Jonathan Freeman has been Managing Director of Mosaic since January 2011, having joined the Mosaic team in 2009. As we approach the end of the 2014/15 academic year, we caught up with him to see how things have been going and the plans for the summer.
What has been keeping you busy in the last month?
As well as ensuring we meet all our targets for the end of the academic year (which we have! Indeed, most have been exceeded!), the last month has been dominated by our end of year celebration events in each region. It has been such a huge pleasure to see almost 400 guests across events in each of the five regions in which we currently work come together to celebrate the achievements they have delivered. In particular, these events have seen some great presentations and performances from the young people we support, talking powerfully about the help that their mentors have given to them. We have also crowned the winning regional mentors of the year at these events, recognising the amazing efforts that our volunteers have gone to over the last year to help young people on our programmes.
What have been the Mosaic highlights during this period?
Mosaic has had its best year ever, delivering more help to more young people thanks to our largest ever number of volunteer year mentors. A big bit of this has been thanks to the fantastic support provided by our new partners at The People’s Postcode Lottery There has been so much to celebrate across all of our programmes. Whilst we tend to remember some of the events we organise – such as our primary school graduation events, celebration events or World of Work visits – the highlights for me have been the opportunities I have had to talk directly to young people about how the support of their mentors has opened doors to them that they thought were closed. I talked to a small group of secondary school students at one of our London schools who have been participating on our group mentoring programme; they told me about how they had been on some amazing visits to Buckingham Palace and to Canary Wharf as part of their programme which had really opened their eyes, but mainly about how they had never met successful individuals like their mentors who had taken the time to help them understand how they can and should achieve the very best in life regardless of the barriers in front of them.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming month?
I won’t lie that I am looking forward to a bit more time with my family over the Summer months! However, we have some ambitious plans for the year ahead and I am really excited about working with our Board, Regional Leadership Groups and the Mosaic staff team to finalise the plans for a bumper year! The great thing about Mosaic is we are always looking to do more and to do it better.
What’s the best piece of advice you have heard during this period that you want to share with our wonderful Mosaic network?
I had the opportunity to hear from an amazing man called Mustafa Salameh who was the first ever Jordanian to climb Mount Everest, having come from a very poor and tough background. His personal mantra was “Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take but by the number of times your breath is taken away.” I thought that was pretty cool!
Jonathan also recently participated in a Q&A with one of our Mosaic Enterprise Challenge 2015 media partners, Asian Wealth Magazine, which has been reproduced below to help provide a wider insight into Mosaic’s work.
What is Mosaic?
Mosaic is a charitable initiative founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007 to inspire young people to realise their talents and potential. Mosaic’s mentoring programmes in schools and prisons create opportunities for young people growing up in our most deprived communities.
Why is it important to provide mentorship in schools and prisons?
The young people with which we work very often don’t have access to those who have achieved success in their social networks and lack the contacts to realise their full potential. We work with young people in tough communities who face multiple barriers to success. Sadly, those from minority ethnic backgrounds are significantly over-represented amongst these communities. With the help of volunteer mentors acting as role models, we aim to bridge the aspirations-attainment gap. By linking young people with inspirational role models in this way, we boost their confidence, self-efficacy and long-term employability.
What do Mosaic hope will be the outcome of providing mentorship programmes?
Our mission is for every young person, regardless of their background, to be able to realise their full potential. That could be getting in to university, it could be getting an apprenticeship, it could be getting in to a top job. And for those we support in prison, it is about them turning their back on a life of crime and making a positive contribution to society. Whatever success looks like for each individual, our job is to help them overcome the barriers that they might face that others do not.
Our UK programmes are all accredited and have been subject to external evaluation, so we know we make a difference. However, we have now embarked on a major six-year research programme with the leading National centre for Social Research to see how the students on our secondary programme fare compared to their peers over the long-term, so that we can really understand the positive contribution we make to the young people’s lives.
What do young people gain from the experience?
We know that too few of the young people we work with have access to the world of work and also, sadly, too few examples around them of people who have achieved success. Through our structured mentoring programmes, the young people involved get access to incredibly inspirational people who want to help them to follow in their footsteps. They get advice and guidance on what it takes to achieve success and access to places of work that were previously closed to them. As most of the volunteer mentors involved – and this year we had over 1200 volunteer mentors engaged across our programmes! – come from similar backgrounds as the young people, strong friendships and networks are formed that last beyond the life of the programmes. And we also hope that the young people have some fun on their journey with Mosaic!
To ensure that young people are at the heart of our work, we established a Young People’s Forum to work with us on the design of our programmes. This is already proving a real boost to our work.
Do you have any examples of case studies where a person/group has gone on to fulfil their potential directly as a result of a Mosaic mentorship programme?
One of my favourite examples was a young man we worked with at the very start of Mosaic’s work, who was mentored by a group that included our former Chairman Khawar Mann. Ataulla was around 14 years old when he started Mosaic mentoring, at a pivotal moment in his secondary education: “We were choosing which GCSEs to take and I got my SATs results and I didn’t do as well as the teachers predicted.” He says himself that his school was one where “not many people got very good grades”. At this point, it was recommended to Ataulla that he become a mentee with Mosaic at the programme running in his North London school. Ataulla found Mosaic mentoring particularly useful in helping him make some long-term decisions about studying and a future career. As he approached his exams, Atualla credits his mentors with helping keeping him motivated. His mentor, Khawar, gave him advice that he still remembers: “He said, ‘Ataulla, aim for A*s and As, this or that isn’t good for you, try to aim high because if you aim high you’ll get. You may slightly get lower but just aim for the top grades’”. For Atualla, it was important that his mentor kept tabs on him, and would monitor how he was doing, give advice on how to revise for exams, including techniques to memorise information. Throughout this period, Khawar and others were also helping Atualla think about and prepare for what he would do professionally. Today, Ataulla is completing his Masters’ degree at Warwick University, something he could never have imagined achieving with his mentors’ support.
How can business people get involved in Mosaic?
Each of our programmes has been designed to fit in with those with hectic schedules – so there is no excuse not to get involved! The time commitment varies per programme – from just six hours on our Enterprise Challenge to once a month on our ex-offender mentoring programme. We provide free training to all mentors, usually in a three hour session after work, each programme has specific sessions resources to guide your mentoring and we also look after all safeguarding arrangements. Mentors operate in teams so that there are always others around you to help. The Mosaic team is also always there in the background to support and guide you.
It is worth making the point that mentoring is very much a two-way street: mentors report that they get just as much out of the programme as the young people! Indeed, over 90% of mentors reported that participation improved their professional skills, particularly presentation skills and networking. 98% of Mosaic’s mentors said they would recommend that other people become mentors.
What are the up and coming events in the Mosaic calendar?
We always have great events on the horizon! Following the end of year celebration events in each region over June, we start planning for the new academic year with lots of information and training sessions over the Summer. We will shortly be announcing arrangements for our Mentor of the Year event in the Autumn which is always a high point; last year’s was held at Sandringham with The Prince of Wales! All of our events are open to all and are publicised on our website at www.mosaicnetwork.co.uk
How did you get involved in Mosaic?
I used to work for the Government as a Senior Civil Servant and Mosaic was one of the projects we were able to provide some funding for in the early days. It was always the project that came back to me as doing really well. I jumped at the chance of a secondment at Mosaic when it was offered; that was supposed to be just for one year…. I’ve never looked back since!
What aspects of the job do you enjoy?
The best bits of the job are the people and the volunteers! I am lucky enough to meet some of the brightest and best kids and they always amaze me. When I see how their lives are transformed by our incredible volunteer mentors, there is simply nothing to beat it!