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Five Ways to Facilitate Effective Mentorship Programmes - Lessons Learned by the Youth Co:Lab Team

By Youth Co:Lab,

Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to mentors, and most truly successful people want to give back. So how do we facilitate this? How can we make the connection? At Youth Co:Lab, an initiative co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation, we actively link our young social entrepreneurs with mentors from our partners, such as business and finance experts from Citi, technologists at Google, women business leaders from the Cherie Blair Foundation, experienced entrepreneurs and investors from our alliance partners, and a range of other experts whom we find through the Online UN Volunteers Platform.


Having been social entrepreneurs ourselves, we understand the importance of having role models to obtain the skills, knowledge, network and emotional support needed to overcome the daily battle of operating a business. As we continue to facilitate and conduct mentorship programmes, we constantly reflect on our journey. This has helped us realize key takeaways and learning from our own experience as well as from the stakeholders we work and partner with.


Five Ways To Facilitating Effective Mentorship Programmes


1. Facilitated Discovery


Based on our experience facilitating the Citi Business Mentorship Programme, we have learned that it is crucial to ensure founders and mentors probe deep into the true business needs of the founders. To gain real insights into the mentee’s business and discover how best to support them.


As a facilitator, we always remind both parties not to jump to conclusions too early, and continue to discover potential challenges the young founders are facing.


2. Mutual Willingness to Learn and Build Trust


Effective learning is a two way street, and we always encourage founders and mentors to to ask questions and share their stories. In some cultures this may not come naturally, so we are thrilled to see the confidence among both founders and mentors developing throughout the mentoring programme.


3. Matching Needs With Mentorship Types


We have a diverse portfolio of young social entrepreneurs with various business needs, and we find that mentors from different organisations and backgrounds can compliment the founder’s journey.


Tech driven startups have benefited greatly from the insights from mentors at Google on their digital products and SEOs, while our women-led enterprises needs have resonated with business leaders from the Cherie Blair Foundation.


We have found that during induction meetings, it is important to align the needs, skill sets and expectations of mentees and mentors, helping both to understand the scope of the mentorship programme as well as the time commitment required from both parties.


4. Bridging the Cultural Gap


Be it geographical, a working style or cultural norms, both the mentors and mentees often come from very different backgrounds, and our facilitation has helped to bridge the gap between them.


Social enterprises are usually operated in an environment where young founders have to deal with enormous amounts of uncertainty due to the unstructured nature of their organization, while corporations usually have relatively structured or bureaucratic processes to keep it moving. We have enjoyed supporting the communication process to maximize benefits of the collaboration.


5. Visualise the Connection and Have Fun!


Virtual connection is the new normal, and young founders can now access mentors globally to learn across borders and timezones. However, bonding on Zoom is very different from a physical handshake.


It is important to make sure extra effort is made to overcome the online space between them. We were intentional in encouraging participants to turn on their videos and take group photos when internet connection permits.


Our Startup Support team has found it most fulfilling when we witness passionate people working together to make a difference, being mutually inspired and becoming friends. Knowing people that you can trust, someone who is empathic, relatable, who knows the thrills and challenges is key in accelerating the learning process through each other’s successes and failures.


How about you? Have you had any experience with mentorship programmes either as a mentor, a mentee, a facilitator or a partner? Share your lessons learned with us in the comment section below, and, of course, stay tuned for further news on upcoming mentorship programmes and other opportunities.


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Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.

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