Blog – The season of Big Ideas Days draws to a close..

Today the Solutions for the Planet team look back on a superb season of Big Ideas Days and forward to what we are confident will be a cracking Competition!

“Wow.  Just wow.” Big Ideas Programme Manager Sarah reflects. “To think that this time two years ago we were blissfully ignorant of the impending pandemic and all that would entail, and this time last year we were running a fully virtual Big Ideas Programme with incredibly determined and resilient students from 13 schools.  Fast forward to February 2022, and, although we as a country are technically out of lockdown and ‘back to normal’, in reality, it’s been anything but smooth sailing for our schools, students, businesses and mentors trying to balance curriculum pressures with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions.”

“To me, this makes the impact of the Big Ideas Programme so far this year even more impressive, and just goes to prove the strength of mutual respect and collaboration that exists between Solutions for the Planet and those we work with.”

We’ve welcomed 8 new schools to the S4TP family this year and branched out into three new areas (Southampton, Manchester and Rotherham) – they join 18 returning schools, many of whom we’ve been working with for 5 years or more.  And we’ve safely and successfully delivered 29 Big Ideas Days to over 3000 students across England and Scotland!

“I am beyond thrilled to have been able to work with so many young people, despite the ongoing restrictions and challenges, and I am especially proud of our newly-expanded Big Ideas Programme team who have really hit the ground running and completely embraced the ethos and ethics of the organisation, as we knew they would!”

Jen said “On Thursday and Friday last week we held our final two Big Ideas Days of the 2022 season at Oaks Park High School and it’s fair to say that we finished on a high.  I have loved every one of the Big Ideas Days that I have been involved with this year.  One of the things that we’ve had to keep reminding ourselves of is that some of our students were 8-years-old when they had their last uninterrupted schooling…  Some of them have never had visitors into their schools, worked in teams, been at an all-day workshop.  The students have shown incredible resilience and creativity and it’s been a pleasure and an honour as well as a challenge and massive opportunity working with them this year.

What made Oaks Park particularly special for me this year was having the opportunity to meet six students who took part in our 2020 (The Root Problem) and 2021 (ECONUT and Apollo) Big Ideas Programmes, students whom I had never met face to face before and hear, from them, about their thoughts on the programme and the journey they have been on.”

One of the students said afterwards, “It was so nice to finally meet you in person today and it was so great that we could sit and talk! It was soo much fun helping out and helping develop everyone’s big ideas!”

Matt reflects, “In a world that can seem daunting and constantly changing, it has been my absolute pleasure to get an insight of what the future could hold through my work with young people over the last 3 months. And if my experience is anything to go by, rest assured that the creativity, young people bring to the table will make the future of this planet a more hopeful and happy place.  It has been hugely rewarding to get back into halls full of young people; loud, busy and bursting with energy. The Big Ideas Programme has allowed students to reconnect again through a day of teamwork and discussing what issues matter to them.”

Aurora adds “Never could I have anticipated the joy and wonder that young people can bring on a Big Ideas Day until I experienced it myself. Delivering such a unique day is truly a gift.  To see young people’s curiosity when coming into the prepared room, their surprise when you tell them about recycled toilet paper, and their immense creative energy when they start developing their own Big Ideas to the big issues that truly matter to them. Throughout every Big Ideas Day I facilitated, my biggest desire was always to bring all of my passion into it, because I know that right there, we were planting seeds in their young hearts. Seeds of sustainability that have the immense potential of growing into large trees which give shade and air to a future that belongs to all of us.”

Fran said, “Travelling up to the North of England to deliver two Big Ideas Days with Matt proved, once again, to be a highlight of my job; engaging, uplifting, and challenging in the best possible way. Inquisitive young people always know how to get you thinking, but also get you reevaluating what you thought was possible, or rather impossible – “but, why can’t we do that?!” Some of my favourite discussions were around acting for young people’s mental health, equal access to basic human rights like homes, and what else we could be doing with our toilet waste…! Particular thanks to a truly committed teacher and some inspirational mentors 🙂”

Claire adds, “This year although my role has changed, I had the opportunity to attend some Big Ideas days in the North of England and one experience still stays with me.  Situated in a deeply rural area, surrounded by beautiful farmland we worked with sixty students to develop their Big Ideas.  The discussions between the students ranged from their dependence on cars and buses for transport to the fragile nature of many of their family’s farming heritage.  Their Big Ideas did not disappoint, from cars running on methane from cow waste to a campaign to eat local meat.  It reminded me that sometimes young people are seen as a homogenous group but, their experiences and views are vast and different, and I cannot wait to see what ideas they have submitted into the Big Ideas Competition 2022”.

“As the administrator of the Big Ideas Programme,” Katie shared, “my experience of the programme’s unfolding is quite different to my Program Coordinator colleagues. Where they interact directly with our young people, teachers and mentors, I plug away at the back end, processing everything and dealing with all things logistical, to allow our program to run smoothly. That’s why, over the past few weeks or so, I have had such an exciting and uplifting time.  We’ve moved from the ‘planning’ phase into the actioning phase, and my very behind-the-scenes work is now brightly coloured with the creativity and imagination of our Big Ideas teams. As we’ve moved from Big Ideas Days into Development Sessions, I’ve been able to see young peoples’ ideas and hard work, as well as their accompanying artwork; and, equally excitingly, their teachers’ proud feedback and our mentors enthusiastic and impressed interaction with them.

It has really given life to the programme (and our website!) and just goes to show how the personal touch and passion of everyone involved in the Big Ideas Programme is what gives it such a sparkle.

We only have more to look forward to as we continue to receive work from teams, and as they continue to expand and fine-tune their Big Ideas.”

To every student, teacher and mentor that has been part of the programme so far – thank you for bringing creativity and energy to everything you do.

It’s an exciting time for us all now as we, the mentors and the teachers work hard to support the nearly 150 teams who are hoping to submit their Big Ideas to the Competition on March 16th!  This is where we can see even more of the magic happen, as their ideas really start to take shape, and you can see them too as they are added one by one to our website here:

Jen Baughan with contributions from the Solutions for the Planet team.



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

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