Who We Are

Too many young people grow up in environments that do not empower youth to discover their own greatness. Income, community resources, race, and English proficiency largely determine opportunities for success.

Youth in marginalized communities can be left to believe that greatness is supposed to look, act and be a certain way – and they can never achieve it.

The truth is, GREATNESS is in all of us.

That belief is at the heart of our work at Big Thought.

Who We Are

BIG THOUGHT is an impact nonprofit that closes the opportunity gap by equipping all youth in marginalized communities with the skills and tools they need to imagine and create their best lives and a better world.

Building on the strong foundation provided by family and caregivers, we are allies in young peoples’ growth, helping to prepare them for further education, work and life.

Our most vital partners are the youths themselves. We help them determine and drive their own outcomes by equipping them with tools to navigate real life challenges.


Founded in 1987 by Dallas civic leaders Edith O’Donnell and Mitch Jericho as an affiliate of Young Audiences, the organization began innovating education from its inception by bringing arts and cultural performances into classrooms at a time when the arts had been marginalized or even eliminated from public school curricula. As we grew, our mission and work expanded and in 2004, the name Big Thought was adopted to reflect the broadened scope and vision.

Today, we are a recognized leader in arts education, after school programming, summer learning, juvenile justice, learning systems and social and emotional learning.

We Cultivate Creativity

We Cultivate Creativity

To ensure our youth are ready for the future, we cultivate their creativity by helping them develop critical thinking skills, nurturing innovative thinking, encouraging intellectual curiosity and inspiring everyday learning. We do this through providing hands on, project based activities that encourage them to tinker, try, explore and create.

We Develop Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Skills

We Develop Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Skills

Research emphasizes the importance of social and emotional learning in school, workforce and life. These are real-world skills that help young people learn, thrive and succeed. We join forces with families and educators to help youth learn to navigate complex personal relationships, work effectively in groups and draw from the talents of others.

We Empower Youth Voice

We Empower Youth Voice

We empower youth to discover and shape their own authentic voice. Then we inspire youth to use their voices for positive impact and to contribute to their communities and world.

How We Do It

Big Thought designs, curates, and delivers HIGH IMPACT PROGRAMS that are built upon hands on experiential learning. Because we understand the harsh challenges many youth in marginalized communities face, we embrace trauma-informed methodology.

At Big Thought, we aim to help all young people MAXIMIZE THEIR POTENTIAL in a twenty-first century world. Our programs offer pathways to build skills relevant to thrive in work today and in the future.

Three Main Ways We Work

We develop and deliver high quality curriculum and programs to serve communities with the greatest need. Big Thought direct to youth programs reach over 16,000 students for more than 321,000 learning hours each year.



Creative Solutions

The Fellowship Initiative

Thriving Minds

We strategically connect partners and resources across the city to create learning systems that can effect change on a wider scale. Big Thought Learning Systems reach over 137,000 learners for more than 3.7 million learning hours each year.

Dallas City of Learning

Learning Partners

Library Out Loud

We obsess over design, ensuring that our work is research based, our staff is well trained, and that we are evaluating and enhancing our work year after year.

We take our evidence-based best practices and share them with other nonprofits and organizations through a suite of consultation services including professional development, curriculum design and technical assistance.

SEL Dallas

Mercedes Benz Stadium: STEAM Curriculum

EarthX: STEAM Curriculum

Window On a Wider World

Our Programs

The Big Thought team and our partners are able to achieve success in our community through our social and emotional focus, experiential learning, community-centered partnerships, equity lens and future focus.

Our Programs

Big Thought Partners

We love our partners.

Big Thought works with partners in everything we do. Together, we are closing the opportunity gap.

Our Program Partners facilitate and deliver their own curriculum as contractors at Big Thought programs and activities. A Program Partner can be either individuals or organizations.

Learn more about how to become a Big Thought partner

We are proud of the work we get to do here at Big Thought. See a summary of what we’ve accomplished in 2019 in our Annual Report.

Key Contacts

Looking to learn more? Reach out to us directly and we are happy to spark a conversation!

LeAnn Binford
Big Thought Institute

LeAnn Binford
Director of Consulting Services, Big Thought Institute

Email LeAnn Binford

Greg MacPherson
Educator Contact

Greg MacPherson
Chief Big Thought Institute Officer

Email Greg MacPherson

Erin Offord
Programs & Systems

Erin Offord
Chief of Staff

Email Erin Offord

Laura Orange
Partner Contact

Laura Orange
Manager of Learning Partners

Email Laura Orange