Cirque du Soleil has invited more than 400 social circus organizations to share information that could benefit the whole movement.
The social circus movement has grown significantly over the past few years, with organizations around the world promoting social change through circus instruction and performance. Many of these organizations scramble to justify their existence to potential funders from the private, corporate, and government sectors, which tend not to recognize “circus” as a deserving grant recipient. In some countries, social circus programs are forced to define how their activities fit into categories donors are more likely to support, for example arts enrichment, physical education, and community service. Program managers claim a number of positive effects to their participants, including increased self-confidence, higher academic achievement, and greater fitness among other benefits, but until recently, these claims were all anecdotal. Now, a growing body of research is beginning to test those claims, and today, Cirque du Soleil is joining the effort to quantify the magnitude of social circus by launching the first worldwide survey of the field to date.
Cirque du Soleil has been involved in the social circus movement since 1995 through its Cirque du Monde program. Cirque du Monde supports organizations that combine circus techniques with educational social intervention to help at-risk youth. In 2014, it worked in partnership with more than 60 organizations in 20 countries around the world. Cirque du Soleil also offers training aimed at developing the teaching skills of social circus instructors and community workers. Since 2000, it has provided this training to more than 4,000 participants from over 25 countries throughout the world and has reached 100 different organizations.
David Simard, the social circus senior advisor who is conducting the survey, believes that it has become more relevant than ever to paint a detailed picture of the social circus community: “By demonstrating strength, investment, and efforts, we are convinced that this picture will be an invaluable tool for organizations in their search for funding and in the recognition of their activities.”
The survey, which defines social circus as “a social intervention approach, which uses the circus arts as a tool for fostering the personal and social development of atrisk individuals,” consists of 25 questions about the programs’ structure, reach, and activities. The researchers hope the results will help paint a detailed picture that is representative of the social circus community on an international scale.