Building New Futures Among Ancient Pyramids

Creative Facilitation Workshop in Luxor, Egypt

Creative Facilitation Training in Luxor, Egypt (Photo: ESF)

Amid political and economic upheaval in Egypt, the Elisa Sednaoui Foundation (ESF), in partnership with PYE, is making a big difference for young people in Luxor.

Though still a world-renowned travel destination rich in antiquities, Luxor’s tourism dollars have dropped sharply and sent unemployment soaring. Says Kasia Skuratowicz, the ESF’s Senior Education Director: “Local communities are deeply isolated. Spaces for freedom of expression and creative learning are extremely limited. There is a crucial need for programs that support the development of life skills such as communication, empathy, project development, analytical thinking and self confidence, especially in an engaging, fun way.”

ESF responds to this need with creative learning programs that foster leadership and change making through playful cultural exchange and life skill development. “We encourage youth to think creatively about their own needs and those of their communities. And then, step by step, we work on translating needs into action through youth and community projects,” says Kasia. Continue reading

Big Leadership News for PYE US & UK!

Carmen Forsman

Carmen Forsman is Executive Director, PYE US

The PYE team and Board of Directors are thrilled to announce, after a long search that brought forth many incredible candidates, our new Executive Director, PYE US: Carmen Forsman! We are also very pleased to share that Gwyn Wansbrough, formerly our amazing Managing Director, has accepted a new role as Executive Director, PYE UK.

Born in Mexico, Carmen spent her early years traveling the world, living in Europe, North Africa, and Latin America, while being homeschooled by her parents, both professional artists. She brings to PYE over 15 years of experience in International Business Development Strategy and Execution in the private sector with Fortune 100 companies, as well as in the public sector with large international non-governmental organizations. She was inspired to work in international business following her time as a Peace Corps volunteer, focusing on small business in Latin America. She has served as a Director of Private Equity investment for Boeing’s Phantom Works, where she managed an international portfolio of over $35M, and as a Director of International Business Development at AT&T Wireless, where she drove the entry strategy for the Caribbean region. Most recently, Carmen was a Senior Commercialization Officer for PATH, a global health organization, where she developed and implemented market-driven, sustainable business models in SE Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
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Creative Community Tip: Learn Names, Build Safety

Name tag creation station

Creative expression and community building begin at the name tag table.

Why learn people’s names? A recent workshop participant responded aptly, “Because when someone calls you by name, it’s a sign that they care about you.” And isn’t this the message we want to project when we facilitate? We believe that anyone can learn lots of names quickly with some intention and a bit of ingenuity. Here are some tips:

  1. Review your list of participants prior to the program. Notice any connections you can make, like who comes from the same location as you.
  2. If you have a name tag table, join in as participants are working on their creations. See how many names you can put to faces.
  3. Once the program begins, talk about how calling one another by name will create a sense of community in the group. Give everyone the permission to ask each other’s names, even up to the last moments of the program.
  4. Early on in your program, when participants address the whole group, ask them to say their name before they speak.
  5. As you get to know names, call people by name during whole group sessions. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. It’s a good opportunity to model vulnerability.
  6. Lead name games as part of your community building and join in the games. Choose name games that use memory enhancers like rhythm, repetition, and association.

Be prepared to surprise yourself by how readily you can remember all of the names in your group, and notice the powerful effect it has on building a safe atmosphere for self-expression.

For more tips, and details about our Creative Community Model, check out PYE’s book, Catch the Fire: An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power of Youth, Adults, and Communities.

In Greece, Creativity Represents Hope

Greek teachers at a PYE training in Thessaloniki

Xanthippi Anastasiadou and a fellow participant at a PYE teacher training in Thessaloniki, Greece.

As Greece endures sustained economic crisis, compounded by an influx of refugees, we are pleased to be part of a movement to forge a new way forward. Together with partners like Ashoka Greece, SEN Junior Achievement Greece, and innovative educators and schools, we are helping to transform education and ignite a generation of changemakers.

PYE’s trainings reached over 100 teachers in Greece in 2015, and more are planned this year. Says PYE’s Managing Director Gwyn Wansbrough, who is spearheading our efforts across Europe, “It’s been interesting incredible to see how ready teachers are to do things differently. They keep telling us that this is exactly what Greece needs right now.”

Athens teacher Nikoleta Foti is a perfect example. Just a few weeks after her training, she reported, “I have already implemented many tools. My students wrote poems, performed, played ‘magic word’ and ‘yes…and’ and they loved it. I loved it too because I found out that ‘weak’ and ‘indifferent’ students not only participated but stood up and even found the answers. Their voices were finally heard!”

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Creative Community Tip: Cultivate a Calm Presence

Calming at the 2015 Catch the Fire Training

Creative Community Tip: How to calm jitters before leading a group. (Pictured: PYE Training participants take a calming moment.)

Looking for a good way to counter the jitters that can come when leading a group? Try developing a daily practice that teaches your body how to relax. One of our favorites is the 4-7-8 breath recommended by integrative medicine doctor Andrew Weil.

This breathing exercise has a natural tranquilizing effect. Practice it a few times a day and you might be surprised to find yourself more relaxed when you are leading a group. Click here to learn the the 4-7-8 breath plus two other activities.

2015 Annual Report: One Spark Lights Another

Creative Facilitation Training fun

Participants perform improv at PYE’s Creative Facilitation Training in Seattle.

Last year was one for the record books. The numbers (and stories) are in and 2015 saw PYE’s impact grow dramatically. Check out our annual report for stories of impact, a global impact map, an overview of key areas of growth, and more.

Thank you to the entire PYE community for helping to make it a year worth celebrating! From our board and creative community facilitators and practitioners to volunteers and training attendees, each one of your lent your spark to this movement–and it’s catching fire around the world.

We welcome you to read the full report at



Teacher: Catch the Fire Training Changed My Classroom

Karen Taylor (right) with a workshop partner at PYE's 2015 Catch the Fire Training

Karen Taylor (right) with a workshop partner at PYE’s 2015 Catch the Fire Training

“The Catch the Fire training redefined the way I view creativity. Being able to experience, first hand, the powerful and authentic community that can be cultivated through artistic exploration has had a profound impact on both my personal and professional life. As a middle school teacher, I have been searching for a way to integrate the arts into my classroom, and this training has evolved my practice in meaningful and measurable ways! I came home from Whidbey Island feeling recharged, empowered and inspired. Having the opportunity to rediscover and increase my own creative confidence was an unexpected gift and an important step in my journey as an educator.

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Video: Light the Spark in Youth

What a year! In schools and with our growing list of partners worldwide, there are more opportunities than ever to unleash power, purpose, and potential in youth in 2016.

Donate and light a spark today. Thank you!

PYE is Hiring! Executive Director (US) Sought

Full time, Salary DOE
Location: Seattle, WA (and surrounding area)
Application Deadline: Rolling

PYE: Partners for Youth Empowerment is seeking a visionary US Executive Director with entrepreneurial zeal to join our small but far reaching team. We’re seeking a leader who understands and can advocate for the powerful role creative expression plays in building confidence, connection, and community—ensuring bright futures and meaningful life paths.

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PYE Profile: Meet Xola Yoyo

xola yoyo

Changemaker Xola Yoyo (Photo: Estepworks)

Xola Yoyo is Founder and Director of Imithayelanga Youth Development in Eastern Cape, South Africa. The organization works with orphaned and vulnerable youth in rural areas. Xola is also a lead facilitator for PYE, and volunteered at the 2015 Power of Hope camp on Whidbey Island.

“My vision for what I was doing with young people fit in perfectly with the Creative Community Model. It starts with the concept that every child needs to be seen and heard. Yes we do talk about the issues that youth face. But I’m not going to come to you and just talk about HIV. I’m not going to talk about teenage pregnancy when I don’t even know who you are. As a youth, how am I going to make positive choices, if I don’t know who I am? There’s nothing to base the choices on. So that’s where we start with the youth: Who are they? Where are they from? And what do they need?”

Upcoming Trainings

Creative Facilitation 1: East Bay
Oakland, CA, US
Mar 4–5

Creative Facilitation Demo Day: Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Mar 9

Creative Facilitation 1: Seattle
Seattle, WA, US
Mar 31–Apr 1

Art of Facilitation: Ontario
Kingston, ON
Oct 2017–Feb 2018

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