I am on my way back from a brilliant week visiting the organisation Dream a Dream in Bangalore. Founded 17 years ago by charismatic CEO Vishal Talreja, now supported by a strong leadership team, Dream a Dream offers a range of programmes to young people in the city. The focus of the organisation is on developing ‘life skills’ in young people in adversity. The organisations definition of ‘life skills’ correlate very closely to CCE’s creative habits of mind and so it was fascinating to learn from the systems and activities they have developed to embed such skills in the young people of Bangalore.
The most developed and longest running of their programmes is an after-school programme focussed on developing life skills in children from ages 9 – 15. It offer a weekly two-hour workshop to groups of young people. The programmes are arranged around two themes: life skills development and football, and life skills development and the arts. I observed one of each. The workshop would have been instantly recognisable to anyone working in CCE programmes, each workshop consisting of ‘check-in activity’, a warm-up activity, a main activity built around developing life skills, some football or arts activity, and an extended reflection. The quality of facilitation I saw was extremely high and the impact on young people impressive and a testament to Dream a Dream’s training programmes and the fact that most facilitators now working there came up through the programme and were once the children in adversity the programme targets.
Realising that the needs of young people in developing strong life skills does not end when they exit the after school programme, Dream a Dream launched a second programme called Career Connect, to support them through the final stages of education into employment. Young people participating in Career Connect are given an initial induction. After this they can enrol in a variety of after school courses or take up internships and apprenticeships that Dream a Dream sources for them. The most impressive aspect of this programme is the follow through. Young people spend considerable periods away from the programme pursuing opportunities and employment, but Career Connect keeps careful track of them, calling by phone every quarter every one of the 7,000 young people now in the programme to check on progress. Often these calls result in the young people re-engaging directly with the programme, coming in to take up new courses or get mentoring or guidance.
Tracking the impact of the after school programme on the young people participating, a concern developed that pupils were not applying their new found skills in their academic work. This problem will be familiar to many running similar programmes and Dream a Dream came to the conclusion, rightly, that this could only be addressed if teachers learnt to access the life skills of young people in the classroom. This has led to the establishment of a third major programme, still in the early stages of implementation.
What is so impressive about the whole operation, is that it is a total package. It combines a clear vision, strong training and development programmes for facilitators, teachers and schools more generally, rigorously tested and applied activities, innovative uses of technology and effective assessment tools, ensuring that all the programmes take place within a robust quality assurance framework. Overall the experience showed what strong practice exists in India offering much for us in Europe to be learning from.