London , United Kingdom

Team London and the Mayor’s Mentoring Scheme

City of London

October 24, 2011

Building city-wide voluntary networks to improve social problems

Aaron Harriott is a 17-year-old professional footballer. But without the experience of mentoring, he doubts he would have achieved his ‘dream job’: “To be honest in the beginning I didn’t like being told what to do and was quite rebellious. But after a while I realised that my mentor was trying to help me…I think it’s really important for people my age to have someone show them what they can do with their lives.” Aaron was first mentored at age 11, and now hopes to volunteer himself.

In August 2010, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson launched a city-wide mentoring scheme to provide positive role models for disadvantaged young teenagers. Part of London’s innovative use of the voluntary sector to resolve wider social problems, the scheme has already attracted 1,700 volunteer mentors.

Mayor’s Mentors

The hope is that the Mayor’s Mentoring Programme will make Aaron’s story more common. The programme aims to provide positive role models for disadvantaged London teenagers, reducing their involvement in crime and giving them greater commitment to education and employment.

The teenagers will spend two hours a week with their mentor. Parents will be involved in the matching process, helping select a suitable mentor. Once ‘matched’ the mentors will work on individual programmes, which may include sports, literacy and home work, and advice and help for the young person.

Former Deputy Mayor Ray Lewis devised the scheme, building on the disciplinary philosophy of his school, the Eastside Academy, set up to provide a structured learning environment to troubled black teenagers.

He says: “This programme is all about preventative work and catching boys before they fall into a vicious circle of crime. Let’s be honest, many of our boys are growing up in single parent households with no father figures… It is easy to criticize our young people who behave badly but unfortunately some have never been taught right from wrong and mentoring is a real solution.”

The mentoring scheme is being rolled out across seven of London’s poorest boroughs, including Brent, Croydon, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Waltham Forest and Southwark.

Football legend Ian Wright speaks about mentoring

Team London: Connecting Volunteers, Building Impact

The Mayor’s Mentors project is a key part of the wider Team London initiative, which aims to develop and engage with the voluntary sector across the city. Partnership working is at the centre of this scheme, bringing together willing individuals, voluntary organisations and the private sector to target the most pressing and difficult community problems.

The scheme also hopes to increase participation in civic projects across London, building volunteers’ sense of belonging in the capital and contributing to greater social cohesion.

Team London builds on an American idea, Cities of Service, initially developed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as NYC Service. The idea of ‘impact volunteering’ is central to the project, where the efforts of volunteers are directed toward specific and achievable social goals.

Building Success

Team London adapts these ambitions to the local situation. The problem in London has not been a lack of willingness to volunteer – the Mayor’s figures suggest that around 1 in 4 Londoners are already regular volunteers, and up to 70% volunteer informally. Over 300,000 people have volunteered for the Olympic Games in 2012.

Instead, the problem has been the difficulties of connecting willing helpers to meaningful opportunities, and the lack of a strategy for targeting the energies of volunteers where most needed.

Team London’s approach resolves both these issues. Their clear, free and easy to use web page acts much like a conventional jobs site where individuals can log on and apply for suitable roles. Although only launched at the end of June, the site already lists nearly 60 voluntary opportunities, many of which remain ongoing.

The second idea is to target volunteers where they are most needed. To do this, Team London has identified three priorities for the London voluntary sector, through public consultation: Cutting Crime, Quality of Life and Youth Opportunities.

The voluntary roles hosted on their website should all tie directly into these priorities, and the Mayor’s office have devised particular projects – like the mentoring scheme – that operate within them.

By providing strategic priorities, and facilitating voluntary opportunities, Team London are successfully managing the flow of volunteers, directing them to work where the community is most in need.


Making it Work for You:

  • Rewards: Volunteering takes a lot of time and effort – make sure you use visible rewards systems for recognising people’s contributions, like ‘London Stars’.
  • Good co-ordination: A well-designed system for connecting willing volunteers with organisations in need is vital.
  • Priorities: Collaborating with the public to identify clear priorities for your city gives legitimacy to your volunteer strategy.
  • Harness already existing volunteers: Tying the project into the 2012 Olympics gave the project impetus and a clear, high-profile example of the positive benefits of volunteering.

For this Good Idea contact:

Mara Clarke Senior Project Officer, Volunteering, Team London
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
London, UK,

Team London Film

Recent Good Ideas

Leamington, Canada
From Survival Jobs to Rich Harvest
Highline Mushrooms  

Brandon, Canada
Industry Leaders Connect to Recruit Newcomers
Maple Leaf Foods  

Halifax, Canada
Welcomed in Halifax
Halifax Regional Municipality  

Toronto, Canada
Eliminating Barriers for Displaced Individuals
WES Gateway Program  

Kuopio, Finland
Encouraging Cities to Bring Locals and Immigrants Together
City of Kuopio  

View all