CERES Institute for Children & Youth

Our Purpose

The CERES (Community-Engaged Research and Evaluation Sciences) Institute for Children & Youth exists to drive positive educational and life conditions for children and youth, especially those in historically disenfranchised communities, so that they may emerge from childhood as thriving adults.

To accomplish this, we conduct, evaluate, support, and promote community-engaged, applied research on positive educational and developmental ecosystems for today’s children and youth. We are intentional about presenting insights that are clear and actionable. And, we are passionate about informing, influencing, and inspiring those who have the courage and the power to act: public leaders, influencers, educators, and parents.

Dr. Jonathan Zaff is the director of the CERES Institute. As our network of partners and collaborators grows, we look forward to sharing our work with you.

These Core Beliefs Guide Our Work

Children and youth are at the center of our work. We build all of our work around the simple question: What is in the best interests of the children and youth we seek to support?

All children and youth are full of assets. We view children and youth as the sum of their intrinsic potential, not just the products of adverse life conditions.

Research is meant to be shared and used. If our research is to have any value, it must get into the right hands at the right time.

Best-in-class research is critical. Because policy makers and practitioners base momentous decisions for children and youth on research that is shared with them, we commit to using the most systematic and rigorous approaches to research and evaluation to produce the best possible outcomes for children and youth.

Communities are partners, not data sources. As guests of the communities we serve, we co-create research with them and share all data and insights.

Our Vision

All children and youth will grow up with the support they need to become thriving adults

Our Mission

Our mission is to be the premier crossroads of inquiry, analysis, and action for community-engaged research and evaluation on the conditions necessary for all children and youth to grow into thriving adults.

Our Work

Applied Research: Our original research seeks to answer specific questions posed to us by practitioners, policymakers, or others actively working to improve education and life conditions for children and youth.  The subjects of our original research typically fall into or cut across the following themes:

  • Positive youth development
  • Teaching, learning, and school climate
  • Social, emotional, and academic development
  • Race and culture

Program Evaluation: When invited to do so, we evaluate programs in place that are designed to improve youth conditions, to see if, and to what degree, they are achieving their intended impact.

Research Catalyzation: We seek to encourage and accelerate others’ research in this area of inquiry by offering:

  • Seed funding
  • Staff support for new faculty projects
  • Brokering relationships between clinical faculty and research-intensive faculty
  • Curating and sharing high-quality, relevant research from other sources

Converting Analysis into Action: A core function of the Institute will be a communications and outreach function to promote the work of the Institute and those with whom it works, with the goal of informing, influencing, and inspiring action. Work will be shared with policymakers, education leaders, journalists, influencers, and the wider academic community of positive youth development researchers. We conduct research, but our end goal is to leverage that research to transform outcomes for youth.

Our Community of Change Agents

The Institute is brought to life by four communities of interest, each with distinct and potent agency to take up our work and make positive changes with it. They are our collaborators, supporters, consumers, and beneficiaries.

Collaborators who join us in our work include:

  • BU Wheelock faculty
  • Faculty in the schools of social work, public health, and sociology
  • Graduate students
  • Outside subject matter experts, engaged as needed
  • Communicators, to help circulate the research findings
  • The Aspire Institute

Supporters who support us in our work include:

  • BU Wheelock College of Education and Human Development deans
  • BU Faculty, who validate and advocate the value of our work
  • BU administration and communications office
  • Public grant makers
  • Private foundation grant makers and other nonprofit funders
  • Corporate funders and sponsors
  • Philanthropists
  • BU and BU Wheelock development office

Consumers who use our work include:

  • K-12 school administrators
  • Public agencies for juvenile justice, child welfare, and education
  • Community-based organizations
  • Nonprofit central offices (YMCA of the USA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, etc.)
  • Funders, to help give focus and validation to giving strategies
  • Journalists covering a variety of community topics
  • Digital influencers
  • City, county, state, and federal networks for policy makers (League of Cities, NCSL)
  • Broader research community

Beneficiaries who our work impacts include:

  • Children, youth, and their families
  • Youth service providers (educators, human service providers, public agencies)
  • Behavioral health providers
  • Communities at large