Social change is both the process and effect of efforts to positively alter societal conditions. It encompasses a range of outcomes—healing, increased awareness, attitudinal change, more diverse and increased civic participation, movement building, and policy change to name just a few.

Civic engagement encompasses the many ways that people may get involved in their communities to consider and address civic issues. Civic engagement can be a measure or a means of social change. In arts-based civic engagement, the creative process and resulting art work/experience can provide a key focus, catalyst, or space for civic participation, whether it is becoming better informed or actively contributing to the improvement of one’s neighborhood, community, and nation.

From urban interventions to youth development through theater to public art that explores our relationship to the environment to cultural organizing—creative social change work encompasses the myriad ways that the arts are being activated to engage people and make impact. Animating Democracy’s LANDSCAPE gives a big picture of individuals and organizations doing and supporting arts for change work.

Measuring the difference that we’re making in our arts for change work involves knowing what to look for as indicators of change and how to collect that evidence. Whether you are just starting to explore foundational terms and frameworks or want to dive right into evaluation tools and case studies, Animating Democracy’s Impact section is a storehouse of resources to help advance your evaluation work.

Looking for ways to build evidence of your impact? Check out the Social Impact Indicators section of Animating Democracy’s website for ways to express common social and civic outcomes. See how to translate outcomes to evidence you can measure. Learn different data collection strategies including how to effectively collect and analyze qualitative data.

Browse Animating Democracy's full directory of social change artist profiles and narrow your search by issue areas, disciplines, populations engaged, and more. To find groups and artists making social impact within a larger context, check out our Trend Papers by topic.

Animating Democracy is a program of Americans for the Arts that inspires, promotes, and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to civic and social change. Working locally, nationally, and across sectors, Animating Democracy creates useful resources for artists, cultural, and community leaders, and funders; builds knowledge about quality engagement and evaluation; and brings national visibility to arts for change work.

No, unfortunately we don’t make grants at this time, but you might want to take a look at the Funding materials on our site.

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social change
Mr. Randy I. Cohen's picture

157 years ago next week, the Battle of Fredericksburg took place鈥攐ne of the bloodiest of the Civil War to that point. Following the battle, the giant Union and Confederate armies were camped mere shouting distance from each other, separated only by the Rappahannock River in Virginia....

Alicia Ehni's picture

New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), founded in 1971, empowers artists at critical stages of their creative lives. One of the ways NYFA serves our mission is through our Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program (IAP) that has served more...

Mr. John R. Killacky's picture

My entire career has been as an artist and arts administrator. Forty-five years ago, I was dancing in Chicago, New York, and Winnipeg. My subsequent work in film and writing has focused on personal narratives around AIDS, disability, and queer identity. I managed dance companies (Laura Dean and...

Dec 16, 2019

Written to inform public and private funders who are addressing equity in their grantmaking, the case study can provide guidance to re-envision who reviews proposals and how they are chosen, orient and guide reviewers and panelists to be aware of bias, and consider alternative designs for application review that are more equitable. 

Photo of a rehearsal from The Central Park Five Opera
Jun 24, 2019

Opera is notably known for producing works that represent stories and experiences from White, Euro-centric, and Western perspectives. Recently, that narrative has begun to change. This summer, many new productions are premiering written by Black composers, featuring Black stories. 

May 20, 2019

Americans for the Arts announces a new publication, the Teaching Artist Companion to Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change. The Companion supports artists who work with youth in K–12 programs in and out of school and the institutional leaders who support their work, but also informs funders, researchers, evaluators, and policy makers in the field of creative youth development.

Nov 07, 2019

Implicit bias and other structural impediments mean that we open fewer doors to girls, students of color and kids from low-income and rural communities. When they don’t engage deeply in STEM, we all lose. But the arts have always been a haven for the otherwise marginalized, and arts education connected to STEM can open many possible doors. 

Blind Walls by D茅nesh Ghyczy
Oct 25, 2019

Art museums are open to visitors, but are they welcome and accessible to all? To answer this, museums are becoming more aware of solutions to make artwork available to patrons with disabilities.

Oct 11, 2019

Drawing on 589 responses from female-identifying designers and production personnel, the study found two key obstacles faced by these groups: gender discrimination and lack of support for working parents.

Explore the funding landscape for creative social change.
Funder Portraits – See a collection of portraits (trend papers and podcast interviews) highlighting funders who are doing notable work in the arts and social change.  
Funder Directory – Take a look at the various resources put together to reflect the perspectives of funders on the evaluation and impact of the arts on social change.