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Future Mentors Programme

future mentors giving recomendations

The Future Mentors programme is a reversed mentoring programme in which a small group of young people mentor a decision maker from their own city about the hopes, dreams, and fears of the young generation regarding the future of their city. The programme is a platform for youth in cities to get into a dialogue with the decision makers and get their concerns and wishes heard. Twenty-six cities around Europe participated in the programme in 2022.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Future Mentors programme is a reversed mentoring programme, in which a small group of young people mentor a decision-maker from their own city about the hopes, dreams, and fears of the young generation regarding the future of their city. In this programme the city leaders are not the mentors, but the mentees, the ones offered the opportunity to be exposed to the bright thinking of their young mentors.

The programme is designed to bridge the gap between the youth and the decision-makers on local level. City organisations are the closest public entity to the youth. The future of the cities depends on the youth. If the youth do not want to stay in the city and does not feel invested in the future of the city, does the city have a future at all? The programme was created as cities contribution to the European Year of Youth 2022, which ensured good visibility and European interest.

The programme is a platform for youth in cities to contribute to a sustainable future at the same tables with the decision makers. The mentoring process is based on dialogue. We must be willing to question our thinking and be open to the idea that our thinking could be better. This can best be done by exposing ourselves to dialogue with different people. The topics discussed together by the Future Mentors and the city leaders are linked to sustainable future of the city. The topics of the mentoring are decided by the young Future Mentors themselves, as this programme is a platform to the voice of the next generation. The Future Mentors use their own city as the starting point and vision it in the near and far future, and then communicate their dreams and fears for the future of the city to the mentee, the city leader, as part of the mentoring process. The topics can be grand scale such as climate change in cities, opinion polarization, mental health issues and biodiversity loss, or more concrete and local such as urban mobility, recycling plastic, youth empowerment and everything in between. All of these are issues that must be dealt with to create a better future for the generations to come.

In spring 2022 26 cities across Europe participated in the programme. Locally, a city coordinator organizes the programme with help of a manual and a step-by-step guide created by the City of Espoo. The cities organized a call for young Future Mentors, who were coached for their task of mentoring the city leader. The Future Mentors created the agenda for their meetings with the city leader by thinking about their own city and their dreams and fears for it’s future. The Future Mentors met their city leader at least two times.

The Future Mentors had an opportunity to network with young mentors from other European cities and exchange ideas. The Future Mentors programme was created for Eurocities network in spring 2022 by the City of Espoo. Twenty-six cities of the network took part in the mentoring programme locally during spring 2022. Finally, one young mentor from each city travelled to Espoo, Finland, to participate in the annual conference of the Eurocities network together with their city leaders. The Eurocities2022 conference entailed workshops where the themes of the mentoring programme were discussed further, and the youth participated in the conference with their cities’ delegation.

Both participating mentors and mentees were satisfied with their experience with the programme. The mentorship programme enhanced youth’s participation and strengthened their voice in the Eurocities network on European level as well as locally in Eurocities member cities. The opportunity for transnational European encounters and creating bonds between cities were a crucial element of the programme. The aim was to exchange ideas and gain perspective and understanding on themes for sustainable future cities through the eyes of younger generations. The young Future Mentors will reinforce the future European community by bringing youth and leaders in European cities together.

The Future Mentors programme has inspired the participating cities to create new structures for youth participation and dialogue between the youth and the decision makers. The Eurocities network is currently searching for suitable funds to start a pilot project that would create structures within the Eurocities network for youth participation. During the Eurocities 2022 conference the Future Mentors drafted six key recommendations for better youth involvement on local level, and these recommendations are being spread in international forums by the city of Espoo, by the Finnish Organization of Local Authorities, by the European Committee of the Regions and the European Youth Forum.

The Future Mentors programme is a well-functioning, tested solution for any organization willing to create dialogue between the youth and those in power. The manual and step-by-step guide are freely available for anyone interested in running the programme.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

The innovative basis for the whole programme was the idea of having reversed mentoring. That means that the city leaders are the ones being mentored and not the other way round. This kind of mentoring has not been done before on European level. Using dialogue as a method this intensely between citizens and the city leaders is new in Espoo. The focus on the future rather than the current issues is new. The programme gives a clear concept, support for the young mentors and a structure in working together.

This programme takes the conversation to the city and more practical level. In 2022 this programme was implemented as a part of Eurocities annual conference, where Eurocities Mayors meet annually each other. The Eurocities network has not before succeeded in integrating youth in the meetings and in dialogue with city leaders in a non-tokenistic way.

What is the current status of your innovation?

The youth climate movement has shone a light on the gap between decision-makers and young citizens. The Future Mentors programme uses reversed mentoring, in which the thoughts and ideas of young people are in the centre of the conversation. The mentoring programme is focused on the local level.

The evaluation was done by three feedback surveys from the young people, city coordinators and the city leaders. Both mentors and mentees were very satisfied with the programme. There will be follow-up in all participating cities and many have created new structures for continuous dialogue with the youth in the city.

In Eurocities network a project is being planned to design structures for youth participation within the network. The Future Mentors program was successful in highlighting the importance and need of the dialogue between the youth and those in power.

The future mentors programme concept is easy to reuse and copy by any city. All the materials are available online.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

After deciding on the idea of the Future Mentors program, City of Espoo pitched the idea to the local Aalto university to take it as a case study in a Designing for Services course. Students benchmarked mentoring programmes and concluded interviews with local politicians. With the help of ambitious students and their teachers, the program got a lot of inspiration for it’s contents and practicalities.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

The programme is a platform for youth in cities to contribute to the future at the same tables with decision makers. The programme increases mutual understanding in dialogue and improves decisionmakers' knowledge of the values, hopes and dreams steering younger generations. It gives new perspectives to all participants.

The programme is designed for city level, but it would be applied with minor changes to any organization willing to create dialogue between youth and decision-makers.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Wordclouds of the dreams and of the fears of the future mentors were created and discussed by 500 delegates at Eurocities conference. The wordclouds give a good overview on the themes important for the youth.

Based on the feedback, the overall satisfaction with the programme was 4,2/5 among the mentors, 4,1 among the city leaders, 4,1 among the local city coordinators. All considered it a good addition in the toolkit of youth participation programmes.

City leaders said they appreciated dialogue as a method. The issues raised by the youth will be further handled in many cities. The programme has lead to i.e. establishment of a meeting place for youth and decision makers and a youth council, planning of regional youth cooperation and involving youth in local projects.

All decision makers wanted to cooperate further to strengthen youth participation in Eurocities. A project is planned to design structures for youth participation in the network.

Challenges and Failures

We got feedback from the Eurocities member cities that the schedule to participate the programme was too tight. This probably reduced the number of the participating cities. When organizing this kind of a programme, more time should be given for the cities to prepare for the programme and to recruit the youth.

The leader also needs to be willing to give their time to have a dialogue. The more meetings, the better the dialogue. We recommended at least two meeting with the city leader, but three would be better or a bit longer meetings.

It is not a challenge of the mentoring programme itself, but some cities´ mentors are concerned if the conversations with the city leader lead to any concrete changes.

Comments from a mentor: “It's been incredibly participative and every part worked their best to create mutual understanding, it remains to be seen whether or not it'll lead to substantial progress with time.”

Conditions for Success

Cities need good support material to run the mentoring. We provided the cities with detailed step-by-step instructions to run each meeting with the mentors including specific facilitating tools e.g. ice-breaker exercises and workshops methods to produce the material for the meeting with the city leader.

The mentoring can be run in one city locally or as a larger programme including many cities. If run in many cities simultaneously as done in 2022, a person is needed to be in charge of the overall coordination.

The participants must be open to a genuine dialogue. Our material specifies what this means. Running the programme requires enough human resources from the city to successfully facilitate the meetings to create the feeling of being mutually heard. The leader also needs to be willing to give their time to have a dialogue.

The timing for running the programme during the EU Year of Youth gave good boost and visibility to the programme.


With the help of our thorough materials, the mentoring programme can easily be replicated by any city. It can be run only in one city locally or as a larger programme including many cities nationally or internationally.

We have templates for communication throughout the programme (e.g. info letter for the mayor, news article to open the enrolment for the youth, news article about running the programme), a manual, a step-by-step guide for the coordinators and the mentors) and instructions for the city leader.

The programme could also be easily adapted to be used in any other organization, public or private, as a method for intergenerational dialogue.

Lessons Learned

Facilitated dialogue is a method very often used in Finland in various public sector processes. This project has taught us that something as simple as dialogue can be a very novel thing even in European context. In Finland the organisations and hierarchies are very flat and direct speech is encouraged, but in many participating cities the power distance and the willingness of mayors to engage in a dialogue was a big concern. However, the cities that decided to participate, found the dialogue a very good method to hear the views of different groups and will continue to develop this locally.

If planned carefully and with enough resources and time, the mentoring can provide valuable information on views of the future generation to be used in different operations in the city. The results need to be clearly communicated in the city. It is good to have a plan how the results are going to be handled and if some kind of follow-up is going to happen.

Anything Else?

An additional informational overview can be found here.

Additional information for specific implementations of the Future Mentors Programme can be found at:


  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:


Date Published:

16 November 2022

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