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How a network of mentoring practitioners nurtures entrepreneurship success

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Written by John Cull, Senior Mentoring Consultant, Youth Business International

Youth Business International (YBI) knows and recognises the value of mentoring in helping young entrepreneurs in developing their abilities and insights as they start and grow their own businesses. In fact, most entrepreneurship programmes and initiatives have some form of mentoring support attached to them. However, every successful mentoring relationship requires the energy, enthusiasm and skill of a talented Mentoring Programme Manager. They are the glue that holds every mentoring programme together and determine whether it is a success or not.

Our focus on supporting and developing programme managers is why we stand out as global leaders in the world of business mentoring. It was, therefore, a great privilege for YBI and the mentoring team to host in October 2017, over 30 mentoring representatives from YBI’s 50 members for a five day Global Mentoring Masterclass, developed with support from Accenture. The goal was to:

  • Integrate — by building and growing relationships with colleagues; 
  • Inspire — by offering development in the role of Mentoring Programme Manager
  • Innovate — by invigorating and evolving mentoring programmes

Overview of the week

Professor Bob Garvey started the week with a session focusing on the intersection of culture and mentoring, during which we explored the idea that every culture has a story about mentoring. Emily Cosgrove, Founder of The Conversation Space, shared new thinking around the concept of Conversational Wisdom, one of the most talked about topics of the week, which many members have already experimented with in workshops for mentors.

Two of the most highly valued areas of YBI’s member support are mentoring and training. So, we took the opportunity to explore some of the crossover between the two areas and how we could make more of it. This was very much valued by the Mentoring Managers who, more often than not, combine both functions within their role. We discussed how to share, strengthen and sustain learning across the YBI network using digital platforms, and got the ‘inside track’ on monitoring and evaluation from the MEL team. This included an update from Middlesex University on their ground breaking ongoing global study commissioned by YBI, which is the first of its kind to explore the impact of volunteer business mentoring on young entrepreneurs.

The event took place across a number of locations, including an inspiring day at Virgin Start-Up’s HQ, YBI’s member in the UK. Sadly, we missed Sir Richard Branson by one day! We ensured there were ample opportunities for discussion and debate, using techniques such as icebreakers, warm-ups, warm-downs, action learning sets, open spaces (where any topic is valid!), and by having mentoring conversations within the session, kick-starting the Mentoring Managers thinking and inspiring them to act when they arrived home.

"The best thing was the use of different approaches to deliver content" — Global Masterclass Attendee  

Did it work?

Three months after the Global Masterclass, and following conversations with YBI members, we've reflected on what worked, what value was provided and what to do next. 

What does it mean for our members?

We are already seeing many signs of how the learning from the Global Masterclass is being used to develop individual mentoring programmes around the world. Some of these are:

  • Launching new mentoring programmes
  • Re-designing communications plans to recruit members
  • New activities built into workshops
  • Small peer learning groups
  • Developing mentoring strategies

“I valued the opportunity to create a small mentoring group and to provide ongoing support after the Masterclass. We have three remote calls set up and keen to keep this going.” — Global Masterclass attendee

"Amazing week spent, no element was boring, every single aspect was valuable and good" — Global Masterclass Attendee

Looking ahead

The aim of the Global Masterclass was to integrate and inspire YBI’s global community of mentoring practitioners, and to give them the time and space to learn and support each other. As a result, they will be able to encourage and empower volunteer mentors in their day-to-day work and to give young entrepreneurs every chance to shine and follow their dreams. The comments from our members let us know that we have achieved this goal.

“My objective in attending was to find out what was new in mentoring. I realised that it's not about what's new but to discover a different way to do things.” — Global Masterclass attendee

Looking ahead, we now need to sustain the energy and commitment that such an intensive week generates. We will do this by further developing our communities of practice with both a geographical and experience focus. We will be driven by ideas from the network, such as recognising our global mentor community and finding creative and innovative ways to continue to engage and develop mentors. We will look to share the YBI mentoring network story more widely, aided by the results of the global research study by Middlesex University. Our commitment to delivering our high quality mentoring approach continues because we know it works. In short, it:

  • Drives volunteer and corporate engagement
  • Offers entrepreneurs practical, bespoke and long term support

“I can honestly say, this has been the best investment in my professional growth this year” — Global Masterclass attendee

The mentoring candle is burning bright!

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