Dance 4 Peace

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Dance 4 Peace

Alexandria, United States
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Dance 4 Peace is a global peace education nonprofit using dance to promote empathy and transform violence and conflict in communities.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if all youth had the necessary skills to be empathetic, to think critically and creatively, to promote leadership, to take initiative, to c
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the U.S., there’s been a tremendous call to action around bullying and violence in schools. The experience of violence as a young person is nearly ubiquitous; the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates 97% of suburban and urban middle-schoolers have either known a victim, witnessed an event, or been a victim of violence. Globally, while violence takes many forms, from endemic community-level intolerance to violence transcending nation-state borders, its presence evinces the need for peace education. There is a need for methodology that engages youth in an organic way, transforming classroom learning into a dynamic, physical and global process.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Dance 4 Peace is a global peace education nonprofit that engages youth through dance and creative movement to transform violence, conflict and bullying in schools. We inspire a generation of leaders and peacemakers through a progressive, movement-based curriculum that promotes empathy, mediation skills, anger management, and conflict resolution to instill social and emotional competencies. Through school and community center partnerships, Dance 4 Peace connects communities in the United States in Baltimore, Newark, New York City and Washington DC and internationally in Colombia, Germany, and the Philippines to share intercultural stories of peace. To date, we’ve worked with over 4,566 youth, and build community-level capacity to transform violence through trainings with parents and educators. Our vision is to ignite social change through the art of movement.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Dance 4 Peace’s signature program is an evidence-based, progressive curriculum that uses dance as a vehicle for social and emotional learning. The activities empower students to express emotions; establish diverse dialogue; value differences; behave empathetically; understand and manage anger; and showcase conflict prevention and resolution techniques through creative movement. D4P ensures standards-based approaches at every level from pre-kindergarten through high school. Curricula are tailored to the cultures and languages of local sites, tackle specific issues facing each community, and engage parents, teachers, and the broader community ecosystem. Each semester of the curriculum consists of 10 distinct sessions, designed to be implemented once a week for one hour. HubDanceXChange, a key curricular initiative, connects students worldwide through learning dances developed in diverse contexts. For example, youth based in the U.S. learn dances choreographed in Colombia, Germany and the Philippines, and vice versa. HubDanceXChange teaches students that finding common ground transcends countries and cultures. This program enables all Dance 4 Peace youth, even in the most isolated and lowest income areas, to become internationally engaged, and understand their role as civic leaders. Additionally, Dance 4 Peace has developed teacher training programs, and workshops for parents, educators, and other adults, including corporate trainings.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

MTW administers pre and post-test quantitative surveys, engages in qualitative monitoring and evaluation, monitors the degree to which the program is implemented as intended, and references academic studies. In 2012, aggregate data indicated a 48% decrease in violent responses to bullying. Survey questions to MTW students testing for appreciation of diversity showed a 15% increase in listening to others, 30% increase in liking group work, and 25% increase in likelihood to try new things. In one school in 2012, suspensions dropped from an average of 53 per semester to 12, after one semester of MTW programming. In one class in 2013, there was an 86% increase in ability to manage anger. In another, there was a 60% increase in ability to think independently when faced with social pressures. This impact is sustained and translates beyond the classroom into social and occupational situations.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We are have expanded our professional development and facilitator support structure. Educators will learn how to facilitate programs in their own classrooms and integrate MTW behavior management strategies without having to rely on contractors. Through training facilitators in addition to providing direct services, online platform access, and customized programs, MTW will enable stakeholders to sustainably transform their environments, enabling MTW to reach more youth, adults, and community leaders, and amplify long-term impact nationally and internationally.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Fees sustain MTW programs. We work with schools, districts and educators to develop and implement social and emotional learning programs aligned with learning goals and values. Philanthropic contributions subsidize operations. In 2012 programmatic fees covered 71% of organizational expenses. Over the next five years, we aim to make all operations self sustaining, ensuring that programming can continue and grow without reliance on contributions.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Bidna Capoeira and Peace First are our most direct competitors. Similar in spirit, Bidna Capoeira is limited to areas of active conflict, while Dance 4 Peace has widespread applicability proven through rigorous evaluation. While volunteers implement Peace First programming, Dance 4 Peace’s trained staff are paid professionals in the fields of conflict resolution, education, and the arts. Our programs are uniquely positioned to capture the dynamic work it takes to sustain peace in communities. Competitors have become partners, as they seek to incorporate Dance 4 Peace tools into their own strategies and contract us at their implementation sites.

Founding Story

In 2007, while working on her Fulbright, Sara Potler LaHayne, MTW’s Founder and CEO, witnessed the widespread impact of violence in communities. While working at a primary school, Sara saw the school’s textbook approach to teaching empathy was not working. Bullying and violence were prevalent; students were disengaged. A breakthrough moment came one day at recess, as Sara watched students dance to reggaeton. As a lifelong dancer, Sara knew creative expression could engage students in conflict transformation strategies, and increase capacities for social and emotional learning and promote leadership. With the school's teachers, Sara created, implemented and evaluated the first MTW program in one classroom outside Bogota, Colombia.


Through focusing on organizational structure and leveraging the high caliber talents of all individuals working for a common cause, small nonprofits can have sizable impacts. Through conceiving of MTW as a movement, rather than a traditional organization, staff, board, volunteers, partners, donors and others benefit from direct lines of communication. Our structure encourages the simultaneous partnership cultivation and programmatic innovation.
About You
Dance 4 Peace, Inc.
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Dance 4 Peace, Inc.

Organization Country

, VA, Alexandria

Country where this project is creating social impact
Your role in Education

After-School Provider, Teacher, Other.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Public (tuition-free)

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long has your solution been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Dance 4 Peace is a global peace education nonprofit using dance to promote empathy and transform violence and conflict in communities.

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Our programs physically manifest tools to transform conflict, and capture the dynamic, creative work it takes to sustain peace.

Social Impact
What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We evaluate programs through a system adhering to social scientific principles, and have demonstrated as a result of our programming an increase in empathetic behavior. In the fall of 2011, there was an 80% increase in student positive empathetic reactions to seeing an isolated peer. When given a situation involving bullying, there was a 48% decrease in violent responses. There was a 26% decrease in student aggressive responses when students were asked about handling a stressful classroom situation. Qualitatively, we have recorded the impact of our programming on students’ lives, including empowering one student to open up about her father’s death with her classmates, for the first time. By the end of 2012, our reach will have extended to over 7,500 students worldwide.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Our best practices will be available as a toolkit to youth, educators and parents seeking to end bullying and violence in the U.S. in DC, Baltimore, NYC, Newark and Boston and internationally in Colombia, El Salvador, Germany and the Philippines. We will have an annual budget of $1,317,945 in three years and will have worked with 54,792 youth and educators. The majority of our income will come from schools and district-wide partnerships engaging in cost-share in the D4P network. We target public, charter and private schools in each hub through marketing in order to build relationships with administrators.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Growing capacity to meet demand for programs is a challenge we overcome through employing systems to recruit, train, and deploy educators on a large scale. We maintain flexibility, responsiveness, and fealty to our mission, and ensure programmatic quality is not sacrificed due to expansion by: establishing systems for schools to participate when costs are prohibitive; maintaining openness to non-traditional arrangements where schools are not the appropriate forum to reach youth; and focusing on partnership building. We address the challenge of ensuring Dance 4 Peace is implemented appropriately in various cultural contexts through fostering leadership locally, and co-creating curricula with stakeholders.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Expand and stregnthen programs with parents, teachers, and administrators at current Dance 4 Peace program sites.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Train additional educators, across disciplines, in the schools where we already have programming to build capacity.

Task 2

Engage teachers school-wide in full-day, half-day or hour-long professional development in Dance 4 Peace pedagogy.

Task 3

Involve families in the communities where we work through workshops and invited classroom observations.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Strengthen strategic partnerships with local governments and school districts to implement Dance 4 Peace on larger scales.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Invite district administrators to observe Dance 4 Peace programming in action in local classrooms that are experiencing success.

Task 2

Hold trainings and professional development workshops for government officials and administrators to experience Dance 4 Peace.

Task 3

Inspire administrators of local schools where we work to champion Dance 4 Peace and advocate its need to their supervisors.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]

Working in Latin America, I saw how violence dramatically effects youth, but I also saw potential for youth to be change agents and leaders. When I embarked as a Fulbright Scholar in Bogota, my goal was to empower youth through peace education. However, I saw that a textbook approach to teaching empathy, currently employed by schools, wasn’t working. Bullying and violence remained prevalent, and students were disengaged. My breakthrough moment came at recess, as I watched students dance to reggaeton with passion. As a lifelong dancer, I knew dance could be leveraged for student engagement in a way that is physical, dynamic, and fun. I approached the Physical Education teacher to use something the students loved – music and dance - to inspire empathetic behavior.

Tell us about your partnerships

] In the U.S., Dance 4 Peace partners are generally public, charter, and private schools that pay for Dance 4 Peace from budgets relating to school safety, bullying, global education, or the arts. Internationally, Dance 4 Peace partners are universities, government ministries, and international development agencies that contract Dance 4 Peace to implement programming where it is needed most. We also build partnerships with education and arts organizations that reduce the burden of fees.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

A leadership team, consisting of full and part-time staff with significant experience in peace and conflict resolution, the arts, and organizational management, helps steer the vision of Dance 4 Peace, and fulfills various programmatic and administrative roles such as partnership outreach and engagement, marketing and communications, development, and curriculum development. Classroom facilitators and teachers have many opportunities for growth within Dance 4 Peace. Talented volunteers fulfill a diversity of organizational needs and build capacity.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Dance 4 Peace holds regular teacher and facilitator trainings in the US and globally, and we would love to collaborate in sharing professional development resources for our facilitators in the classroom.