The idea of The Mentor Foundation came from J. Christer Elfverson and a colleague, Hans Emblad, in 1993, while they were working for the World Health Organization. The Mentor Foundation was registered in 1994 in Geneva as an independent, non-governmental, not for profit, apolitical organization, working in the field of drug misuse prevention at a global level.
Mentor began its work as an organization dedicated to the cause of drug misuse prevention, working in a special relationship with the World Health Organization. HM Queen of Sweden was its founding member along with HRH Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, HM Queen Noor of Jordan, HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Bertil Hult, Stefan Persson, Nino Cerruti, Corinne Nardi-Schuler, Princess Anni-Frid Reuss, and Ivan Pictet.
From the outset, Mentor also established its Scientific Advisory Network. This was, and remains, a group of experts in the drug misuse field from around the world, who advise, help and support Mentor in the technical aspects of its work in relation to prevention. In the early days Mentor also established a Youth Advisory Network but as the group became more adult it ceased to function. However, the belief in the need to engage and involve young people in the work of Mentor remains.
From the very beginning Mentor''s work was dedicated to "helping the helpers" working in drug misuse prevention. Mentor obtained financial resources from its Trustees and other sources to support the work of the substance misuse prevention section of the World Health Organization. The funds were provided to help the WHO manage major projects including their "Street Children Initiative".
As Mentor developed it was decided that other project initiatives besides those managed by WHO could be supported by Mentor. Retaining the concept of "helping the helpers", Mentor''s work began to focus more on helping to identify and evaluate best practice in prevention. It felt that if practical examples that worked in prevention were identified, they could be evaluated, adapted and used in different cultures and countries.
At the same time, around 1995/1996, it was decided to establish "Mentor Nationals". These remain essential parts of the Mentor family. Mentor Nationals have now been established in Arabia, Colombia, Germany, Lithuania, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States of America. They are at different stages in their development but all offer examples of local prevention initiatives. New Nationals are a priority for Mentor, and continue to be developed every year.
In 1999 the focus continued to be the development of field-based project support, but with an increased emphasis on identifying and sharing best practice in prevention. It also addressed the need for policy development in the prevention field and in January 2000 hosted the International Forum on Drug Abuse Prevention at the Conference Forum in London. This was attended by individuals from organizations and governments from 55 countries.
In 2001, Mentor International underwent a strategic review of its operation. In May 2001, a new Executive Committee was appointed, with Fritz Kaiser as its Chair and the Chair of the Board of Trustees. A new business plan and strategy was approved by the Board of Trustees.
The new strategy retained the focus on prevention and the concept of "helping the helpers". However, it dedicated its efforts to identifying "best practice" in prevention and sharing this information globally. Three programmes were selected to achieve this:
• The Mentor Website
• Mentor''s Scientific Advisory Network and Regional Support Network
• The Mentor Awards
Mentor launched the first phase of its new website in April 2002. Since then the site has continued to grow, providing valuable information for those working in the field of Prevention. In 2005, having 3 years of experience of the website we have redeveloped, to build upon the solid base of essential information, to give higher profile to ‘Prevention’ and Mentor’s great range of work in the field.
As a part of the work of the Mentor Academy, in June 2002 Mentor launched a publication ''Lessons Learned in Drug Abuse Prevention: A Global Review'' which was produced on behalf of the UNODC (formerly UNDCP) with support from the UK government. It is a first, but significant and practical contribution to sharing learning about prevention globally.
The first Mentor Prevention Awards took place in 2003, with the rationale to identify and acknowledge specific projects or programmes in prevention. There were three winners, KETHEA winners of the Achievement Award, Colombianitos, winners of the Innovation Award, and Honorary Award recipients the Little Dreams Foundation.
The Mentor Prevention Academy has now grown to include the development of an online e-learning course and a centre focusing on current examples and principles of best practice.
In May 2004 Dr Olof Stenhammar took over from Fritz Kaiser as Chairman, and appointed Jeff Lee, who has worked with Mentor since its inception as Executive Director. The Administrative office relocated to central England, where all operations were streamlined.
As Mentor continues its great scope of work in the field of Drug Misuse Prevention, and benefits more children and young people each day we remain focussed upon Best Practice, to ensure the valuable work going on around the world is doing the best it possibly can.