Launched in 2021, The B!G Idea was created by Kim Mackenzie-Doyle with a vision to challenge Ireland’s 15-19 year olds to learn new skills that would help them create ideas for solving problems in their local schools or communities. The 12-week programme looks at all areas of creativity. In 2022 over 2500 young people from Transition Year, LCA and Youthreach have experienced The B!G Idea, supported by 501 industry mentors and 40+ corporate and third level partners. I interviewed Niamh Cooney, Community Development Manager at The B!G Idea to find out more.
1. To anyone who may not be aware of The B!G Idea, what does the company do?
The B!G Idea is a multi award-winning creative education programme that bridges the gap between industry and education. We are on a mission to change the world with creative thinking; empowering the next generation with critical skills to tackle local and global issues that are directly affecting them such as Mental Health, Equality, Healthcare, Housing Crisis and Climate Change.
Our 12 week programme develops game-changing, creative thinking skills in students, bringing problem solving, resilience, empathy, critical thinking, research, communication and collaboration to 15 to 19 year olds at a time when it can make the BIGGEST difference. It provides an empowering space for young people to learn creative skills, a space where failure is expected and encouraged.
We connect education to industry through active mentoring for student teams with professionals based nationally and internationally. We move the creative innovation dial forward, giving our young people every advantage in any future direction they take.
Because one big idea can change their world.
2. Can you outline some of the initiatives The B!G Idea is involved in?
Everything we do is driven by our vision for a world where industry and education are truly connected, where young people have the creative skills, ability, resilience and confidence to take on the B!G challenges they face.
Our core programme delivers critical skills to 15-19 year olds in Transition Year, Youthreach and LCA. Our first EU project is underway in collaboration with Denmark-based Kaos Pilots and three other partners across Europe. In 2023 we are embracing a shared island approach through a pilot in Northern Ireland schools, which we are really excited about.
We are a busy and passionate team and always looking for ways to bring industry collaborators and educators together to find new opportunities that support our mission.
Creativity is the top skill required in the workplace by 2025 (studies by Forbes, World Economic Forum, LinkedIn). These key skills are applicable to every future profession even those not yet invented and are essential as we move into a solution focused era.
3. The organisation recently published its impact report. Can you briefly outline what impact the company has had since its creation?
Since our launch in 2021, over 2500 young people from Transition Year, LCA and Youthreach have experienced The B!G Idea, supported by 501 industry mentors and 40+ corporate and third level partners. 100% of our students have learned new skills, the most in-demand skills in the world:
· 92% feel empowered to tackle challenges in their lives and within their community because of The B!G Idea
· 96% shared that The B!G Idea had a positive impact on their life
We have worked with students from 22 counties across Ireland, in both urban and rural areas. We have supported 98 teachers, from every subject discipline, to deliver the programme in 49 schools, 17 of which were DEIS schools (schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage whose students are at risk of educational disadvantage).
But it’s not just the students who benefit from the programme:
· 100% of teachers reported a deepened understanding of creative thinking and its application in industry
· 100% of teachers enjoyed delivering the programme
· 92% of teachers surveyed would recommend the programme to other schools.
4. If someone wants to be a participant in The B!G Idea can you explain what’s involved? And what should they do if they want to get involved?
In 2023 we aim to equip 4000 students with the creative skills and tools to prepare for life in a complex and challenging world. We have a limited number of FREE school places available. You can sign your class or school up here – just visit www.thebigidea.ie and click GET INVOLVED.
What can participants expect?
Our multi award-winning programme brings young people through a hybrid interactive creative learning experience developed by globally recognised creatives and educational experts. Students will be supported by 800 diverse industry mentors with guidance and feedback on their project ideas. The mentors will help them to develop innovative solutions to some of the BIGGEST stressors in their lives. The programme is facilitated by teachers from any subject discipline who all receive a Think B!G teaching pack with learning resources needed to support in-class activities. Universal Design Principles and Guidelines are integrated throughout The B!G Idea programme making it accessible to all students with different learning styles and abilities.
We provide a free Think B!G bag to every student which includes all the materials needed to engage in the programme including a LEGO pack for systems thinking exercises and a sketchbook to capture brainstorming and reflection, among other things. These learning tools have been proven to increase engagement and they help to level the playing field for all our students.
5. If someone wants to be a mentor in The B!G Idea can you explain what’s involved? And what should they do if they want to get involved?
Our mentors are a fundamental part of The B!G Idea programme, providing a vital link between industry and education. They support students’ places on the programme with their time and expertise, sharing cutting-edge methodologies and advice with our students across key touchpoints in the programme. They are involved in the development of lesson content and help us shape the student experience ensuring that it stays relevant and meaningful.
Why become a mentor?
- Low time commitment (a minimum commitment of 4-6 hours) – B!G Impact!
- Flexible and online
- It can be done individually or as part of a company team
- Allows you to collaborate, connect and grow with other mentors in an inclusive, diverse and forward-thinking community of professionals from all industries.
To get involved as a Mentor all you have to do is visit our website and click the big ‘Get Involved’ button! www.thebigidea.ie
6. What marketing have you done since launching? What have you found works best?
All of our marketing pushes boundaries and conversations and we love to experiment, share interviews, competitions, stakeholder stories, news and more! In just two years we’ve reached over 7M eyes with our marketing, predominantly through social media. We have an amazing brand, which is fun and really visually engaging. We are lucky to have a really strong and diverse community of mentors and partners who are very active and shout loud and proud about their involvement – they really amplify our message through their own social media and word of mouth. We develop strong story-driven PR campaigns, particularly around our Showcase and student exhibition launch, which really resonate with people and create a lot of inbound traffic to our website and inboxes! The chance to hear directly from our students, teachers and mentors is fantastic. By sharing their experiences and feedback it really drives home how relevant and impactful our programme is for young people.
7. What have been some of your favourite moments since joining the company?
There have been so many! Every time I get to interact with our students and our amazing mentor community is a favourite moment for me. I’m constantly invigorated by the energy and support that this group of professionals brings to our programme and our students. They show them just how relevant the skills they are learning are to the 21st century, the myriad of opportunities that are available to them in their future careers and how to create, experiment, invent, take risks, make mistakes and have fun with the skills they are learning!
My two most recent favourite moments were seeing the final version of our very first impact report – an emotional and proud moment for us all – and hearing we were one of five finalists in the Diversity in Tech awards for the Social Impact Award, alongside amazing companies like Access Earth, An Cosán and Google; we were absolutely chuffed!
8. How did the pandemic impact the company? Are there any positives you can take from this time?
The B!G Idea actually launched in the midst of a level 5 lockdown in 2021 and in our second year we launched in January in an uncertain time for schools, many experiencing restrictions due to Covid. This has really informed so much about the programme and our mentoring model and we believe allows us to better scale and grow our reach and impact.
We have developed a bespoke digital platform where mentors from anywhere in the world can support students through their learning journey. This widens the pool of mentors that can support our students, helps us to establish networks in other countries, where we will expand the programme in the future and also create a really vibrant and progressive community of industry partners and mentors that are integral to the success of the programme. In 2022 400 mentors were able to support our students through our platform!
9. Where do you see the organisation in the next 5-10 years?
World domination! We are on a mission to democratise creativity and make Ireland the most innovative and creative nation and by 2025 we aim to work with 16,000 students across Ireland and Northern Ireland. In ten years we would hope to see The B!G Idea programme being available in both junior and senior cycle in every school and Youthreach centre across the island of Ireland and beyond.
We are involved in our first EU project this year, which is a fantastic opportunity for us to dip a toe in the waters outside of Ireland and see how different school systems operate. In 5-10 years we would hope to see in-demand creative skills being delivered in countries across the world through our programme with our international panel of B!G Mentors!
10. Are there any other companies or people in the Diversity and Inclusion space in Ireland that you are big fans of?
Diversity and inclusion are really important to us at The B!G Idea, for our own team and as an organisation, as well as everything programme related. For example, we integrate Universal Design Principles and Guidelines throughout The B!G Idea programme, making it accessible to all students. We really focus on diversity and gender balance in our mentor panel too as we want to introduce our students to a wide variety of professionals and potential career pathways that are utilising the skills that they are learning. At our showcase this year, one of our keynote speakers was the incredible Ailbhe Keane, CEO and Founder of Izzy Wheels, an organisation that we are definitely fans of in this space! Izzy Wheels design and sell stylish wheelchair wheel covers and are a great example of using creativity to bridge the gap between fashion and disability. Having Ailbhe share her story with 2,000 students was so inspiring as it is really aligned with our own values at The B!G Idea.