I’m Aaron Hay, and with Forum for the Future, I help O2 make their Think Big Blueprint happen. This is their plan for delivering big benefits to people, planet and customers. On 21 May, I got the unique opportunity to attend the Think Big third birthday celebrations – O2’s sustainability strategy for people and planet.

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This event was held at Wayra Academy – the London base for Telefónica’s digital start-up accelerator. As I arrived to this impressive facility and mulled about, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air – not so much from the adults present, but from the ‘kids’. Namely – the youth that, over the past three years, had massively benefited from Think Big. Before the ceremonies began, I got a chance to chat with a few young people who were absolutely thrilled to talk about their endeavours. It’s amazing how a £300 promise provided them with a springboard to start social or entrepreneurial ventures, and with the credentials to net new funding from local charities, schools, relatives and even ‘micro investors’. Young people that can claim a company as big as O2 is backing them is a massive vote of confidence for funders; in this case – money does indeed talk.

Ronan Dunne, Bill Eyres, Nick Hurd MP, and others spoke briefly about Think Big, and the achievements of O2 Think Big, GoThinkBig and Think Big School programmes. But the room really came alive when two young protégés and a pair of musicians shared their successes. The first, a young man very much the picture of a future member of parliament (or greater), described his initiative to engage his peers to build political and community awareness and acumen. The second, a young woman, had started a theatre company that focused on the perils and problems of bullying – and said, quite simply, that her dream wouldn’t have existed with O2. The third pair was able to get their folk music duo off the ground through Think Big – and played two stunning, beautiful songs to stun all those attending.

Two things struck me about these youth, and about the tremendous success of Think Big. First, I thought – this is not just a CSR programme or a charitable donation – rather, this is the deep commitment and enthusiastic engagement that should be in greater supply amongst corporates. This is a social programme, which in a moment, leapt clear off the paper and into the minds of all present at the birthday – the benefits are tangible and durable. My second thought, then, is that O2 should be shouting from the rooftops on their work with youth – 4,000 funded projects and counting! In fact, I’m going to be working on how to do this with the O2 Youth team in the next few months, and I can’t wait to get started. Thank you for showing me what I’m getting into, Think Big!

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