To be or not to be? To be… definitely!

Over the past two months we have, partly, answered the question: How do you run a competition for schools and businesses when all of the schools’ doors are closed to their students and many businesses have furloughed staff and have limited capacity?

The Answer: The Virtual Big Ideas Competition.

The Virtual Big Ideas Competition has been engaging for students, teachers and businesses alike and has brought with it a wave of positivity and hope in action, despite focusing on many of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges, and despite being done during a lockdown situation.

Next year for schools

Going into the next academic year we are not naive to the fact that it WILL NOT be business as usual.  We know that one of the reasons for the success of this year’s Virtual Big Ideas Competition is the valuable and positive experience that the teams initially had in school at the start of the programme – first at the Big Ideas Days and consequently at the development sessions with teachers and mentors.  So with that in mind we are exploring a variety of options for delivering the Big Ideas Days for the 2020/2021 programme.  Ideally, we hope they will be delivered as usual in school, but we have floated a number of options within the team – virtual events; smaller in-school events; or using our awesome teacher network to deliver a ‘Big Ideas Day out of the box’, for example.  What we are planning is a menu of options for our school partners.  We know that schools will have different guidelines and we will be flexible and adapt to suit their needs whilst retaining the integrity of the programme.

We need to continue to build our relationships with both new and existing schools, and although we will not be creating many new spaces for schools in the Big Ideas programme 2021, there will be some limited spaces available across our Central Belt Scotland, North England and South England Regions.

“In 27 years of teaching I have never come across such an all-encompassing project [as the Big Ideas programme] that covers so many aspects of not only the curriculum, but also of aiding students to develop their skillsets.” – Teacher, Big Ideas programme 2020

My first ask is: if you are a parent, teacher, headteacher, governor, aunt, uncle, grandparent or have any connection to schools then please do spread the word and share the link to our website


Next year for businesses

For our existing and new business partners things will also be different.  Through the Virtual Big Ideas Competition journey, we have learnt that there are viable and successful options for training and delivering mentoring virtually, and for some businesses this works even better than travelling long distances for short development sessions with the outcome being be just as effective.  We know that the involvement of businesses and the mentoring their employees provide is of huge value to the students and teachers, as well as for the mentors themselves.

The vital importance of businesses supporting the Big Ideas programme was fed back by teachers this year, who sent messages directly to our business partners about it.  Here are just a few:

“Thank you so much for all of your help throughout the programme. It is such a great opportunity for our young people to have your support and to have the experience of working with a professional from a field they may not have thought of or considered as a career path. They love working with you and get more out of it than you could know.”

“The discussions held during the Big Ideas Day and the follow-up sessions are so important to students and help to promote your company to students (and families) who may have never heard of you before. The interactions on those days and the stories shared by the mentors are the greatest career guidance you could give to many students unsure about where school may take them. To see students who are normally disengaged in school completely focused on the tasks and keen to learn more about the company and what the different jobs entail is crucial – these students are your future workforce and they have amazing ideas to share.”

“Thank you! What you do for our young people is un-measurable, and goes far beyond the face-to-face, or email, or phone contact you have with our students. Again, thank you!”

These are just some of the reasons that we are keen to expand and increase the number of schools and businesses we work with.  The Big Ideas programme genuinely changes lives, and not just the lives of the young people on the programme.  It provides a powerful tool for businesses to:

  • offer developmental opportunities for their staff including skill development in mentoring, communication, collaboration and leadership
  • provide meaningful employee and community engagement
  • demonstrate social impact and value in their contracts
  • educate schools and young people about the range of career opportunities thus increasing the diversity and reach of their future talent pipeline
  • network at area and national events (whether virtual or in person) with local school communities, organisations affiliated with S4TP, other business partners and MPs
  • access innovative ideas and stimulating increased creativity within the company
So my second ask is: please share this article with friends, family, neighbours, colleagues… we need to spread the word and we need your help.  We’ve directly reached over 20,000 young people so far, help us to be able to continue to give them a voice and a platform.  Thank you.


Written by Jen Baughan, CEO

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