A Big Tick for Think Big

Amanda Fearn currently works for the National Youth Agency, a leading youth charity committed to supporting youth work, youth workers  and young people. She is the Programme Manager for the flagship corporate social responsibility programme ‘Think Big’, working  in partnership with O2 and the Telefónica Foundation. Amanda has worked in the youth sector for 18 years. Originally a front line worker with young people with multiple life challenges, Amanda continues to strive towards supporting the youth work sector to provide services and opportunities that help young people grow, enjoy and achieve. Here, she talks about what’s shaping up to be a big year for Think Big…

Can you believe it is June already? 2013 is in full swing and the weather is about to become glorious…in the world of Think Big we feel the sun is already shining on us. I’m lucky to work with young people on the Think Big programme and see them achieve amazing things everyday.  Think Big is a social action programme for young people aged 13-25 who want to develop their leadership skills and make a positive change in their community.

Since starting (we have just celebrated our third birthday) we have funded over 4000 big ideas from young people. Think Big is a brilliant opportunity for young people to use their skills and talents to do great things in their community – and help tackle negative stereotypes in the process. We also offer training, support and opportunities to help young people realise their potential. We help them network, share ideas and feel great about what they are doing. We want to help give them a lift up during challenging times, help build a spirit of social entrepreneurialism and grow digital skills – so important in today’s digital world.

You may think I am biased (a teeny bit) BUT our young people are testament to the fact that this programme is a huge success. They bring energy, innovation, freshness and hope. For some, success is a small step – feeling more connected in their community, trying new things, developing skills, growing in confidence. For others it is about growing their own sustainable social business, being the next generation of employers and entrepreneurs. Our last evaluation report showed lots of great impact but the bit that resonates for me is that we help young people to build resilience – the ability to cope and adapt in changing (and challenging) circumstances.

The National Youth Agency manages the Think Big Youth Programme on behalf of the Telefónica Foundation and O2, working in partnership together with UK Youth. We also have 70 other youth organisations working with us across the UK to reach young people. The programme is great example of how business and charity can come together and bring exciting opportunity to young people and make a difference to their lives.

Earlier this year, we put ourselves forward for the Business in the Community (BITC) responsible business award for inspiring social action in young people.  The awards identify and celebrate best practice and are widely recognised as one of the most respected endorsements of responsible business. We wanted to shout from the roof tops about what young people are achieving. We are really proud that we have grown, developed and have a library of truly inspirational stories – and we were joined by one of our own Think Big Project Leaders, Saeed Atcha, to tell his story and show first hand how an idea, with belief, support and funds can flourish.

Today we are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a BITC Big Tick, recognising Think Big as one of the best examples from across the UK of businesses making a positive difference and inspiring youth social action. And we’re shortlisted to win the award. How excited are we?! (Very!)

Whatever the outcome, we have had an opportunity, through the BITC Awards, to tell the story of Think Big. And to show just what can be achieved when you give young people money and trust to turn their ideas into action. So we will get the glad rags on, join the awards celebrations and toast the positive power of business and the wonderful partnerships that can make the world feel like a brighter, warmer place.

We believe in young people.  We need to back them, celebrate their talent, and give them hope. Because we believe, that given the chance, they have the power to make things better for everyone.

You can find out more about Think Big at www.o2thinkbig.co.uk @O2UKThinkBig and learn more about the work of National Youth Agency at www.nya.org.uk @natyouthagency.