O2 drives social action with ground-breaking £5m investment in young people

Research shows that 46 per cent of adults believe there is a negative view of young people in society2. To help counter this perception, this innovative social action programme will inspire and celebrate young people by putting £300 directly in their hands. In addition to the cash, young people will receive training, support and mentoring in partnership with some of the UK’s leading youth charities to help tackle the issues that really matter to them.

New research commissioned by O2 from New Philanthropy Capital demonstrates that a little investment can make a big difference in the hands of a passionate, skilled and engaged young person. They estimate that giving £300 to one young person would deliver £3,300 in terms of return for their community. To inform the economic analysis, New Philanthropy Capital used the example of 18-year-old Jamie Coley from Huddersfield. Jamie runs a bike recycling scheme with local charity Pit Stop. Jamie fixes bikes that have been donated by West Yorkshire Police and trains other young people to do the same.

O2’s UK Chief Executive, Ronan Dunne, says: ‘Research shows that today’s society paints a negative picture of young people in Britain. We want to help change that by supporting grassroots social action. We believe young people’s ideas can have a huge positive impact on their communities and we want to enable and empower them to deliver change for themselves.

‘Our customers tell us we should do more to support young people and this is a totally new approach; it’s not about top-down corporate social responsibility, it’s about listening to young people and working with them to create genuine social change.’

Think Big has been developed in conjunction with two of the UK’s leading youth charities, National Youth Agency and UK Youth, and with the support of the Telefonica Foundation, accessing its world class expertise in social action to support children and young people.

Young people aged between 13 and 25 will be able to apply for £300 grants to run projects to help their local communities. This could include helping to fight local knife crime, overhauling a community garden, teaching music to other young people or starting a local youth group. The most important thing is that the projects are chosen and run by young people themselves. In addition to the cash injection, the young participants will also benefit from a comprehensive package of training and support: from project management to communications, and from presentation skills to networking. After the initial grant, they will then have the chance to apply for £2,500 to further boost their project. Training and support will be delivered through O2’s charity partners.

Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive at the National Youth Agency added, ‘This project will help to combat the negative image of young people in the UK and change how they are being portrayed in the media. We need more initiatives like O2’s Think Big programme, which give young people the opportunity to make a difference, both to their own lives, and to their communities.’

In addition to the investment that O2 is making, customers can get behind Think Big through an innovative investment model which will give funds to the programme. O2 will give £5 for every sim-only tariff that is purchased and £1 for every handset recycled through o2recycle.co.uk to Think Big, thereby linking O2’s social action and sustainability programmes to drive mutual benefit.

O2 has a strong heritage in supporting young people to play a positive role in their local communities and was recently recognised by the Sunday Times Best Place to Work study as being the best large company for giving something back to society. The company’s 12,000 employees will play a big role in supporting the Think Big youth project by acting as mentors to young people, or by actively volunteering their time to support a young person’s project.

Think Big is O2’s social change programme covering everything from communities to charities to the environment. It builds on the success of O2’s It’s Your Community initiative which, since 2007, has granted money to over 1,000 youth-focused projects.

Think Big has been developed in partnership with the Telefonica Foundation accessing its world-class expertise on social action to support children and young people. The Telefonica Foundation was created in 1998 in Spain with the aim of establishing a long-term structure for the social and cultural activities of all companies of the Telefonica group, which includes the O2 companies. Many O2 people have already participated in the Telefonica Foundation’s Proni¤o programme that supports over 163,000 children in education across Latin America.

To find out more about Think Big, visit www.o2thinkbig.co.uk.
To find out more about Think Big, visit www.o2thinkbig.co.uk

Quote from the Telefonica Foundation:
‘Fundacion Telefonica is very pleased to be supporting the launch of the Think Big programme in partnership with O2 in the UK. It is an innovative initiative and builds on our strong track record of supporting disadvantaged children and young people through social action across the footprint of Telefonica.’
Alejandro Diaz Garreta, Fundacion Telefonica

1 The exact figure is £3,300. This figure is based on the specific case study of 18 year-old Jamie Coley from Huddersfield. Before Jamie started his bike recycling scheme at Pit Stop, the charity had to throw away the stolen bikes donated to them by the local West Yorkshire police. Now, every Thursday, Jamie and a few other Pit Stop volunteers teach other young people how to fix the bikes. In return, young people get to keep the bike they have fixed. As a monthly bus pass for a young person in West Yorkshire costs £30, access to a bike could halve their transport costs by £180 annually; in addition, each bike has a value of £40.

This means that the O2 Think Big grant in Jamie’s hands will enable him to save £220 for 15 young people in his area, equating to a community saving of £3,300 in total. Furthermore, this doesn’t take into account additional benefits to the community as well as the softer benefits such as skills, confidence and team-working experience that other young people will gain through working with Jamie. An unemployed seventeen year old is predicted have earned £21,700 less by age 30 than one who stays in school or work. The returns are huge if Jamie can inspire just one of his young volunteers not to drop out of education.
2 Source: Good Business Concerned Index, September 2009