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Stories from On Board

David Sacks - Smiling Mind

David Sacks

David is a Partner and the Consulting Government & Public Sector Leader at PwC Australia Consulting. He also leads PwC Australia’s Education and Skills practice.

Smiling Mind is a non-for-profit web and app-based meditation program developed by psychologists and educators to help bring mindfulness into your life.

What attracted you to the Smiling Mind board? 

The purpose of Smiling Mind was what attracted me to the board role. Smiling Mind focuses on helping student minds to thrive. It is Australia's largest NFP focussed on mindfulness, with a free App that provides an accessible tool to build healthy minds. I could see the organisation had an amazing ambition but their engagement with Government was under-done and there was an opportunity to broaden their focus beyond philanthropy

What did you think you had to offer? What did your fresh and highly skilled eyes bring to the table? 

I have been able to help Smiling Mind build connections with Government and develop the maturity of their relationships in order to create greater impact. I have also been able to bring my knowledge of the Education sector in Australia.

What did you achieve? 

We have been able to secure significant funding from both the NSW State Government and the Federal Government which has led to 3-fold growth and enabled Smiling Mind to go into a further 800 schools. I’ve been able to help shift the focus of Smiling Mind from number of downloads to impact. I have also played a role in guiding the board about how Smiling Mind can play to a "bigger game" and be more ambitious in our government funding targets. The main achievement has been that more young children are practising mindfulness, leading to better learning outcomes and better lives.

What have you learned from experience? 

"Heaps". I have learnt how small and agile organisations truly embrace diversity, in particular cognitive diversity. Smaller organisations need to be diverse to survive and there is much that we can learn from them. For me there has also been much I have been able to learn about the nexus of education and mental health. I have also improved my digital knowledge through the work our board has done on our App.

What will you never forget as a result? 

The key memory for me was the endorsement we got in the middle of a Federal election from both sides of politics. It was true bipartisan support that acknowledged the impact of the work that Smiling Mind is doing and transcended the election. I will never forget the feeling when I heard from our CEO about the funding we received. 

Advice to other PwC people considering putting their hand up for a NFP board position? 

  1.  Be really clear on why you want to do it and focus on the outcomes you want to drive.
  2. Be clear on your value proposition.
  3. Go in with an open mind - we are experts in our realm but in these board roles we are able to learn so much. 


Contact us

Rosalie Wilkie

Partner, Social Impact, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 2 8266 8381

Jane Edwards

Director, Social Impact, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 3 8603 5839

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