Today, The Clubhouse Network is a global community comprised of 100 Clubhouses in 19 countries, providing 20,000 youth with access to resources, skills, and experiences to help them succeed in their careers, contribute to their communities, and lead outstanding lives. Across U.S. sites, 70% of students receive Free and Reduced Price Lunch, and the majority of participants are young people of color. 15% of participants are Limited English Proficient, and an estimated 15-20% are students with special needs or disabilities.
Since its beginnings 23 years ago, the Clubhouse has been a magnet for young people from underserved communities to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them. The Clubhouse is at once an artist studio, inventor's workshop, design house, film sound stage, hackerspace, music studio, software development lab, and more. With the encouraging support of mentors from diverse fields, youth unleash their creative talents, engage in peer-to-peer learning, and develop a unique voice of their own. Popular projects in most Clubhouses include video production, audio engineering, game design, and a variety of "maker" activities blending engineering, crafts, and do-it-yourself design. Overall, our approach includes these tenets:
- Learning by Designing: People learn best when they are actively engaged in designing, creating, and inventing, not just passively receiving information.
- Following Your Interests: When people care about what they are working on, they are willing to work longer and harder, and they learn more in the process.
- Building a Community: When people collaborate with others of diverse ages, cultures, genders, and backgrounds, they gain new perspectives for understanding the world—and themselves.
- Fostering Respect and Trust: In places where everyone's ideas and opinions are respected, people are more likely to take risks and experiment and thus more likely to learn and innovate.
A drop-in program, the Clubhouse engages young people who "vote with their feet" to participate, often considering the Clubhouse a second home. Most youth come several times a week, and the average length of engagement is 4.6 years.
The Clubhouse learning approach is designed to empower youth from all backgrounds to become more capable, creative, and confident learners. This approach is grounded in research from the fields of education, developmental and social psychology, cognitive science, and youth development. It builds on research on the role of affect and motivation in the learning process, the importance of social context, and the interplay between individual and community development. It leverages new technologies to support new types of learning experiences and engage young people who may have been alienated by traditional educational approaches.
A few times each year The Clubhouse Network hosts a week-long professional development Orientation Program for new Clubhouse staff, held at the "Flagship" Clubhouse at the Museum of Science in Boston. During the week, new Clubhouse program staff from around the world explore our learning and mentoring approaches; become familiar with resources, materials, and toolkits; gain an understanding of the role staff play in the Clubhouse environment; and begin to engage with the broader global Clubhouse community.
Each year we organize a global Annual Conference for the Clubhouse community to come together, build skills, share ideas, reflect on experiences, and plan for the future. More than 150 Clubhouse staff, Directors, and partners from academia, research, government, and the corporate sector typically attend. The conference is held in a different Clubhouse host city each year.
The Clubhouse Network leverages nearly 25 years of experience working with various partners, including federal, state, and local governments; major corporations (e.g., Intel, Best Buy, Adobe, Autodesk); universities (e.g., MIT, Stanford); and Clubhouse-hosting organizations in local communities. Drawing on these partnerships, the Clubhouse has expanded successfully and benefited from mutual collaboration and a shared commitment to the Clubhouse mission. Over the years support from Intel, Best Buy, Adobe, and other partners have provided resources that strengthen Clubhouse quality. These resources have included stipends to assist Clubhouse staff in attending our Annual Conference, college scholarships for youth participants, copies of software and physical technology, and training for staff and mentors to learn to use these tools. These kinds of resources help keep Clubhouses current, fresh, and engaging for youth.
In October 2015, Inverness Research (an independent, nonprofit evaluation firm) conducted an online survey of more than 1,300 youth involved at Clubhouses around the world. This summary presents findings with supportive evidence based on the data analysis. The major findings from that survey are:
- The Clubhouse offers a supportive environment for youth self-development, with a range of opportunities to participate, be creative, and learn; a friendly and safe place where youth feel empowered and gain confidence; a central role in the lives of many Clubhouse members; and positive, important relationships between adults and youth, and among youth from different backgrounds and cultures.
- Clubhouse members are gaining knowledge and acquiring skills in many important domains. Members are learning content in science and technology and many other areas; building skills that contribute to designing, making, and problem-solving abilities; and gaining professional, collaboration, and social skills.
- The Clubhouse experience leads youth to think more positively and more ambitiously about their futures. The Clubhouse has a positive impact on youth's attitudes about school and about furthering their education.
- The Clubhouse also has a positive impact on youth's attitudes about STEM--80% of boys and 74% of girls say they are interested in studying some aspect of STEM in the future. This is a significant departure from national trends where there is still great disparity between the percentage of women and men earning bachelor's degree in engineering, computer science, or physics.
- Against a disturbing backdrop of high school drop-out rates and low college participation for under-served youth, 94% of Members plan to graduate from high school.
In 2016 the Clubhouse Network's major sources of funding were the Best Buy Foundation, U.S. Department of Justice, and the Intel Foundation. The Clubhouse Network does not charge parent fees for program participation.