Fran Plowright FRSA reflects on the School of Logical Progression’s Meet a Mentor pilot programme, supported by the RSA Catalyst Fund.
The School of Logical Progression’s (SLP) Meet a Mentor Programme helps young people aged 18-26 find work in London’s creative industries. The programme is an opportunity for young people from diverse backgrounds looking to find and stay in work and to gain expert guidance, networks and connections from inspiring, dedicated creative professionals.
Our approach is based on building relationships between our mentees – young people looking for work, or in entry-level positions in the creative industries - and mentors - professionals who work across the creative sectors looking to give something back. SLP’s aim is to support and create opportunities for young people to make it in a fast-changing, competitive and highly-networked workplace.
A bit of background on me. I am a producer, educational consultant, curator and facilitator. For the past ten years, I have been doing a lot of work in the mentoring, youth engagement and employment sector, designing courses, workshops and giving opportunities to talented young adults who may not have ready-made networks or routes into the creative industries. From the work I have done and the young people I have come into contact with, I know how valuable these connections can be and what a tangible difference to someone’s career prospects and lives they can make.
SLP Meet a Mentor is passionate about social mobility and at its core is about giving opportunities to young people to help them fulfil their potential. Meet a Mentor was created in response to the skills gap and lack of diversity in the creative industries.
‘There is a hard economic case for the creative industries to diversify their workforces’
So states The C. Report 2015-2016, produced by the Creative Industries Federation (CIF). This is where SLP comes in. We believe that as much as there is moral case, that there is also a real business case and imperative for diversifying the creative industries across the board.
We recruited carefully for Meet a Mentor. The key to the success of the programme was recruiting the right people who were committed to turn up for all sessions. Relationships are built on trust and commitment, so we made it very clear to both the mentees who applied and the mentors who agreed to take part in the programme that they had to be available for all sessions.
Meet a Mentor comprised four meetings over four months (April – July 2016) and took place in inspiring creative spaces in London. These evening sessions included group tasks, panel discussions and workshops in the form of CV surgeries, pitching and interview skills, as well as inspirational talks from interesting people. Each session also allocated time for the mentor and mentee to spend getting to know each other better and looking at specific issues relevant to each individual.
For the first cohort, we recruited mentors from the following areas: Content Production, Journalism, Publishing, Marketing & Communications, Digital & Technology, Film, Fashion, Entrepreneurship, Online and Social Media.
We matched them up carefully with the mentees who had applied to take part in the programme – some were graduates, some not, some were unemployed, others were in entry-level positions.
It was really exciting seeing the project come to life – outcomes were expected and unexpected. What was particularly rewarding was that it wasn’t only the mentees who took tips and inspiration away from the evenings; our mentors did too. There are many reciprocal benefits to pairing up people at different stages in their careers and often a fresh perspective is useful for a professionals as well as those just starting out, and this mixture was particularly potent when the pairs joined forces to take part in the evening’s tasks.
Tasks were led by: Caroline Hinton from Somethin’ Else, Jess Tyrell formerly of Centre for London now with digital product studio Ustwo, Louisa Tapper from VCCP, and Charlotte Hillenbrand from Made by Many.
The guest speakers were a highlight of each session, so we saved them until last. Each one of them was different and equally inspiring, authentic, honest and thought provoking.
“The guest talks were my highlights, great stories, advice, many good takeaways” (Navaz – Mentor)
Our speakers were:
Nihal Arthanyake, DJ, Broadcaster, Journalist - on his 20 year journey from music plugger to now.
Selina Nwulu, Young Poet Laureate for London who also works for the RSA - on finding her voice as a writer.
Cathy Runciman, Acting CEO for Open Democracy, Founder of Atlast of the Future.
“It was a real privilege meeting all the other mentors and mentees - so many talented, enthusiastic and brilliant people. And I loved the talks that took place each week. Each guest that came was inspiring and motivating, for me, let alone anyone else! I feel very lucky to have been part of it.” Angela Clarke - FRSA Mentor
“It’s been insightful in unexpected ways. It opened my eyes to a broader range of things. I’ve found the network really supportive, encouraging and interesting to talk to. I think a lot of creative people I know would really benefit from the support and motivation that has been provided by this scheme.” Rebecca Lesley - Mentee
At the end of the programme, four of the young adults found roles within the creative industries: Vanessa Onalu– a three-month work placement at VCCP, Maya Ophelia – at Siobhan Davies Dance Company, Kimberley Nyamhondera – a summer placement with Tech City UK, and Rebecca Lesley – a Dior photo-shoot to add to her CV and which has led to more paid industry work.
After this first successful phase, we feel more convinced than ever of the need for projects like ours. We are currently looking to apply for the Scaling Catalyst Grant, so we can run it again but on a bigger scale and will also be collaborating with charity A New Direction and their Create Jobs employment programme, providing some consultancy and insight from our pilot to inform their existing mentoring programme.
The close association will help to upscale the programme as we continue to deliver dynamic workshops, training and inspiring TED-type talks from a range of speakers, with a mission to help to bridge the gap between young people from diverse backgrounds and employment in the creative industries.
Huge thanks to the RSA and to all who have supported us to make this project happen: our mentors Navaz Batliwalla (Fashion Consultant/Blogger); Ali Blackwell (Tech expert, co-Founder, Decoded); Georgina Bobb (TV Production Co-ordinator); Angela Clarke (Author, Playwright, Blogger); Liesel Evans (TV Executive, Century Films, Trustee the Grierson Trust); Bejay Mulenga (Social Entrepreneur, Supa Academy); Louisa Tapper (Business Director & Partner, VCCP); Jess Tyrrell - (ustwo, Centre for London, We are Dotdotdot); Tom Young - (Executive Producer Somethin’ Else) and our mentees, workshop leaders and to our inspiring speakers.
For more information on the programme and any of the content, please go to