From the Salish Sea surrounding Seattle to Vancouver, New York, Toronto, London, Uganda, South Africa, India, Singapore, and Colombia, over our 25 years we have worked in 18 countries and trained over 7,000 adults supporting the creative empowerment of over 200,000 young people.
Word spreads quickly and the results are compelling. But the demand for our work based on the needs of our world, is far greater than our capacity to serve.
Today, we need help to nourish our roots and send out new shoots.
Photo above: Themis Gkion, Power of Hope 2016
Photo below: Max Hart, Confluence 2017
“Our big wild vision is to empower every young person to feel cherished and respected, accessing their huge potential and ability to impact the world.”
PYE leads programs to prepare adults for expanding young people’s creativity and social emotional skills.
We believe that when adults develop their inner resources and creative capacity, then share those with young people, both young people and adults thrive. Youth grow into confident, compassionate leaders, prepared to live meaningful lives and create positive change in their communities.
Spoken word, visual art and movement-based activities play a key role in our experiential learning and group facilitation techniques. Embodying creativity unites the left and right brain and integrates values and intention into action. Educators, social workers and mental health practitioners emerge as more powerfully authentic mentors, weaving new social-emotional learning throughout their curriculum, deepening their impact on the young people they serve.
“If youth are not prepared and don’t believe in themselves, we are going to have huge problems of democracy, conflict, and unemployment.”
Board Chair of PYE
Photo above: Helena Henninghausen, Confluence 2017
The complex, global challenges that young people face today—climate change, social inequity, poverty, violence, and isolation, to name a few—require adaptability, resilience, robust social emotional skills, and confidence in one’s creativity.
Unfortunately few schools and youth programs are adequately prepared to respond to today’s challenges. Too many young people are in a state of despair, and they are not alone. The pandemic has drastically exacerbated the stress and anxiety people of all ages feel, in ways we have yet to fully understand.
This makes it difficult to meet young people’s social and emotional needs, let alone prepare them for the future.
The situation is made worse by the “crisis of disconnection”* between youth and adults. Young people feel many adults are out of touch and many adults lack faith in the capabilities of youth. This leaves young people feeling disempowered, disconnected and disrespected, yearning for connection and belonging.
PYE’s Creative Empowerment Model is a powerful antidote, providing adults with a set of simple, effective practices that develop young people’s social emotional skills, expanding their belief in their creativity and ability to make change in the world.
“I learned the capacity for authentic connection, reflection, and joy. So many educators are hungry for these tools. They’re essential for youth and adults.”
To evaluate the effectiveness of our work, we measure increases in creativity, adults’ confidence in engaging with youth, and young people’s feelings of empowerment.
Photo above: Max Hart, Confluence 2017
Social and emotional learning has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past decade. However, these programs fall short if the adults don’t embody these capacities—empathy, compassion, creativity and confidence.
According to a major study by the Aspen Institute, 95% of teachers believe Social Emotional Learning is teachable, but only 44% say these skills are being taught on a schoolwide, programmatic basis.* Furthermore, few of these programs instil a creative spark, employing expressive arts for a more lasting, embodied experience. The Creative Empowerment model helps close this gap.
The Creative Empowerment model provides dynamic methods for building social emotional capacities in educators as they learn how to awaken those same capacities in young people. Witnessing the power and passion of young people inspires the adults, in a mutually reinforcing virtual cycle.
“If our goal is for children and youth to learn to be self-aware, to appreciate the perspective of others, to develop character, and to demonstrate integrity, educators—both in and out of school— need to exemplify those behaviors within the learning community.”
2019 Aspen Institute report
The people participating in our Creative Facilitation courses are educators, counselors, mentors and social service professionals. Our partners primarily serve young people in communities that have been historically marginalized in systems of of public and private schooling, foster care, juvenile justice, and behavioral health.
IndigenEYEZ provides healing and confidence-building for Indigenous youth through a land-based program that rests on traditional philosophy, values, and indigenous wisdom. Designed with cultural relevance for First Nations youth, IndigenEYEZ blends land-based learning with the arts-driven methodology of the Creative Empowerment Model.
Dream a Dream reaches over 1 million young people a year through their Teacher Development, Career Connect, and After School Life Skills programs. They use the Creative Empowerment Model to integrate social and emotional learning and life skills focus into curriculum and professional development.
King County program leaders and PYE are adapting the Creative Empowerment Model, so we can facilitate equity and social justice in programs across county government.
Israel, Jamaica, London, USA, Gambia
Power of Dialogue (POD) is an online program for youth from across the world to develop deep dialogue skills such as profound listening, curiosity, and empathy. The youth also receive mentorship to develop leadership skills and lead social action projects that address challenges in their communities.
Photo above: Themis Gkion, Global Gathering 2018
Photo below: Max Hart, Power of Hope 2017
Our model was incubated at the Power of Hope Camp, which will continue to take place each summer on Whidbey Island, WA. Increasing numbers of educators and youth development professionals seek our help to adapt our model to their contexts.
We already have evidence that shows our model works. Now we want to further test whether young people and adults working together can use our model to elevate awareness and catalyze action on today’s critical social issues.
We envision a new Center for Action Research located at the Whidbey Institute, rooted in the place where it all began and serving our partners regionally and around the world.
In a time when I have been feeling tired, disappointed and have doubted myself, I’ve found inspiration, motivation and food for thought at PYE.”
Youth from Power of Hope (Digital) 2020
Requests for partnerships and training programs currently exceed our capacity and we need your help to meet the demand. We’re responding by creating the Center for Action Research, where we conduct research in real-time, co-creating impact alongside youth practitioners and young people. By amplifying innovation practices and learnings of our global network, we accelerate and embed the Creative Empowerment Model in their home communities.
With your help, by 2023 we hope to have reached over one million young people through our courses, our research and our relationships. In order to test the Creative Empowerment model as a vehicle to catalyze social change, we need your help to design and deliver Action Research Labs on the following critical social issues and methods to address them:
To draw together partners experienced in trauma-informed care, and test how youth resilience improves with the Creative Empowerment Model.
To convene a diverse array of educators who already have experience with the Creative Empowerment Model, and re-imagine the classroom of tomorrow.
To convene young leaders to explore how the Creative Empowerment Model can accelerate moving from understanding, towards taking climate action.
To partner with youth organizations focused on equity, healthy relationships, resilient communities, and growing healthy food
To explore how the Creative Empowerment Model and deeper languages of visual art, movement, and play reconnect us in our common humanity
To explore expanding partnerships with Indigenous communities in North and South America, towards a deeper understanding of interdependence.
To test how adults and young people can express their unique identities and participate side-by-side in the movement toward greater equity.
To collaborate with leaders of transformative justice and nonviolence to test and improve the Creative Empowerment model,to break the cycle of violence.
We want to invite YOU to be part of remembering the best of what makes humans whole—our collective humanity and shared responsibility for future generations.
Together with the next generation, we will co-create the brighter future we believe is possible.
Contact Executive Director Larisa Benson (she/her) to learn more about how we can collaborate.
Photo above: Themis Gkion, Power of Hope 2016
Photo below: Confluence 2017 (Source unknown)