From Mount Etna to Mont Blanc, AKQA Strives for change

Social impact accelerator Big Change aims to unlock the full potential of our young people and reimagine the way education works today.

Since 2012 Virgin STRIVE has supported Big Change, enabling youngsters to thrive, not just in exams but throughout life. Big Change believes that prevention is better than solving problems and it is easier to build strong children than fix broken adults.

Prioritising communication, career support and improved teachers’ well being, it has backed innovative early stage ideas that would otherwise not have got investment and have gone on to receive millions of pounds in government funding.

This year’s STRIVE saw more than 200 people take part in an extraordinary 1,700km journey, cycling, kayaking, sailing, hiking and climbing their way from Mount Etna to Mont Blanc. More than 20 AKQA staff took part in a life-changing experience that will help change other lives for the better.

As well as raising money and awareness for the Big Change campaign, STRIVE brings ideas and people together and symbolises everyone’s ability to step outside of their comfort zone to achieve goals they might otherwise have thought impossible.

This year STRIVE raised £1.5 million which will fund up to 10 new projects. Key focus areas will include:

• Tackling the issue of exclusion from schools, with the most vulnerable children often excluded rather than being supported.

• Encouraging parents and carers to engage with their children at a young age, a huge factor in their ability to learn at school.

• Supporting teachers at a time when the UK faces a major teaching crisis, a workforce that is among the most stressed in the country.

AKQA client services director Kristin Goto described the journey. “Having parents who were both teachers, STRIVE was personally important to me. The education system varies across the world, but the most important thing we all need to do is to invest in the students and teachers to be able to do their very best.”

Another AKQA Striver, executive assistant Laura Minton, said: “My first STRIVE Challenge was a profound experience; not only did I realise my own mental and physical strength for the first time in my life, but never before had I experienced such kindness, kinship and selfless generosity. It’s a fantastic experience to come together with a group of people and strive for such a worthy cause.”

Reflecting on this year’s challenge, Sir Richard Branson said it was “absolutely worth it, because of the camaraderie, because of the causes we are supporting, and because of the enormous feeling of achievement you can get from testing yourself. Success is a lengthy process that involves many long nights and stressful days. There’s no shortcut – but lots of small steps eventually turn into miles. It’s a lesson we put into practice while Striving.”

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