Slam for Social Change

U.S. Consulate General Chennai Women in Indian Social Entrepreneurship Network alum, Jigyasa Labroo’s organization Slam Out Loud empowers disadvantaged children through arts education. 

By Michael Gallant

October 2023

Slam for Social Change

Jigyasa Labroo (center) with the Slam Out Loud participants. (Photograph courtesy Slam Out Loud) 

“Individuals everywhere will have a voice that empowers them to change lives”—this is the mission of Slam Out Loud, a nonprofit organization that uses the arts to help disadvantaged children in India.

Slam Out Loud’s co-founder and chief executive officer Jigyasa Labroo says the organization is dedicated to transforming how arts education and socio-emotional learning happen for children from underserved communities across India. Slam Out Loud trains arts teachers to work in schools in low-income communities and offers arts learning resources online, all to help children grow through the exploration of poetry and storytelling.

Learning about the arts can help children cope with difficult realities and express themselves, says Labroo, who participated in the U.S. Consulate General Chennai-funded Women in Indian Social Entrepreneurship Network (WISEN) program. Arts education also empowers children to “resolve conflicts without violence, critically evaluate the world around them and actively engage in the various aspects of human existence,” says Labroo. “We believe children with exposure to socio-emotional learning and the arts have the potential to become leaders, change-makers and cultural curators in all spheres of society.”

Roots of the slam

Labroo was inspired to co-found Slam Out Loud after serving as a secondary school teacher in a low-income Delhi community. The experience brought her “face-to-face with the questions of power and privilege,” she says. 

Wanting to introduce her students to not only academic success but also music and poetry, Labroo began conducting spoken-word poetry workshops across India. One of those workshops changed her life.

Labroo officially launched her nonprofit, Slam Out Loud, in 2017 “to bridge inequity of choices for art-based expression in children,” says Labroo.

Connecting for change

Participating in the WISEN program in 2020 helped Labroo meet “spectacular women challenging societal norms not just with what they are doing, but also in how they live.” Through these connections, says Labroo, she learnt more about feminist leadership and what it takes to build teams that balance the vision and mission of organizations with their own purpose. 

Labroo says she was also inspired by the diversity of women in the group. Participants came from varied backgrounds, which brought nuanced perspectives of being female leaders.

In the coming years, Labroo hopes to harness her skills, experience and connections to convince state governments in India to make arts education a core part of state-run schools, and to bring arts learning to 20 million children by 2025. She also hopes to see more girls and women create positive change.

Labroo emphasizes that becoming an impactful social entrepreneur requires “years of commitment, lifelong learning, collaborating and networking with people across sectors, boundless optimism, and the courage to not look at failure as the end.” 

“Change takes place incrementally, over decades, and you’ll need to build patience and resilience as a leader and change-maker,” she says.

The road may not be easy, but it can be hugely rewarding. “Know yourself,’ she says, “embrace your passion, educate yourself, build supportive networks and take that leap of faith!”

Today, Slam Out Loud has achieved tremendous success bringing arts education to disadvantaged communities. “Our Jijivisha Fellowship is now a full-time program across four cities,” says Labroo, “which means that our artist fellows will be facilitating in-class socio-emotional learning and arts education for more than 4,000 children this year.” Since its founding, Slam Out Loud has reached over 10 million children across 23 Indian states and 19 countries. 

Labroo says that she loves seeing the small but important changes that Slam Out Loud can measure, and the momentous impact those efforts create over time. “We monitor growth in children by assessing six life skills,” she says. “In 2021 and 2022, our assessments showed up to 26 percent growth in creative confidence skills, with most improvement in communication and self-esteem, and a 20 percent increase in creativity and critical thinking.” 

Michael Gallant is a New York City-based writer, musician and entrepreneur.

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