Blog – Creating the Virtual National Final 2020!

On the evening of 6 August, we hosted an online virtual event celebrating the achievements of our Regional Finalists for the 2020 Big Ideas Programme and it was brilliant – ‘An evening with Big Ideas’.  39 teams had worked their socks off all the way through lockdown and produced some truly amazing work.   It deserved properly celebrating and properly celebrate it we most certainly did!

A glamorous evening with awards galore and dozens of messages from people who had been involved with the programme letting the students know how much their work had inspired them.  It was also fantastic to see so many teams and supporters of the programme turn up (virtually) for the event.

So, waking up on 7 August, I felt a little sad – I had enjoyed the Regional Finals so much.  What to do now that all the excitement was over and all the students were off on holidays?  Fortunately, it wasn’t long at all before I realised how quickly the new academic year would be upon us and the need to start planning (and looking forward to!) our first ever Virtual National Final, which will take place on 18 November 2020.

The last two weeks have been really exciting.  Reconnecting with our brilliant teachers and learning all about how schools are tackling the challenges of social distancing.  Getting back in touch with our wonderful mentors, who are all raring to go in support of their teams.  The most exciting thing has been the teams arriving back: the forum on our website coming back to life, the teams who are on social media re-engaging and now the work starting to come in for our National Final challenges.

We designed three final challenges for our teams.  Challenge 6 tasked them with creating a ‘meet the team’ video and Challenge 7 involves them promoting their idea and raising awareness around the issue they are tackling within their local community by contacting their local Councillor, MP or local press.  The final challenge is….well, it hasn’t been announced yet so that would be telling!  Suffice it to say that it will test the teams’ interactive skills and help develop the teams’ expertise in the subject they are working on – so keep an eye on our social media channels!

The Virtual National Final itself is shaping up to be a cracker!  Whilst we are disappointed not to be able to host the final in the Palace of Westminster as planned, we will be bringing a bit of Westminster to the event, with The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP joining as a guest speaker and a number of MPs coming along to support the teams from their constituencies.  We will also have a panel discussion and Q&A with sustainability and business experts; an opportunity for the teams to discuss wider sustainability issues and also to seek advice on how to take their ideas forward after the National Final.

I have huge respect for our National Finalist teams this year.  Normally the Big Ideas programme happens within one academic year but the 2020 programme has spanned two.  Our teams have also had to deal with all of the changes that are going on in their schools to maintain social distancing but still, they continue to produce inspirational work and I know that the final on the 18th November is going to be one for the ages!

Another aspect of the final that I’m really excited about is the diversity of ideas that will be presented alongside one another.  From providing community services to developing cutting edge technologies, from apps, robots and drones to sustainable make-up and cutlery, the 2020 National Final is an eclectic mix of products, services and campaigns.  Twelve bold and ambitious Big Ideas for our judges (and everyone!) to enjoy.

I first became involved with Solutions for the Planet as a host for the Regional and National Finals of the Big Ideas Competition seven years ago.  Every year I sit in awe of the originality, diversity and boldness of the Big Ideas that I see on display.  This year I’ve been lucky enough to be much more closely involved with the programme and the teams themselves, so I am even more excited than ever to watch all these brilliant young people present their ideas.  In a challenging year for all of us, these teams have been a beacon of positivity and I feel far more optimistic about the future of the world knowing that these young people are in it.  We have a hashtag that we use regularly at Solutions for the Planet: #HopeinAction and I often find myself thinking about it when I interact with the teams, because that is what they are….hope in action.  The 2020 Virtual National Final will see another opportunity for them to make their courageous, hopeful, passionate voices heard loud and clear once more and I, for one, can’t wait!!


Written by Jamie Baughan, S4TP Associate

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