Great Ydeas – Where are they now with Hannah Wandel

12 April 2017

Great Ydeas is YWCA Canberra’s small grants program, providing up to $2,000 to women to help kickstart a great idea for a business, community development project, or to support professional development or education and training opportunities. Applications for the 2017 Great Ydeas program are now closed, and in the lead up to announcing this year’s winners, we’re featuring some of our amazing past recipients to highlight what can be achieved through the program.

Hannah Wandel received a Great Ydeas grant in 2014 for her project, Country to Canberra, a national not-for-profit organisation connecting young women from rural communities with leadership development opportunities.  Here, she tells us how Country to Canberra has continued to evolve, and shares some of the biggest lessons she’s learned along the way.

You can also hear from Hannah at our Great Ydeas Innovation Breakfast on April 27 at QT Canberra, where she will feature as a panelist. You can read more about this event here.
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When did you receive your Great Ydeas grant and what did it enable you to achieve?

I was excited, grateful and outrageously nervous to receive my Great Ydeas grant in 2014, because I knew it would significantly change my life– and it did! The grant enabled me to launch a nationwide not-for-profit called Country to Canberra, which empowers young women across rural and remote Australia to reach their leadership potential. Over the past three years, we’ve established leadership competitions and Power Trips to Canberra, workshops in rural schools, a national Blogger Team for teens, plus, we provide mentorship opportunities for rural girls.

I first heard about Great Ydeas just after moving to Canberra. I was new to the city, so decided to head along to my first-ever YWCA Canberra event to meet other passionate local women. While there, I happened to stumble upon a flyer for the organisation’s grants program, and swiftly slid it into my handbag. I had been thinking about gender equality issues in the context of rural Australia for some time, and decided there was no better time to put my ideas into action.

I worked hard on my Great Ydeas application, and secretly sent it off without telling a soul. Fortunately, I was a winner, and since that day, my life has never been the same. Country to Canberra has grown into a large organization with a volunteer team and multiple programs, been featured on countless media channels and we’ve had the likes of Julie Bishop, Tanya Plibersek, Jacqui Lambie, Fiona Nash, Gai Brodtmann,, Anne Ruston and the executives of UN Women Australia and Defence involved in our programs. Personally, I have learnt how to run a thriving organization, have been named in Australia’s 100 Women of Influence, was an ACT Young Woman of the Year finalist and a Layne Beachley Scholarship Winner. I’ve also become a YWCA Canberra Board Director, as well as a public speaker and media commentator on equality, youth and rural affairs. Most importantly, the grant catalyzed me to help reach hundreds of girls and spread the gender equality message across Australia.

How has your project evolved since receiving the grant?

In our first year, Country to Canberra consisted of just me, and a couple of my (amazing!) friends who helped mind politicians at our events. We held just one Power Trip for three girls, lasting one day and a night. Since then, our Power Trip has broadened to four days and three nights, including an entire leadership development day, public speaking training with TEDxCanberra, and a mentorship collaboration with Raising Hope Education Foundation! In 2016, we flew 12 girls out to the ACT, and hosted our prestigious ‘Powerful Women’s Breakfast’ at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra, who came on board as a sponsor.

Over time, I’ve recruited a talented, motivated team of 9 volunteers. From social media, to running our Blogger Team to events, these passionate go-getters are inspiring me every day and help grow our NFP.

We’ve also started holding major fundraisers, like our Leading Change Panel Event with PwC Canberra, have grown to have multiple financial partners, like Defence Force Recruiting and Maurice Blackburn, and run ad hoc campaigns!

When C2C was about one-year old, I decided I wanted to do more to help young women who may not have the ability or confidence to enter our ‘leadership competition’ or Blogger Team, so I set about creating leadership workshops. Now, after winning the first-ever Act of Women Giving Grant and after securing additional funding, we are making our ‘Project Empower’ workshops a reality.

What are the three biggest things you’ve learnt along the way?

Speak your ideas out loud: ask! No one is going to sponsor you, join your team or help you achieve your goals, if you aren’t willing to advocate for your ideas. To be successful, you need to be fearless, authentic and engaging when selling your message. In June 2014, I had just won the Great Ydeas grant and knew I wanted to host a Powerful Women’s Breakfast for politicians and rural girls and saw that Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann was speaking at an event I was attending. Politely, I lined up, and when it was my turn, I started telling Gai about this new organisation I was founding, and despite not yet having a logo, website, or any actual participants, would she be willing to come to our first ever breakfast?  Lucky for me, she said yes. Recently, Gai came to C2C’s 2016 breakfast, along with the Foreign Minister, Assistant Minister for Agriculture and more. Just ‘asking’ for help has delivered me a long-time supporter and friend.

Hard work and good values. You can’t have success without these. I’ve seen people fail or flail when running a campaign, business or NFP, and often, it’s due to a lack of work ethic or because their heart isn’t in it. If you are launching an NFP because you want to have personal success, or see it as a career launching pad, then chances are people will ultimately see through you. Fortunately, having strong vales and a solid moral compass has helped me make smart and equitable decisions, in the best interests of gender equality and rural Australia. Similarly, people have asked me how I managed to get C2C up and running so quickly. The answer is hard work. I made a business plan, created a website and logo (with zero experience), took risks, skipped parties and made tough choices. But this hard work, combined with my genuine desire to do good, has paid generous dividends.

Networks: collaboration is key. Coffees, coffees, coffees. I have had more breakfast meet-ups over the past three years, than I could have imagined! But by meeting new people and being open to fresh ideas, I have grown C2C and my personal network base. Networking has lead to our Raising Hope Collaboration, new bloggers, and importantly, helped me spread word about our programs to schools, teachers and students.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying for a Great Ydeas grant?

Spend the time on your application that it deserves. Think through your idea’s practical application, why it’s needed, and why the Y should invest in you. I’d also say that if you’ve got an idea, act on it now! You never know what the future holds!

What does the future hold for your project?

Growth and greater national impact. I want to see more girls enter our competition, more politicians and CEO’s come to our events, host more fundraisers and engage more of the community. I want more conversations about equality and more action to implement change. I want Project Empower workshops to roll out nationally, and for us to be considered one of the peak young women’s bodies in Australia. I want our programs to help more young women pursue leadership roles, and create a more thriving regional, rural and remote Australia.

How can people get involved?

Volunteer, sign up to our newsletter, follow us online and spread the word! I’m also planning our workshops at the moment, so if anyone has any expertise, I’d love to hear from you! Just email hannah@countrytocanberra.com.au

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