How does social circus prevent youth violence?

Guest Blogger: Charlotte Byram, Circus Harmony

CWB-USA and CWB-Brazil have partnered with The Ministry of Health Psychosocial Support Programming in San Salvador. The tour specifically focuses on leading workshops for youth in gang-controlled neighborhood. You may be wondering, what do clown workshops, youth violence prevention, and the ministry of health have in common?

Today’s blog post comes from Charlotte Byram: circus educator, creative movement coach, and public health researcher. You can read more of Charlotte’s work on her website.

Inherent in its daily activities, social circus is an incredible tool to promote youth resilience and prevent youth from engaging in lifestyles characterized by violent behaviors. More than just “keeping kids off the streets”, this play-to-purpose transformative process works similarly to a Positive Youth Development approach and can be described by three pathways: future aspirations, supportive relationships, and community citizenship.

Logic Model of Circus Resilience Theory


  • Supportive relationships is about having role models in addition to building safe and encouraging peer networks. These relationships are a source of emotional and instrumental support for youth in their daily struggles, and can provide the necessary guidance to secure employment or apply to university.
  • Future aspirations includes a youth’s optimism about the future, expected educational achievement or careers, and the ability to set and reach useful goals. Due to difficult environments, many at-risk youth have low expectations for their futures; through incremental skill progressions, youth build self-efficacy and confidence to transcend their status quo.
  • Focusing on an individual’s unique contributions to the success of a team, the community citizenship pathway develops a youth’s sense of responsibility. The youth’s voice is heard and respected, empowering them to give back to their community and create their own social change.

For participating youth, the three pathways develop simultaneously and are strongly interdependent. This interdependency has consequences for successful evaluation, as the methods employed will overlap and interpretation of results will consist of fluid impressions, rather than discrete categories. Social circus additionally exhibits a dose-response relationship, increasing resilience benefits with increasing amounts of circus learning time.


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