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Introducing a Children's Panel at the 2010 Global Competitiveness Forum -
Ashfaq Ishaq Interview : Page 2 of 2

Ashfaq Ishaq, International Child Art Foundation Founder

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Q: The ICAF Web site asks:

Ashfaq Ishaq on Fox NewsAre the urgent problems afflicting local communities and the world today (global warming, grinding poverty, mushrooming violence…) mere symptoms of something deeper and fundamental? Is it the prevailing system of thinking and feeling?

Where do universal, longer-lasting solutions lie? Art → Creativity → Innovation?

Empathy → Peace → Respectful Coexistence?

Can it be that simple?

A: Nothing is simple in this complex world. But viable solutions need not be more complex than the problems. We must address the fundamentals. If we reverse-engineer humanity we can analyze what is missing. Our work shows that a child's innate creativity and intrinsic empathy are the foundations to build a new world.

The creativity revolution is essentially an innovation revolution. If innovators feel empathy towards nature, they will find sustainable solutions to economic prosperity and growth. If they feel empathy towards others, they will devise ways to narrow the rich-poor divide through prosperity. When enemies have empathy for each other, they cannot go to war. If we have empathy for the children, we will work to make the future better for them.

Q: What impact has ICAF made in its first 13 years? What would you like to see happen in the next 10?

A: We have made reasonable impact in the first 13 years by laying the foundation for ICAF. Our best estimates are:

  • More than 5 million children worldwide participated in the first three Arts Olympiads, a free global program for 8- to 12-year-old children.
  • About 100,000 individuals have attended ICAF's festivals and exhibitions in DC and worldwide.
  • Nearly 2,000 Arts Olympiad winners have participated in the World Children's Festivals, and are today creative and empathic leaders in their schools, universities and communities worldwide.

ICAF has succeeded in creating a nascent global trend. More policy makers and thought leaders talk about nurturing children's creativity. Empathy is being recognized as a key attribute of successful learners and leaders. ICAF has opened doors for arts education in several countries in Africa and the Middle East. Now leaders recognize that for a nation to be competitive, children must be creative and arts education can help pave the way.

The next few years are critical to sustain our efforts. In 2010 we will be busy healing the children in Haiti and possibly Chile. In June 2011 we host the 4th World Children's Festival held on The National Mall and free and open to the public. We would like to arrange "Children's Favorite Sport" exhibition at the London 2012 Games. We would like to develop strategic partnerships with corporations.

ICAF remains small relative to the importance, urgency and impact of its work. We look forward to creative individuals helping ICAF nurture children's creativity and develop their empathy.

Q: On addressing the fundamentals, we see the divisive force of competition contributing to the imbalance of compassion and peace in the world. How does ICAF address this and foster collaboration instead of competition?

A: At ICAF we want children to excel. Therefore, the Arts Olympiad leads to school art competitions to identify the innovative, original thinkers. We urge teachers to involve their students as judges so that 'originality' is not defined only in adult terms. The Arts Olympiad winners from each U.S. state and territory and from participating countries are invited as official delegates to the World Children's Festival. At the 3-day festival on The National Mall, children don't compete but collaborate and learn how to do so across national, cultural and language barriers. They co-create murals. The co-creation process develops empathy and compassion. The end result of their cooperation, the mural itself, is always a masterpiece to behold. A child realizes that however talented he may be, what he is able to co-produce with others he can never do on his own. We start with competition and self-interest but end with collaboration and compassion. Competition fosters excellence and collaboration sustains success. The fact that competition is penultimate is an important lesson for all learners and leaders.

Q: How can creative individuals and other supporters get involved with ICAF's initiatives and upcoming events?

A: Today the builders of the future are not kings or generals, nor aristocrats or politicians, but creative individuals instead. A creative individual understands the importance of nurturing the creativity of the next generation. Here are four suggestions:

  • You can download the Arts Olympiad Lesson Plan to review and forward it to your neighborhood elementary school to participate in this free global program.
  • You can download a sample copy of ChildArt magazine on "co-creation + innovation" and subscribe to it or donate a subscription to your neighborhood school or public library.
  • Come participate in the world's largest international celebration of children's creativity and imagination — the World Children's Festival to be held on The National Mall in Washington DC. The celebration is free and open to the public.

    You can also support the children organize their World Festival by adopting ICAF as your charity of choice.
  • Help the children of Haiti and Chile cope with the trauma caused by the earthquakes by supporting the Healing Arts Programs.

Q: What else would you like the world to know about ICAF?

A: Relative to the importance, urgency and impact of its work, ICAF remains a small charity. We need your creative ideas and involvement to expand our outreach and grow. Remember, all it takes is one generation, and you can help in this historic transformation. •

Connect with Ashfaq Ishaq
Ashfaq IshaqLearn more about Ashfaq Ishaq and the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) by visiting If you are interested in supporting ICAF's initiatives and upcoming events, please note Ashfaq's four suggestions above.

© 2010 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.

Updated 1/8/14