Five years of the Think Big programme for young people:

From consumers to shaping the digital world

Digitisation opens up new social-commitment opportunities for young people in particular. This has been demonstrated by Think Big, the programme for young people run by the Telefónica Foundation and the Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung (DKJS, German Children and Youth Foundation) together with O2. Under the heading of “Five years of Think Big – improve things digitally”, yesterday German Minister for Education and Research Johanna Wanka, Claudia von Bothmer, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Telefónica Deutschland, Heike Kahl, Managing Director of DKJS, and project initiator Patrick Lühlow discussed at Telefónica BASECAMP which skills young people need in the digital age.
From the fundraising campaign spanning Europe to film projects with refugees and apps that make everyday school life easier, Think Big has managed to implement over 3,500 socio-digital projects that have allowed around 90,000 young people to go from being consumers to shaping our digital society. That makes Think Big one of Germany’s largest programmes focusing on the commitment of young people.

Participation in digital life for all young people

“Digital media are increasingly playing a role in education too. Initiatives like Think Big contribute to ensuring young people, regardless of their background, can benefit from the opportunities of digitisation”, said Minister for Education Johanna Wanka. Enabling all people to participate on digitisation is also a central objective of Telefónica Deutschland. This was made clear by Claudia von Bothmer, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Telefónica Deutschland, who said, “In the past five years, we have made a significant contribution in this area by encouraging all young people to be creative with digital technologies and help to shape society with their ideas.” Heike Kahl, Managing Director of DKJS emphasised, “Think Big has proven to be a valuable stimulus to a culture of learning that goes beyond the boundaries of formal and informal education. However, this is not simply a question of digital skills; rather, it is also about the development of personality, thus practical knowledge and skill, creativity and social ties.” Think Big project initiator Patrick Lühlow confirmed this and reported on how very much it enthuses him to read up on new subjects for his social commitment and gain knowledge in the process.

Award for outstanding project

Following the round of discussion, Minister Wanka presented this year’s Think Big Digital Cup to the founders of Help-O-Mat, an online platform for voluntary commitment. This was now the third time the Think Big programme partners have awarded the prize for an outstanding digital project. The winners were selected ahead of the four other nominated projects Wefugees, CorrelAid, Less to Late and WOHN:SINN in a vote held on Facebook during the run-up to the anniversary event. “Through Think Big, we have learnt how to set up a project close to our hearts as a team, implement it using a structured approach and believe in its ability to deliver”, said Nils Aschmann from Help-O-Mat. Fabian Sedlmayr added, “The award means a great deal to us because it shows us that our work is being acknowledged and valued and that we can reach other people with it. That motivates us to continue doing it."

How an idea becomes a reality

At various interactive stations, guests were provided with an overview of the work done by the programme up to now and could find out how the young people implement their ideas. The digital workshop advises the young project initiators free of charge on their digital projects and helps them to find the right digital tools. The project initiators can also seek advice from the experts via regular video chats. The event’s participants had the opportunity to talk to the initiators of four projects, including:
-The online platform for social fashion Less Too Late founded by sisters Anna and Teresa Müller at the beginning of 2016. The two use the clothes they design themselves to support not-for-profit projects and generate awareness of their objectives.
-WOHN:SINN; the initiators have managed to put together very special groups of people living in shared accommodation. Using a shared-accommodation platform, they arrange for inclusive residential projects for disabled and non-disabled people.
-The Germany-wide independent initiative for financial consumer education Tradity, which has set itself the target of getting schoolchildren and students interested in the subject of the stock exchange and business using an approach that is both appropriate for young people and fun.
-The welt_raum project, which has committed itself to bringing refugees and locals together since the spring of 2014. They create spaces where people can encounter, learn from and share with each other.

Current study on the impact of Think Big

At a further station, the experts at the Institute for Media Research and Media Education at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne reported on how five years of Think Big have affected the commitment of young people. They presented the results of their latest survey on Think Big. The study shows that Think Big supports a change of digital perspective and the majority of young people in the project create something with digital aids. Educationally disadvantaged young people benefit particularly in the process. The central results have been summarised in the brochure “Young. Social. Digital.”, which was published for the five-year anniversary of the programme.

On Think Big

Think Big is a programme for young people run by the Telefónica Foundation and the Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung (DKJS, German Children and Youth Foundation) together with O2. It enables 14- to 25-year-olds to develop their own social and digital ideas, implement them themselves in the form of projects and use digital media to make them big. They are supported with expert coaching and financial means in the process. The ideas range from an Internet platform for people playing football for leisure to private tuition for refugee children to apps that make everyday school life easier. The young people document the results of all the project phases on the programme website