What is CYD and Its Impact?

What is CYD and Its Impact?

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:

Next: The Need


[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.