Our first ever Virtual Big Ideas Competition 2020 is drawing to a close – 645 pieces of work were submitted; over 150 students from over 20 schools continued through the lockdown; more than 60 incredible mentors and judges were involved; and 7 live online regional finals were held! As an organization we are so pleased to have created a space, albeit virtual, for such incredible hope, positivity, collaboration and action at such a difficult time for the world. The S4TP team reflect on the last few months below, whilst looking forward to celebrating ALL the teams involved at the live-streamed ‘A Night With Big Ideas’ event on Thursday, August 6th, 17:30 – 19:00:
Jen Baughan, CEO
This year has been a journey for Solutions for the Planet – when I arrived back from a holiday at the beginning of March I had a strong feeling that the business I would be leading over the next few months was going to be a very different business to the one I left. There was talk of schools closing, distancing measures being put in place, travel restrictions, a deadly virus sweeping across the world.
Like many people managing a business, I was faced with the very real possibility that we may not be able to continue with our work, running the Big Ideas Competition in 2020. How do you run a competition for schools when all of the schools’ doors are closed to their students?
There was one big problem with not continuing the programme though – by the 18th of March, in the week schools had to close, the Big Ideas Competition had received 153 submissions from teams spanning the UK! Big Ideas full of Hope, Passion, Determination, Excitement, Resilience and Positive Action. And we knew then, that we had to find a way to carry on – to get these incredible ideas out into the world.
This was not straightforward and, most importantly, we needed to know if the teams and their schools who had been shortlisted for our Regional Finals were willing to carry on with what would be a huge new challenge for all of us. To our delight – an amazing number of the schools that we work with decided that they WERE up for the challenge and so the Virtual Big Ideas Competition was born.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that everyone involved with Solutions for the Planet – the team, businesses, teachers, mentors, judges and MPs – are in awe of the young people taking part and the work that they’ve seen, both in the portfolios that were submitted AND in the live question and answer sessions that our teams took part in. The confidence, knowledge, charisma, humour and above all belief in their ideas shone through with every team the judges met.
To all the teachers, mentors and families of our Big Ideas teams we say thank you.
To all the young people who have taken part we say YOU ARE THE REASON we do what we do. YOU ARE THE REASON we were motivated to keep the Big Ideas Competition alive. You are our inspiration and you are our hope for the future. We can’t wait to share your work with the world and celebrate ALL of your fantastic achievements on 6th August.
Jamie Baughan, S4TP Associate
Following the last of our 7 Virtual Regional Finals, we had an amazing team meeting where we (the Solutions for the Planet team) reflected on the roller coaster experience of the past 3 months. It was amazing to share our thoughts and feelings about how proud we were of all that has been achieved over the course of the Virtual Big Ideas Competition 2020. We reflected on the incredible work we’ve had from our teams and also on what a pleasure it has been to interact with the students on the forum and on social media (despite not being able to meet teams in person – as we would normally do at the Regional Finals).
For me personally, a few things stood out. As the team member responsible for uploading teams’ work it struck me how technically gifted a lot of our students are (particularly in completing the video challenges). On at least 3 occasions I saw work come in and said to myself – ‘that’s amazing – I wish I knew how to do that!’ – and then I went away and learned how to do it so my work could look as professional as some of our students’!
The other thing that struck me was how many people have been involved in the Virtual Big Ideas Competition. All of our teams, their teachers, mentors, carers, parents and friends who have helped them with their Big Ideas. Our business partners, the judges, all of the people who’ve got involved on social media – the reach of the Virtual Big Ideas Competition has been spectacular this year. It’s such a happy thought that it has inspired so many people to get involved and I’m very grateful to all of them for making this year’s competition so special.
I said at the the team meeting that it had been a pleasure working with the S4TP team on the Virtual Big Ideas Competition and that I had bounced out of bed every morning for the last 3 months – and that’s true. I really am proud and happy to be involved in such a positive, hopeful project. S4TP’s hashtag: #HopeinAction has never rung more true!
Also, it’s not over yet….
I can’t wait for our Celebration event Live on YouTube on the 6th August where we will look back and celebrate the work of ALL our incredible teams. To everyone who has been involved in this year’s programme, I really hope you can join us for it because you ALL deserve celebrating for making this year truly unforgettable.
Claire Fitton, Programme Coordinator, North England
On 18th March it seemed that everything needed to change, including my role at Solutions for the Planet. Very quickly we decided that if schools and students wanted to continue with their Big Ideas – and I believed that they would – we would need to be able to give structure and support in a different way.
We decided to set weekly challenges to the teams in the competition that would link to their business plan. And, as all those I knew were getting less and less busy at work, the Solutions for the Planet team were getting busier and busier learning new skills and realising ones that we had forgotten we had.
And it worked! As a team we pulled together, did what needed to be done and came out the other side of the regional finals a better, stronger team. As always, but more than ever before, we have been on a learning journey with students and teachers: we have all learned together and improved with each step.
Not only the National Finalists, but ALL of the teams have been superb this year – so how could we not celebrate EVERYONE with a special one-off event? Bring on the 6th August, ‘A Night With Big Ideas’!
Sarah Milburn, Programme Manager
It’s hard to know where to begin really! What a whirlwind these last few months have been. I think the turning point for all of us was March 18th – in a ‘normal’ competition year, we get around 160 teams submit their Big Ideas to the Competition. This year, the day before most schools had to close due to the pandemic, we still received 153! So we had no choice really – our young people had spoken, they were clearly committed to pursuing their Big Ideas so we had to find a way to make it work for them.
This meant taking our programme, which normally happens in schools, online; creating a brand new platform on our website where the teams could upload their work; setting up an online forum where they could meet and discuss their Big Ideas; recruiting and training over 60 mentors and judges to support the teams in their work; and figuring out how we could get these amazing ideas in front of our incredible judging panels.
Fortunately we weren’t on this journey alone. 56 teams of determined young entrepreneurs threw themselves into the online programme with spectacular enthusiasm and have spent the last 2 months completing challenges, writing poems, creating super-heroes, composing songs, recording adverts, drawing up financial plans, and much, much more.
They have blown us away time and time again with their creativity, skill, resilience, tenacity and passion, and they have had that positive and powerful impact on all their teachers, mentors and the judges too. They haven’t let all the additional challenges of being in lockdown stop them and we should all learn from that.
It was exciting announcing the 12 National Finalists, they are all incredible (check them out here) and it will be a close-run event at the Palace of Westminster on November 18th (COVID-allowing). But every single young person who submitted a business plan; completed their challenges; filmed a video pitch; answered questions in a live video chat with judges; every single one of them deserves recognition for what they’ve achieved and so we couldn’t end this extraordinary programme year without an extraordinary celebration event. See you ALL from 17:30 – 19:00, live on our YouTube channel, on August 6th, for the very special ‘A Night With Big Ideas’.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd