Young people are the winners at BITC Awards

Saeed Atcha leads O2 Think Big project, Xplode Magazine, a business run entirely by young people aged 13-17, producing a lifestyle magazine for other young people in Greater Manchester. Saeed is also the National Young Achiever 2013 and local radio host for 96.5 Bolton FM.

It’s not every day that you’re invited to be representing a massive company such as O2 at an awards ceremony in The Royal Albert Hall!

O2’s Think Big programme was shortlisted for the Business in the Community responsible business award for inspiring social action in young people – and I was asked to help showcase some of the great work that the programme has inspired.

I was so nervous sat in an office in Central London two months ago, before the biggest performance of my life. I was asked to pitch the Think Big programme to some of Britain’s senior business leaders – part of the BITC Judging Panel. Luckily, I was working with a great pitch team including O2’s CEO Ronan Dunne, Head of Sustainability, Bill Eyres and also Amanda Fearn from the National Youth Agency.

The Business in the Community Awards aim to “recognise and celebrate those companies who have shown innovation, creativity and a sustained commitment to Corporate Responsibility.” Let me tell you how Think Big has helped me to show innovation, creativity and how they’re committed to helping me…

In 2011, my vision was to a run a magazine for young people, with young people behind every move that the project takes, so I applied for funding from Think Big and they believed in my idea. Ever since then, Think Big has helped me build my confidence, passion and drive to do more for my community. Its now July 2013, the magazine has just opened its own office, we have a readership of 7,000 and have strong links with many local businesses.

Think Big has helped me develop the skills needed which I could never have learnt at school – I’ve been able to take responsibility for a real business with real deadlines and real people depending on clear leadership. It’s the best way to learn.

I felt great working for Think Big as a Regional Project Coordinator in the North West, promoting and inspiring other young people to change their communities, just like I’ve done to mine.

The event was very well attended and even by our Prime Minister, David Cameron who focused his speech on young people, as well as HRH The Prince of Wales who extended his campaign for community change via social action.

Unfortunately we didn’t win the award for inspiring social action in young people – the winners were JobSite who have a fantastic initiative of decreasing violence on the streets through ‘Music Fusion‘ initiative, Words not Weapons.

But the true winners and the reason behind the award being given for the first time this year, is all down to young people. We’re the community that’s being changed, in fact, we’re changing it through the support and empowerment of programmes like Think Big and JobSite. Young people were the winners whether there’s an award or not.

Think Big has helped me to believe in myself and provided recognition for the important role that Xplode Magazine has in my local area by providing real opportunities for young people to get involved in a positive community project. This year, I was presented the National Young Achiever award by the Young Achievers Trust to demonstrate just how much I’ve learnt with Think Big.

Without O2’s support and Think Big, you wouldn’t be reading this today because I wouldn’t have had this amazing opportunity. Who would’ve thought I’d be here today… I wouldn’t have! After all, you’ve got to Start Small and Think Big!