The initiative, which is being developed in partnership with UK Youth and the National Youth Agency, sees young people aged between 13 and 25 offered £300 grants to run projects to help their local communities, with the possibility of an extra £2,500 grant later. Projects are chosen and run by young people themselves. It is also has the support of the Telefónica Foundation.
Mentors will include members of O2’s staff, with the company hoping up to 40% of its 12,000 employees will be involved from branches, call centres, the O2 Academy venues and other network ventures. Charity representatives will ensure the support reflects the needs of the young people in the best possible way.
Think Big replaces the company’s “It’s your Community” project, which ran from 2007. If successful, O2 says it aims to extend Think Big across Europe.
Speaking exclusively to Marketing Week, O2’s UK chief executive, Ronan Dunne, says: “We want the O2 brand to be seen as an enabler and an aggregator. For us, this project is about enabling young people to be creative and literally think big without bureaucracy getting in the way. We’re enabling the charities to create genuine social change with the potential to make a long term difference.”
Think Big will be supported by a social media website and will be communicated to existing customers from April. Applicants like Jamie Coley, 18 (pictured), who started his bike recycling scheme at local charity Pit Stop, will be able to use the O2 Think Big grant, to fix an additional fifteen bikes.
O2 says £2m will be dedicated to paying young people using O2 Money cards and £3m will be devoted to training, support and mentoring. The young people will then be encouraged to write about their experiences online. O2 will also give £5 for every sim-only tariff that is purchased and £1 for every handset recycled through o2recycle.co.uk to Think Big.
Applicants will be judged by an independent panel of field experts and will be encouraged to post their stories online.
Dunne says: “This is not about top-down corporate social responsibility or promoting the brand, but taking our own brand values and making new things happen.”
Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive at the National Youth Agency, adds: “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.”
Rivals Orange unveiled its CSR scheme RockCorps in 2008. It is a volunteering programme that offers consumers the chance to win concert tickets in exchange for performing good deeds, which has grown in size over the last year.