The European Center for Evidence-based mentoring organized its second book club on the 26th of May 2021. It was focused on the book “Older and Wiser: New ideas for youth mentoring in the 21st Century” by Prof. Dr Jean Rhodes. Youth mentoring is among the most popular forms of volunteering in the world. But does it work? Does mentoring help young people succeed? In Older and Wiser, mentoring expert Jean Rhodes draws on more than thirty years of empirical research to survey the state of the field. This book served as the main subject of the conversations this time, along with the author’s knowledge and opinions on youth mentoring.
With Dr. Levi van Dam as the moderator, the conversation started with the differences in mentoring between the US and Europe, how Jean got into the field of education and mentoring and the importance of good mentoring relationships. This was followed by questions from the audience with which Jean could speak about the use of technology in mentoring, the ethical implications of mentors and the difference between paid and volunteer mentors.
The interview between Levi and Jean started by comparing mentoring in the USA to mentoring in Europe. The 1st wave of mentoring originated in the US in the early 1900s to battle poverty and inequality and was rather small back then. Mentoring was successful in combating many of these inequalities which were faced by the European immigrants to America and over the years the middle class got considerably bigger up to the 1970s. Then, with Ronald Reagan, the inequality began to spike again, which led to a 2nd wave of mentoring. While the 1st focused on the community and the government, the 2nd wave focused more on individuals. Compared to the US, the first mentoring programmes in Europe was started in 1993, but most programmes in Europe are even newer with the majority of programmes having been set up in the last 10 years. This is in part also due to the different target group in Europe. While mentoring programmes in the US mainly target endangered youth, mentoring programmes in Europe are primed towards migrants and to help them integrate into European society.
The conversation then moved into the importance of mentoring relationships with Jean giving a personal account of herself as a young adult and how she found a mentor that guided her way towards becoming a clinical psychologist.
Through her work as a psychologist and the research she did, she learned a lot about mentoring relationships and the most effective ways of making them work. About 25% of children need mentoring relationships and they should find suitable mentors, which brought up the next point of how to measure which programmes are good? Through her research Jean had found out, that general plans where they just put mentors and mentees together are rarely getting results. It is important to have clear goals when it comes to mentoring. And when the goals of multiple mentees are the same it is even possible for a mentor to take on multiple mentees.
Afterwards, Levi opened the conversation to the audience, who asked questions to expand on what was discussed by him and Jean. Here Jean talked about the future use of technology and apps in the mentoring field and how these could be beneficial to the mentees if used correctly. In regards to technology, it is important to educate mentors properly, so that they do not use it too generally and with no benefits.
The next question implored about the ethical principles of mentors, to which Jean replied that guidelines have to be set up for mentors so they know what to do in certain cases like issues of confidentiality, conflicts of interest and if it is alright to hire the mentee. The last question asked about the differences between paid and volunteering mentors as there is a negative stigma around paid mentors. However, paid mentors often have stronger effects. Jean advocated for more transparency among the mentors and that they should be able to clearly say what they want out of the mentorship.
The audience also wanted to find out if and when Jean will be releasing her next book. While she has no plans of writing a new book anytime soon. She put her heart and soul into “Older and Wiser” and if she does write another book, it is going to be about the new direction of technology in mentoring. It was a difficult journey as she criticized her younger self, but this is the process of growth and that it’s the right way. She concludes it by saying: “Don´t do what´s comfortable, do what´s right”.