Reimagining Our Worlds from Below: Panel 8



Mentoring for Social Inclusion in Turbulent Times:

Political Engagements, Critical Consciousness, and Dynamics of Inequality in Programs

In recent years, mentoring for social inclusion has expanded rapidly as a much-vaunted form of social intervention around the globe. Related programs often facilitate social support by creating and guiding personal relationships between local volunteers and individuals from different target groups, e.g. immigrants, minorities, or marginalized youth.

Far from emerging in a political void, mentoring schemes have generated interest amongst policy makers and advocacy groups as a means to tackle social inequities or as flanking measures. Their proliferation often happens amid cutbacks in public spending and growing inequality. In some regions, mentoring schemes have become a core part of public programs to fight the negative effects of the pandemic.

Scholars, professionals and activists have highlighted the need to raise critical consciousness within the mentoring experience. This session invites a critical discussion on how programs need to move beyond the acknowledged indicators and explore the potential of mentoring for social change. Thus, the possibilities of mentoring as a tool for social transformation need to be explored, so as not to reproduce social inequalities. Contributions should reflect on mentoring approaches, training, activities, supervision, and assessment. This session invites members of advocacy groups, researchers, government agencies, mentoring organizations, donors, and funders, as well as bottom-up civic initiatives. Contributions from the Global South are particularly welcome.

Session organizers: Òscar Prieto Flores, University of Girona (Spain); Eberhard Raithelhuber, Bertha von Suttner Private University (Austria).

Click on the presentation name to link to abstract and presenter bio.

“Critical Autonomy, Social Capital and Mentoring Programmes for Children and Youth”

Òscar Prieto Flores, PhD, University of Girona (Spain)

“A Mentoring Program for Sexual Minority Men in Hong Kong: Does a Mentor’s Sexual Orientation Matter?”

Yu-Te Huang, PhD, University of Hongkong (Hongkong); Leo Zephyrus Chow, M.Phil, University of Hongkong (Hongkong); and Chi-Chung Lau, MPH, University of Toronto (Canada)

“School Based Mentoring for Rural Youth Development in the Indian Context”

Anuradha Kumar, Teach To Learn @ IIT Madras (India)

Recording of Live Panel Discussion

6 replies
  1. Pattie
    Pattie says:

    Hi everyone! I am the 2021-22 Chair of SSSP’s Transnational Virtual Initiatives Committee, the group that organized this conference. I am excited that our conference is finally here and we have a chance to hear from people who care about social problems around the world.

    I wish you a good conference. I hope you will join us in this forum, just introducing yourself and sharing your thoughts, insights, questions and your own work. Welcome!

  2. Eberhard Raithelhuber
    Eberhard Raithelhuber says:

    Dear Anu, thanks for your wonderful presentation “School Based Mentoring for Rural Youth Development in the Indian Context”, including for the contextualization of the programs or lines of work of “teach to learn”. I am curious about many aspects, particularly the positive “impacts” or “effects” that you mention regarding the example of the mentoring program on a micro, meso and macro level. In one sequence you explain the “development of a mentoring culture”. There you say that Higher Education Institutions (HEI), from which the adolescent mentors are recruited (as “role models” or “elder siblings”), have an enhanced chance to understand real needs through engagement in communities and accordingly innovate and invent useful measures. Can you elaborate on this, in particular how this effect is brought about? Do you refer to a sort of service learning of (individual) students in higher education? Or are there also examples that these individual-level experiences are systematically taken into consideration by the organizations respectively HEI, and the dimensions of social inequality that are inevitably part of these experiences are identified and discussed, e.g. in the “collaborative platforms” you mention?

  3. Eberhard Raithelhuber
    Eberhard Raithelhuber says:

    Hi Fiona, thanks for this overview of the most recent developments in the mentoring field, in particular in France and Spain during the pandemic. Your contribution “Fostering Systemic Change with Mentoring : A European Approach” shows in an amazing manner how this field of social intervention has developed in quantity and quality, and how it has became part of governmental policies to fight the negative effects of the covid 19 pandemic. On the one hand, I see that within the current dynamic you identify the chance to push forward the idea of a “right to be mentored” as a European social right that should be available for every citizen or person. I see the change dimension in that, as it would allow many people to be able to manage one’s own life and related challenges in a much better way, in particular in a society that is ever more complex to navigate in the life course. And I see that to bring this about, an “eco-system” for mentoring, as you call it, needs to be built up and maintained. You suggest that the welfare state respectively governments have the main responsibility here. However, you also fear that governments might pass on this and other responsibilities to the non-profit sector, with unclear consequences. Could you explain a bit if and how the new and old organized not-for-profit providers of mentoring programs and the (state-funded) NGO-platforms discuss this ambivalent empowerment and “public” recognition? What kind of policy implications do you see, in particular regarding a possible neglect of the social, systemic inequalities that lie at the bottom of the marginalization and “need” of many young people? What “drives” actually the current development in the field and what do all these engaged mentors do with the experience of inequalities they come across when taking up such a reliable relationship with young people?

  4. Eberhard Raithelhuber
    Eberhard Raithelhuber says:

    Dear Òscar, thanks for this opening up of the overall panel. I liked your systematization and dense description of the current development and its challenges. In one part you speak about the need to reflect on the inequalities in our societies – also in the context of mentoring programs for social inclusion –, in order to find out how children can find a safer space and built (more and long lasting) social capital. You suggest a stronger emphasis on a contextual analysis, i.e. the social context in which mentoring programs and organization are caring out their work. Without expecting a “theory of everything”, I am curious to know about the attempts that you are aware of. How is such a “social context” considered in the different programs? If we do not see the “perfect” model yet, how could we at least facilitate such a critical analysis also on an organizational level? How would you imagine that the first-hand experiences of mentors and mentees, as well as of others (public authorities, welfare agencies, parents, teachers etc.) can be put to use for such a necessary endeavor? What would / could be the role of researchers and of the umbrella organizations that lobby and advocate for mentoring at different levels?

  5. Eberhard Raithelhuber
    Eberhard Raithelhuber says:

    Yu-Te, Leo and Chi-Chung, I have to say that your incredible presentation “A Mentoring Program for Sexual Minority Men in Hong Kong” blew me away! It is such a pleasure to see how this whole research project that we talked about in its early stage in fall 2019 in Hong Kong now has developed in such a magnificent way. I do have to say that according to my knowledge, it is one of the rare examples in mentoring studies in which the political dimensions are not only “theorized” or “identified” by the researchers, but the researchers themselves understand their role as being a political one, due to the experiences that you and your co-researchers (the mentors and mentees) have made. Well done! As far as I understand, you see the relationship and mentoring role as a site for the creation of “critical consciousness” from which potentially also action evolves. Hence, if this is what you say, I would like to know more about the role of the psychoeducation component in the monthly meetings where mentors share their experiences amongst themselves and with the researchers. How does it work? What makes it not just an “ordinary” space for reflection, i.e. a supervision that is an essential part of (quality assurance of) many mentoring programs nowadays? In other words: how does “critical consciousness” grow in concrete terms and what is the “magic bullet” in that process? What makes people – including you as researchers – understand the mentorship program as a political site?

  6. Eberhard Raithelhuber
    Eberhard Raithelhuber says:

    Dear Danielle, I very much appreciated your presentation “Professors, Procrastination, Participation, But No Pandemic?: Current Students’ Advice to New Undergraduate Majors in a Sociology/Criminology Program“. Your reflections on your “pilot” mentoring project at Valparaiso University highlights the relationship building amongst participants in your course, and the related sense making, especially amongst freshmen in your higher education institution. What I’d like to learn more about is how your own positive learning and research process possibly has an effect “beyond the classroom”, i.e. how it possibly resonates in your institution.
    In one part of your talk, you say that the experiences that your participants in the “mentoring” or “advice giving experiment” (if I am allowed to call it that way) tell us a lot about the partly threatening environment in which freshmen and other students find themselves in Higher Education. And using the terms and concepts that Òscar Prieto Flores employs in his talk, one could say that the advice-giving helps builds their social capital, insofar as they might learn about how to connect to valuable and helpful resources that they have not been linked to before. My question is: what does your institution (or could your institution) learn about the way higher education entails not only barriers, but is built on social inequalities, which clash with general liberal and democratic goals and missions that these institutions often claim to follow or adhere to? Do you see a chance to “scale up” these experiences in your classroom, in particular of first-generation students, and make them a part of the meso-level or organizational development? More broadly: how can mentoring possibly lead to organizational change towards more inclusive institutions?

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