by Sara Potler
Young organizations spend a lot of time defining themselves, particularly when their idea is unique, uncommon, and pushing boundaries beyond what’s been done before. When I started Dance 4 Peace, I was happy to have seized upon a brand identity that was concrete, actionable, and translated easily from our Spanish-speaking, Colombian roots to English. Our students got it right away.
However, articulating the value of our organization to school principals, educators, parents, and funders was not so easy. When you start to talk about dance in the communities where we work, it conjures certain associations: after-school ballet lessons, dance outreach and arts education initiatives, and even a gender bias that dancing is something mostly women do. Try to talk about peace, and it’s even more difficult. As a program that has emphasized the value of evidence-based curricula and monitoring and evaluation from the start, it was hard to make our case when we claimed to be doing something so difficult to measure.
To top it off, last year was monumental for our organization. Our impact had accelerated, our vision was bigger than ever. In many ways, we had grown beyond what “Dance 4 Peace” had once meant to us.
So we were faced with a conundrum. Finally, we had reached a stage where I could walk into a conference, or even on the F train in my Dance 4 Peace t-shirt, and people I had never met before recognized our program and the work we do. Dance 4 Peace was being talked about in all the right places, including Forbes and the Washington Post. But it was clear we needed a new name, and to us, that risked erasing some of the traction we had gained through painstaking work.
In any context, it can be a bold move to redefine yourself. Just think of what it’s like to make a career switch, or take your spouse’s name. There’s a feeling of starting over that comes with any new identity that is at once daunting and freeing. For us, as we took on the brand of Move This World, it became mostly the latter. The rebrand gave us an opportunity to return to our core values, and how to best reflect them in our work. It gave us an excuse to reach out to potential partners and funders we hadn’t spoken to in awhile – including those who thought “Dance 4 Peace” didn’t come with the right connotation for them. It allowed us to revamp our communications; gave us cause to re-evaluate our brand positioning. And most rewardingly, it allowed us to get to a deeper level with our stakeholders, a place of honesty and reflection on the type of change we wish to see in the world, and how we might pursue it together.
In the end, we’re happy to have put ourselves out on a limb, to question ourselves, and be bold in continuing to define who we are as an organization. This fearlessness is something that marks Move This World, but doesn’t set us apart. It’s something we all do, everyday, as we grow our organizations, and for us, this was a path worth taking.