BYAEP’s Framework and Theory of Change

To encapsulate the positive outcomes that occur for young people who participate in CYD programs, the Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project (BYAEP), a partnership of practitioners, program evaluators, and funders, developed the following theory of change, Framework for Outcomes in Youth Arts Programs (2012):

BYAEP's Framework for Outcomes in Youth Arts Programs_framework

The BYAEP theory of change posits that:

  • If youth participate in high-quality arts programs, they will develop specific skills and competencies (I Create, I Am, We Connect),
  • which, in turn, leads to a set of intermediate outcomes (able to engage and be productive, to navigate, and to make connections with others),
  • which in turn leads to a set of long-term outcomes (resiliency, self-efficacy and personal fulfillment, and community engagement) that together constitute life success.

The BYAEP framework is consistent with other models of a theory of change for CYD, for example Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit’s Excellence on Stage and in Life: The Mosaic Model for Youth Development Through the Arts, which categorizes the key outcome areas of its CYD program as Skills, Self, and Society. Skills in the Mosaic Model includes what BYAEP calls I Create; Mosaic’s Self relates to BYAEP’s I Am; and Society in the Mosaic Model is akin to We Connect in the BYAEP framework. These theories of change reflect thoughtful deliberation of high quality CYD programs and how they support positive outcomes for young people.

There are Not Enough CYD Programs

Many youth participants in CYD programs attest that their involvement changed the trajectory of their lives. Additionally, numerous young people state that participation in a CYD program effectively saved their lives. However, there are not enough CYD programs to meet the needs and interests of young people in our communities. While creative youth development is on the rise, not every community has CYD opportunities for young people. And some outstanding programs have waiting lists of young people who never have a chance to participate because demand exceeds the number of openings.

The Afterschool Alliance documents unmet demand for afterschool programs in its report America After 3PM: Afterschool Programs in Demand (2014).

Key findings include:

  • “Although sizeable gains have been made in afterschool program quality and participation, the unmet demand for afterschool programs continues to rise.”
  • “Despite the growing call for afterschool programs, $4 billion in local grant requests have been denied due to insufficient federal funds and an increasing number of requests over the last 10 years.”
  • “Parents of 18.5 million children (38 percent) not currently participating in afterschool programs say they would enroll their children if a program were available to them.”

Clearly there is unmet demand among youth and families for high quality afterschool programs. So how do we know that there is unmet demand for CYD programs, specifically?

The Search Institute has conducted substantial research in the area of young people’s deep interests and passions, or their sparks, with compelling results about young people’s interest in creative pursuits.

Creative arts was the number one interest area cited by U.S. teens aged 12-17 among the top 10 sparks categories. In fact, creative arts was cited by 54% of teens, more than twice as often as the number two category, athletics, which was named by 25% of teens surveyed (Benson, 2008).

“…creative life…art, music, drama, dance, movement is the largest category in which sparks fall for America’s kids…that’s the area in which the most kids say, ‘I’m my best self.’ It’s the arena in which most kids will say “ is where life is the fullest and most hopeful.” (Benson, 2011)

Young people are clearly interested in opportunities for creative skill building, inquiry, and expression, which is at the heart of CYD. So policymakers, funders, youth developers, community leaders and others who value supporting young people in identifying and cultivating their sparks, or personal passions, should support increasing access to and investment in CYD. High-quality creative youth development programs are essential pathways for young people to thrive.

2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awardees Named

2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awardees. Right: The Summer Performing Arts Company, Grand Forks Public Schools, Grand Forks, ND, Photo: Allison Peterson. Left: Confident Voices, SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, New York, NY, Right:, Photo: Heidi Giacalone.
Last month, 12 creative youth development programs from across the country were recognized by the nation’s arts and culture agencies with the highest honor such programs can receive, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

First presented in 1998, the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards was presented through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), in cooperation with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA).

In its 19th year, the award has recognized 285 after-school and out-of-school-time programs for achieving a wide range of outcomes in the lives of children and youth, often from underserved communities across the country. Among the outcomes generated by these programs are higher grades and graduation rates, increased college attendance rates, and skill development ranging from collaboration and critical thinking to leadership and confidence.

“These 12 creative youth development programs represent the best of the best,” said Pam Breaux, president and chief executive officer of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. “They are living proof of the power of the arts and the humanities to build the skills young people need to succeed in school and in life.”

In addition to their recognition by the nation’s arts and culture agencies, each of the 12 community-based programs will receive $10,000. For more information about the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, visit

2017 Awardees

Brick x Brick
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
Miami, FL

Confident Voices
SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young
New York, NY

Cool Classics!
Chicago, IL

Creative Readers
Port Washington Public Library
Port Washington, NY

Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company
Destiny Arts Center
Oakland, CA

High School Apprenticeship Program
New Bedford Whaling Museum
New Bedford, MA

MAPS Media Institute
The Irwin and Florence Rosten Foundation, Inc.
Hamilton, MT

Newark Museum Explorers
Newark Museum
Newark, NJ

Phoenix Conservatory of Music’s College Prep Program
Phoenix Conservatory of Music
Phoenix, AZ

Teen Innovators at BLDG 92
Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn, NY

The Penguin Project
The Penguin Project Foundation, Inc.
Peoria, IL

The Summer Performing Arts Company
Grand Forks Public Schools
Grand Forks, ND

International Spotlight Honor

MASC Awesome Arts
MASC (Multi-Cultural Arts for Schools and Communities)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

CYD National Stakeholder Meeting & Next Steps

National Stakeholder Meeting at the Boch Center in Boston, July 2017.This July, the National Partners brought together 100+ leaders from across sectors and around the country for a CYD National Stakeholder Meeting in Boston. The purpose of the meeting was to drive collective action to advance the role of creativity in positive youth development. Over two days, this community of stakeholders worked together to prioritize strategic actions to holistically support positive change in the lives of young people. Participants included youth, practitioners, researchers, funders, policy makers and other stakeholders in creative youth development and allied sectors (e.g., mental health, juvenile justice, workforce development, youth development, education, and community development). The focus of the National Stakeholder Meeting was on tapping the wisdom, experience, and diverse perspectives of the stakeholders in the room to amplify promising strategies highlighted in recent research and practice, increase investment in creative youth development nationally, and catalyze action that will bring new resources and support to CYD practice throughout the country.

Participants at the National Stakeholder Meeting identified three strategic priority areas. These areas build off the initial policy agenda drafted in 2014. Cross-sector collaboration, equity, and youth voice were central frameworks used in drafting initial recommendations for strategic action in each area.

1. Document and Communicate Impact


  • Raise Awareness & Estimation of CYD as a Solution for Positive Outcomes for Youth.
  • Collect, Aggregate, and Communicate Data on Field & Outcomes

2. Establish Pathways to Funding


  • Funder Education
  • Technical Assistance
  • Increased Investment in CYD

3. Connect to Learn


  • Networking and relationship building, including youth and alumnae, affinity groups and cross sector groups; nationally, regionally, and virtually.
  • Provide Ongoing Professional Development, Technical Assistance, and Communication Resources.

The Partnership is in the process of synthesizing the input from the National Stakeholder meeting in addition to research and other inputs to inform the CYD National Blueprint to be published this winter. Over the next few months, we are engaging Action Teams of CYD stakeholders to help us further develop these three strategic priorities and identify some early wins. These initial Action Teams will serve from September – December. The objectives of the Action Team are to: 1) Help develop the strategic priority areas of the CYD National Blueprint; and 2) Help determine early wins in 2018. The Blueprint will be published on the CYD National Partnership website, shared with the field, and will be updated to reflect progress and the ever-changing funding and policy landscape.

Mass Cultural Council Convenes International CYD Leaders

In July, as part of the Creative Youth Development National Partnership’s Stakeholder Meeting (NSM), Mass Cultural Council took the opportunity to host a cohort of international guests to spark a conversation on how the field of practice looks around the world.

With a varied roster of national and local agencies, educators, artists, and academia from South Korea, Scotland, India, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand, these guests met to distill the findings of the NSM, and, led by veteran teaching artist Eric Booth, were engaged in an incredibly fertile conversation, in which different models and approaches were presented, all unified by the importance of empowering young people and nurturing creativity as an integral part of our communities.

Read More.

AFTA’s ARTSblog Spotlights Youth Voice

Xavier Harvey as Benedick in Actors' Shakespeare Project's production of “Much Ado About Nothing."As part of the festivities around National Arts in Education Week September 10-16, 2017, Americans for the Arts’ ARTSblog highlighted stories from youth sharing what arts education means in their lives. One post featured Xavier Harvey, a seasoned veteran of Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s youth productions and youth mentor.

For four years, Xavier participated in ASP’s creative youth development program, Shakespeare Inside & Out, which works with youth in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS), on probation, or in transition back into society, through ensemble and performance-based Shakespeare and theater projects.

Read Xavier’s Story.

Fall Webinar Series – Evaluation as a Strategy for Building CYD Programs

Join the National Guild for Community Arts Education for a fall webinar series on evaluation as a strategy for building, improving, and funding creative youth development programs. (And check out previously-recorded webinars.)

FREE for Guild members
$35 each for non-members or $120 for all four.

The growing strength of the creative youth development movement necessitates that programs, staff, partners, and funders re-think fundamental ways of doing business—program design, staffing, and evaluation to create more active and ongoing roles for young people as critical thinkers, designers, and decision makers. In response to this imperative, the National Guild for Community Arts Education will be presenting a four-part webinar series. The webinar series is chaired by Dennie Palmer Wolf and informed by many voices from the CYD field including: Julia Gittleman, Steven Holochwost, Gladys Hidalgo, Ruth Mercado-Zizzo, James Miles, Käthe Swaback, and others.

You can register for webinars individually below or sign-up for the whole series and save! Across the series participants will build four sets of vital strategies by examining examples from the work of other CYD organizations and reflecting on their own practices.

Webinar 1: Sept. 26 – The Foundations of Creative Youth Development Evaluation
We will begin by exploring the basic principles of creative youth development and their implications for evaluation. From there, we will examine how an organization builds the foundation for doing effective evaluation: developing an organizational story, building a logic model or theory of change, developing powerful infographics, and creating a culture of inquiry that includes young people as full partners. Register for webinar 1 (FREE for members; $35 for non-members) or the full series.

Webinar 2: Oct. 3 – Stepping Up to Survey and Use Observational Data
In this session, we will explore how to design and use surveys and observational protocols, both field-tested tools and new ones tailored to individual programs. As part of this work, we will look at a range of strategies for involving current youth and alumni as critical respondents to and designers of tools. We will discuss the important work of formative assessment: the fine art of using findings to improve programs over time. Register (FREE for members; $35 for non-members)

Webinar 3: Oct. 17 – Thinking through Comparisons
Many evaluations depend on comparing participants to non-participants and looking for the changes that are correlated with being in a program. This kind of correlational work is a major step in thinking about the impacts a program may have – but doing this work well, and understanding its limits can be demanding. Together, we will think through what can – and can’t – be learned through this approach. Register (FREE for members; $35 for non-members)

Webinar 4: Oct. 24 – Partnering for Large-Scale, Quantitative Evaluation
In light of the growing demand for more rigorous evidence – from government and private funders – this final webinar will look at what it takes to conduct quasi-experimental and experimental research into the impact of CYD programs. We will look at the demands such studies place on programs and their staff and consider when programs are ready to take on those demands. We will also explore the kinds of research partnerships that CYD organizations might undertake with external partners in order to learn about and conduct these demanding, but powerful, forms of evaluation. Register (FREE for members; $35 for non-members)

The webinars will be interactive and include: 1) pre-assignments that will alert you to the big ideas, prepare you to examine your own current practices, and allow you to send in questions ahead of time; 2) an exchange of distinctive perspectives from the presenters; and 3) ample time for audience questions.

We encourage programs to support teams of participants in order to sustain the inquiry and conversation between and beyond the individual sessions. All materials will be sent to participants in advance of each session.

Register for National Guild’s Conference Featuring Dynamic CYD Track

National Guild for Community Arts Education 2017 conference graphic

This year’s National Guild for Community Arts Education Conference, will feature a dynamic CYD track as part of our comprehensive conference program. This exciting line-up of workshops, site visits, and other opportunities is designed to inspire and inform experienced practitioners and interested newcomers! Creative Youth Development (CYD) integrates the arts, humanities, and sciences with youth development principles, using creativity to build critical skills that help young people realize their full potential. Join us at the Conference for Community Arts Education in the Bay Area this November 15-18 to be on the cutting edge of this crucial work.

Register Now.




Zion’s Story

artworxLA is a non-profit organization combating the high school dropout crisis by creatively engaging alternative education high school students. In this short film, filmmaker Rich Lee and his partner Louise Baker Lee spent an entire day with Zion, learning about his creative process, his life, his neighborhood, and the impact artworxLA has had on his life.