Interestingly this image was from a car dealership. In some ways our challenges couldn’t be more different – or could they?
Charities and social enterprises are generally run by people like me. People with no lived experience who have read lots of strategic documents and think they have half an idea of what works because of their professional experience.
One of things I love about running a tiny enterprise (and I hope this thing never changes) is that I am close to the action. I meet the people that make use of our services and we talk with and about them all day long. They really are at the heart of what we do.
None of this means we have a right to getting it right though and that we shouldn’t take a firm look in the mirror from time to time.
Mentoring, on the face of it is such a fantastic solution to so many issues. Truly restorative and asset-based mentoring goes to the heart of all our ills – it develops resilience, independence and an ability to find the right solutions to our problems. It couldn’t be a better fit with our values.
And we know that services for young people have been cut, care-leavers find themselves isolated and young people often leave things until crisis to get help.
And yet all this need doesn’t equate to demand. We have far more mentors than mentees. Our wonderful mentors are ready in the wings waiting to be matched.
We’re endlessly invited to team meetings (no more!) and are told that our enthusiasm is infectious and our mentoring wonderful. And then they make no referrals.
Being a responsive service we try to understand what their barriers are, remove those we can control and improve the access to our mentors. And still nothing – tumbleweed – and volunteers who give up and drift away. What a terrible waste of your money!
It’s not all doom and gloom. We have some incredible mentoring matches. In fact this makes it all the more frustrating, because when it works we can see how incredible it is.
So need doesn’t always equate to demand. It’s our job to create the demand from those we believe will really benefit from our service. Just as Apple convinced us all that we needed an iPhone before we knew what one was or the car dealer who convinces us we need heated seats!