project leader
Catherine D
(NEO College Campus to be determined later)
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the project

Dogs for Democracy leverages the common ground of beloved pets to bring college students together, and preserves democracy by facilitating understanding and civil dialogue between people with different world views. It is an educational program offered during orientation or a first year experience class, and continues as a nonpartisan campus club. The program teaches communication skills which increase understanding and empathy, and fosters relationships and community among a diverse group of people. It provides a space for people to learn from, engage with, and humanize people they may otherwise have tuned out or avoided.

Here is what it would look like:

  • A therapy dog would come to each class
  • Students would connect through fun dog-themed activities
  • Students would be taught Conversational Receptiveness, an evidence based communication method to manage conflict
  • Conversational Receptiveness skills would be practiced and feedback would be given
  • Students would work in small groups to develop a Dogs for Democracy game.  Once developed, the game could be played at club meetings and sold to fund expansion of the program to other campuses.

the steps

The first step is identifying a college that would like to pilot Dogs for Democracy in the fall of 2023.  I have spoken with a professor from a local university who has vetted the idea. I am also participating in The Cleveland Leadership Center Accelerate competition on February 23, 2023 in the Education category.  Through Accelerate I will have the opportunity to connect with NEO leaders who can help me bring this project to life.

Once a college partner is identified I will work with campus staff to adapt the curriculum. By mid summer I will purchase classroom materials, set up the campus club activity budget, schedule the therapy dog and purchase materials to develop the Dogs for Democracy game prototype.

why we're doing it

Democracy is threatened by the political polarization in our country.  I've voted in 11 Presidential elections and I've never seen things this bad. In a democracy it is not possible for everyone to agree.  That will never happen.  But we do want people to live peacefully and to thrive.  Dogs for Democracy is a way to begin to bridge the political divide.

Why College Students?

College campuses have become increasingly diverse over the last 20 years. Students converge on campus from all over the country and even the world. They share campus, and maybe even a dorm, with people who may think differently. Dogs for Democracy recognizes the plurality of college campuses and equips students with the skills to live peacefully in a diverse environment. Additionally, students who learn these transferable skills can take them back to their families and communities, and eventually into the workplace. 

College students are also facing a mental health crisis.  According the the American Psychological Association, 60% of college students meet the criteria for at least one mental health problem, and 52% report feeling lonely. These are not easy problems to solve, but research has shown that students who have strong relationships and feel a sense of belonging on campus have better mental health.  Dogs for Democracy provides community, and the opportunity to develop relationships and feel more connected on campus.

Why me?

I love working with young people who are trying to find their way in the world. For the last 8 years I have worked as career coach specifically for young adults. In my early 50's I earned a master's degree in educational psychology. This degree gave me the tools to develop curriculum, which I use in my private practice today. Dogs for Democracy is another educational program developed for the same population. It leverages my coaching experience, education and background in conflict resolution.

Together we can empower college students with skills that foster connection, promote peace and preserve democracy.


ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $272
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%)
(Donation processing fee does not apply to match funding.)

Classroom materials - $500

Hire therapy dog for class - $200

Campus Activity budget - $1500

Materials for Dogs for Democracy prototype - $800

Game production and marketing expenses - $2000


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