Think Big School: Inspiring young Europeans to create the web
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An initiative to equip our young people for the new technology economy by making digital skills accessible for a mass market. Workshop mentors demonstrate the business applicability of these skills, while online young people become engaged in the pure fun of webmaking.
Tell us about yourself/your team.
I am Head of Think Big Programmes at Telefonica, and in 2012 pilot launched Think Big School, a programme which is becoming operational in six European countries in 2013. My training is in marketing and PR, and I have worked on social programmes for Telefonica O2 since 2006. I supervise Think Big School managers across Europe and work closely with my team members at Think Big Europe to build Telefonica into a sustainable business with high social impact. The European team is currently working to finalise the details of an online engagement piece which will expand the impact of the Think Big School workshops.
What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?
I pioneer organizational change, and my key skills lie in open mindedness and ability to perceive and go with new trends, always delivering pieces of current relevancy to the highest standards. In 2006, in my role with the UK business O2, I launched It’s Your Community, a social investment programme which leveraged O2 brand power into social projects. In 2010 this project was turned into a larger operation: o2 Think Big, and rolled out across Europe. My astute inspirations and deep drive to make projects become a reality have enabled me to launch and grow phenomenal impactful programmes.
About Your Organization
United Kingdom, SLG, London
Primary country where this project is creating social impact
Additional countries or regions
Ireland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, Germany
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
The Need: What social or environmental problem are you trying to solve?
Europe lags behind in terms of digital education. A study by the European commission (4) demonstrates that young Europeans are not being equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in a modern day job market where these skills are ever more in demand. Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda, December 2012: "The digital economy is growing seven times faster than the rest of the economy. If not for the digital economy then the EU would be in recession." To be employable in the future, our next generation urgently needs to be equipped with digital skills.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Our solution is an engaging programme which introduces young people to digital tools in a fun and entertaining manner, enabling them to use the building blocks of the web to interact with popular culture and foster their creative development. We want to make coding fun, and show young people how it can be relevant to real life by running interactive workshops on entrepreneurialism and website creation and then allowing young people to continue engaging online from their homes. A rapid uptake of digital skills will be fostered by the fact that coding provides a means to the end of interacting with personal hobbies and passion points like music, websites, online games and magazines.
The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?
It is innovative because a Telecommunications company collaborating with educators (schools and NGO JA YE) and digital experts (Mozilla Foundation) to create social impact and work digitally. It combines technology with popular culture and enterprise skills, creating a fun and rounded experience that is accessible to any young person. Rather than focusing simply on the consumption of content, it gives young people tools to become creators in a digital world.
JA YE –Junior Achievement Young Enterprise
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities.
At present we provide structured activities designed to introduce young people to coding with Mozilla’s online Thimble software. Business mentors coach them on famous entrepreneurs, help them come up with their own digital ideas, then assist them in using the Thimble tool to create their own website and pitch their enterprise idea online. We are currently developing new tools with Mozilla to further young people’s engagement through hacking popular culture: remixing and personalising web content (such as online magazines and Youtube videos) in a user friendly way, starting to build the web without realising they are doing it.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Microsoft, Google and IBM engage with digital literacy through social programmes. Microsoft is centred around structured courses in computer operation (for example using Microsoft word), while Google focuses on safeguarding children online. What these programmes don’t offer is a way for young people to learn not just how to navigate, but how to master and create the web. In addition, we are unique in the brand power and mass outreach that we are putting behind this programme to make it accessible to all young people, not just those with an interest in technology. No other programme so successfully integrates popular culture with digital skills.
This Entry is about (Issues)
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.
In Spring 2012 I saw a piece of press coverage in The Guardian on the lack of opportunities for young people to learn how to code in a fun way. I was inspired to do something about it when, at a technology event in the Telefonica office a teacher mentioned how powerful our brand could be in providing a solution. Technology offers possibilities for young people to move faster and achieve more than ever before, but in order to become true digital creators they need to be equipped with the skills and understanding. It was our opportunity to marry a geeky skill with a mainstream brand, make it popular, and empower the next generation.
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
In 2012 just over 700 young people have participated in our activities. Workshops were held in the UK, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany, at the end of which each young person walked away with a URL to a personal website created by them during the course of the day, and featuring their own enterprise idea. We are currently coordinating long-term impact measurement structures, designed to test on a yearly basis how many of these young people were then inspired to learn more coding or build websites, which will provide a more meaningful understanding of our true impact.
What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?
In 2013 we plan to reach 7200 young people across Europe through our workshops, and in 2015 over 20,000 will be passing through Think Big School workshops. In addition to this we hope to reach far more young people through the online activities and tools we provide, and which we will back by a mass engagement marketing campaign.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
There could be a concern that it might remain a niche idea and not have lasting impact. This could happen if it did not scale and successfully reach the numbers of young people we plan to reach. A further concern is the public perception of o2 as an organisation, and whether we are perceived as the appropriate brand to be delivering this type of programme. We hope to overcome this by putting a mass marketing campaign behind the programme and becoming a brand leader in the digital field, thereby drawing attention to the opportunities we offer and winning the public’s trust.
What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?
By engaging business mentors with young people through the workshops we are bringing our people into contact with the way the next generation (our future customers) think and interact with digital tools, gaining insight into their needs. The mentors’ use of digital tools is in line with our own organisational transformation to become a more digital business. By aligning our social outreach with young people and digital skills we are benefitting the way our brand is perceived.
How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?
We are funding the programme from our Think Big social outreach budget. We authorise a minimum number of volunteering hours per year for employees to participate. We run ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions to prepare trainers at each of our office locations to impart skills and understanding to the mentors running each workshop, thereby sharing the development we achieve through our partners JA YE and Mozilla with the organisation as a whole.
Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.
We have already attracted government funding for our existing social programmes: in 2012 we became a delivery partner for the National Citizen’s Service UK for Think Big youth programme. With Think Big School we will be looking to partner with other organisations and secure similar grants.
Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.
Internally we are partnered with our learning and development department, who develop content for our workshops and training manuals for our employees. For our online campaign we will partner with the marketing department to reach a truly mass market. Externally we partner with Junior Achievement Young Enterprise, an educational NGO with expertise in enterprise work with schools. Key to our success is also Mozilla, a non-profit organization that promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet, and provides us with the software tools to make learning code accessible.
What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?
We are operating in a very tough economic climate: the business has significant challenges and it can be tough to find support. We are constantly fighting for backing to roll out our programme and gain employee involvement, as many teams are under-resourced and find it difficult to spare employees. However, while it is tough we have support at the highest level of the company from backers who believe in the power of what we are doing, for example our global COO, Jose Maria Alvarez Pallete.