Social Circus Network


Over the last 17 years, AYCO has learned about the power of circus arts to play an effective role in accelerating youth and community development. We call this work Social Circus. Social Circus is the application of instructional and cooperative techniques from the world of circus arts to help accelerate desired outcomes in youth development, therapeutic or community development settings. You can read more about the definition of social circus in this article written by one of our Social Circus Network Members.

AYCO has created a national network of social circus programs that offer cost-effective, evidence-based approaches to help people overcome the barriers they face. The Social Circus Network provides pedagogical, capacity building and professional development support to individuals and organizations pursuing and engaging in social circus work.

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AYCO Social Circus Initiative

In 2015, AYCO launched a multi-year initiative to support growth in social circus across the USA. Phase 1 drew to a close in February 2016.

Phase 1 achieved the following objectives:

  • – Provide organizing support for social circus programs within AYCO
  • – Establish good practices for social circus programs
  • – Recognize social circus programs that currently employ good practices
  • – Identify needed capacity-building assistance for social circus projects
  • – Create a plan to provide this assistance
  • – Develop materials to help social circus programs to build capacity

Learn more about the initiative here, in a slideshow presented at the AYCO Festival in August 2015.

Phase 2 Update:

The AYCO Social Circus Impact Study launched in October 2016.  This is a research project, conducted by the David P Weikart Center for Youth Program Effectiveness. The study involves 8 Social Circus Network members over the course of one year.  Measurements include observation by external evaluators, assessments by program staff and youth questionnaires.  Results will be available in Q4 2017. The project is jointly funded by Cirque du Soleil, the James E and Diane W Burke Foundation and participating organizations.

The 2017 American Circus Educators conference included a specially designed Social Circus track, based on the needs expressed by Network Members.  We held 15 sessions in this track including:

  • – Three-part series on goal setting, data collection and evaluation
  • – Cultivating individual donors
  • – Panel on Social Circus challenges
  • – Circus and Occupational Therapy
  • – Circus and Accessibility

Cirque du Soleil provided a three-day pre-conference training for Program Directors, focusing on developing systems to support program growth.  This included training in staff and curriculum development.

The Social Circus Network meets quarterly by phone for a facilitated call addressing common needs and concerns.