Climate change cannot be addressed by technology alone, but through holistic urban design approaches and equitable policies that drive a environmentally friendly and livable future !

Ayadi Mishra, our next pathbreaker, work as an Architect with Nuru Karim, and also volunteers as the Policy Lead with YOUNGO for Nature and Sustainable Development.

Ayadi talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about growing up in Indore, seeing patches of land being wiped out, which shaped her early work as a climate advocate.

For students, while work takes a significant part of your time, there is always an option to make the best out of the time you have, because its not just your career that defines who you are !

Ayadi, what were your early years like?

I am Ayadi Mishra, a 23 year old architect from Indore, India. Although my hometown has become very famous for consecutive “cleanest city” titles, it wasn’t always so – I think looking back at the urban environment, seeing patches of land being wiped out, shaped my early work as a climate advocate. But professionally, I had no idea I was heading towards where I am right now. I have always had a strong academic background, and maths was everything to me –  but the more I delved into music the more I wanted to pursue all the different spheres of art as well. I think the need to explore something that merges maths and art started when I was 11 and kept growing ever since.

I have a background in Architecture and Urban Design – something that I probably wouldn’t have chosen untill I saw my NATA results. Even though my mother is an architect, I was still very unaware of the scope of architecture and where it could lead to – neither my school nor the “PCM+CS ” curriculum around us bothered to tell us about the sheer scope of anything other than engineering based careers! But I am very happy to say that it is something I have loved figuring out and experimenting with.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I studied for my bachelors from SPA Bhopal in Architecture. I have got a few specializations under a full-scholarship which include UI/UX, Graphic Design and Anti-Corruption Laws.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

The major drive was the club I started along with my senior Srijan when I was about 8, in my city Indore, called the “Green Earth Club” – and then seeing the transformation of Indore over the course of the next 7 years. My major transition away from architecture happened when I experienced the extent of struggles in the industry for a middle-class person. 

The current narrative, especially after the pandemic, has rightly focused on how “making-it” in architecture is something of a “rich-man’s” doing – where the students/young professionals are forced to accept the “reality” as the profession being inhospitable as part of its “charm”. I hope this changes slowly – but till then I, like most of my batch mates, have been transitioning away or merging more modalities in our works. 

After volunteering and experimenting online during the covid year, thanks to the privilege of digital accessibility, I understand a lot more on what exactly I want to do. Now, I am trying to merge sustainable finance, environmental law and architecture into something I want to pursue forward.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

During the COVID Pandemic, we had a break for a few months which made me dive deep into reading political theories and sociopolitical theories as they relate to statistics. When after that we were supposed to go for internships in India, I chose the city (Mumbai) that  I saw as a melting pot of all that I wanted – art, international relations and of course, architecture. 

I accepted Studio PKa as my first professional job and that gave me the space to work on architecture and construction while also letting me explore venues of journalism, policy making, and urban design. This is around the time I also worked on making the IME (Indian Music Experience) Bangalore inclusive for neurodiverse children and youth with my mentor Ar. Shivani Shah. 

Through these 6 months and a lot of google searches, I stumbled onto YOUNGO, and the Youth constituency of the UN – this is where the path I am on today started. For the first few months I had to ask a lot of people just how and what exactly is the engagement process – but the more you stay in the space, the easier it gets. After a year of looking at emails and just relentless work as a volunteer I can finally say this is the kind of work I enjoy doing.

How did you get your first break?

Completely by chance/luck! I was going through profiles on linkedin and searching on the internet about how to engage in climate justice more and I found one of my seniors from SPA as part of something called “YOUNGO”. I was quick to text him and ask how I could join in as well, which he readily helped out with. After that, it was all asking and collaborating – I am where I am because of the people who helped me and showed me the way forward.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Of course, you have the challenge of accessibility – and I do not mean being a woman or neurodiverse, but also the fact that you need a lot of money to do certain things in (even) this space. 

Personally, I had to give up so many opportunities simply because I had no money to buy plane tickets for the events I was invited to. I have seen so many more profound hardships for my fellow youth as well which this doesn’t stop here – it takes a certain amount of “privilege” to volunteer for these tasks; be it online, or on-ground!

And then, because most events/conferences/high-level segments happen in a small bubble of proximity from Central Europe, as somebody living in the far reaches of south asia, you are bound to miss out on a lot. I consider myself privileged to even know about these conferences, events or forums for exchange of knowledge that most of us in India (not to mention LDCs, SIDs, etc) have no access to. There have been a lot of campaigns, strikes, petitions on this, but we are still waiting on a cohesive way to make things easier for the majority of the Global South.

Where do you work now? Tell us about your current role

In my day job, I work with Nuru Karim as an Architect, and by the evening I volunteer as the Policy Lead with YOUNGO for Nature. My work here includes providing inputs on official documents, official presidency roundtable discussions to raise youth voices, gather inputs to analyse dedicated youth statements, help in capacity building for preparation and hosting of events and online webinars, working on policy reforms and strikes for the same – this forms a crucial bridge to take such national/international themes to the local levels and engage youth through transparency and language accessibility.

I further engage on SDG 4 for education on urban design through writing and social media engagements. Through the VFI Indore chapter I made with my group for inclusion in education and training, we have been able to gather a good base and quite a lot of support in Indore and are expanding to other cities.

How does your work benefit society? 

My most recent contributions are the Global inputs on the Asia Roundtable held recently with the COP President in a one-on-one conversation where we have talked and discussed about more opportunities for youth to participate, help in capacity building, etc. Of course, these take a lot of rounds and I am only a small actor in all of this – but the result is better access and more opportunities for young people everywhere and especially in the global south. 

Others where I have given direct policy based intervention inputs for the Global South’s representation are in Stockholm+50 Youth TF with the UN Major Group of Children and Youth, as a part of the Policy and Ecosystems’ Youth Consultations towards the UNEA 5.2, UNEP@50, and Stockholm+50. Further high-level (online) UN projects/consultations are: UNFCCC Experts dialogue in NCQGs, UNCTAD Illicit Trade Forum, UNCBD COP15, UNFCCC Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, UNFCCC Global Stocktake at the Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB56), UNFCCC COP 26 & 27 Global Youth Statement, UN Ocean Conference, and many others. 

Further, for my work as the lead of indore chapter in VFI; “Project Wonder” has worked with Anubhuti Sewa Sansthan to mobilize 2100 volunteer hours in 8 weeks, and worked with 100+ volunteers, conducted 15 sessions for training and 4 walks for inclusion in Indore involving people from 7 to 60+ years old. Now, we have started with providing training and career counselling to children in government schools and educating youth on CleanJobs. This has an estimated timeline of 5 years to establish one hub per school in the central India region. In the year 2023, we plan to start gathering funds and find partners in our journey. We have impacted 500+ youth in this journey and it continues to grow. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

One of the closest things to my heart is Project Wonder, where bringing happiness and joy to the children we work with is something rewarding for me. And with the very capable core team, we aim to keep working on inclusion and extending this to SDG4. Our key activities have been training and capacity building for school children, strikes and joining movements for large scale impacts. We are expanding our scope from meetings on inclusion, exhibitions, inclusion walks to include training on crafts, etc for the kids. Further, activities that we have proposed and are working on are education on careers for government school children, training in vocational fields for socially disadvantaged youth, and awareness of green jobs, apprenticeship, etc to all youth – something we at VFI Indore are very passionate about. What better way than to give back to a community that has given so much to us?

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Might sound very cliche but…trust the process. There is no need to rush, no need to strive so hard for something you lose yourself and your health. There are always comparisons one can draw and always “more” to do – but it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is bound to be different because our struggles and the corners of life we come from are different as well. 

My only advice would be to take only as much you enjoy and can manage from a health perspective, make friends and build your own community that supports each other – you will reach much farther with the people you meet (rather than than “hustling” all alone :3)

Future Plans? 

I am currently preparing for various exams to do a masters in Public Policy and Urban Design – let’s see where this takes me!  But on the journey for climate justice, I have been working on my own campaign to set up multiple hubs in India as regional chapters – these are to work on making knowledge more accessible and tools more reachable for children and youth.