PEACE: AN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM BASED ON EMPATHY AND THEORY OF MIND COMPETENCIES TO PROMOTE SAFE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN HUMANS AND DOGS

Veterinarian and psychologist, I work in a "one welfare" perspective so that humans and animals live in harmony in their environment.

Photo of Véronique Neuvens
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Véronique Neuvens

Initiative's representative date of birth

9111963

Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Belgium

Headquarters location: city

ASBL Minimömes Maximömes 105 rue Grande 5537 Anhée

Where are you making a difference?

PEACE is actually implemented In the French-speaking part of Belgium. The project takes advantage of some human competencies (empathy, theory of mind) which have never been implemented in this particular context (human-dog relationships) to help develop safe contacts and improving the human-animal bond.

Website or social media url(s)

https://www.facebook.com/Minimomes-maximomes-140582469954003/

Date Started

start of peace with sable on january / 2018

Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • Promote inclusivity
  • Enhance physical activity and wellness
  • Re-imagining the role of pets in society

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €10k - €50k

Organisation Type

  • nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

After 15 years of practice in small animal veterinary medicine, I went back to study psychology. After my degree in psychology sciences, I then went on to complete a PhD in Psychological and Educational Sciences. With the strength of my dual training, it was only natural that I turned to a research topic on the improvement of child-dog relationships. We worked in a multi-disciplinary team (psychologists, teachers and veterinarians) to develop the PEACE program. Through this, children learn how to regulate contact with dogs using empathy and theory of mind. PEACE program is now offered to children in French-speaking schools in Belgium. PEACE program has also expanded to include children with disabilities and people with Alzheimer's disease.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Dogs have been sharing life with humans for a long time, and cohabitation has many positive effects on their common evolution. However, under certain circumstances, the relationship can deteriorate and lead to accidents (falls, dog bites). Many of these accidents could be avoided by teaching children to adjust their relationship with dogs. In this way, many accidents could be avoided and animal welfare improved.

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

PEACE activities are adapted at first to young children and adapted to adults or disabled persons. PEACE aims to teach children how to recognize at-risk situations and how to behave in such circumstance by developing empathy and ToM abilities. First, children play with puzzles, drawings, storybooks and play-role costumes. Each activity is designed to induce the implementation of empathy and ToM by the children. This strategy of teaching children to forecast dog emotions by using ToM is selected because it has been shown that canine body language recognition is often misunderstood by both adults and children. In the second part of the training, a dog (specially trained for such activities) and his owner visit the classroom. Obviously, children are not exposed to any risk with dog, because he is always under his owner’s supervision and a safe distance is observed when dog is eating, drinking or resting. Children observe the dog and can interact with him during quiet play, hugging and caregiving. They are always reminded to think what the dog can feel and how he can behave if disturbed. In the end, children have to tell how to behave in order to keep peaceful relations with the dog.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Peace is based on an original theoretical framework: the regulation of social contacts which allows the stability of intra- or inter-specific relations. Empathy (the process of defining one's own or others' emotions) and the theory of mind (a way of predicting the behaviour of others, human or animal) are put into action to regulate social contacts. In PEACE programme, participants are encouraged to use empathy and ToM by putting themselves in the dog's shoes. In this way they define the emotional state of the dog in an interaction and predict their behavioural intention towards the dog. An iPad test assesses on site and digitally the children's ability to recognize canine emotions and behavioral intention before and after PEACE programme.

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

PEACE is an educational project for children from 4 to 5 years old at school. It has recently been expanded to disabled children who can also benefit from the positive impact of PEACE in improving the relationship between humans and dogs. PEACE has also been introduced to people with Alzheimer's disease, in order to provide them with a better quality of life. The impact of PEACE has been measured in both children and people with Alzheimer's disease. For children, PEACE increases empathy by recognizing canine and human emotions and increases their caring by their intention to behave in a dog-friendly way. As a result, interactions between children and dogs can be more harmonious, reducing the risk of injury and of euthanasia of dogs when they have bitten. Quality of life of patients with Alzheimer's disease was shown to be improved after activities with the dog. Regarding the social impact, jobs are created for the implementation of PEACE. Trainers learn how to manage the programme with the target people. PEACE enhances the quality of life of both humans and dogs by promoting emotional skills and reduces the societal impact of accident risks.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Peace's main objective is to strengthen the bond between humans and animals, especially dogs. It is hosted by non-profit organization. It aims to improve the inter specific relationship by promoting the use of empathy and theory of mind. In this way, humans and especially children respect animal’s needs (e.g. not disturbing a sleeping animal), so the risk of accidents can be reduced. The PEACE program measures the recognition of human and canine emotions as well as the knowledge of adjusted behaviors. Peace helps children increase their recognition of human and canine emotions and decreases their intention to engage in risky behaviors. The evaluation process is innovative and original since it is done in the form of a serious game. The game is presented to children through the support of an iPad application, specially validated for PEACE.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

In the French-speaking part of Belgium, which includes +/- 185,000 children aged 4 to 5, a survey in kindergarten children showed that 11% of them had already been bitten. PEACE can help reduce this risk. There are 182 school days and a PEACE trainer can meet +/- 2000 children each year to bring the programme to schools. In order to improve the human-animal bond, both partners’ well-being, and also to reduce the risk of accidents (which the society pays for the consequences), specialised PEACE trainers must be trained and remain under supervision to ensure PEACE quality.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

Shared value: 1)improvement of the human-dog bond through the support of empathy and the theory of mind. 2)PEACE is taught in schools, so that children from large social contexts can benefit from this original learning experience. 3)PEACE helps to foster the development of empathy and stimulate the theory of mind in order to improve respect for animals, but this skill can be extrapolated by children in their social relationships with peers. 4)PEACE is a job creator.5)Preventive actions can significantly reduce the costs of accidents, PEACE also responds to this need. 6)Improvement of animal welfare since PEACE promotes respect for the animal. Moreover, reducing the risk of bites reduces the abandonment and euthanasia of bitten dogs.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

First, PEACE is the result of previous research that has shown its effectiveness (science based). Secondly, grants from governments of the French-speaking part of Belgium (Walloon Region & Brussels Capital Region) enable children to benefit from the project. In the short and medium terms, PEACE has demonstrated its viability. PEACE is a social project that must continue in the light of its general interest: in terms of health prevention, human and animal welfare. In the long term, PEACE should be financially supported by governments but to do so, we must continue to demonstrate its feasibility and effectiveness. Funds like the one in this submission allow us to grow towards this goal.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The management of the PEACE programme is carried out by Dr. V. Neuvens in order to ensure the formation of trainers, the implementation and the supervision of the programme. Currently, there are two workers who have received specific education to ensure the quality of the programme. We hope to enlarge our team so that more children can benefit from PEACE, but also to offer PEACE to children with disabilities and people with Alzheimer's disease.

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

If peace is the winner of this Prize, the association will be able to grow and hire new collaborators. The PEACE programme will also be able to extend its outreach to homes for the elderly. PEACE will also be able to show its feasibility and its validity in terms of health promotion, which will allow a better visibility of the work of the non-profit organisation. This will promote the need to subsidise the project with government authorities. PEACE can be extended to other countries and translated into other languages. Empathy and theory of mind, concepts used in PEACE activities are universal human processes. We are also interested in using evaluations of effectiveness using virtual reality technologies.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Email

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Does this entry have potential to GROW & demonstrate LEADERSHIP?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. Is this entry VIABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. Does this entry have POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

7. FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions or used an old model in a new way - 100%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 75%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 75%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 75%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 75%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 75%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 75%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 0%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 0%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: Your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 0%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon - 0%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%

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Fantastic!

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