Creating Creators is hard work, but it’s work worth doing. The weeks of prep leading up to Festival Ñapita was not without its obstacles. One of the bigger challenges was building a relationship with the young aspiring entrepreneurs that I have come to adore. It turns out that youth are essentially the same regardless of where they live.
Betzy and her crew from Dandelion Media quickly got to work with our workshops on branding, marketing, and investment. Of course there were levels of interest and disinterest. It was the disinterest that captured my attention, of course. Many liked the idea of coming up with their own brand, logo, and concepts, allowing them to stretch their creative muscles. But, when it came to the communication and investment portions of the workshops, there were a lot of furrowed brows, confused looks, and frustrated tempers. When I asked why they felt this way, more often than not, it was because they didn’t know how to explain themselves. They didn’t have the words because they had never experienced the opportunity to
create something on their from their own interests
communicate in a way that allowed them to express their ideas
understand the value in explaining themselves to others and how that can benefit them.
It was like pulling teeth to get them to speak. Most were able to overcome through coaching, and once given the incentive of more cookies, they started to step up to the plate.
As we progressed throughout the week, I realized another factor that contributed to the waxing and waning of interest. Our young entrepreneurs are accustomed to living in the now, as most youth are, but especially our young entrepreneurs whose lives are day by day, moment by moment.
Big ThoughtCreating Creators Internationally, part 3
Week one has quickly passed, and the work for Festival Ñapita is in full swing. And true to Big Thought’s way of working, we hit the ground running with site visits, programming and event planning. (Ñapita comes from the colloquial use of the word for an exchange of goods/services where one gives a little more in the process.) And of course authentic partnerships were a huge part of the effort. We collaborated closely with Dandelion Media, Aldeas Infintales SOS, Panama, and YLAI to prepare youth from Aldeas Infinatles to host their own entrepreneurial fair.
Together with our partner organizations, we are empowering youth ages 12-18 to develop their entrepreneurial skills to inspire them to become the creators of their own futures beyond their stay at Aldeas Infintales. Youth are creating products for sale based on their personal interests. Items and products ranged from cookies and cupcakes, to hand crafted decorative items for the home. Youth will have an opportunity to sell their products at Festival Ñapita and keep their proceeds from their sales.
As I begin my work with the young creators of Festival Ñapita, I began to think more about the process of creating creators and barriers that inhibit the creator in myself and in others. What stood out as one of the biggest, but easiest barriers to overcome, is language. When a person knows how to “speak the language” then a true connection can be made to begin the creator’s process.
Yes, I speak Spanish and understand the language so I’ve been able to easily maneuver my travels here in Panama. But just because I understand the language, doesn’t mean I can fully connect to a person to be able to engage them, inspire them, and/or motivate them to become a creator. “What more do I need to know?,” I asked myself. I need to know HOW to talk to them.
This concept holds true for the youth that I engage with in the States. I have to be able to speak to youth on their level. When I’m been able to connect with youth on their level, is where I find the “Ahha!” moments in life. For me and for them.
For Festival Ñapita, the youth at Aldeas Infintales are like any other youth in the States, or even around the world for that matter. They are eager, they are distracted, they are pushing through their barriers of childhood to adulthood. It was interesting for me to see how youth are no more different in Panama than they are in the States.
I’m still working through that, but, for now, I’m enamored by these young creators. And now, it is my job to break down those barriers of language and perception to inspire the creator inside each of them. I have to overcome my own barriers of fear and inadequacy. I have to connect with them on their level so that they can trust me. I want them to trust me enough to share their interests and experiences, so that I can inspire the creator in them. Luckily, I brought cookies for them to begin to build that bridge and build that trust.
Sergio Garcia, Big Thought Program Manager, put that philosophy into action when he traveled to Panama through the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative (YLAI) to assist in developing programming for marginalized youth in Panama. Sergio reunited with Betzy Arosemena, who had spent five weeks shadowing Big Thought in summer 2018.
Sergio, August 14, 2019
While I’m sitting at the airport terminal, waiting to board my flight to Panama, I started to think about the phrase, “creating creators.” As part of a reverse exchange through YLAI, I get to travel to Panama, and bring a bit of Dallas, TX, a bit of bit of Big Thought and the work we do to empower youth in marginalized communities. In the initial phase of the reverse exchange, I befriended Betzy Arosemena while she shadowed the work we do at Big Thought for 5 weeks to learn best practices to take back to Panama. Now, I get to visit her for two weeks and learn from her.
My mind came back to our charge for this exchange: “creating creators”. What does it mean? How do we do this? What a huge undertaking and responsibility. I’ve always considered myself a creative person and felt comfortable creating in my own sense.
That was the challenge I was presented, and I had to figure it out.
I’ve only been at Big Thought for little over a year, and was charged with this task of “creating creators” as part of my everyday job. I learned that in, our 21st century workforce, creative thinking and emotional intelligence are being recognized as top skill sets that employers are seeking. In an age of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and technology, we have to cultivate creative thinking and emotional intelligence in our youth for them to thrive in a future workforce.
At Big Thought, empowering youth to build their creative muscle, develop social and emotional skills, and shaping their authentic voice are our core elements. Now it’s time to take that work internationally with my friend Betzy. We thought, “What could we do to create creators? How can we meet the needs of youth in Panama using the skills she learned while shadowing Big Thought?”
That’s when we came up with Festival Napita. Taking a page from our Dallas City of Learning initiative with our Turn Up events. We decided to create a “makers fair” where youth are the creators of their own product and their own business. Working with a local orphanage and in collaboration with Arckalab and Dandelion Media, we hope to inspire youth and give them the skills necessary to live beyond their life at the orphanage and be the leaders of their Createconomy.
Big Thought is presented with the Texas Medal of Arts Award for Art Education. Given by the Texas Cultural Trust, the TMA Awards celebrate Texans who have enriched the unique culture of Texas. (2013)
Big Thought celebrates its 25th anniversary. President/CEO, Gigi Antoni, co-authors More than the sum of its parts: Collaboration & Sustainability in Arts Education, with Thomas Wolf. (2012)
President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities selects Big Thought President/CEO Gigi Antoni as a “Champion of Change,” serving on a White House panel highlighting best practices in arts education. (2011)
The Wallace Foundation and RAND Corporation select Dallas & Big Thought’s Thriving Minds summer camp program to participate in a three-year longitudinal study on summer learning loss tracking the impact of comprehensive summer programs on the academic success of incoming fourth graders in six U.S. cities. (2011)
The trustees of Communities Foundation of Texas, who oversee the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation, award a $2-million challenge grant to Big Thought to build a coordinated system upon the framework of its out-of-school-time initiative, Thriving Minds. (2010)
The Wallace Foundation awards Big Thought an $8M grant to plan and implement a citywide creative learning system and renews its commitment with a four-year $4.3M gift to continue implementation. (2010, 2005)
The Texas Education Agency awards three five-year grants to manage Big Thought’s Thriving Minds After-School program in 33 Dallas ISD schools. (2010, 2009, 2008)
Americans for the Arts presents Big Thought with the Arts Education Award given annually to the organization identified as the best in arts education program design, execution, as well as leadership. (2009)
Big Thought is selected by the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee to design and execute the largest-ever youth-education program for the NFL in conjunction with Super Bowl XLV. (2009)
Big Thought publishes More Than Measuring outlining the organization’s philosophy and assessment. (2007)
The U.S. Department of Education awards a $1.1 million Model Development and Dissemination Grant to support Big Thought’s ArtsPartners National Model and provides an additional $1 million grant to train arts specialists as arts integration resources to strengthen the program. (2006, 2003)
Big Thought receives the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities Coming Up Taller Award. (2004)
The Ford Foundation awards Big Thought grants to develop a family learning and parent advocacy component as part of the Dallas ArtsPartners program (2003)