LRaPP interview with Dr Darren Sharpe
The Mayor of London and London recovery board have committed themselves to promoting a dramatic increase in mentoring for young people across London. Against this background, LRaPP commissioned Dr Darren Sharpe to examine mentoring gaps, best practices and challenges in London to help strengthen the roll-out of new programmes as part of the Mayor’s New Deal for Young People mission.
Here we interview him about his motivations and findings.
How did you become interested in youth mentoring?
As a sociologist, I understand the vital role support networks can play in people's everyday lives. We can all benefit from advice and guidance by someone who can empathise with our life circumstances and aspirations. Unfortunately young people, especially young people from less advantaged backgrounds, often struggle to get that advice and guidance from their immediate networks. Mentoring can fill that gap.
What’s your role at UEL?
I am the Deputy Director of the Institute for Connected Communities based at UEL. I am also currently seconded to Newham Council, as a UCL CAPE Policy Fellow (Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement) supporting closer work between academic experts and policymakers – very much in-line with the London Research and Policy Partnership’s mission. My expertise includes participatory research with children, young people and vulnerable adults.
What do you find most rewarding in your work?
The knowledge that I am helping vulnerable young people. My position gives me the ability to articulate what matters most to them. I can’t say that I get many quick wins from my work, but overtime you can see subtle changes in individual lives and for communities.
Tell us about what you wanted to find with this research?
The London Research and Policy Partnership (LRaPP) identified research on the youth mentoring landscape as a priority. This study was funded by the LRaPP and supported by the Greater London Authority with the explicit goal to advance the New Deal for Young People programme. The programme’s mission is to ensure that all young Londoners in need will have access to a personal mentor by 2024. We carried out a mapping exercise to find out what mentoring opportunities were available for young Londoners between the ages of 10 and 25, where the gaps are, what are the way to improve the quality of mentoring where it is needed most.
What are the main takeaways of what you found?
Our study found that there is a wide range of mentoring opportunities available to young Londoners, evenly spread across each of the boroughs, but with certain groups of young people being underserved. For example, there is an evident lack of access to high-quality person-centred mentoring for young parents, young carers, and young people with chronic health conditions.
Another takeaway was the need for a more strategic and properly funded network of mentoring providers. Right now, funding is pretty hand to mouth, and most mentoring is reactive, when a young person is already in acute need, when all the evidence show that mentoring is most effective when it comes early.
We also need to promote a greater understanding of the purpose of mentoring and what it involves – to demystify it. This should be addressed both at people who would benefit from mentoring and those that might become mentors. Good mentoring opportunities require a high degree of cultural competencies to ensure that services are culturally responsive to the lived experience of young Londoners.
You can find more about this research and it's key findings in Our projects