Mentor International Summit 2023

In January, Mentor staff members from across Europe, Middle East and USA gathered in Stockholm for a two-day meeting.

5 March 2023 | Blog

Mentor International Summit 2023 (left to right) Gudrun Giddings, Edite Zvirbule, Thomas Strobel, Agnes Wehr, Anthony AbiZeid, Elise Alpen, Ulla Zumente Steele, Liva Rancane, Cecilia Bernard, Minna Madzunkova, Berchara Ghaoui. Photo by Linda Hansson

The last week in January 2023, representatives from Mentor’s member organisations from the USA, Germany, Latvia, Sweden and the Middle East gathered with Mentor International in Stockholm, Sweden to exchange knowledge, experiences and lessons learned. At the forefront were meaningful conversations surrounding strategy, tools, best practices and upcoming collaborations to empower young people to achieve their full potential and build a better future.

The summit spent a half day with Emilia Wiik from Effektfullt focusing on Theory of Change to help the organisations’ program managers and other stakeholders understand how the mentoring programs are supposed to work and identify areas for improvement by clearly defining (and understanding) the links between intended outcomes and the programs’ interventions.

The participants were also given a crash-course in targeted content and SEO by Fredrik Colling from Kan to help each organisation be more effective and smarter in how they try to reach and communicate with their target audience.

They were also invited to a youth x art workshop at Moderna Museet with their program pedagogues. Ylva Hillström and Anita Wernstrom-Pitcher shared insight into an alternative approach to youth support, using art as a means to help young people communicate feelings and increase self-awareness. Since 2020, the museum has also been working closely with a diverse and competitively recruited youth advisory council to increase young people’s influence on the art world.

Fredrik Colling ran a fascinating workshop on targeted content and keywords to help us better raise awareness for our cause.

During the day, staff members from Mentor Sweden took the opportunity to exchange a few words with representatives from all countries.

Mentor USA

First up was Gudrun Giddings, Chairman of Mentor USA located in Los Angeles where she leads Mentor’s operations.

MS: What does Mentor’s business in the US look like?

GG: We offer a very similar arrangement to yours at Mentor Sweden. Among other things, we work with recurring school visits such as Mentor Inspo and programs for students when they have finished school. We have also organised a competition under the name “Living The Example” which has been incredibly popular, where young people can act as role models for each other and show why they deserve the title.

MS: What are the most important lessons you take with you from your days in Stockholm?

GG: I bring with me enormous inspiration and energy from my days with Mentor International. It was a reminder of the importance of listening to and helping young people work on their self-esteem and self-confidence, not least in the wake of the pandemic. Today, Mentor’s activities are needed more than ever before.

Mentor Arabia

On-site to represent Mentor’s operations in the Middle East was, among others, Bechara Ghaoui, Deputy Director of Mentor Arabia.

MS: How has the development looked in your region recently?

BG: Here at Mentor Arabia, our top priority has been to recover from the effects of the pandemic. But despite the challenges that changes in the outside world entailed, we have succeeded in deepening our operations in e.g. Lebanon and Jordan. H. M. Queen Silvia‘s visit to Jordan last year, where she visited a girls’ school in Amman together with the Mentor delegation, was a welcome boost that helped us establish more partnerships. We have also opened a national office in Jordan, which is a big step for our development going forward.

MS: What has been the highlight during the visit with the other countries?

BG: That during the days together with Mentor International we had the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences, differences and areas of knowledge. I am hugely motivated to continue our collaboration together, says Ghaoui.

It was helpful for Mentor Germany to walk through their Theory of Change to explain the links between their inputs, outputs, outcomes and goals.

Mentor Germany

In Mentor’s operations in Germany, pedagogue Agnes Wehr is involved and leads the work, which includes school visits and inspirational lectures for young people.

MS: What is your strongest insight from the past few days?

AW: It has been extremely rewarding to gain greater insight into how the other countries work to unlock the potential of young people. Many of us are facing similar challenges and therefore it is valuable to talk and learn from each other.

Mentor Latvia

In Latvia, Mentor’s operations have chosen to focus on the target group of young people with special needs. We spoke to the country’s program manager Ulla Zumente Steele and let her tell us more.

UZS: In Latvia, we work with young people between the ages of 13 and 21 who, for whatever reason, lack the support of their biological parents. Many live in youth homes or with foster families. We offer them a one-year mentorship where they are matched with adult role models, just like in Sweden. We always strive to tailor the mentorship based on the youth’s own needs and interests.

MS: What are your goals for the future?

UZS: Going forward, we want to continue to develop and see, among other things, a growing demand for group mentoring. There we draw inspiration from Mentor Sweden and hope to broaden the range in the near future.

It was an honour to have our founder, HM Queen Silvia, visit Mentor's office in Gamla Stan, where the international representatives gathered for a second day of meetings.