National Action Blueprint

National Action Blueprint

Before coming here, I felt like I did not have a place in the world. After being involved here, I realized that I can be whoever I want and that no one can stop me. This program is like when you take a bite of cold watermelon on a blazing hot summer day. The refreshing feeling takes over your body, and you forget the sun beaming at you with hot rays.
Louisa, age 17, artist, RAW Art Works, Lynn, MA

Youth. Creativity. Now.
Building Opportunities and Support for Creative Youth Development

Detroit, Michigan - Mosaic Singers in concert. The Mosaic Singers are part of Mosaic Youth Theatre, which provides free, professional quality theater and music training for teenagers in the Detroit area. Copyright Jim West


All young people will have equitable access to opportunities to develop their creative potential, to live richer, fuller lives and develop the critical learning and life skills they need to become active contributors to their communities.

By 2023:

  • Creative Youth Development (CYD) will be a broadly known, well-researched, deeply respected and richly funded field of practice that reaches communities throughout the United States to provide life-changing opportunities to youth through the arts, humanities, and sciences.
  • Educators, funders, and community leaders will collaborate across sectors to implement Creative Youth Development programs in a variety of context in schools and communities.
  • Youth will have increased access to CYD programs.
  • A broad array of funders will be familiar with Creative Youth Development as a strategy for supporting the development of young people, extending beyond arts-specific funders to include those focused on education, health and well-being, juvenile justice, and workforce development. More funders will be investing in CYD.
  • Creative Youth Development practitioners will have a shared understanding of the defining characteristics and principles of CYD practice as well as shared language, models, research, and tools to help build a case for programs.
  • A robust community of practitioners across the globe will be connected and work to continually refine and improve the practice of Creative Youth Development to best serve young people and their communities.

This National Action Blueprint identifies and prioritizes actionable strategies for increasing equitable access to creative youth development (CYD) for children and youth in the United States. The purpose is to drive collective action to advance the role of creativity in positive youth development.

Stakeholders identified three strategic priorities for advancing CYD:

Hundreds of stakeholders across the country have worked together to prioritize actions in these three strategic areas to holistically support positive change in the lives of young people. Participants include 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).

This plan represents a shared vision for amplifying promising strategies highlighted in recent research and practice, increasing investment in CYD nationally, and catalyzing action that will bring new resources and support to CYD practice throughout the country. Woven throughout the Blueprint are the core values of the CYD Movement: racial equity and social justice, youth voice, and collective action.

Just as the field of CYD is dynamic, this Blueprint is dynamic and will continue to be revised to reflect shifting landscape, context, needs, opportunities, and resources. To start, we have outlined strategic action for the next 1-3 years. The Blueprint will evolve as implementation unfolds and will be updated online to reflect progress toward goals.

The Blueprint was written by Denise Montgomery of CultureThrive with input from nearly 650 stakeholders and key input from Heather Ikemire of the National Guild for Community Arts Education.

Creative Youth Development: A Solution for Positive Outcomes for Youth

Young people thrive when they have opportunities to maximize their creative potential. Research shows[1] that creative youth development supports young people in developing the personal, social, and intellectual skills that are critical to success in life, school, and work. A growing movement is working to ensure that all young people have opportunities to benefit from creative youth development participation.

Creative youth development is a recent term for a longstanding theory of practice[2] that integrates creative skill-building, inquiry, and expression with positive youth development principles, fueling young people’s imaginations and building critical learning and life skills.

Three young men are huddled around a laptop connected to a keyboard, while a man standing next to them is explaining what they're seeing. Photo courtesy of Performing Arts Workshop, San Francisco, CA.
Performing Arts Workshop in San Francisco, CA.

In these programs, young people create original work—including animated films, 3-D printed sculptures, dance and theater productions, musical compositions, analytical essays, exhibition designs, curated book collections, and community gardens—and apply their creative skills to solve problems, shape their lives, and imagine and build the world in which they want to live. This practice has been taking place for many years, both within formal programs and in informal settings. See some profiles of CYD programs from across the country.

CYD programs nurture individual growth, youth leadership, and quite often, civic engagement with an intentional practices to spark social change and social justice. One way to recognize CYD programs is the presence of six key characteristics:

  1. Youth are engaged in Safe and Healthy Spaces
  2. Programs focus on Positive Relationship-Building
  3. Programs are Artistically Rigorous and Set High Expectations of youth participants
  4. Programs are Asset-Based and help youth to build upon their inherent strengths and talents
  5. Programs are Youth-Driven and honor student voice
  6. Program approaches and outcomes are Holistic, recognizing a range of youth needs and often integrating with other service providers to create a coordinated community response to those needs.

Learn more about CYD:


[1]Montgomery, 2016.

[2]Theory of practice, as used here, refers to a way of working but not a rigid formula. CYD looks different across programs, and different CYD programs are at varying points in their development.

Too many young people are disconnected from their communities and lack the means to make successful transitions to adulthood.[1] They also face rapidly changing economic, social, technological, and environmental challenges that call for innovative solutions. Creativity is a valuable asset for addressing societal challenges and for thriving in the global economy.

Young woman smiles with an electric guitar resting on her lap, her right hand lightly laying on the strings. Photo courtesy: Urban Gateways, Chicago, IL. Image by: Carrie Rosales.
Urban Gateways, Chicago, IL. Photo by Carrie Rosales.

However, there are simply not enough CYD programs to meet the needs of young people in our communities.[2]

Young people in the United States need more opportunities to participate in CYD programs. And existing CYD programs need more support.

Many creative learning opportunities in the U.S. are fee-based, which can be a barrier to participation. CYD programs, in contrast, are commonly long-term, tuition-free programs that provide equitable access for low-income youth. However, too often CYD programs must turn away youth who would like to participate. Additionally, numerous outstanding programs struggle financially, and run the risk of program cuts, layoffs, and staff burnout. Part of the challenge is that the creative youth development field is disparate and not enough people, including influencers and policymakers, are aware of CYD.

Young people, their families, and communities all stand to benefit from a more visible, connected, and supported creative youth development field. This Blueprint and the Creative Youth Development National Partnership are vehicles for collective action. Working together and in a coordinated fashion, we can achieve more for young people.

All these programs that I’m part of at artworxLA make me more open to meeting new people. I feel connected to each of Los Angeles’ resources. Each of the programs I’m part of make me feel like my community is not as vast as I thought it was. It’s great to know that Los Angeles is like a little pot where I’m interconnected with people.
Gieneyra, young artist, artworxLA, Los Angeles, CA

Learn how the CYD National Partnership was formed in response to needs of CYD practitioners and other stakeholders invested in the lives of young people.

[1] White House Council for Community Solutions, 2012.

[2] Creative Youth Development Field Survey, 2018.

The building of a common agenda is also about building commitment. To be committed to change is to bring our organizational assets and individual talents collectively together in order for the whole to be greater than its individual parts.
Paul Born, Co-CEO, Tamarack Institute

This National Action Blueprint is a common agenda to drive collective action to advance the role of creativity in positive youth development. The Blueprint is grounded in input from cross-sector stakeholders, as well as ongoing research and dialogue. More than 650 stakeholders across the country worked together to prioritize strategic actions to holistically support positive change in the lives of young people. This plan represents a shared vision for amplifying promising strategies highlighted in recent research and practice, increasing investment in creative youth development nationally, and catalyzing action that will bring new resources and support to CYD practice throughout the country.

Participants in this effort include 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 Impetus for a National Effort

A line of 7 youth dancers, one in front of another on a stage. All are barefoot and female, except for a single male in the front of the line, gesturing with both arms extended outward. Photo courtesy of The Wooden Floor True in Irvine Barclay Theatre in Irvine, CA. Photo by Kevin P. Casey.
The Wooden Floor True in Irvine, CA. Photo by Kevin P. Casey.

The impetus for this national effort was the first-ever National Summit for Creative Youth Development in 2014. The Summit brought together more than 200 practitioners, researchers, funders, and youth, primarily from the arts sector, to create a national policy agenda for the field. Laying the groundwork for the Summit, the CYD National Partners surveyed and interviewed youth and adult leaders from more than 150 organizations across the country to begin to gather, synthesize, and prioritize imperatives for the initial policy agenda. Nine priorities to advance CYD and other findings were shared in the report Setting the Agenda, which shaped the Summit. CYD stakeholders deliberated on the nine priorities during the Summit, which culminated in the announcement of Collective Action for Youth: An Agenda for Progress Through Creative Youth Development, in which they ranked building collective impact to improve youth outcomes as its number one imperative. In ranking collective action first, the field was acknowledging that the challenges that young people face are not ones that any one nonprofit, school, government agency or family can face alone and that ensuring young people’s academic, professional, and personal success demands that we serve them holistically and in a coordinated and sustained way.

This Blueprint builds on the 2014 Collective Action for Youth Agenda by prioritizing three strategic areas – Funding, Visibility and Impact, and Field-Building – and identifying specific actions for cross-sector advancement of the field. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the CYD National Partnership gathered input through numerous community conversations throughout the country in 2016 and 2017. The Partnership also commissioned research by the Forum for Youth Investment that mapped opportunities for alignment between CYD and allied youth sectors. Three cross-sector Action Teams  were then formed to analyze and distill the research and stakeholder inputs and make final recommendations for the Blueprint. Woven throughout the Agenda are core values of the CYD Movement: racial equity and social justice, youth voice, and collective action. Learn more about inputs to the Blueprint.

The CYD movement needs and welcomes the involvement of more young people and of more colleagues, across sectors, to realize its goals. You are welcome to contact any member of the Partnership to identify ways to contribute to this work.

Stakeholders identified three strategic priorities for advancing CYD:

Just as the field of CYD is dynamic, this National Blueprint is dynamic and will continue to be revised to reflect shifting landscape, context, needs, opportunities, and resources. The Blueprint will evolve as implementation unfolds and will be updated online to reflect progress toward goals. To hear about key revisions, subscribe to the CYD Partnership eNews.

Key Areas of Outcome Offer Opportunities for Allied Youth Sectors to Partner

The challenges that young people face are not ones that any one nonprofit, school, government agency or family can face alone and that ensuring young people’s academic, professional, and personal success demands that we serve them holistically and in a coordinated way from “cradle to career.” This Blueprint is designed to activate collective action to increase equity and access for youth to high quality CYD.

CYD Outcomes

Numerous independent research studies document and illuminate positive youth outcomes through participation in CYD, including social and emotional development, academic achievement, and positive relationships with peers and adults. 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:

BYAEP's Framework for Outcomes in Youth Arts Programs_framework

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.

Find out More About the BYAEP Framework and Theory of Change. 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.

With a growing body of evidence  to support these three areas of impact, more attention is beginning to be paid to the important of creativity in positive youth development. For example, in 2017 the U.S. Conference of Mayors issued a unanimously endorsed resolution titled, “Access to Creative Youth Development for At-Risk Youth” in support of CYD in communities across the nation. The field is also coalescing towards a move to collect and aggregate larger bodies of data documenting youth outcomes via CYD. This recommendation is discussed in greater detail in the Visibility & Impact section of this Blueprint.

“The arts allow young people to engage in a way that meets them where they are…the arts allow kids to get in touch with their feelings, whatever rage might be inside, whatever socioeconomic factors they might face.”
Alex Johnson, Managing Director, Californians for Safety & Justice; Board Member, Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network. Remarks made on February 7, 2018 at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA at a cross-sector forum on CYD organized by the CYD National Partnership.

CYD Alignment with Allied Youth Sectors

“The arts programs are the most popular programs among teens and young adults at our community centers funded by the City of Los Angeles. They are uniquely engaging…involvement in an arts program can open the door to the acceptance of other services by youth who have been disconnected, such as employment workshops or needed mental health services. All of this can change the fundamental trajectory of young people’s lives…the arts can be a doorway or an on-ramp.”
Robert Sainz, Assistant General Manager at City of Los Angeles and head of the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department. Remarks made on February 7, 2018 at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA at a cross-sector forum on CYD organized by the CYD National Partnership.

As allied youth fields such as juvenile justice, health and wellness, and workforce development increasingly take a youth development approach, leaders in these sectors and movements are building awareness and recognition of the ways in which CYD aligns with and supports mutual goals. CYD programs and organizations are forming cross-sector partnerships and alliances as strategies to connect with more young people, build engagement, and diversify and grow funding.

With this National Action Blueprint the field of CYD is poised to move forward into heightened recognition as a powerful solution for positive outcomes for young people and toward increased investment and opportunities for youth. The work of implementation of these strategic priorities is underway. Together, as young leaders and creatives, teaching artists and practitioners, funders, and policymakers, we will work to realize the vision of equitable access for all young people to creative youth development programs.

Learn More:
The CYD National Partnership commissioned the Forum for Youth Investment, a national organization providing leadership on policy and programs across the allied youth sectors to revisit its three-year research project investigating youth readiness with a CYD-specific lens:

Recent article on power of cross-sector collaboration:

As the CYD Movement works to build support and investment in CYD, increased visibility and evidence of impact are essential. Currently there is low awareness of CYD in general and very little awareness outside of select communities about the ways in which CYD contributes to youth participants’ development of life skills and learning.

The CYD Movement must boldly communicate the practice, core values, and transformative power of CYD. Because cross-sector collaboration is a strategy for CYD to expand reach and resources, and maximize impact, the CYD Movement must also demonstrate its goal alignment with other sectors and work to make CYD practice more visible to these sectors. The overall objective is to make CYD known and recognized as a powerful partner across sectors, resulting in increased support, partnerships, and funding.


  1. Support the CYD field with language and tools to support consistency, clarity, quality, and ease in communicating about CYD and its impact. Determine how to best frame the case for CYD to garner support and attention from policymakers, funders, and allied youth sectors.
  2. Document and boldly communicate national data on CYD program impact and youth outcomes to support individual youth and programs, influence policy, and garner support.

The Partners and Action Teams are actively developing plans for ensuring accountability to the core values of racial equity and social justice, youth voice, and collective action as it further develops and implements key strategies.

Key Actions
1. Create a suite of communications tools, informed by and easily accessible, to the field that convey the key characteristics of CYD and its impact.

Communications about CYD must embody the creativity and quality that are hallmarks of this work. Bold communications play an essential role in advancing the field by creating understanding of this nuanced and varied field of practice, telling meaningful stories of youth impact that resonate and stick, and humanizing the larger social issues that CYD is tackling.

Making it easier for CYD stakeholders to talk and communicate about CYD is an important function of the CYD National Movement. We must provide language that everyone, from board members to teaching artists to development staff, can embrace and use as we spread the word about this profound work. Providing communications tools will support CYD champions in advocating for CYD and will be useful in efforts to secure funding.


  • Publish a concise articulation of what CYD is with updated definition and values, who the CYD field comprises, and goals for advancing the field. Codify core language of CYD practice and principles, April 2018.
  • Collaborate with the Visibility & Impact Action Team to develop CYD communications tools [talking points, facts, quotes, and CYD advocates tip sheet] and make available on Curate what is shared as best practice.
    • With funding secured, contract with a communications agency, with expertise in framing public discourse on social issues, to research and advise on messaging and positioning.
    • Continue to publish regular eNewsletters, organizing content around the Movement’s three Strategic Priorities:  Funding, Visibility & Impact, and Field Building. Continue to incorporate the voices of youth and practitioners in each issue.


  • Lead development of professionally designed and branded communications tools, including a one-page overview of CYD, videos, and written case studies, that clearly and boldly illuminate practice, process, and impact.In collaboration with other Action Teams (Field Building and Funding), generate case studies on effective models and practices to complement the forthcoming case studies on Program Development; Artist & Educator Preparation; Program Evaluation; Working with Youth; Working in Social Justice; Funding, Sustainability, & Partnerships; and Advocacy & Policy that will be part of the AFTA CYD Toolkit (forthcoming in 2019).

2. Launch a national storytelling campaign to boldly communicate CYD as a powerful solution for positive outcomes for youth.

Real life stories of youth experiences in CYD have tremendous potential to make a real difference in awareness and support of CYD. In humanizing the obstacles and challenges of youth participants we will increase understanding and shift perceptions of youth participants’ struggles, which will lead to a more supportive community and to increased investment. We will also lift up and celebrate the work of CYD youth, enlarging perceptions of young people’s abilities and inspiring increased support.


  • Contribute to development and implementation of national storytelling campaign in concert with Visibility & Impact Action Team. The campaign will directly involve youth, practitioners and other stakeholders to surface and share stories, which then can be curated and amplified by the Partnership and partners such as Adobe Project 1324.
    • Publish and publicize stories on and via CYD social media platforms.
    • Share stories in interactions with allied youth sectors, funders, and policymakers as way to convey the essence and power of CYD.


  • Develop strategy and organize a creative storytelling campaign with youth.
    • Help facilitate the involvement of youth, practitioners and other stakeholders in the campaign. E.g., Start hashtag #CYDinAction for youth and practitioners to identify, document, and share stories which then can be curated and amplified by the Partnership in collaboration with partners and champions such as Adobe Project 1324.
    • Have youth create video stories about their work as creatives and develop strategies for publicizing their stories on social media and via other media outlets.

3. Develop and promote a shared conceptual framework for documenting and communicating the impact of creative youth development programs.

In order to build support for CYD, the Movement needs to both touch hearts and penetrate minds. By providing clear and readily usable frameworks, the CYD Movement will help practitioners discuss the impact their work with clarity and precision. In addition, clearly and consistently conveying framework-aligned practices of CYD will help support the integrity of the work and quality experiences for young people.


  • Collaborate with the Visibility & Impact Action Team and Field Building Action Team to create, adapt, and/or adopt a shared framework for understanding and communicating about CYD program impact.


  • Work with the Field Building Action Team to establish an easily, understandable framework for understanding and conveying CYD program impact.
    • Recommendation is to use or build on the widely-vetted Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project Impact framework, which has an accompanying theory of change. March-April 2018.
    • Provide guidelines for use and context of the framework in relation to other widely used youth program frameworks. Example to reference, or perhaps adapt, is the BYAEP Handbook.

4. Collect and aggregate field-wide data on impact and outcomes through the use of a shared evaluation tool.

A large-scale, national data set that illustrates CYD program impact provides rationale for support and investment and improves the CYD field’s ability to influence policy. Broad use of a single, vetted tool will create a consistent data set, and a large sample size brings credibility to the data.

Development and management of a shared evaluation tool is a priority and opportunity for investment by a research partner and funders. Funding is needed to support development of the tool and make its usage affordable to CYD programs.


  • Identify an existing nationally normed evaluation instrument or collaborate with field to identify a potential research partner with expertise in CYD who could tailor an instrument to capture CYD-specific measures. The goal would be to aggregate and publicize data from individual CYD programs to tell a national story about CYD impact.
    • Help connect research partner with potential funders.
    • Once the research partner has secured funding, help inform the development of the tool and identify a cohort of CYD programs to pilot implementation the tool and publicize findings.
    • Promote widespread implementation and use of the tool.


  • Collaborate with the Partnership to identify a research partner and evaluation tool for widespread use.
    • Collaborate with the evaluator tailoring a tool for CYD.
    • If applicable, participate in the cohort of organizations that will launch use of the tool nationwide.
    • Encourage CYD colleagues to adopt and employ the tool to build a large data set.

5. Develop a CYD national research agenda

Building understanding and evidence are pathways to advancing the field of CYD. Currently the CYD field does not have an articulated research agenda. The act of developing such an agenda will identify and prioritize research needs and opportunities for the CYD field to best support overall field advancement and practitioners in their work.

Development of a CYD research agenda is a priority and opportunity for lead investment by a research partner and funders.


  • Seek a collaborator to work with the Partnership, National Advisory Committee, and Action Teams to identify and prioritize research needs for CYD. Direct the collaborator to solicit the input of cross-sector partners and allies to inform research agenda. We need to know what information might be compelling for potential partners and where the gaps are.
    • Create an online CYD research resource or collaborate with an existing research database, like Arts Education Partnerships’s ArtsEdSearch, to provide a vetted and annotated list of framework-aligned research.
    • Develop and implement a strategy for engaging interest in conducting CYD research among academic researchers.
      • Consider partnering with or building on the research report published by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Arts-Based Programs and Arts Therapies for At-Risk, Justice-Involved, and Traumatized Youths. One analysis[1] of this report recommends, “The positive outcomes noted in individual programs…as well as the strong theoretical basis of such programs, points towards the usefulness of further research aimed at identifying specific outcomes of arts programs for at-risk, justice-involved, and traumatized youth. Such research could also help isolate the characteristics of effective programs. This knowledge could both inform program design, and help to justify spending on such programs in the future.”


  • Collaborate with the entity developing the research agenda, the CYD National Partnership, and practitioners to identify and prioritize research needs for CYD.

[1]“Capsule Review: Arts and At Risk Youths” by Katie Ingersoll, November 21, 2016. Retrieved from on January 24, 2017.

Strategic Priority: Expand Pathways to Funding

While some creative youth development programs have grown and diversified sources of financial support, the overall state of CYD funding in the United States is one of underinvestment.[1] The limited funds currently directed toward CYD are comprised primarily of small, short-term grants resulting in disproportionate demands on staff time.[2] The difficult funding realities for CYD programs contribute to staff burnout and can cast uncertainty over the sustainability of the very social and organizational strongholds on which many young people rely.

In the United States a disproportionate percentage, more than 50%, of grants and contributions are awarded to arts and culture nonprofits with budgets larger than $5M.[3] The average budget of a CYD organization in the U.S. is $348,720, and just 8.4% of CYD programs report budgets over $1M in their last completed fiscal year.[4] Inequities in funding to small organizations are exacerbated by the common practice of linking the size of grant awards to current organizational budgets, an approach that locks small budget organizations into cycles of perpetuated systemic inequity.[5]

Of particular note is that community based organizations (CBOs), which operate directly in the neighborhoods and communities they serve and are an important part of the CYD field, often lack access to many traditional funding streams. CBOs engaged in creative youth development are at a funding disadvantage in an already challenging funding environment because of their lean staffs, localized and thus lower profiles relative to larger institutions, and at times inability to meet grant application requirements due to budget size; lack of a grant management track record, external audit, or form 990; or other factors.

CYD’s chronic state of inadequate funding is exacerbated by the fact that CYD programs, being holistic in nature, can fall outside of traditional funding categories—such as arts, social services, health, or workforce development—making programs ineligible to apply or uncompetitive in existing grant scoring processes. Many grantmakers and agencies are not yet aware of CYD and its range of positive outcomes for youth participants .

This section of the National Action Blueprint outlines a set of actions designed to lead to increased investment in CYD from a larger number and more diverse array of funders, both public and private. The path to achieve this includes steps to support:

  • Heightened awareness and understanding of CYD among public and private funders, including of policy and funding examples, practices, and initiatives.
  • Revised grant guidelines and policies that result in more funds for CYD programs and organizations.
  • Funders and practitioners who are CYD champions and can influence other funders.

We aim to increase engagement of:

  • Funders that are champions of CYD and supporting it, whether they call it “CYD” or something else. Some funders already support CYD but don’t refer to the practice as such and are not connected with CYD, its associated networks, knowledge, and research. Other funders have heard of CYD and are interested in a deeper understanding of its evolution and connection to the national and international movement.
  • Funders that aren’t yet aware of CYD or funding it, but whose goals and current portfolios aligns with the outcomes of CYD practice.


  1. Create a market for CYD practice.
  2. Make pathways to funding more equitable for all CYD programs/organizations.
  3. Increase & diversify funding.

The Partners and Action Teams are actively developing plans for ensuring accountability to the core values of racial equity and social justice, youth voice, and collective action as it further develops and implements key strategies.

Key Actions
1. Map the CYD Funding Landscape & Activate a Comprehensive Funder Engagement Strategy

A comprehensive understanding of current funding support for CYD as well as areas of opportunity will guide strategies for growing CYD funding and will help the CYD Movement cultivate funders in an efficient manner.


  • Publish the first-ever CYD Field Survey (May 2018), led by Americans for the Arts, that analyzes and distills benchmarking data on over 950 CYD programs and organizations nationwide, including quantitative data on CYD funding sources, to better understand private and public investment. Distribute and publicize findings nationally.
  • Continue to conduct and publish the CYD field survey every 4-5 years.
  • Create the infrastructure/space for funders who support CYD to stay connected. Convene a small group of funders in Q1 or Q2 2018 to identify action steps specific to infrastructure for funders who support CYD and, potentially, for broader funder education.
  • Create and maintain a vetted list of public and private funders at local, state, and national levels who are willing spokespersons for CYD; list to include specific notes on what each champion is best poised to speak on and to what audiences.
  • Collaborate to inform and engage associations of funders, public administrators, and elected officials:


  • Conduct “skill and will mapping” to identify which funders are both knowledgeable about CYD as a practice and have a strong commitment to fund CYD (whether or not they are currently calling their current program areas “CYD”). The purpose of doing this is to help CYD stakeholders make decisions about how to prioritize efforts to increase investment, including the identification of exemplary funders and funding models as well as gaps in awareness, knowledge, and commitment.
    • Develop the metrics for skill and will in order to map funders along a spectrum. Include skill and will for funding CYD programs, and national and/or collective work, to advance the overall field of CYD.
    • Invite current funders (national, state, local), the Partnership, and nonprofit organizations (grantees) to submit names and notes on what we already know about funding/funders. Additional sources will include the CYD Field Survey and data from Mass Cultural Council’s Youth Reach grantees (e.g., cash matches from national funders).
    • Map the funders along skill/will metrics and segment the sectors (public/private and local/regional/national). Name the varying funding structures and what funders are currently funding as it relates to CYD.
    • Based on data, include an analysis of potential increased funding for CYD across all categories of funders, including: Federal – existing buckets where CYD funding is allowable currently (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), State and Local Arts Agencies, Private Foundations, Family and Local Community Foundations, and Corporate Foundations.
  • Explore and make recommendations on potential pathways for increased investment in CYD based on skill and will mapping. Create a prioritized call list of funders for current CYD funders and stakeholders to reach out to. Target funders based on skill and will mapping findings and strategizing about where to focus efforts, short game, and long game.

2. Develop CYD Communications Tools and Case Examples for Funder Engagement

In order to gain the support of funders and build investment in CYD, the Movement must:

  • Effectively communicate the transformative power of CYD;
  • Demonstrate ways to invest in CYD that support high quality experiences and positive youth development; and
  • Show that other funders are currently investing in CYD.


  • Collect, prioritize, document, and disseminate a compendium of case examples of effective public and private funding models at local, state and national levels. Sources will include Action Team Mapping project; CYD National Toolkit; Guild; Action Teams; Mass Cultural Council on both YouthReach and international models; and Field-at-Large. The case examples will include both public and private funding models and will seek to collectively illustrate diverse and effective pathways of achieving support and results. Examples may include private foundations; programs based out of state arts agencies; collaborative networks such as Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network in Los Angeles; profiles of federal, state, and local investment in CYD from other sectors such as juvenile justice and workforce development; tech and venture capital dollars; linkage funding through real estate development; distributed models; social impact bond investing; Children’s Funds; Los Angeles Urban Funders’ bimodal funding model, et al. The CYD National Partnership will elevate these innovative and effective case examples through its growing network of relationships in the allied youth sector and via its communication platforms to reach CYD stakeholders. The Partnership and CYD stakeholders will use the case studies to inform, inspire, and influence funders, policymakers, CYD colleagues, and allied sector partners.
  • Demonstrate broad-based support on to positively influence potential funders and supporters and to publicly acknowledge current supporters.
    • Create and maintain online roster of current supporters. Include statements from elected officials, public and private sector leaders, and funders.
    • Circulate and publicize roster of supporters in CYD National Partnership’s communications platforms, including website and eNewsletters.


  • Work in concert with the Visibility & Impact Action Team and CYD National Partners to create a suite of CYD communications tools and resources.
    • Shape bold, clear and targeted messaging for key audiences of funders based on analysis of current funding landscape and map of current areas of alignment between the outcomes of CYD and goals of allied youth sectors.
    • Produce talking points for practitioners. The CYD Movement needs to have consistent messaging around what the CYD field wants with regard to funding support, including a vision and rationale.
    • Identify and share case examples with the CYD Partnership and Movement.

3. Elevate the Role of Intermediary Organizations and Networks

Community-based CYD organizations have an opportunity to increase engagement with intermediaries in order to access resources and information and to forge partnerships. Intermediary organizations serve as central coordinators of state or local out-of-school (OST) time systems and school districts and can support improvements in program quality, scale, and sustainability of OST programs by fulfilling functions such as the coordination of programs and services, data collection, research and evaluation, fundraising, grantmaking, professional development and technical assistance, publicizing programs, and providing leadership via a unified voice to influence policy[6].

Intermediaries vary by community and can include state and local Afterschool Networks and a range of public agencies providing programming and services to youth, from State Arts Agencies and Local Arts Agencies to offices of children and youth, to school districts, to parks and recreation divisions of public agencies.  Examples of intermediaries include the Providence After School Alliance (PASA), Minneapolis Afterschool Network, and Utah Afterschool Network.


  • Document and disseminate case studies of successful intermediary organizations to support quality, scale, and sustainability of CYD.


  • Map out intermediaries in local and regional areas and, in collaboration with the Partnership, inform CYD programs of their local intermediary organization(s).
  • Support development of case studies on intermediary organizations by sharing information about effective intermediaries and of best practices within intermediaries.

[1]Creative Youth Development Field Survey, 2018; Montgomery, 2016; Afterschool Alliance research (?); Search Institute Sparks research.

[2]Stevenson, 2013.

[3]Sidford, Holly. Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy. Rep. National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, Oct. 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.

[4]Americans for the Arts CYD Field Survey, forthcoming, 2018.

[5]Kitchener, Amy, and Ann Markusen. Working with Small Arts Organizations: How and Why It Matters. GIA Reader 23.2 (2012). Grantmakers in the Arts. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.

[6] Delale-O’Connor and Walker, 2012.

In order to expand and sustain high-quality CYD programs across the country and beyond, it is essential that we create systems and opportunities to develop and build the CYD field. This section of the Blueprint outlines steps to support the cross-sector development of the CYD field by providing opportunities for multiple stakeholders to connect with one another to learn, collaborate, and collectively advance CYD. Core to this strategy will be the engagement of youth, community-based organizations, funders, researchers, partners in allied youth sectors (i.e., youth development, workforce development, juvenile justice) and others that share our vision of advancing the role of creativity in positive youth development.

In summer 2018 Americans for the Arts (AFTA) will publish the findings from the first-ever Creative Youth Development Field Survey, conducted in 2017. The survey will provide insights about the nature of the CYD field. It is part of a multi-year CYD initiative led by AFTA to create a CYD Toolkit featuring 35 case studies of effective CYD programs. The Toolkit will be a major new resource to support knowledge building of innovation and excellence in CYD practice.

Without engaged, informed, connected and inspired individuals from all over the globe who consider themselves part of the CYD field, we cannot achieve our vision to make CYD a well-known and respected field frequently utilized as a strategy to support youth development.


  1. Expand and deepen opportunities for the CYD field to connect and learn
  2. Cultivate and strengthen local, regional, and national cross-sector relationships with allied youth sectors
  3. Increase & diversify funding

The Partners and Action Teams are actively developing plans for ensuring accountability to the core values of racial equity and social justice, youth voice, and collective action as it further develops and implements key strategies.

Key Actions

1. Utilize conferences and meetings hosted by National Partners as platforms to convene the CYD field nationally and internationally.

As primary national conveners for arts and community leaders, the National Guild for Community Arts Education and Americans for the Arts provide unique opportunities to amplify youth voice and leadership within the sector and deepen connections and learning between young people, teaching artists, CYD programs, and the broader field. Through these conferences, we aim to strengthen relationships across CYD practitioners and stakeholders; increase understanding of critical issues and opportunities; and increase skills. We expect greater visibility for this work among the field and increased understanding of young people’s capacity as agents of change.


  • Curate pre-conference institutes and dedicated CYD tracks that include substantive youth and cross-sector involvement.
  • Related: See Emerging Young Artists Leadership Exchange under #2.


  • Design, in collaboration with the Partnership, a Web-based survey of CYD practitioners and other stakeholders to identify their most pressing needs and topics of interest for professional development.
  • Collaborate with the Guild and AFTA to support strong involvement of CYD practitioners, youth, and cross-sector stakeholders in these conferences at multiple levels (planning, production, participation).

2. Support, catalyze, and connect local, state, and regional peer learning networks.

Arts education organizations face numerous opportunities and challenges to fulfill their missions, often with limited resources. An effective way for practitioners and other CYD stakeholders to support and learn from each other is through the development of local or regional peer learning networks.


  • The National Guild for Community Arts Education will pilot an Emerging Young Artists’ Leadership Exchange (June – December 2018), a peer learning network and creative collaboration addressing young people’s visions for the future, at the Conference for Community Arts Education which will take place November 14-17, 2018 in Baltimore, MD. This program could serve as a national model for catalyzing regional collaboration among CYD youth artists, teaching artists, administrators and community partners, increasing visibility of CYD practice, and connecting regional networks to a national movement. The Leadership Exchange will engage approx. 30 Mid-Atlantic youth (ages 14-24) plus teaching artists and administrators from 4 organizations in the formation of a regional cohort and creation of an original performance piece to be showcased for 700+ stakeholders at the Guild’s 2018 conference. Activities include site visits/rehearsals at each participating organization in advance of the conference, ongoing video chats, conference participation and 3-day onsite residency, and a performance. Afterwards, participants will lead a public video chat, sharing out lessons learned and advice for overcoming common challenges in CYD practice. This program would continue annually to generate knowledge that will increase the sector’s capacity, sustainability, and impact through increased awareness of the value of creativity in positive youth development and the importance of involving youth in leadership roles. Youth will benefit from increased social and creative capital and expanded leadership pathways.
  • Through online learning, workshops, and information resources, we will collaborate with leaders from networks across the country to examine the conditions that make local peer learning networks successful in facilitating collaboration, providing joint professional development, raising the visibility of CYD practice, and demonstrating CYD program impact. We’ll also share ways in which cities are collaborating with each other to learn. Examples of effective models include the Youth Arts Impact Network in Boston, Creative Advantage in Seattle, Thriving Minds in Dallas, and Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth, and Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network in California. CYD stakeholders will gain new tools and strategies for building and sustaining peer learning networks in their communities.
  • Establish a roster of CYD Peer Learning Networks with contact information on the CYD Partnership website to help facilitate inter-network communication and best practice sharing.


  • In collaboration with the Partnership and existing local networks, create a resource on creating local, state, and regional peer learning networks that includes case examples of effective models throughout the country.
  • Develop a strategy for supporting new and existing networks and connecting them nationally. Target communities in need of peer-to-peer connection (e.g., rural communities or cities where CYD stakeholders are active but still disparate) and work with state arts agencies to host local conversations and convenings.

3. Foster year-round online learning, information resources, and continuous communications.


  • Map current engagement and gaps based on existing participation data and develop strategies for more engagement among youth, community-based organizations and allied youth sectors. Identify and engage with local networks of culturally specific and community-based organizations to ensure their input, participation, and visibility in all field-building efforts.
  • Provide a year-round, online learning series (webinars, video chats), in collaboration with Action Teams and practitioners that supports Field Building, Funding, Visibility & Impact.
  • Produce the CYD National Toolkit and leverage both its content and our engagement with local networks to inform it. Will share out relevant research, tools and resources that drive forward the field of practice and the policies that support it. Areas of focus will be: Program Development and Design, Practitioner Training and Preparation; Working with Young People; Working in Social Justice; Funding and Partnerships; Program Evaluation; and Advocacy and Policy.
    • Use Toolkit sections as catalysts for community conversations and provide training and technical assistance that align with these areas.
    • Solicit and share out case examples for each area.
  • Disseminate effective practices, opportunities, and news aligning with the three strategic priority areas through, eNewsletter, and social media.


  • Co-produce with the Guild and CYD National Partnership the CYD online learning series. Series to begin May 2018.
  • Co-produce a monthly video chat series for stakeholder groups: youth, practitioners, funders, and specific allied youth sectors to connect across geographies to facilitate building community, providing support, and sharing best practices. Many CYD practitioners have minimal professional development budgets that can make traveling to conferences out of reach financially, yet they want to connect with peers and to access professional development opportunities. Additionally, for youth CYD participants and leader travel is typically a rare opportunity, and opportunities to connect virtually with other youth in the CYD movement have the potential to be a meaningful and valuable aspect of their experience and involvement in CYD. (Determine strategy and goals). Help to facilitate or support the facilitation of these virtual networks.
  • Create a shared social media plan as well as a corresponding #CreativeYouthDevelopment and invite CYD programs to use hashtag and post CYD content online. Collaborate with practitioners to create shared understanding of protocols / guidelines to support Internet safety for youth.

4. Cultivate and strengthen local, regional, and national cross-sector relationships with allied youth sectors.

Creative youth development and allied youth sectors share common cause in concern for young people’s well being. Even deeper than a broad commitment to supporting young people, CYD and allied youth sectors align on numerous positive outcomes for youth. The Movement is focusing on engaging across sectors because the work of CYD is holistic in nature: CYD is not just about building creativity, but also supporting young people’s identity development, connecting them to their communities, fostering agency, and the development of life skills. See the Mapping Opportunities for Alignment section for more details and resources.


  • Cultivate deeper relationships and potential partnerships with three national organizations from allied youth sectors whose goals align with the outcomes of CYD. Forming alliances or partnerships will support cross-sector work and will reinforce visibly and nationally that CYD is a solution for positive outcomes for youth.
    • Areas of strong alignment and engagement are youth development, juvenile justice, workforce development, education, and dropout prevention. The goal is to heighten awareness of CYD in these sectors and to create opportunities for collaboration.
    • Participate in a working group organized by the National Dropout Prevention Network in 2018 focused on the arts as a key strategy in engaging students and increasing graduation rates.
    • Present at least two CYD sessions at non-arts conferences yearly (e.g., Grantmakers for Education, Ready by 21) and seek greater involvement of cross-sector leaders as presenters at CYD Partnership-led conferences (AFTA Convention and Conference for Community Arts Education). Collaborate with Cross-Sector Action Team to identify, prioritize, secure opportunities, and present at cross-sector conferences.
    • Pursue collaboration with juvenile justice given the widespread use of trauma-informed practice across CYD programs, receptivity of juvenile justice to CYD, and existing local, regional, and national relationships between CYD and juvenile justice. See resources Matrix of CYD Alignment with Allied Youth Sectors and Environmental Scans Across Allied Youth Sectors, which include content on CYD alignment with juvenile justice.
  • Cultivate a deeper relationship with the Federal Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). The 19 federal agencies that participate in this working group are far reaching in their funding and influence. Working at the federal level holds the potential for influencing allied sectors given the extensive, national reach of these agencies. IWGYP is the entity that manages, so a relationship with IWGYP will help facilitate the addition of CYD content to the website, raising visibility and growing awareness.
  • Publish content about CYD through the communications channels of at least two adjacent sector partners. This will expand the range of people and entities working on behalf of youth who are aware of and recognize the value of creative youth development, further expanding possibilities for more partnerships.
  • Spotlight cross-sector partnerships between CYD organizations and adjacent sectors in CYD eNewsletters and on website to inspire and share approaches and successes with others. Practical, nuts and bolts information about how to structure, implement, and sustain cross-sector partnerships.


The Field-Building Action Team can both be part of national cross-sector efforts and can lead the way at the local, regional, and state levels. The local and state level is where cross-sector partnerships will take root and flourish. It is also where many funding decisions are made and where CYD practitioners are and where youth are.

  • Work with the Visibility and Impact Action Team to synthesize and boldly communicate CYD alignment with allied youth sectors across the three CYD outcome areas: I Create, I Am, We Connect.
  • Create tip sheets that explain the priorities and language and work of other sectors to optimize exploration of alignment and potential collaboration and partnership.
  • Work with the Partners to generate an ongoing managed list of “in field” and “cross sector” potential partners, conferences, and associations to begin building relationships with (GIA, Afterschool Alliance, BOOST, Boys & Girls Club of America, America’s Promise Alliance, National Dropout Prevention Network, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, Forum for Youth Investment, etc).

Blueprint Inputs

CalArts Community Arts Partnership, Valencia, CA.
CalArts Community Arts Partnership, Valencia, CA.

The CYD National Blueprint was developed over 18 months with input from 650+ stakeholders — youth, practitioners, funders, researchers — and driven by research, including a CYD National Partnership-commissioned report by the Forum for Youth Investment that maps opportunities for alignment between CYD and allied youth sectors and the CYD Field Survey led by Americans for the Arts.

Throughout the development of the Blueprint and as implementation begins, efforts continue to be made to engage the participation, input, and leadership of youth, alumni, community based organizations and culturally-specific programs in strengthening and steering the CYD field. Woven throughout the National CYD Blueprint are core values of the CYD Movement: racial equity and social justice, youth voice, and cross-sector collective action.



    • 2017 and 2016 Conference for Community Arts Education and CYD
      National Network Meetings
    • Action Team Meetings in November 2017
    • Deliberations and Input from Two-Day CYD National Stakeholder Meeting in July 2017 in Boston, MA
    • Community Conversation and Cross-Sector Panel and Discussion at
      Armory Arts Center in Pasadena, CA in February 2017
    • Federal Agency Cross-Sector Dialogue in September 2016 in Washington, D.C.
    • Deliberations and input from 2014 Creative Youth Development National Summit and the resulting Policy and Advocacy Agenda
    • Monthly CYD National Partnership Calls and Quarterly Meetings
    • Meetings and Conversations with CYD Partnership’s National Advisory Committee
    • Guild CYD Member Network Steering Committee Meetings
    • Guild CYD Member Network Meetings
    • AFTA Arts Education Council Meetings
    • Massachusetts Cultural Council’s CYD Advisory Committee meetings and conversations

Action Teams
Three, cross-sector Action Teams—the Visibility & Impact Team, the Funding Team, and the Field Building Team—of six to 10 national leaders and CYD stakeholders met via conference call from October through December 2017 and met in person in November 2017 to provide input on the Blueprint. Action team members also provided input on the drafts of the Blueprint as it was being written.

The Blueprint was written by Denise Montgomery of CultureThrive with input from nearly 650 stakeholders and key input from Heather Ikemire of the National Guild for Community Arts Education.