The Curriculum of Giving industry impact


Description of impact

The benefits of volunteering and service learning have been well established in research (Casiday et al., 2008; Celio, Durlak, & Dymnicki, 2011). This includes decreased mortality and increased life satisfaction in volunteers, and more positive attitudes towards self and school and the promotion of social skills, civic engagement and academic outcomes in students. Given that Australian youth experience significant health and wellbeing challenges, including high prevalence of unhealthy weight (under and over), psychological disorders and psychological distress (Muir et al., 2009), investigating how giving practices may be integrated more sustainably into school curriculum as a key protective and promoting factor for wellbeing has become an educational and public health imperative. 
The ‘Curriculum of Giving’ (Nielsen & Ma, 2016, 2018) is a philosophical and theoretical framework that recognises giving as being central to community contribution (the focus of volunteering and service learning) and individual self-actualisation and flourishing (the focus of positive psychology). Giving to self and giving to the larger whole are viewed as existing on a continuum of the meaningful life, where each end can support and enable the other. Though an explicit evidence-based pedagogy of giving and wellbeing strategies are provided, the ‘Curriculum of Giving’ is distinct from other wellbeing education initiatives currently implemented in schools because it is not a set program. Rather, the focus is on understanding the underlying principles supported by research that help to link giving behaviours to meaningful living for individual and collective health and wellbeing across many contexts.
Schools and organisations have regularly sought out my consultancy for promoting wellbeing in their students and staff (e.g. 78 professional development sessions and 90 invited talks since 2009 as recorded on PURE). In these sessions, my original research on wellbeing strategies and principles (i.e. ‘The Curriculum of Giving’, also see is disseminated across Australian schools. From this industry engagement alone, my original research and the University have become nationally recognised by school leaders. Ongoing partnerships have been developed with schools wanting to implement ‘The Curriculum of Giving’ at a school-wide level, enabling rich opportunities for action research with in-kind support (e.g. Lake Ginninderra College (output: 2 peer-reviewed publications to date; Nielsen & Ma 2016, 2018; Radford College (in development), The South Australia Department of Education, etc.). In addition to providing a direct service to the teaching and school community, the consultancy I provide also promotes my specific research focus and enables opportunities for action research that builds upon my existing body of work. This promotes the University’s reputation on two levels: at the industry level (having direct impact on ‘the ground’ and with the school community, forging research partnerships) and at the University level (academic publications arising from research in partner schools).