Iván Nogales

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1998


This profile was prepared when Iván Nogales was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Ivan Nogales has launched an initiative for urban marginalized youth that is already spreading across Bolivia, and has earned international recognition in Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and Europe. Drawing on his studies in sociology and practical experience in theater, he founded the Teatro Trono (Throne drama group) in 1991, with a group of 7 street children whom he rescued from a state-run home and legally adopted. Since then, the group has created a youth center in a populous working class area just above La Paz, combining drama, film and library activities with a space for young people to come together and participate in self-esteem building activities. Working from the center, the group reaches out to existing youth groups in schools, parishes and community organizations to share resources and promote drama and cultural activities as beneficial in their own right. Ivan has already launched similar centers in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, and eventually plans to expand to each of Bolivia's nine provincial capitals, and to consolidate his links to youth organizations in the Andean region and beyond.

Though other initiatives have sought to use theater as a tool for engaging and motivating young people, the Throne group is the only project in Bolivia to build itself through the input of marginalized youth themselves, beginning with the 7 and now expanding to literally thousands more who become involved in the group's activities. Ivan's is the first Bolivian troupe to travel extensively, both nationally and abroad, building links to local youth groups which then form their own drama circles and establish permanent satellite centers in other cities. Ivan is consolidating a space for young people where they are taught to think critically and have access to culture, generating new leaders from former street children. The house "travels" and reaches out to other young people through theater performances in the streets, plazas, churches, and educational establishments.

Former street children are rehabilitated through the production of aesthetic arts, as participants are gradually being converted from problems into protagonists of change, working with other disadvantaged youth throughout the region - the first theater group in Bolivia with these characteristics.

Ivan describes theater as a pretext for a much larger idea and a way to initiate other worthwhile projects. His project does not focus on theater only as a creative activity, but uses theater for education, to sensitize the participants and public on important and little talked-about issues, labor formation and job opportunities for at-risk youth, rehabilitation and therapeutic aspects, to prevent young people from getting involved in dangerous situations. Ivan sees a future filled with alternative pedagogical centers based on his cultural house, using theater as a means for the community to grow, participate, think critically, and propose alternatives for change. It is also an alternative form of education, outside of the formal educational system in the country. In Colombia and Brazil, theater groups are responding to violence in which the countries are already immersed, using theater to try to solve the consequences of social explosion. Ivan, instead, uses theater as a tool for prevention, so as to not reach the levels of violence found elsewhere in the region. The very few other organizations that work with street children do so with a paternalistic and protective attitude and limited resources. Ivan's model gives the youth the ability to make their own decisions and theater does not suffer the same resource limitations as youth take the idea to others. Because Ivan focuses on prevention, he has seen more success than centers of rehabilitation, where as few as 3 out of 10 at-risk youth are rehabilitated. Ivan is the only person in Bolivia and the region using theater in this way.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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