The Duke of Sussex has called on businesses to help the “social mobility” of future generations by letting their staff become mentors as he admitted he will forever be a role model to son Archie.
Harry said becoming a dad for the first time had made him realise he was now looked up to by another person – suggesting he will have to be an inspiration to his child.
In the keynote speech at a national youth mentoring summit, the duke urged companies and organisations in the audience to embrace mentoring, which has “the power to make society richer, happier, kinder and more aligned”.
The event was organised by the Diana Award, a charity Harry supports which honours the legacy of his mother, Diana Princess of Wales, and he described how she was a role mode “without realising the impact she would have on so many lives”.
Speaking at a venue in the City of London, the duke said: “I’m struck by a few things today, most of which is the power of the invisible role model.
“The person who may be sitting here today that doesn’t realise that someone looks up to them, that – for that person – you inspire them to be kinder, better, greater, more successful, more impactful.
“Perhaps it’s the newfound clarity I have as a father knowing that my son will always be watching what I do, mimicking my behaviour, one day maybe even following in my footsteps.
“But it’s not just my role as a father that shows me that; it’s in the people I see every day that don’t realise how inspirational they are to those watching.”
The Diana Award staged the day-long conference to raise awareness about the positive effect mentoring can have on young people – especially with issues like knife crime and youth violence a problem in parts of the UK.
As the charity launched a campaign to recruit 500 new mentors, Harry added: “Being a role model and mentor can help heal the wounds of your own past and create a better future for someone else.”
He went on to say: “That is why I am urging businesses and organisations to pledge their commitment to mentoring, to shift the scale of social mobility for generations to come and unlock a resource which can transform society.”
While on stage Harry also acknowledged his mother’s birthday – July 1 – telling the delegates that Diana “who would have turned 58” on Monday, would have been incredibly proud of the mentees.
Earlier the duke met teenagers who had taken part in the Diana Award’s 12-week mentoring programme involving staff from HSBC, and he raised two issues he has pursued in the past – social media and the lack of youth clubs.
Julia Antonczuk, 14, from London, was nominated by her school for the initiative and had made inroads in overcoming her shyness.
Asked about her conversation with Harry, she said: “I was talking about knife crime and youth clubs closing down and how it’s affecting communities, how there’s more gangs because of the closing down of centres such as youth clubs – that was my social action project.”
She said the duke agreed with her comments.
“(He said) there should be more youth clubs, but it’s like funding and that sort of stuff that affects the expansion of this.”
When Harry first arrived at Banking Hall, near the Bank of England, he chatted to another group of young people who had also benefited from the mentoring scheme.
Speaking about social media he said to them: “You’re likely to hurt somebody if you cannot see the damage you’re doing.”
Tessy Ojo, chief executive of the Diana Award, said their campaign to increase mentoring grew out of discussions the charity had about how to mark its 20th anniversary, celebrated this year.
She said: “When we look at the stats in London about how many young people have been killed or have to go to jail because of violence – if those young people had access to a mentor it would have changed the trajectory of their lives.”
She added: “Whilst we’re talking about the role of mentoring in changing the trajectory, the duke plays a huge role in bringing that conversation to the mainstream.
“I think becoming a dad himself and suddenly realising you want the best for your own children, I think that also drives it home.”