Let the kids fix our problems

The grown-ups have messed things up, so maybe we need our budding entrepreneurs to put them right?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This week O2 launched a new scheme called Think Big, which allows young people between the ages of 13 and 25 to apply for £300 grants to run projects in their local community – the theory being that their bright ideas and energy can deliver some real social value. Like Make Your Mark With A Tenner, an annual competition to uncover Britain’s most promising young entrepreneurs, which is also running this month, it’s predicated on the idea that the yoof of today aren’t the feckless layabouts the Daily Mail and co keep telling us that they are; that in fact, their enterprise and drive can solve problems that – on recent evidence – us grown-ups have singularly failed to do…

O2 has set aside £5m for this scheme, which it says is ‘designed to back young people making a difference in their communities.’ The idea is that young people come up with projects to run in their local areas – including micro-businesses – and then apply for a grant. If they’re successful, they not only get £300 in cash, but also some training and support from two big UK charities, National Youth Agency and UKYouth. And the theory is that the impact of this money will be magnified; according to estimates by consultancy New Philanthropy Capital, this £300 ‘would deliver £3,300 in terms of return for their community’ (we suspect they probably mean ‘could’, but nevertheless).

Make Your Mark With A Tenner also aims to encourage young people to get out and solve problems in their local community; the idea is - as you might have guessed from the title – participants get £10 and have one month to ‘make a profit and make a difference’. So the emphasis is not just on making as much cash as possible (although that’s part of it); it’s also about social impact and benefiting the community. And if last year’s competition is anything to go by, there’s a lot of enterprising schoolkids out there.

One key benefit of competitions like these is that it reminds us grown-ups that our young people aren’t just bone idle hoodies who spend all their time on Facebook (well, not all of them). According to 02, 46% of adults think society has a negative perception of young people – and there’s no better way to dispel that by showing that they not only have a natural flair for enterprise, but that they’re also motivated to do something for their local community.

But equally, it’s also fair to say that the adults have made rather a mess of both economy and ecology lately. So perhaps we ought to be looking to the younger generation for some new ideas?

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