding different ways to spur the growth of creativity and curiosity in kids and adults alike.
Do you have any advice for youth who want to pursue careers in the arts or other creative fields?
No advice other than to just follow your heart!
“The Flood on Fanoolu” is available for purchase in the United States at www.ladderworks.co
Listen to Shreyas Navare’s speech at the 2019 World Bank Youth Summit.
The next generation of entrepreneurs is waiting, and IDEAS Empowered by Youth is here to help them get their start.
IDEAS Empowered by Youth is an online application of 21st century skills curriculum for K-12 students aimed to guide youth practitioners in facilitating project-based learning in four focus areas: Entrepreneurship, Health & Wellness, Climate Change and Financial Literacy.
IDEAS Empowered by Youth to inspire your young creatives to discover what they have to contribute and how they can use it to change the world. Website coming soon!