Creating Big Change Together

27 June 2024

Reflections on our collective impact 2020 -2024. Blog by Caireen Goddard, Senior Director of Impact, and Caitlin Ross, Head of Impact

At Big Change we are unashamedly hopeful for a future in which all young people can thrive in life, and our impact drives all that we do. The past four years have been a time of learning and growth, and we are ever grateful to the vision and commitment of our community of leaders, changemakers and projects we back, and the incredible support of Big Change donors, and partners. We have captured a few of the highlights in this blog, but you can read the full story in our latest impact report.

Since 2020, we are proud to have:

  • Continued to grow our community of changemakers and back projects that will support the next generation to thrive in life, not just exams. 
    Highlights – This has taken our portfolio of leaders and early-stage projects from 38  to 63. 
  • Designed and launched the Big Education Challenge, an ambitious £1m prize fund to surface, support and back leaders with their early-stage bold ideas with the potential to transform education and learning. 
    Highlights – 13 out of the 15 Challenge Finalists were aged 18-25. All were given funding and capacity-building support to test and develop their ideas, with 3 winners receiving further funding to fully pilot. 
  • Enabled thousands of young people, teachers, parents, and communities to come together through the Big Education Conversation, in England and globally, to reimagine education, create collective hope and new actions in communities, and shape national policy proposals.
    Highlights – Over 2,000 conversations have taken place in England, with 35 countries globally taking up the initiative through open-source tools and resources in 7 languages.
  • Convened and connected experts with diverse views and experiences, co-creating and sharing new insights and ideas that both shape our ways of working and inspire others.
    Highlights – 60 partners from 26 countries have actively contributed to Big Change’s global insight network to influence policy and practice.

“I am privileged to play my part in the Big Education Challenge as part of the judging panel. What excites me the most about this fund is the impact that it will have in terms of unleashing so much unrecognised talent and untapped potential through some of our most innovative young minds – talent and potential that is under-served and disregarded by current structures.”

Becky Bainbridge, CEO Reclaim, Big Education Challenge Judge

4 key insights from our work

  1. Keep building a diverse portfolio because there is no single or easy solution to problems that are complex and ingrained. We will continue to back projects that expand learning opportunities within and beyond schools, tackling different issues, and intervening at different points in the system. 
  2. Invest early for long term impact because investment in early stage ideas and projects is much needed and can lead to systemic impact. We will keep targeting our support where other sources of funding are hard to come by and recognise that systemic change takes time. Many leaders and projects we back go on to have impact on a larger scale by unlocking government funding, growing nationally, and influencing policy.
  3. Back different leaders because people and organisations with diverse backgrounds and perspectives bring new insight into both problems and solutions. We will keep backing those with lived experience of the challenges they want to solve, including young people, surfacing relevant and innovative ideas with high potential for impact.
  4. Combine rigour with trust, flexibility and support because leaders need space and time to learn, and to test and adapt their ideas. We will continue to work with cross-sector experts and young people to find and select the leaders we support, then take a trust-based and flexible approach over the course of our funding and provide programmes of learning and support.

4 key insights from our research 

Surfaced alongside our community of leaders and global insight partners, we continue to embed this research insights in all our work

  1. Change must be focused on a broader purpose and set of outcomes. For systems to transform, rather than just incrementally improve, we need to challenge old beliefs and assumptions about what education is for – its goals and purpose.
  2. Young people need to be at the centre of learning ecosystems. Learning takes place within and beyond school and, in order to thrive, young people must be supported at home, in school and in their communities by a cross-section of people and organisations working together.
  3. Change happens at the pace of trust and relationships are key. A lot of focus and funding is given to the technical aspects of changing systems, like structures and policy. There needs to also be focus on the deeper, more hidden shifts in values, culture, behaviour, power and relationships that can support or hold back change.
  4. Collaboration and leadership of change must be intergenerational. Young people’s ideas, voices and agency must be at the heart of decision-making about the issues that affect them. Within change efforts power needs to be shared across different groups and generations. 

A final thought

Big Change has always been about imagining and committing to a different future, with and for young people. But imagining, let alone achieving, significant and lasting change is not easy. We are all confronted by systems that are difficult to move and in them we can feel frustrated, stuck, and powerless. Yet, time and time again, we see that great things happen when we trust the experience and ideas of those closest to the problems. And that magic happens when you build connections, trust, and relationships between people and organisations to grow and learn together. 

Here’s to helping make more of that magic happen. 

Big Love, Caireen and Caitlin

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