For the last two posts in a series on how the arts can foster community engagement, I interviewed Sara Potler, founder and CEO of Dance 4 Peace (D4P), a global peace education and civic engagement nonprofit that engages young people through dance and creative movement. Sara shared with me her perspectives on the arts, civic dialogue, and sparking social change through dance. You can read the first half of our interview on yesterday’s post. Her are my final questions for her:
Q (Maya): How do you measure impact / what has been the impact so far?
A (Sara): At Dance 4 Peace, it has certainly been a fun challenge to measure how our program is creating peace in classrooms and communities. To measure our impact, we have thought long and hard about our vision of peace and broken this down into specific areas, such as anger management, physical violence, and appreciation of diversity. Using surveys and coded observations, we have been able to demonstrate real change as a result of our programming.
To date, our evaluations have shown that students who participate in Dance 4 Peace are less likely to choose physical or verbal violence when angry. On the flip side, they are 15% more likely to listen to others, 30% more likely to enjoy working in groups, and 25% more willing to try new things. In several schools, pre- and post- evaluations showed a dramatic decrease in tendencies toward physical and verbal violence. One school in DC, for instance, when given a case study of an NBA player punching a fan, 32% more students said this was not okay in the post-test than the pre-test.
As Dance 4 Peace leads the way into uncharted territory in dance and peace education, we are moving towards a system of evaluation that may have never been tried before. In order to fully embody our mission, we are working with researchers at Georgetown University and others to develop movement-based evaluations. We want to measure changes in attitudes and behaviors through dance itself, rather than taking students out of the action to sit down and fill out a survey. So far, we are seeing remarkable potential for this sort of evaluation to be used in the broader arts education and sport and development fields.
Q: Who are your main partners and how do they support you?
Dance 4 Peace is privileged to partner with a number of great organizations across the public, private, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)/civil society sectors. Our partnerships with public and charter schools laid the groundwork for our early growth; now that we are scaling, we have found a great ally in city-wide public school systems, particularly the New York City Department of Education and DC Public Schools.
Partnerships with NGOs and social service organizations, such as Asian American Lead, Leake & Watts Services, Communities in Schools, DCPEACE, and Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility have connected us with countless passionate individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of young people through education and the arts.
Our corporate partnerships – particularly Nickelodeon’s The Big Help – have helped amplify our mission to new audiences. On September 24, Dance 4 Peace will be taking part in the Worldwide Day of Play on the Ellipse of the National Mall. Nickelodeon programming shuts down for the afternoon, and we will be leading fun activities and breaking it down on the dance floor all day.
For local arts agency leaders who want to achieve greater civic engagement in their local communities, a partnership with a nonprofit like D4P could be a start. Here is a video showing their work: