Springtime in Paris: Reflections on the forthcoming European Mentoring Summit

By Jean Rhodes

The U.S. continues to account for most formal mentoring, but many new programs, networks, and summits have emerged across the globe in recent years. This includes the European Mentoring Summit at the Sorbonne University in Paris later this month. The event is hosted by the Collectif Mentorat, a federation of over 70 organizations and Mentoring Europe. Although the US and European mentoring movements share many commonalities, there are some notable differences. A recent study (conducted with Òscar Prieto-Flores and Justin Preston) highlighted the ways that Europe’s movements contrasts with the US movement.

Focus on immigration: In contrast to the US, where poverty and inequality have been a major drivers of mentoring program expansion, the European movement has been been influenced by growing anxiety around the influx of immigrants into countries where the acquisition of the official languages and cultures are perceived as a pathway to citizenship. Over the past decade the foreign-born population has increased in many European countries, reaching rates as high as 20%. Many Europeans are divided between narratives depicting migrants and refugees as a threat to the maintenance of the welfare state and national and religious identity versus those highlighting the need to build an intercultural society with shared values and a young workforce (Bommes & Geddes, 2013). It is thus no coincidence that the countries in Europe with the largest influx of immigrants have expanded mentoring most vigorously.

Older youth: European mentoring programs tend to serve older youth, with program support extending well past the age of 18. This may be explained, in part, by the different ways in which adulthood is conceptualized in each context and funding. For example, in the US, major grants provided by Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) allocate funds for population younger than 18 years old. This contrasts with the European context where the term “youth” is defined as anyone between the ages of 13 and 29 (European Commission, 2015) and funding sources are not as age-restrictive.

Bidirectionality of mentoring benefits: Many European mentoring programs are explicitly designed to provide cultural competence, reduce isolation of elderly mentors, and bring other benefits to mentors. Along these lines, European programs often deploy college students, where programs promote service learning and professional development in an increasingly diverse workforce. Although this bidirectional approach is present in the US, it is less salient.

College student mentors: While the typical mentor in the United States is a working adult (Raposa et al., 2017), in Europe, the typical mentor is a college student or older youth. Most well-established European mentoring programs have been developed through universities or non-profit organizations that have agreements that engage students in service learning activities.

Embrace of research evidence: Let’s face it, there’s a fairly wide divide between researchers and practitioners in how we think about scientific evidence. Many researchers use the two terms interchangeably to mean “findings derived from scientific methods,” while studies suggest that practitioners working in the field tend to define evidence more broadly as stemming not only from scientific methods, but also from consumer satisfaction surveys, feedback from parents, youth, and communities, and other sources. This appears even more pronounced in the U.S. where, for example, the list of featured speakers in the 2024 Mentoring Summit in DC included no university-based researchers. By contrast, nearly 70% of the European Mentoring Summit featured speakers are university professors/lecturers. Admittedly, this can be less entertaining and affirming, as professors’ communications are often inscrutable and riddled with annoying caveats. 🙂


Although the US and European mentoring movements are similar in many ways, the lessons learned through American research may not generalize fully to European and other contexts. The field will benefit cross-cultural “common factors” studies that explore successful youth mentoring practices that transcend continents.

P.S It’s definitely not too late to register for the European Mentoring Summit. In addition to a keynote, my team and I will be presenting workshops Step Up CEO Delores Morton on workforce development Step Up Digital Community for college student/young adults (ages 18-29) using MentorPRO and with Professors Renee Spencer and Levi Van Dam on Youth-Initiated Mentoring.  Bonjour—I hope to see you in Paris!