Research conducted by Telefonica Europe in early 2010 showed that one third of young people in Europe do not successfully transition into adulthood. O2 in Ireland conducted further research and found that the major issue affecting young people in their journey to adulthood is their ability to manage their mental health in a positive way. Youth mental health is a huge issue in Ireland and disproportionately so, given the size of our population.
Think Big in Ireland is a bespoke programme, designed by both O2 and Headstrong (the expert organisation in Ireland on youth mental health) to enable young people to deliver projects in their community that make a difference to young people’s mental health. For project ideas which are successful, O2 will grant the young person a monetary allowance from €300 to help them get their project off the ground, along with a mobile phone (with €50 top-up) and a Think Big start-up pack. In addition, every young person will get support from O2 and Headstrong in the form of mentoring and training.
Employee participation is an important element to the programme which introduced us to a new area in terms of our employees working with young people. As a result we have put in place a very robust child protection training and garda clearance process. It was also very important that we got the messaging right from the start when explaining what Think Big was about. We achieved this by holding a messaging workshop with Headstrong at the outset which identified the key messaging and made it easier to communicate Think Big’s objective in a clear and concise way.
Include your target audience in the development of your programme! Think Big is a programme designed for young people. Therefore it was extremely important that young people were part of the programme development process. Having their insight from the very beginning has been invaluable to the success of the programme to date.
Think Big is a core element of our CR agenda – in Ireland and across Telefonica’s businesses in Europe. In Ireland, Think Big is also part of each department’s operational plans which feed into the overall business strategy for O2. The programme is seen by the business as a brand differentiator. By the end of 2012, we want to be the brand most associated with a good cause in Ireland and are confident that Think Big, and the projects that will be delivered in local communities across the country as a result, will help us achieve this goal.
Each department also has an employee volunteering target for Think Big, driving employee participation from all parts of the business. The primary way in which O2 employees can get involved is by becoming a mentor. The mentor’s task is to work with the young person leading the Think Big project and help them develop an action plan and set realistic goals. Their role is to encourage and support but also help the young people to develop new skills.
A big part of the programme is to change attitudes amongst the general public about young people’s mental health. By developing Think Big in partnership with Headstrong, we are encouraging young people to promote positive mental health for themselves and their peers. We are giving them the skills and resources to achieve the things they care about in their community. These projects will also encourage young people to talk more about their mental health and hopefully reduce the stigma that has existed in Ireland for years about mental health.