Measuring the impact of Think Big

It’s #iwill week – a chance to celebrate and shine the spotlight on youth social action across the UK, as part of the Step up to Serve #iwill campaign. The campaign aims to inspire over 50% of 10-20 year olds to regularly take part in youth social action – practical action in the service of others – by 2020.

O2 has been a proud supporter of youth social action since 2010, inspiring over 6000 young people aged 13-25 to take part in the Think Big youth programme, leading social change in their communities. We’ve supported inspirational young people like Saeed Atcha who set up Xplode Magazine to tackle negative perceptions of young people. Saeed recently turned his social action project into a registered charity, supporting young people across Bolton and Greater Manchester to build their skills and employability. Find out more about Saeed’s story here.

During #iwill week, we’re proud to share the latest results of our independent evaluation of the Think Big programme, conducted by Professor Tony Chapman at Durham University. We’re committed to annually assessing the impact of our investments in young people and I’m proud to say that for every £1 we invest in the Think Big programme, we’re securing almost £4 in social value – through increased skills and self confidence, constructive youth-led engagement and the positive community impact of youth projects on thousands of beneficiaries across the UK.

The Think Big programme also closely reflects the six principles of high quality youth social action, as defined by the #iwill campaign:

  • Challenging: The evaluation confirms that the Think Big programme is stretching and challenging young people, helping them to build new skills and capabilities.
  • Youth-led: A key principle of Think Big is youth-led social action – putting money and trust directly into young people’s hands to make positive change happen.
  • Socially impactful: Youth projects are impacting a range of social issues in communities across the UK, and making a difference is a key motivation for young people who take part.
  • Embedded: Over 75% of young people who take part in Think Big continue to participate in positive social action after their project has finished.
  • Progressive: Young people who take part in the programme have opportunities to progress onto Think Bigger, accessing additional funding, and also into to access work experience and skills.
  • Reflective: Think Big encourages young people to reflect on their learning, helping them to identify their growth and personal development.

Think Big is also a socially inclusive programme, and we’re proud of our sustained track record in engaging young people from all backgrounds, including those with fewer opportunities. Reflecting on the key achievements and outcomes of the evaluation, Professor Tony Chapman said, ‘Think Big promotes positive interactions amongst diverse groups of young people and the communities within which they live. It also widens social horizons, contributes to social cohesion and increases levels of empathy and tolerance.’

Our investment in Think Big reflects O2’s belief in the talent and potential of young people to change the world. We’re hugely proud of the impact of our programme and we’re committed to acting on the insights and learnings contained in the latest report. As a digital business, we’re also excited to see how young people can use technology to drive social change, whilst also equipping them with the skills and capabilities required to compete in the digital economy. In 2015, we’ll be encouraging more young people to Think Big, using technology as a force for social good.

Our programme would not be possible without the generous support of the Telefonica Foundation and the expertise of our youth delivery partners, National Youth Agency, UK Youth who, with over 80 youth organisations, help us to reach and inspire thousands of young people annually. Our huge thanks to everyone who continues to support and inspire young people to develop the enterprise, digital and work skills to succeed.

You can read the Think Big impact report here.