February 24, 2023


By Andrew Chapman, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

NotSoMicro are an inspirational team of Young Changemakers who are campaigning to include anti-racist and microaggression training as a mandatory part of teacher training. As part of their campaigning, they were invited to Washington DC for the 2023 National Mentoring Summit, which took place from January 24th to January 28th, 2023.

Tessy Ojo with members of NotSoMicro

What is the Young Changemakers Programme?

Young Changemakers is a collaboration between UK Youth, the Centre for Mental Health, and The Diana Award, made possible by player of the People’s Postcode Lottery. The Young Changemakers Programme supports young people with Black and Black mixed-race heritage to channel their lived experience into tackling racial injustices in mental health services in the UK. The project is led by young Co-Producers aged 16-25 with a passion for and/or lived experience of mental health issues and racial injustices. It gives young people within Black and Black mixed-race heritage communities an opportunity to reimagine and affect change through the lens of social action.

Who are NotSoMicro?

NotSoMicro are part of our first cohort of Young Changemakers, consisting of 4 incredible young people: Dotun Busari, Ashleigh Onabajo, Paul Taiwo and Melvin Riley. They are campaigning to reform policy for school teaching qualifications, sharing the belief that training focused on microaggressions should be included as a mandatory element of teacher training. The aim is to educate teachers about anti-racist practice and microaggressions ; subtle, everyday racist remarks or actions that over time, evidence shows, can have a huge impact on the mental health of young people who are exposed to them. Their incredible work led them to be invited to the National Mentoring Summit in Washington DC, USA!

The 2023 National Mentoring Summit

Organised by MENTOR, the 2023 National Mentoring Summit took place in Washington DC from 24th – 28th January, and was an opportunity for mentoring practitioners, researchers, philanthropic investors, youth leaders, government and civic leaders, and affiliates from across the world to unite under the shared goal of driving positive change for young people. Attendees of the summit were given the opportunity to learn from one another, form new connections, and explore the best practices for strengthening and expanding mentoring opportunities.

Alongside NotSoMicro, The Diana Award’s CEO Tessy Ojo CBE and Head of Mentoring Becky Moses attended the summit to share insights from The Diana Award Mentoring Programme (for more information on The Diana Award Mentoring Programme, see below).   Together, they hosted their workshop that explored the impact of social action and career skills programmes for young people at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). They discussed how The Diana Award embed social action into our programme curriculum, whilst also sharing evidence of the impact of our extensive policy work, aiming to encourage education and youth work professionals to reflect on the relevance of social action for their mentoring interventions.

The Diana Award staff members and members of NotSoMicro

NotSoMicro participated in a variety of exciting conversations, workshops, and networking events throughout their time at the National Mentoring Summit. Included below is a little more information of NotSoMicro’s day to day activities:

Wednesday 25th January

On Wednesday, the first full day of the Mentoring Summit, NotSoMicro met with Gilead Sciences (who a one of The Diana Award’s funders) to talk about the impact of social action and the lack of  support for Black communities. The conversation included the mental health landscape of young people of colour in the UK and what additional support can be created.

On the Wednesday evening, NotSoMicro took part in a networking event and were able to connect with a variety of professionals across multiple sectors who are involved and working with young people. This allowed them to gain important contacts and exciting new ideas about how they can better promote their project. Such ideas included creating a survey for young people currently in school with lived experience of racist experiences or experiences of inappropriate support when raising race related issues.

Thursday 26th January

Throughout the day on Thursday, NotSoMicro participated in several workshops but spent most of the afternoon preparing for their plenary in the evening. The group had a 15-minute slot to present their project, survey and their thoughts on the importance of youth voice and participation when tackling injustice. The audience comprised of 1,400 professionals, with many of them approaching the group after to hear more about their project and future goals.

One organisation asked for their contact details to see how the teacher survey can be pushed in more academic circles and how it can be used to measure impact on students development.

“...As for the Not So Micro campaign, Washington was unexpected but the feedback and reception we got to our campaign was nothing like what I’ve seen before when I have presented this campaign back in the UK. And now we’ve got more ideas with how we can expand our research on NSM.  I’m way more optimistic about the future of NSM and how even though our work has only just taken off we are seeing major results. I’m just excited to see how this year will go.”

Melvin, member of NotSoMicro

Friday 27th January

Friday was the last full day of the National Mentoring Summit. On this day,  one of the NotSoMicro team spoke during Becky Moses’s workshop around Social Mobility and the importance of giving young people a platform to create social action projects based on areas they see injustice in whilst offering young people training and support to be able to do so effectively.

Saturday 28th January

On Saturday, the final day the team were in Washington D.C., they decided to take the time to tour the major tourist spots, including Capital Hill, Martin Luther King’s Memorial, National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Lincoln Memorial and The White House. The team thoroughly enjoyed their time at Washington D.C. for the National Mentoring Summit.

“This trip was the first time I've ever spoken on a scale like that, it's given me confidence in public speaking that I haven't experienced before. It also gave me perspectives I wouldn't have gotten in the UK volunteering/work sphere, and I can use these in my personal and professional life. This trip took Not So Micro to a completely unexpected level, people in the US were inviting us to do NotSoMicro work in their states. It validated the work we were doing on a global scale. It also unified our team further in the goals we have long-term and gave us the space to discuss it since we've been mainly working virtually since the start of NotSoMicro.”  

Ashleigh, member of NotSoMicro

The Diana Award Mentoring Programme

The Diana Award Mentoring Programme collaborates with professional volunteer mentors to deliver mentoring interventions and careers skills development for young people aged 11-18 who are at risk of becoming NEET. We aim to build character and resilience in young people, improve work-place readiness and increase social mobility, and install active citizenship through youth-led social action.

10.2% of young people aged 16-24 in the UK are NEET, which totals an estimated 692,000 young people (ONS. 2022). Our Mentoring Programme supports these young people in collaboration with volunteer mentors, sharing professional advice and guidance and providing careers skills training. The programme also places emphasis on social action, with mentees and volunteer mentors working together to plan and develop social action projects tackling issues that directly impact young people and their community.

Want to know how you can get involved in The Diana Award Mentoring Programme?

Click here to found out the many different ways you can get involved!

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