Peter Cundill

Core 30 Portfolio

In 2019 we agreed a radical new giving strategy focused on maximising our ‘Total Impact’. One of the key strands of this new approach is the Core 30 Portfolio. The Core 30 has seen us build fewer, deeper funding partnerships, each one based on a high degree of trust. Core 30 partners will normally benefit from longer-term, unrestricted funding alongside a range of non-financial support to be accessed at the partner’s discretion. While our UK and African Portfolios are now settled, we are still looking for a few additional, great charities focused on improving the lives of children in Canada.

Having spent 2020 identifying strong charities to include in the ‘Core 30’, in 2021 we will be focused on providing beyond-grant support to those charities. That support will include efforts to connect our partners with each other and to other funders, to provide access to capacity building opportunities and to help cohere the sectors our partners work in.

2021 will also see us continue our work to encourage more funders to shift to unrestricted/flexible funding.

While we only have the capacity to evaluate a few organisations in depth, if you work for a charity focused on Canada and would like it to be considered for evaluation, please do send us one to two pages of general information about your work, impact to date and plans. We regret that we cannot respond to or give feedback on these notes (of which we receive a great many) and charities should assume there is no funding available unless and until we get in touch as part of a full evaluation.

The Core 30 so far is a unique charitable organisation based in Canada, working to educate and empower young people to improve the mental health of themselves, their peers, and family. They also harness the voices of youth to advocate for improvements to mental health systems. You can see their unique approach here.

Three things we like about them …

  • Best-in-class digital presence: Their ‘BeThere’ website has been recognised as one of the top health websites globally. Their library of videos and content help them reach more young people effectively.
  • Scalability: Their engaging digital presence plus a staff of 45 a network of 3,000 youth volunteers and hundreds of Jack Talks speakers and Jack Chapters in every part of Canada has helped them reach huge numbers of young people. They openly share and learn from youth mental health organizations globally.
  • Professionalism: Their governance, management and operating systems are exceptionally strong for an organisation that only launched in 2013.

SNAP International Headquarters, a division within the Child Development Institute (CDI), is building a network of service providers across Canada and internationally. SNAP (Stop Now And Plan) is a rigorously tested therapeutic programme which reduces aggressive and impulsive behaviour amongst young participants.

Three things we like about them …

  • Evidence based – SNAP’s Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based model has exceptionally strong external validation through multiple randomized control trials.
  • Life changing – young people and their families who participate in SNAP programmes show sustained improvements in mental health, reductions in anti-social behaviour and crime.
  • Taking to scale – CDI SNAP International Headquarters is expert in training and supporting a network of affiliates who run the programme across Canada and internationally. We are backing them to help the SNAP programme be delivered successfully far and wide.

Columba Leadership provides leadership programmes for students and staff in South African schools.

Three things we like about them …

  • Leadership matters – as an organisation, we believe strongly that better school leadership is a critical pathway to school improvement.
  • Strong evidence of impact – the students CL work with show clear improvements in attainment and in employability one year after completing the programme.
  • Shared purpose – the way Columba brings school and student leadership together into a single programme helps create a shared sense of purpose which binds the school community together.

The equality effect uses a human rights based approach to protect girls from sexual violence while ensuring they can access education.

Three things we like about them …

  • Major wins - through their 160 Girls project, they helped 160 girls to sue the Kenyan government for its failure to protect them from being raped. They won and the case benefited all 10,000,000 girls in Kenya and beyond, and has led to major reforms in Kenyan policing and other sectors.
  • Changing culture – by widely promoting the issues they deal with, e² has helped to raise public awareness of and support for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Working where it matters – by working with police forces, the charity is focused on driving change where it is needed most.

Promoting Equality in African Schools is a multi-award winning charity that supports young Africans from low-income, rural areas into and through quality, secondary education. The organisation creates model school networks, funded sustainably through a combination of public private partnership, local revenues and innovative school financing models. Using their own schools as exemplars, PEAS also partners with government to improve government schools.

Three things we like about them …

  • Quality – students in PEAS schools learn much faster than those in other schools – they arrive well behind national and regional averages but then catch up and overtake them.
  • Access - the children in PEAS schools come from poorer backgrounds than those in government schools.
  • Efficiency - PEAS unit costs are lower than at government schools, while learning levels are higher.

Raising the Village is an action research charity that uses state of the art data analytics to evaluate and scale the most efficient approaches to helping households lift themselves out of ultra-poverty. While it sits outside our increasing focus on education, the organisation is exceptional enough for us to create an exception for it.

Three things we like about them …

  • Data wizardry – by diagnosing the particular challenges an area faces and evaluating the impact of each type of support quickly, RTV is able to focus its programming on generating the greatest social return on investment.
  • The potential to create systemic impact – the rigour of RTV’s action research allows it to confidently advise governments on how best to drive up rural incomes.
  • A focus on the very poorest – RTV seeks out villages with the lowest household incomes, forming last-mile communities where economic and social relationships exist.

IntoUniversity seek to advance the education of children and young people in socially or economically disadvantaged communities in order to increase their chances of entering higher education, securing a place at university or achieving another chosen aspiration.

Three things we like about them …

  • They place great emphasis on evaluating their impact at an increasing number of centres.
  • They substantially increase the rate at which children from tough backgrounds go on to University.
  • They have strong, diversified sources of revenue (including earned revenue from university partners) allowing unrestricted philanthropic dollars to go further.

Place2Be aim to enhance the wellbeing and prospects of children and their families by providing access to therapeutic and emotional support in schools, using a proven model backed up by research and training. By providing early intervention with mental health problems, they can ensure that children and young people have the support they need to build lifelong coping skills and thrive.

Three things we like about them …

  • Impact - They have iterated and developed their whole school model to the point where it is so strong, it should be in every school.
  • Holistic - They recognise the critical importance of children’s adult support network on the wellbeing of the students, and provide specialist resources and services for teachers and parents.
  • Value - By covering most of their programme costs through fees charged to schools, they ensure donor dollars go further. Their model has been proven to deliver value to society, and in the classroom.

SafeLives is the UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for everyone and for good. SafeLives work with organisations across the UK to transform the response to domestic abuse. They listen to survivors, putting their voices at the heart of their thinking. They look at the whole picture for each individual and family to get the right help at the right time, and they challenge perpetrators to change.

Three things we like about them …

  • They are influencing change and use their voice to call for better support for all victims and survivors of abuse.
  • They are innovative and focused on designing approaches to improve support for survivors of domestic abuse and have worked quickly to respond to the current Covid-19 pandemic, providing guidance and support for both survivors and the domestic abuse sector.
  • They are working with perpetrators of abuse to challenge and change their behaviour, so that domestic abuse can be ended altogether.

Sistema Scotland supports children and young people in some of our most disadvantaged communities to realise their potential, improving lives and strengthening communities through music and nurturing relationships.

Three things we like about them …

  • They recognise the powerful effect that achieving ‘excellence’ has on children’s self-esteem.
  • Their approach means beneficiaries build long-term, trusting mentor/mentee type relationships with musical instructors.
  • Big Noise is well evidenced through objective, third-party evaluation.

West London Zone works with children and young people aged 3 to 18 to fulfil their potential and flourish into adulthood. The WLZ programme is a 2-year, personalised and intensive package of support tailored to each child's unique strengths, needs and aspirations, delivered through local charity partners, schools and local authorities.

Three things we like about them …

  • They are focused on measurable improvements in children’s life outcomes, the focus being on early intervention for those children identified as most at risk of challenges both during and after school.
  • Their Link Workers are embedded in schools to ensure a coordinate approach to getting individual children the support they need, both within school and through third party providers.
  • They are a leading ‘place-based’ charity, developing an integrated and increasingly proven model of support that has huge potential for national replication.


Alongside the initial 11 Core 30 partners, we have made a further 14 grants to partners under ongoing evaluation for entry into the Core 30. We are evaluating a further 3 organisations in the UK and 8 organisations in Canada as we finalise the Core 30 portfolio over 2021/22. The high value we place on site visits and deep initial due diligence, combined with COVID-19 restrictions, has slowed down our progress in finalising the 30 partnerships. In future years, new Core 30 grants will only be made where an existing partner exits the portfolio.



Established in 2008 to recognise and promote literary and scholarly achievement, as well as to encourage informed public debate and ignite conversation through the wider dissemination of history writing to new audiences around the world. A grand prize of US$75,000 and two finalist prizes of US$10,000 each are awarded annually to writers of any nationality who have published a book (written in or translated into English) which is determined to make a consequential contribution to our way of looking at the past, present and future, while also being a great read.

There is also a Cundill fellowship programme for outstanding graduate students entering a doctoral programme in McGill’s Department of History & Classical Studies.

As of 2021, The Peter Cundill Foundation is five years into a substantial funding partnership with CAMH in Toronto. Led by Inaugural Director Dr. Peter Szatmari, the Cundill Centre seeks to strengthen the evidence base for approaches to the screening, prevention and treatment of child and youth depression globally. The Cundill Centre also supports the adoption of improved clinical practice in Canada and throughout the world, and is committed to sharing knowledge broadly.

Selected Projects:

  • CARIBOU (Care of Adolescents who Receive Information ‘Bout OUtcomes) is a multidisciplinary care plan for youth with more serious depression. It was created through the synthesis of evidence-based treatment recommendations, clinician input and input from youth - three elements that define the practice of evidence-based medicine. The pathway is structured, guiding young people though treatment steps and allowing them to see the whole picture from the beginning. It is also collaborative, enabling youth, family members and their care team to make treatment decisions together. By standardizing evidence-based care, it is hoped that treatment variability will decrease and youth will achieve positive treatment outcomes. Many tools for youth and clinicians were developed as part of the CARIBOU project. Find them here.
  • The Cundill Centre is collaborating with primary care service providers to address system challenges that prevent young people from accessing mental health services. There is great variability in services in Ontario, and many are not evidence-based. Furthermore, some primary care clinicians do not feel equipped to manage child and youth mental health concerns. In one project, the Centre has partnered with the Georgian Bay Family Health Team, New Path Youth and Family Services, and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in the South Georgian Bay region of Ontario, to develop an interdisciplinary, interagency and evidence-based integrated care pathway for children and youth with depression and anxiety. The goal is to empower primary care clinicians to feel equipped to address child and youth mental health concerns, thereby reducing long wait times for specialty mental health care providers.
  • The Cundill Centre is leading a study to better understand childhood growth and development in low- and medium-income countries. The Nash-wo-Numa study examined development parameters and the nutritional status of about 1,500 young school children in rural Pakistan to discover the relationship between health, environmental stressors, development, mental health, and nutrition and growth outcomes for this group. This research is being used to help develop policy to better support the mental health of children around the world.


For several years, the Foundation has significantly exceeded the offset of its annual carbon footprint through the purchase of carbon credits in Gold Standard certified projects.



The Peter Cundill Foundation, Improving the Lives of Children