Ilya Panshenskov

IlyaMulticultural Education/ Leadership/Innovation/Vision

Last year in South Korea, Ilya Panshenskov studied business, but with the value of college degrees declining in terms of job placement, Ilya sees greater worth in what an individual absorbs while traveling, meeting other people, learning other languages, reading, and pursuing projects. Still, he would avidly support the type of education that would relieve conflicts and establish a foundation for greater economic enterprise.

While launching and running a one-week workshop (“Stereo”) targeting the problem of national prejudices and stereotypes, Ilya found participants’ lack of knowledge of the outer world to be sadly inadequate. More than 100 ethnicities are trying to coexist inside Russia, yet authorities fail to promote tolerance of diversity. Misunderstanding and prejudice often ignite conflicts, but government efforts at peacekeeping rely on blocking the flow of immigrants to the cities, a policy that clashes with goals of economic growth. Additionally, officials of this relatively young non-Soviet government tend to suppress bright young people, dividing the diversified communities into strata, thereby entrenching certain problems rather than solving them.

Ilya believes multicultural education focusing on tolerance is crucial to the positive development of Russian communities. His Stereo project was the first of its kind in Saint-Petersburg and gathered youth to discuss these problems. One activity, called Loesje, asked students to create thought-provoking yet minimalist black-and-white posters, working together and discussing issues. As a coordinator, Ilya led his team, established mentors, enrolled participants, cooperated with other organizations, and set up funding. He learned to balance theory with hands-on activity, to spread responsibilities better, and to manage the team, controlling the processes without suppressing creativity.

For Ilya, being a leader means finding creative solutions. This is what differentiates leaders from managers, who tend to be restricted by existing paradigms. Being a leader also means encircling yourself with a great team. “I do not think that a leader is the one who always attracts attention to himself,” says Ilya. “A leader is a person who attracts attention to a problem.”

For Ilya, it all comes together in his innovative and constructive ideas on improving the education of children. He is ready to dedicate his life to reforming Russian education. A beginning step would launch a project he calls a “Museum of Fairytales” for children aged five to twelve.  Parents must now stand in line to send their children to kindergarten. Additionally, Russian orphanages neglect many children. In providing alternatives, the “Museum of Fairytales” would showcase folktales of various ethnicities in a non-formal setting that would feature exhibitions, communication, equal opportunities, and space for kids to study, play, be creative, read, and explore other cultures.

Ilya would consider many financial options, but three pillars could establish a sustainable business model for the project: parents able to pay for their children’s time in the museum, responsible corporations committed to educational improvements, and philanthropists/ volunteers that would enable orphans to participate free of charge. Financially viable, the museum’s main profits would be the positive shift in society.

A secondary stage could introduce associated products, books, souvenirs, and even language courses, with a percentage of each sold item going to the orphanage. Ilya envisions a net of museums across Russia that could help severely deprived orphanages in the province cities. His dream is that international franchising could follow, enabling international cooperation. “Museum of Fairytales” might also become an umbrella for evolving volunteerism among youth. If anyone can turn fairytales into such a positive structure for the future, it is surely Ilya Panshenskov.