Youth social action: an opportunity for business

For BITC’s 2014 Responsible Business Week, I have been asked to speak at the session ‘Youth social action: an opportunity for business.’

It’s an opportunity that Telefónica UK (you probably know us as O2) has been embracing for some time.  We encourage youth-led social action, funding young people to turn their ideas into reality and lead projects in their local community.  Through Think Big, we’ve funded over 5000 projects led by young people making a difference to thousands more young people and developing skills for life.  In fact, last year BITC awarded us with a Big Tick for inspiring social action in young people. We’re also proud to be supporting the Step up to Serve campaign, helping more young people to use their skills and talents to change the world.

But why?

We started because our customers, stakeholders and our people told us that we should be supporting young people.  The high number of young people not in employment, education or training was bad for society – but also bad for the economy and communities. Our customers were worried about young people becoming disconnected.

So, we’ve levered the skills and expertise of our O2 people to help. As well as helping them feel #ProudToWorkFor O2, we have also found that for every £1 we invest in engaging our people in Think Big to deliver sustainability benefits, they deliver £1.40 back to our business.

We’ve found other benefits from our work – including shared value partnerships with our charity delivery partners, supporting social initiatives like Step up to Serve, and working closely with government departments.

But for us that’s not all.  As a digital communications company, we’re excited about the possibilities of technology to address some of the most intractable social problems we face. That’s why we’re helping young people to develop and utilise their innate digital skills to solve problems, to collaborate, to develop their ideas and to scale them.

Together, we’re equipping young people with the digital, entrepreneurial and work skills to succeed – either running their own social ventures, or innovating from the inside, bringing their digital skills and creativity to employers across the UK and Europe. It’s an investment in the innovators of the future – the social, digital and creative entrepreneurs that will ride the digital wave, disrupting and re-shaping society.

And that is our other business benefit.  An investment in the future.  An investment in the future talent that will power our economic growth and help us deliver a fairer and more sustainable future for everyone.

Bill will be speaking at Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Week session on Growing youth social action: the opportunities for business on Tuesday 1st April.