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Imagine a place where the entire focus is the on the ‘learner’ and that could be a child or an adult!
A non-judgmental space that helps the learner feel safe, combined with challenging experiences that provide infinite opportunities to learn and grow. They celebrate learning and appreciate that each individual is unique. With a passionate team of inspiring leaders and go-getters, Cilre is a company that has worked with over 1000 children and adults and inspire learners to explore, develop and create on their own. Team KidEngage met with co-founder Ananthi Balakrishnan and she shared her story about how they came up with the idea of starting Cilre and what future plans are in store for this unique company. Here are a few excerpts of our conversation with her:
KE: How did the idea of starting a place like Cilre came about?
Ananthi: Through my school and college years, I have always enjoyed helping other children learn. At that time I didn’t think much of it. When I moved to Bangalore for my job, a friend who wanted to run a few hands-on workshops for children, was looking for someone to join her and I agreed to help her out during my free time. This was the beginning of this an exciting journey.
There is so much that children can learn, but are not getting a chance to do it. A nurturing and open environment makes the learning process more enjoyable and effective. There weren’t many opportunities for children to explore their interests outside of traditional school subjects. Also, there is a lot of stress surrounding education and joy of learning is missing. I realized there is a lot of work to be done in the area of making learning fun for children and I realised that I enjoyed doing it. That’s how Cilre started.
KE: Your workshops are really well-made, we were really impressed with the quality and the uniqueness of the workshops. How do you plan such workshops? What is the process like from the getting an idea for the workshops to its final execution?
Ananthi: One of our main goals is, ‘Making Learning Available’- that means is to give an opportunity to as many children as possible to explore different things. We choose topics that would be interesting to the children and also introduce them to topics like – financial literacy, map making or cryptography.
Once we select the topic, the next step is brainstorming. The our core team sits around a table throws in their ideas about what we can realistically achieve in 2 hours.Then, we come up with a rough sketch. This is the most fun part (after facilitating) for us. We let all kinds of wild ideas flow. For example, when we were talking about an archaeology workshop – We thought, the child should be able to experience the exciting part of an archaeologist – digging and finding out things. Taking them outdoors, making them dig in a real ground may be really fun, but not always possible. Still, went ahead with it and came up with a simulated way to do it, which is still a great fun activity for kids.
Once the brainstorming is over, our designers get into full blown research to come up with the information and activities which will meet the overall objective of the session. We have a few more rounds of reviews and after that we are ready to go ahead with the session.
However, the highlight of the entire process is the workshop itself. This is where children experience what we have planned for them. The role the facilitator plays is extremely crucial – Being non-judgmental, letting children explore, compassionate and yet dynamic enough in empowering each child to gain most from the workshop.
KE: Can you tell us more about Cilre and its team?
Ananthi: Gowri, co-founder of Cilre and I have been working together for over 6 years now. Our other core team member is Aparna who had been friends with Gowri for over 20 years. the entire team is like a family. And everyone who joins the team is like a new member in our family.Currently, we are a team of over 25 people and constantly growing.
Gowri, a mom of two grown up boys is the youngest at heart and loved by children and grownups alike. Her compassion and creativity are her biggest strengths. She is a storyteller and loves being around children. She also mentors our new facilitators.
Aparna takes care of all the co-ordination with the facilitators and the entire process of the workshop. With all the crazy plans that we have, she makes it a reality. She enjoys designing new workshops the most.
Facilitators are the most important – They are the ones who deliver the experience – We have a fantastic team that comprises of college students, IT professionals and writers. We have a very diverse team and each one of them adds their unique flavor to the workshops. Being a good facilitator is not a simple job. We are constantly on the lookout for people who are willing to learn and facilitate. We also have an enthusiastic team of interns who help us during our workshops and kids’ carnivals that we participate in.
Subha Parthasarathy and Charithra Ballal who are counselors, support us with their insight into working with children. And we have Sushma, who runs our entire office knows and has become the most integral part of the team.
KE: What are your plans for the future of Cilre?
Ananthi: The vision for Cilre is “Making Learning Available, Exciting and Relevant”. Every project that we take up is geared towards that vision. Last year our focus has been on providing personalized learning experiences .This has been made possible by us having our own center.
Team Cilre plans to make it grow and available to more people. We hope to make Cilre learning spaces become part of a community – both for children and adults where they can be themselves, explore, learn and grow.
At Cilre, we are also looking at having more programs for adults. Why should kids have all the fun? We have a speakers’ club for adults which is a great fun activity. Other programs for adults include – Self-awareness programs on parenting, anger management, a series of theatre for fun and more, in collaboration with our partners. Cilre will be organizing more programs for educators as well.
KE: Can you tell us how KidEngage has helped you in your journey with Cilre and do you have any message for us?
Ananthi: We have been connected with KidEngage from the beginning of this year. As an event provider, I have worked with a lot of different portals who support listing on their website. Yet this year, I moved to KidEngage as our primary ticketing partner. The most important reason for me to move, was the ease of listing the events. The approachability of the team and their willingness to help. Jyotsana and Lavanya from the Bangalore team of KidEngage have been very helpful – and their quality of work is great. Over the last 9 months, I have seen a considerable increase in traction both on social media and on their website. You are adding all the right features. Great going!
We are both providing services to parents and children. Collaborations like this will help each other, but will ultimately benefit parents and children.