Archive for the ‘Vani Jain’ Category

Bringing WellAhead to Life: Launch Week in British Columbia

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Note: This piece was originally published on the WellAhead website. It has been posted here with permission from the author.

vani-authorIf you’ve been following the development of the WellAhead initiative, you’ve probably asked yourself the very reasonable question, “what will this actually look like?” We, too, have struggled at times to bring this concept – using a social innovation lab approach to integrating wellbeing into schools – to fruition. Thanks to a stellar team, some great advice from experts across the country, and incredible passion and interest on the ground, it has finally happened.

In July, we selected six BC communities to take part as pilot districts in the first year of WellAhead (out of a total of 41 applicants, representing 2/3 of all school districts in the province!). Since then, we’ve been working with these six districts – Alberni, Coquitlam, Nisga’a, Okanagan Skaha, Sea to Sky and Victoria – to take them through the first stages of the social innovation lab process. This process begins with “building the foundation” – examining data and hearing from stakeholders to understand the local context. In each district, we are working with a WellAhead Community Liaison and a Local Planning Team who are leading the process with support from the WellAhead team.


Lost in the Woods

vani-authorFor the past one and a half years (ok, maybe two), I’ve been developing the Foundation’s strategy in the area of child and youth mental health. This part of the panarchy cycle is affectionately referred to internally as “walks in the woods” – time spent understanding the field and its players, the key challenges and opportunities, and the ways in which philanthropic involvement can have the greatest impact. This exploration phase is an important “time to reflect on the dynamics you intuitively sense so that you are able to accurately articulate the environment and the issues at play” before launching into action. For me, this stage of work was at once both inspiring and, well… uncomfortable. Let me explain.


I began my walk with no preconceived idea of where I would end up – a mindset that translated to lots of open-ended questions and a vast array of issues to consider. I spoke to many passionate people who had dedicated their lives to improving the mental health and wellbeing of our young people, and who, together, painted a complex picture of the system we were dealing with. Dedicating this length of time to research and consultation was extremely valuable to our process, and enabled me to see the system from multiple perspectives.