Social Action and the Power of Digital

By Mark Evans, CEO

O2 is a proud supporter of Step up to Serve’s #iwill campaign to encourage and enable more young people to get involved with social action – volunteering, fundraising and campaigning.  Every November #iwill week provides an opportunity to celebrate and recognise young people who are achieving extraordinary things through social action.

In 2014 O2’s Go Think Big programme provided funding for the then 14 year old Chloe Hine to start Beat the Bullies – a project to support other young people who are being bullied.  Her work has helped thousands of other young people and last week she was interviewed by HRH the Duke of Cambridge for the launch film of a new campaign by the Royal Foundation’s Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying.

Chloe is one of over 8,000 young people who have received funding and mentoring from O2’s Go Think Big over the last six years to run social action projects.  She is a former #iwill ambassador and this week her brother, Lewis – who has also been backed by O2’s Go Think Big – was one of 50 new #iwill ambassadors announced by Step up to Serve in recognition of Friend Finder, an initiative Lewis set up to help seriously ill children make and maintain friendships.

Another new #iwill ambassador supported by O2’s Go Think Big is Keiran Harvey from Midlothian, who runs Youth Radio Network – an online radio station by young people for young people that provides a platform for performers and artists and promotes youth volunteering opportunities in Keiran’s local community.

Youth social action by people like Chloe, Lewis and Keiran provides a double benefit.  It not only helps the individuals and communities who are the recipients of the social action; it also helps the young people who deliver it by allowing them to develop important skills like project delivery, self-confidence and problem solving, which are valuable in helping young people succeed in the world of work.

Over 70% of young people supported by O2’s Go Think Big programme say that running a social action project helps them communicate with people, take responsibility for a task, make decisions, work in a team and manage their time. These are great skills for young people to bring in to a business. That’s why at O2 we ensure that young job applicants are given the opportunity to tell us about their social action experience and encouraged to share their stories with us.

Friend Finder and Youth Radio Network are two examples of how digital technology helps young people reach their audiences and deliver social action in impactful ways that are not possible with just analogue tools.  They show the transformational impact of technology to achieve positive social change.

O2 wants to encourage and enable more young people to get involved in the ‘tech for good’ movement.  This will make society stronger and kinder, give young people important work and life skills, help develop a young talent base for the UK digital economy and inspire other young people to recognise the value of youth social action to themselves and to others.