The ygap and Polished Man story

Polished Man is in its seventh year now. Many people know that the campaign is run by ygap, but not many people know why. Read on to find out.

How did Polished Man start?

Polished Man is a fundraising and awareness campaign that has been run by ygap since 2014. The idea for Polished Man came about when ygap Co-Founder and former CEO, Elliot Costello, travelled to Cambodia in 2013 with one of the Polished Man beneficiary partners, Hagar International. After spending time with a young girl named Thea, who painted his fingernails blue and drew a heart on his palm, Elliot learned that Thea was in Hagar’s care due to the long term abuse she had suffered at the hands of the director of the orphanage where she had once lived. 

Thea’s story stuck with Elliot, and upon returning home the concept for Polished Man began to form; a campaign that asked people to paint a nail blue for the month of October, sparking conversations and raising funds for trauma prevention and trauma recovery for children around the world. The one painted nail represents the one billion children that experience some form of violence every year, and the campaign is named in acknowledgement that men both perpetrate and experience high levels of violence, and are less likely to seek help to recover. 

Polished Man is about changing the narrative and breaking the cycle of violence, by encouraging everyone to paint a nail, have difficult discussions about what is usually a taboo subject, and raise much needed funds to help end violence against children.

What is the relationship between ygap and Polished Man?

In 2014, when Polished Man began, ygap was primarily a fundraising organisation that supported beneficiary partners to implement projects for local change, rather than running its own. In 2016, ygap merged with Spark*, an international organisation that had created programs to back local change in communities around the world. These two organizations blended together their respective strengths, creating an entity that excelled at both fundraising and running programs with the purpose of ending poverty. 

As Polished Man grew alongside the newly merged ygap, the campaign continued to help fund beneficiary partners in the area of trauma recovery, however, the team determined that to truly end violence against children there must be a focus on trauma prevention. In recognition that supporting impact enterprises can be a lever for poverty alleviation as well as creating an environment where children are less likely to experience violence, funds from Polished Man were channeled to ygap’s programs as the key strategy for prevention; helping people lift themselves out of poverty and disadvantage in communities around the world and at the same time, building environments where violence against children was less likely. Seven years on, Polished Man continues to be a campaign fully run and funded by ygap.

How does ending violence against children fit with ygap’s vision? 

ygap’s vision is a world without poverty, and we work to achieve this through backing local change – supporting local impact ventures that use the power of social entrepreneurship to provide opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty and disadvantage; as well as backing local partners whose work improves the overall enabling environment for these impact ventures through systems level change. 

Why focus on social entrepreneurship? Sustainable Development Goal number eight, Decent Work and Economic Growth, underlines that ‘sustained and inclusive economic growth can drive progress, create decent jobs for all and improve living standards’. Backing local change in emerging markets, through supporting locally led impact ventures, is the key lever that ygap uses to work toward a world without poverty. However, poverty is not the only issue that this approach helps to solve. 

The World Health Organisation identifies Income and Economic Strengthening as one of the key levers of their INSPIRE model; seven strategies to prevent violence against children. In the same way that economic independence means that people who have their basic needs met are more able to flourish and provide for their families, it also means that children are more likely to live in happier and safer homes and communities, and are less likely to experience violence.

How are violence and poverty entwined? 

Half the world’s children experienced violence in the last year alone. Witnessing or experiencing violence as a child can have an adverse effect on people’s psychological and physical health into their adult lives, including low self-esteem, self-harm, difficulty forming relationships, depression, homelessness, drug and alcohol dependency; further barriers for people to get ahead in life or lift themselves out of poverty, no matter what opportunities they might have access to. Ventures supported through ygap not only increase opportunities for the people to access things like job creation, job security and better health and education; they are also creating a stronger socially enabling environment for their communities to progress. 

Through its programs, ygap is addressing inequality through income and economic strengthening, creating an environment where people are more able to participate in their community, break cycles of violence, and lift themselves and their families out of poverty and disadvantage.

Why does Polished Man fund ygap’s work? 

Funds raised through Polished Man are channeled towards trauma prevention and trauma recovery, with a focus on prevention because we want to help end the cycle of violence rather than just treat it. 

85% of funds raised are channeled into trauma prevention; programs run through ygap that support impact ventures across Kenya, South Africa, Bangladesh, the Pacific Islands and Australia, to help people lift themselves out of poverty or disadvantage, breaking the cycle of violence through income and economic strengthening, a key pillar of the WHO model for strategies to prevent violence against children. 

While prevention is the only way to truly end violence, we are not there yet. In recognition of the one billion children who have already experienced violence in the last year alone, Polished Man contributes 15% of funds raised through the campaign to trauma recovery programs run through world-class organisations Hagar, SAMSN, the Australian Childhood Foundation and the New York Centre for Children.

To find out more about Polished Man, or to sign up to this year’s campaign, head to