Social Circus


Over the past two decades, 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 refers to the use of circus arts as a medium for social justice and individual wellness and uplifts the role of art and culture as powerful agents for change. Social Circus practitioners support participants as creative change makers through the collective development of self-esteem, solidarity, and trust.*

*We recognize that this is an evolving definition. A wide coalition of social circus practitioners and participants are working on this collaborative project. Interested in getting involved in this conversation? Email

You can read more about the definition of social circus in this article written by one of our Social Circus Network Members. 

Interested in staying connected? Find out ways to connect and get involved HERE


Meet the 2023 Social Circus Committee

Social Circus Committee Members

Learn more about the Social Circus Committee

Research on Social and Emotional Learning in Youth Circus

Youth in social circus programs across the US are making big leaps in the skills they need to lead productive lives, according to a recently completed study commissioned by the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) and conducted by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.

Each Social Circus program in the study is a member of the AYCO Social Circus Network. Each program is carefully designed to meet the needs of participants, and seeks to improve the social and emotional skills that youth need to thrive as adults: knowledge and awareness of emotions; the ability to manage emotions in behavior; the ability to seek help and to help others; and the ability to set and work towards goals.

The Weikart Center conducted the study over nine months and eleven sites, with eight participating organizations. The study showed that youth in these social circus programs made progress in the development of social and emotional skills at the level of other exemplary youth development programs and well ahead of a nonselective group of after school youth programs.

“It’s so refreshing to get unambiguous findings in relation to the group of programs in this study. That almost never happens! Our Center has been working for several years on establishing a benchmark for exemplary programs in building social and emotional skills and it’s particularly gratifying to have uncovered a set of programs that are generally performing at this high standard.” says Charles Smith, Chief Knowledge Officer at the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, about the social circus study results.

The lead funders of the study were the James E. and Diane W. Burke Foundation, and Cirque du Soleil.

Read the study here