This January, the AGHCA brought our participatory arts-based approach to the Festival of Ideas, an initiative hosted by Lake of Stars and the British Council Malawi to engage youth in discussions around civil society and development.

AGHCA staff facilitated World Cafe sessions with over 200 students and youth representatives to brainstorm the role Malawi’s youth could play in shaping the country’s future. Students were asked to identify their skills and talents, discuss challenges faced by youth across the country, and figure out how to use their skills and talents to solve those challenges. Six ideas were selected for presentation on the main stage to the full festival audience of 1,000 attendees.

Students with Dreams alumni Akulu Lipenga and Mcpherson Ndalama came up with a creative, visual way to spark a discussion about the need for positive role models in civil society. In their arts workshop, students were taught the fundamentals of drawing and graphic arts so they could 'Create a Malawian Superhero' and develop a comic strip showcasing the character.

Finally, as part of Lilongwe shorts, we screened Umunthu, a documentary made by Students with Dreams alum Mwizalero Nyirenda exploring opposing views on the rights of marginalised communities in Malawi.

The day was filled with interactive activities to engage young people in complex discussion on civil society and development through poetry, film, music, visual art and theatre. We were proud that our programmes could make such a strong contribution to the Festival of Ideas and look forward to bringing our unique creative and participatory approach to such events in the future.