In November Philanthropy Australia announced the 2021 Australian Philanthropy Awards, with Gandel Foundation winning the Bolder Philanthropy category Award for the second year in a row. After winning the prestigious Bolder Philanthropy award in 2020 for the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators, in 2021 Gandel Foundation won in the same category for its long-standing philanthropic partnership with Smiling Mind, a charity pioneering the use of technology and mindfulness to strengthen young people’s mental wellbeing.
The Bolder Philanthropy Award category recognises “philanthropic investment that is used as ‘social risk capital’ to provide early-stage support for an initiative, helping scale or evolve it to deliver sustained positive change.” The criteria also take into account “additional non-financial role of the grant-maker, such as convening, leveraging, influencing and advocating, which contributes further to the initiative’s success”.
Following the announcement Gandel Foundation CEO Vedran Drakulic OAM said he was honoured that Gandel family’s philanthropic work has again been recognised, this time for its innovative, trailblazing and impactful partnership in the area of youth mental health prevention and early intervention.
“Our relationship with Smiling Mind started back in 2014, when mindfulness as a concept for improving mental wellbeing and resilience in children, as well as use of technology via apps to achieve that, were both in their infancy.”
The Gandel family see this award as recognition of not only their foundation, but more importantly the work of our charity partners such as Smiling Mind, who are brave enough in their thinking and bold enough to dream big,” added Mr Drakulic.
“Gandel Foundation saw the vision and innovation of Smiling Mind, and a clear connection to their desire to support youth mental health in a different way. Taking a bold move to support a completely new model and a highly innovative start-up charity, the Gandel’s foundational and ongoing support has enabled us to become a leader in the provision of accessible technology-led programs to support the good mental health of Australians, reaching more than 6.3 million people to date,” said Dr Addie Wootten, CEO of Smiling Mind.
Early Gandel Foundation support enabled Smiling Mind to build, prototype and test the early app for children and school. Initial funding also supported an extensive curriculum mapping piece of work. From that early support the Smiling Mind schools program has been born, which now provides an extensive range of mindfulness based social and emotional learning resources for children, teachers and parents, a world-class teacher training program and a virtual learning hub that is accessible to teachers across Australia and globally.
Smiling Mind has scaled its schools programs from a handful of teachers when Gandel Foundation initially supported the organisation to reaching more than 190,000 educators using the programs in 2020, with more than 5.5 million children and young people reached since its beginnings.
“The ‘test-run’ programs initially funded by Gandel Foundation now form a core part of our major programs being delivered in schools across the country and funded by both State and Federal Government departments. We could not have achieved what we did without the initial support and belief entrusted in us by Gandel Foundation – because they also funded the platform’s capacity!,” added Dr Wootten.
“To us, this is a story of vision, risk taking and trust that has provided an incredible “return on investment” in terms of social benefit, many times over! Our partnership has achieved great things – but the exciting thing is that there is so much more to achieve and this partnership will continue to grow,” said Dr Wootten.
Gandel Foundation made another important contribution to the work and success of Smiling Mind, by influencing and advocating with key stakeholders such as philanthropy and government.
The Gandel family has had a long-standing involvement in supporting organisations and programs related to mental health and wellbeing, including a number of pioneering efforts. In addition to supporting Smiling Mind, other innovative projects supported include REVERB, a co-design project with young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, aiming to address the stigma surrounding mental health, delivered by the Centre for Multicultural Youth, and Australia’s first private, women-only mental health hospital, the Lisa Thurin Women’s Health Centre, established by the Cabrini Hospital.
In conclusion, Mr Drakulic added that the focus on mental health and wellbeing has arguably never been more important, especially in young people – and the Bolder Philanthropy Award acknowledges that.
“Given the turmoil of the past 18 months due to the COVID pandemic, it is clear that mental wellbeing of young people needs to be prioritised. Statistics show that one in four secondary and one in seven primary school aged kids experience mental health challenges in any one year. As such, it is absolutely imperative that students, teachers and parents are equipped with high quality, evidence-based, accessible tools and resources that can be provided at scale – and Smiling Mind offers just that,” concluded Mr Drakulic.