Our Work

Why Youth Development Matters

Today’s young people face many unknowns —  from climate change and artificial intelligence to intensifying political polarization and mental health challenges. Research demonstrates that cultivating competencies or “soft skills” — such as resilience, self-awareness, curiosity, social capital,  and creative problem-solving — better equips youth to navigate this uncertain world. 

Research also shows that integrating high-impact learning strategies cultivates soft skills. However, there remains a gap between research and practice that contributes to:

  • A scarcity of high-impact opportunities;
  • Varying rates of access;
  • Gaps in program quality; and
  • Lack of training for the adults and organizations working with youth.

Youth leadership programs struggle with issues of both access and quality:

Less than


of youth exposed to a leadership development program by age 25

Fewer than


of youth leadership development programs yield meaningful impact

Less than


of youth have access to high-quality leadership development programs

Our Approach

We work with young people, practitioners, philanthropists, and scholars to integrate data and evidence-based practices into youth development programs to increase the impact at the individual, programmatic, and organizational levels — and, by extension, shape the entire field. Our opportunity ecosystems aim to develop and encourage evidence-based strategies for accelerating human capital in service of individual, organizational, and community impact. By drawing on community assets and strategies and centering communities as experts, CELO partners with existing organizations and entities to mitigate constraints on impact by co-creating pathways to high-quality, developmental opportunities. Our core offerings fall into three separate but related areas:

This pillar is an integral part of CELO created to develop and sustain the organization’s youth-centered approach to expanding opportunity. It emphasizes the importance of intergenerational approaches and fellowship to foster life-changing interactions that strengthen communities’ capacities to elevate youth leadership. We equip youth with the necessary tools to positively impact their ecosystems. This is achieved by moving youth through three levels of relationship-building with CELO and its partners: contact, connection, and co-creation. Each level deepens relationships, increases opportunities that benefit the individual and their community, and strengthens the impact of CELO. Our holistic approach ensures that both our youth and collaborators receive comprehensive support and care, enhancing their personal and professional growth. Youth become the bridges that narrow gaps between scholarship and practice through research, publications, and resources that increase opportunity.

Together we elevate youth to become the co-creators and enactors of leadership and opportunity.

Research & Assessments

CELO is the owner and operator of the world’s largest and longest-running research program on the building blocks of youth development – in other words, measurable steps toward developing competencies, such as resilience, collaboration, and creative-problem solving. Our research enables us to define, measure, and benchmark 34 ‘soft skills’ and has identified high impact pedagogical practices that accelerate the development of these skills.

In addition to translating our research into evidence-based strategies and recommendations to guide impact for the field of youth development, we have translated our data into user-friendly assessment tools to give organizations and their leaders the unparalleled ability to measure their performance at the individual, programmatic, and/or organizational levels, including over time, and to receive actionable recommendations.

Learn more about how CELO leverages our research here.


Design Studio Fellowships

At CELO, we believe that young people should not just be participants in programs, but also empowered to co-create, design, and deliver programs. CELO’s Design Studio Fellowship carefully curates cohorts of 50 participants, including young people (ages 18-25), from across sectors and disciplines to reflect the diversity of the youth development space.

Our approach is uncommon in that it engages the organizations for which our Fellows work, in addition to cultivating each Fellow’s personal and professional growth. Together, they engage in personal reflection and community building, training on high-impact research and how to apply it, and collaborative working groups to critically examine — and re-envision — their youth development offering.

Additionally, each cohort produces a report to share insights and recommendations for the youth development field.

Learn more about how CELO’s Design Studio Fellowships here.

Partner with Us!

CELO’s three-year goal is to reach 1.5 million young people through our offerings.

Here’s how you can join us!

  • YOUNG PEOPLE: Apply to our Fellowship program! CELO believes that young people shouldn’t just be participants in programs, but also be empowered to co-create, design, and deliver programs.
  • PRACTITIONERS: Work with our team to apply 20 years of data and evidence-based practices to enhance your program and organizational impact.
  • SCHOLARS & RESEARCHERS: Participate in our ongoing studies, use our data to conduct your own research, and contribute to the larger ecosystem of knowledge in our field.
  • FUNDERS: Support our work and connect with a highly collaborative, multi-sector, and intergenerational movement.