What Spirit of 2012 has learned from One Million Mentors

Eibhlish Fleming, Grants and Learning Manager of Spirit of 2012 writes about the learning gained from One Million Mentors over the last three years funding period.


Between the Summer and Autumn of 2020, the proportion of mentees saying that they felt life is worthwhile increased by 21%, which was remarkable considering the events unfolding in the wider world.

It’s hard to believe quite how much has happened since Spirit of 2012 first awarded a grant to One Million Mentors (1MM) in 2017. We have always been emboldened by the scale of 1MM’s ambition. From its drive to expand to new locations; its unrelenting pursuit for every young person to have an equal bite of the cherry, and its commitment to learning and applying insights in practice throughout the life of our grant relationship. These are just a few of the factors that sum up the strength of the project over the years. Since 2017 − and indeed since 2020, in a time punctuated by moments of kindness and acts of volunteering − 1MM’s mentors provided a guiding light for many young adults who were navigating a changing world of education, employment, and opportunity.

Now, five years on and over 2,500 mentee/mentor pairings later, as we approach the end of Spirit’s funding of 1MM, and on National Mentoring Day, it seems pertinent to reflect on what we have learned through this relationship.

The power of partnership

Whilst this is nothing new to most of us, it’s still worth saying: partnerships open doors. 1MM’s relationships with schools, colleges, youth organisations and city councils meant that they have become a household name in locations they operated in. Partnerships also supported 1MM to develop more tailored mentoring programmes for those who aren’t ‘in the room’. A lucrative partnership with the Proud Trust enabled a tailored mentoring programme for LGBTQ+ young people, whilst a partnership with the Sale Sharks Community Trust connected young people not in education, employment or training with mentors in a supportive way.

If I am struggling with anything to do with college or work, I have someone I can ask the questions too who has been in my shoes. I have learnt that not all successful people start successful.

Mentee, Sale Sharks Community Trust learner

The opportunities arising from virtual mentoring are vast

The impact of connecting with someone from an entirely different city, but with the experience and expertise that you require is not to be sniffed at! When the pandemic and lockdown hit in early 2020 and 1MM shifted their mentoring online, for the first time young people from outside 1MM’s core delivery areas could sign up, be paired with a mentor from anywhere in the UK, and benefit from the programme in the same way as their peers in Cardiff, Manchester and London. Although elements of 1MM will transition back to taking place in person, it’s exciting to know that this programme has proven its ability to scale thanks to its growing digital infrastructure.

My mentor has offered me the opportunity to sit in on one of his Zoom meetings with his colleagues at work, to understand workplace dynamics – this may not have been possible in-person.

Mentee, 2021

Training and networking are essential to good mentoring and support a good quality experience in a programme that has a very wide reach

I was lucky enough to attend two mentor training sessions, one in London and one in Cardiff, before it all moved online in 2020. It’s an enlightening and inspiring thing to be surrounded by people from entirely different sectors and skillsets, and to hear why they were moved to become a mentor. The networks created by these training sessions are essential to supporting a one-on-one delivery context, and 1MM has relentlessly promoted the mentor experience as having parity with that of the mentee. In a programme that has supported thousands of young people and young adults to explore their options, the training and support package for mentors meant that quality was never compromised.

It’s really nice that the mentors also have that type of support mechanism available, either online or through the college and so many people are there for them.

Mentor, 2019

Having a mentor not only improves the wellbeing of young people…

1MM has taught us a considerable amount about the link between having a mentor, feeling empowered and able to access opportunities, and an increase in subjective wellbeing for young people. Between the Summer and Autumn of 2020, the proportion of mentees saying that they felt life is worthwhile increased by 21%, which was remarkable considering the events unfolding in the wider world.

The proportion of mentees who agreed with the statement ‘I feel positive about my future’ also improved by 19%. Although these statistics are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to 1MM’s impact, there is comfort in knowing that an hour a month with an adult who can support, inspire, motivate or challenge can have such a positive impact on the outlook of a young person.

The relationship I have had with Rich, my mentor, has developed. It was just a talk at first then it moved on to a friendship. The skills I have developed are communication, positive outlook, initiative.

Mentee, 2019

…but also the wellbeing of the mentor

Spirit of 2012 has generated a large body of evidence that shows a link between volunteering and personal wellbeing. 1MM found that people who mentor are largely motivated by a wish to help others rather than to gain skills or experience. In the spring of 2021, 1MM mentors’ top two motivations were to help other people (99%) and to benefit from a sense of fulfilment and growth (70%).

I found it extremely enjoyable at times and took great joy in the mentee that I’ve got because they seem to find it worthwhile. That is a very, very good feeling, when you get on with somebody and they find it worthwhile. So it’s a two-way system.

Mentor, 2019

To conclude, while the statistics show the impact, it’s the personal stories and testimonials that really paint the picture. With all eyes on mentoring this week, they both go to show that with the right approach, partnerships, delivery platforms and network building, the future is bright for mentoring young people. We’re delighted to have been part of the 1MM journey and look forward to distilling and sharing the insights that have emerged from our funding.


Interested in becoming a mentor? Please click here for more information or to sign up.

Email: enquiries@onemillionmentors.org.uk
Website: 1mm.org.uk
Twitter: @1millionmentor1
Instagram: @onemillionmentors