SE-Village @ The Peckham Settlement

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Introducing SE-Village Mentors

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We ran two mentor inductions in November and now have ten mentors signed up from the local community in Peckham. Of those 7 are ‘friends with purpose’ which means they will be matched to an individual SE-Village project leader and asked to support them. There are also 5 skills workshops planned by mentors between now and April 2012, with some mentors running workshops as well as being matched with an individual project leader. We’re really thrilled with that because all the mentors are voluntary so this represents a considerable commitment on their part to SE-Village.

The matching process has also started with the majority of mentors matched and planning their first meeting with mentees. Matching is quite an intuitive process and full of trial and error! We’re expecting that some matches may not work and will be monitoring this ongoing.

There are two parallel processes going on with the matching. We meet project leaders at SE-Village events and / or talk to the development workers about who might benefit from a mentor and why. We also meet potential mentors over the phone and at induction meetings (and hopefully also at events in the future), to get a feel for what they are hoping to get out of mentoring and their skills.

Taking into account what we know of the needs, wants and personalities at play, we make a call about who we think might work well together. This isn’t really about matching personalities, more a focus on needs and skills. So for example, there is one potential mentee who has lots of enthusiasm, is skilled in her project idea, and is also very laid back! Our judgement is that she would benefit from a mentor who is much more structured and focussed than she is. There are lots of risks to that approach though, as she may hand over too much ownership to the mentor, or perhaps feel too pushed. Given that she has currently stalled, we think its a risk worth taking, as long as we are also open to the fact that she might just not be ready to continue with her project idea.

On to the third part of the matching ‘process’ – we work through a checklist of potential barriers which would possibly create negative as opposed to positive friction. So for example, we would happily match people of different religions together, however, if the project idea has a religious focus, that may create a level of discomfort so we check that in advance. Equally, some older project leaders, for example those from Afro-Caribbean cultures, may struggle to accept a much younger mentor, although this could be overcome by highlighting very specific skills, for example.

The next step then, having made a ‘mental match’, is to check that the mentors are happy with the sound of the mentee, and that the mentee is happy to have that mentor! One thing we found surprising although on reflection we should have anticipated it was that for some project leaders the word mentor can seem quite patronising as it suggests ‘youth’. By contrast, most of the project leaders are very experienced. We failed to match one project leader because of this terminology and actually had to work quite hard to help her realise that we weren’t intending to be rude! Therefore although we’ll continue to use the word mentor internally, what we now offer to project leaders will be some ‘additional resource’.

Despite the terminology issue, in fact, there is so much demand for mentors that we will need to start a new recruitment drive in the new year, once we’ve identified and ironed out a few more teething difficulties.


Written by sevillps

December 6, 2011 at 9:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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