Is The Big Society spirit alive and well' Adults believe in youngsters but still won't back them with cash

New research published today reveals that the overwhelming majority (71%) of adults believe young people have the power to make a real impact in the local community. However, when it comes to the crunch, almost half of them (46%) believe that young people would in fact squander money earmarked for the local community on themselves, if given the opportunity.

At a time when the Prime Minister is hoping to bring communities together with a message of people power, the YouGov survey, commissioned by O2, exposes adults’ lack of support for young people. Nearly half (46%) of adults thought young people had an irresponsible attitude to money. Whilst almost a third of adults (29%) believed young people would actively misuse community cash on buying material goods such as clothes, music or DVDs.

To champion young people and showcase the positive role they play in society, this summer O2 has launched Think Big, an exciting new five million pound scheme which will back young people’s ideas to make a positive difference in their local community.

The programme, which is designed to support and celebrate the role young people play in their communities, will put £300 directly in the hands of young people and support them to use the cash in way which delivers a positive impact in their local area. In addition to the cash, young people receive training and mentoring to help them tackle the local issues that really matter to them.

The survey also revealed that only a minority of adults (20%) thought that young people care about their local community. Whilst, 19 per cent of adults believed that if a young person was tasked with running a community project, the project would fail to deliver a positive impact. O2 takes the opposite view and believes that young people’s passion, motivation and ideas can deliver big returns for the local community. This view is supported by independent analysis from a leading think tank which has shown that a £300 Think Big award in the hands of one young person can deliver a ten-fold return for the local community[1].

Bill Eyres, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at O2 said: ‘The new Government has committed to taking action to encourage greater social responsibility and has called for people to come together to improve local communities. At O2, we believe young people can be the catalyst for this kind of positive change. It’s easy and convenient to buy into the stereotype and write young people off as disinterested and disengaged. But that’s not the reality. With the right backing, we believe young people can play a big role in their local community, that’s why we are putting our money where our mouth is.

‘What’s unique about Think Big is that we’ve deliberately not set limits on young people’s creativity. Whether young people are passionate about forming a street dance group, or want to improve facilities at the local youth club, Think Big exists to help them bring their ideas to life.’

He continues: ‘At a time when young people face a really tough job market, Think Big will provide young participants with the opportunity to boost their CV through a comprehensive package of training and support, from project management and communications, to presentation skills and networking. That’s why this summer we are calling on all young people aged 13-25 across the UK to visit the Think Big website and be amongst the first to apply for the chance to make their ideas a reality.’

Out of 12 major UK cities, the survey revealed that adults from Liverpool trust young people the least, with over half (53%) saying that they thought local youngsters would misuse community cash. In contrast, adults in Belfast had the highest regard for young people, with just 38% of adults believing that young people would squander money earmarked for the local community.

Percentage of adults who believed young people would spend money earmarked for the local community on themselves:

1. Liverpool (53%)

2. Newcastle (51%)

3. Southampton (50%)

4. London (48%)

5. Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham (46%)

8. Edinburgh (45%)

9. Leeds (44%)

10. Nottingham (43%)

11. Bristol (42%)

12. Belfast (38%)

If you’re aged 13-25 and you’re ready to Think Big for your local community, visit to find out more information and apply online.

Think Big has been developed in conjunction with two of the UK’s leading youth charities, National Youth Agency and UKYouth, and with the support of the Telefonica Foundation.

[1] Source: New Philanthropy Capital analysis, March 2010