Running Effective Mentoring Programmes – Fireside chat with Maia Gedde and Mike Ducker

Fireside chat with Maia Gedde and Mike Ducker - Blog Image

A fireside chat between Mike Ducker (Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder & Executive Director at Valhalla Global Accelerator) and Maia Gedde (Head of Development at Mowgli Mentoring. Maia and Mike discuss some of the challenges and pitfalls that mentoring programme managers and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders encounter during the implementation of mentoring programmes.

Suhana Chooli: Hi, Mike. Hi Maya. Thank you both for being here today to talk about mentoring and how it can strengthen an entrepreneur. And so much so that you know, entrepreneur support organizations nowadays offer mentoring programmes to their networks but, I guess, Mike you’ve seen that a lot.

But the thing is, all these mentoring programmes are not created equal. And so, we’ll be covering that and we’ll see how to go about implementing those mentoring programmes within the organizations and overcome the common pitfalls that I’m sure you’ve both observed in your work. So, before we get started, can I get each of you, to tell us a bit more about yourself and how you’ve been involved in entrepreneurial ecosystem development. Mike, maybe you want to, you want to start?

Mike Ducker: That’s great.

And thanks for inviting me. I’m always excited to talk to the people Mowgli. I always learned a lot. Happy 2022. You know, I’ve been doing entrepreneurship development since 2004. I didn’t want to calculate how many years that is but it’s been a long time in both sort of setting up and managing and designing, and, looking at my own programmes that I’ve supported, but also taking a step back and also done analysis and, you know, have helped others in setting up their programmes or even have, you know, looked a little bit, even deeper and broader on, on sort of the analytics of these programmes and how they support it and the different activities. So, I’ve been doing that for a long time for different development and donor agencies, mostly in emerging markets. Before that, I was actually working in the private sector.

I worked for very practical companies from a beverage distribution company to IT consulting, to a tier-one auto supplier. So, I started out my career sort of doing the real work of this, but, you know, since it had been trying to really help, you know, entrepreneurs to help really grow economies. So that’s kind of been my mission since then.

Maia Gedde: Great. Thanks.

Pretty interesting to hear your background, Mike. So, my background is in international development initiatives, and then I started working in entrepreneurship development in 2012, I think 2011, 2012, initially in Rwanda and Burundi. So, I worked in supporting start-ups.

So, my organization was providing grants to local organizations for running their own activities, entrepreneurs. So, part of that was around training or access to finance and then also capacity building in areas such as mentoring. So, I even was involved in setting up a mentoring programme for university students there.

And in hindsight, of course, now made all the usual mistakes that I can see clearly now. And then in 2018, I joined Mowgli as head of development. So really interesting to take a deep dive into a specialist organization that focuses exclusively on mentoring. And I’m now kind of helping the organization to broaden its impact from running mentoring programmes for other organizations to also building capacity within other organizations to run their own mentoring programmes. So that’s what I’m specifically focusing on now.

Suhana Chooli: Great. Thank you, Maia.

Mike, I understand you’ve done lots of work to analyse and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem around the world.

I’ve checked your guide, strengthening the entrepreneur ecosystem. I think it was the GIZ one, and some of your videos over YouTube. Can you tell us a bit more about this quick and what you’ve observed about the role and the importance of mentoring and supporting entrepreneurs?

Mike Ducker: Happy to.

From my own programming, I didn’t know what mentoring was when I earlier got involved in this, in early to later 2000 or middle to later 2000. But you would have these coaching, mentoring sessions. And, literally, you would see magic and feel magic.

You would see the power of the engagement and you would sort of understand there’s something going on here. You couldn’t quite describe it, or quite understood it. I remember someone I brought into a project I had in Egypt from Silicon Valley kind of called it like this physics.

Like you just have all these people, you know, connecting and it just creates this powerful energy source. A lot of the programmes that we get had this mentoring. I always thought the most important thing is to get these business people out and feel accountable to help a new generation of entrepreneurs.

And then it was interesting; you would try to extend that out so the relationship would be more than just this one time he hit; that it could be a reoccurring thing. And then I saw even more powerful things from that because I felt like it was almost like the entrepreneur started to become a little bit accountable to the mentor.

Not that it was any sort of governance around that; it was just like there was trust build-up, and the entrepreneur would commit to things, and then the mentor would somehow, by just being there almost, kind of have that commitment there. But it was all based on a relationship; on trust.

And so, later in my career, when, the World Bank actually asked us to develop some training guides around entrepreneurship support organizations, and incubators, I actually did a very deep dive on mentoring. I got to talk to organizations that develop their own mentoring programme, including, Mowgli, and, looked at some of the research, back then around 2014 or 15, I believe, and got a much better sense that this is a much more complicated thing than we imagined because it’s a relationship. There are different parts, both from establishing the relationships, making the matches, getting the relationships, going, managing, recording, and understanding what’s going on. And literally, there’s like a lot of processes that I think a lot of organizations, when they look at mentoring, don’t understand, from, from my experience. I became a true believer, maybe not as much of an advocate as people Mowgli are, but I became a true believer, in mentoring and when I was asked to advise or design a programme, it’s like the first thing I just talked about.

But I’ve seen other data in both within entrepreneur support organizations in a broader sense that sort of had mixed because I was always driven by data driven by the global entrepreneurship. I’m starting to start up with, you know, me and also endeavour insights. It had an interesting piece to data, which they both hit on, which was basically, if you have entrepreneurs engaging with successful business people, there was great impact in these specifically said, you know, sales and revenue and, and raising money. Both of those.

So, I always thought that kind of means mentoring. But then, like I saw other data, you know, specifically I would look at specific ESOs and sort of their data of how happy their entrepreneurs are with their mentors, and it was a bit mixed you know, from that data on an individual organizational level.

And then I remember when ANDE started to look at this with the GALI research: I thought mentoring would be up there, but what was interesting is networking was always sort of number one. And then mentoring was kind of like third or fourth in sort of what entrepreneurs really appreciate it.

Part of what I contribute that to is that I don’t think a lot of these organizations know how to do mentoring because it’s complicated, it takes some resources, it takes some thought and you know how to design a programme. I still am an advocate and believer in this, but I believe it just doesn’t happen as I once maybe thought of as just the magic of just bringing people in a room and letting them sort of engage. There’s really a process to make that happen. So that’s kind of been my journey around mentoring.

Suhana Chooli: Right.

From the analysis that you’ve just mentioned saying that mentoring was only at the third or fourth position… You said it’s because people don’t know how to implement mentoring programmes…

Do you think they don’t get what mentoring is really about in the first place?

Mike Ducker: I think both, I really think both.

I’ve gone in and tried to go advise some younger entrepreneurship support organizations of younger staff. They’re just using the game plans of other programmes.

Every programme almost has some sort of mentoring, coaching type of activity, and so they’re like, well, we need to do that, not really understanding what the power is, why to do it, you know? So, it’s just, a lack of understanding, and I also think a lack of resources. Many of these programmes, they’re barely breaking even, they’re scrambling for money all the time. I think they also struggled to understand that they have to put some human resources to this to make it work. Sometimes they lack the ability to do that. So those are some of my hypotheses of why I think they struggle with.

Suhana Chooli: Okay.

And have you seen instances where you see a difference in terms of impact between programmes that included a mentoring component that actually worked versus programmes that didn’t even include mentoring components?

This is really to try to draw out the too impact mentoring can have actually on entrepreneurs.

Mike Ducker: From an analysis standpoint, again, I will point to ANDE and GALI’s data, which shows activities around training and workshops versus sort of the networking and mentoring, there’s less impact. From my own personal experience, I’ve just seen entrepreneurial support organizations all the time, show me the design of the project, the agenda and the different sense of, activities and the sequence… and I’m like, that’s all great….

But I’m pretty confident that the first thing an entrepreneur does when they look at your programme is they go through your mentors and coaches, like, who can I connect with? They don’t look, as much at the activities. They really, at the end of the day, want to know who they work in connect with.

The programmes that I’ve seen that are more serious about creating the connections and creating engagement and the relationships and the trust, from my experience, have had bigger impacts than the ones that have sort of just doing training workshops. You know, and, and sort of focus on that domain knowledge.

Like our goal here is to transfer specific domain knowledge around that. And I’ve had these conversations with organizations where they talk about mentoring. They kind of think it’s this education process, and they kind of say, we need to ‘efficient-size’ that because we don’t want one mentor to talk about marketing with 15 different people – that’s inefficient, so let’s just have that course or that workshop. In reality, it’s more than just this domain expertise. There is some knowledge, my experience that has transformed, but it’s much more than a teacher providing an individual class. Much more, I think.

So, I think that’s where some of the logic kind of falls apart on some of these designs of programmes from my previous.

Suhana Chooli: Yeah, pretty much.

And Maia, we see a lot of ESOs offering mentoring to complement these interventions as Mike mentioned. How do you think mentoring can be a really powerful complementary tool for entrepreneurs and leaders, because it seems like they might not be looking at that in the first place, and yet, we know that it can be very powerful? Can you, can you describe, a bit more, how so?

Maia Gedde: Yeah. Great.

So, I think, one of the great things about mentoring is that it provides quite tailored, bespoke support to individuals. And it stands in contrast to some of the interventions that Mike was talking about, which might be more generic business skills training for the entrepreneur where everyone goes through exactly the same training. And we know, from studies, as Mike was also mentioning that, business training alone doesn’t really need to lead to behaviour change or outcomes. It’s still important because it is an efficient way to transfer that knowledge, but it’s about making it really personal and individual to the entrepreneur.

Everyone’s going through quite different journeys. Everyone has quite different needs. So, it’s about getting this balance between that knowledge, but then making it personal and applicable to the individual so that they can then apply it to their own business needs.

And I think that’s where mentoring can play a really important role. So, if you combine the two; so, you have your business training so they can draw knowledge and information for that.

How do I do my finances?

How do I do my marketing?

What support do I need?

How do I write my business plan?

But then you then have a mentor who comes in and starts asking you quite powerful questions around what are your key takeaways from this learning? What is applicable to you and what are you going to apply? What else do you need to learn to compliment this?

They become then an accountability partner, but also a tool for reflection and to really not just step out of the training and walk away, but actually to reflect back on it and really use it and apply it.

So, I think that’s an area where we really see mentoring being able to amplify other interventions. And it’s something that we’re doing more in our own programmes where it’s not just about mentoring, but it’s also combining mentoring with business skills training.

We’re currently running a programme, just as an example with the Royal Academy of Engineers, which where the entrepreneurs go through is the leaders for innovation fellowship.

They go through kind of a mini-MBA, and then they have a mentor working with them throughout six months to really amplify that impact and how to apply it. So, I think that’s a really good example of how mentoring can amplify the impact.

Another example is around access to finance.

One of the biggest challenges that a lot of entrepreneurs say is: one of my barriers is that I can’t access finance. But then, we know also, that access to finance rarely leads to long-term sustainable business growth. So often the finances, if it’s the largest amount of funding they’ve had in their business, they don’t really know how to use it well, they don’t take the time to reflect on it.

And so, if you have a mentor who works with them, after or during the process of getting finance to really help them to think through how can I spend this in the best possible way for my business and focus on this great opportunity, then we also again see that it can amplify the impact of that finance.

So, I think, studies confirm this and it really helps to embed the learning and the different interventions, helps apply that generic learning to their individual circumstances. So, it’s more impactful.

Suhana Chooli: Is that how you would define what an effective mentoring programme is about -the kind of impact it should have versus a mediocre mentoring programme?

Maia Gedde: Yeah.

So here, I think it’s important to recognize, as Mike was talking about earlier, that the core of mentoring is really around the rapport between mentor and mentee, and mentoring is really based on this trust-based relationship.

So, mentoring can happen organically. A lot of mentoring does happen organically where an entrepreneur can meet a mentor at any stage. And obviously, they have to be open for it. They have to be looking for it. And they may find someone, potentially another fellow entrepreneur or, or someone else in business, who they’ve got this rapport with and develop a mentoring relationship with.

Obviously in an ideal entrepreneurial ecosystem, we would have a strong mentoring culture. Everyone is open to giving and receiving mentoring, and this happens organically.

And this is our vision at Mowgli; is to create mentoring cultures. But at the moment, I’m in a lot of places, this is still the ideal and doesn’t necessarily exist, which is then where structured mentoring programmes come in to fill this gap between mentoring doesn’t just happen organically. But obviously then there’s quite a bit of responsibility on the organization running the mentoring programme to, to ensure that they set the right conditions for these relationships to grow and flourish.

The mentors or mentees often don’t know each other previously. They have to build this rapport and this trust to really derive the benefit of mentoring. So that’s quite a skill and a responsibility for the organizations running it.

And I think, as Mike was mentioning before also, that a lot of organizations don’t necessarily realize that it’s all about the relationship, and that their role is really to help forge and strengthen these relationships between mentors and mentees to help the relationships grow and get the most out of mentoring.

What we actually seen a lot of mentoring programmes is that they start with a lot of enthusiasm. Mentors are brought in. Mentees are excited about it. And then mentors and mentees may be matched. But gradually, engagement decreases and things fizzle out. This is where a lot of organizations come to us for help and say, what have we done wrong? We thought we were doing everything right.

I think effective mentoring is really where we provide this space for the relationships to develop. And there is high level of engagement between mentors and mentees, and especially where mentors are voluntary, which I think is in most of the cases, and mentees are busy entrepreneurs. The engagement while it’s not necessarily an indicator of value is a good proxy indicator, because if they’re getting value from the relationship, they will engage more with each other. So, I won’t go into the whole M&E side of mentoring programmes, but I think engagement is a good proxy indication. That’s one of the things that when people come to us asking for support, the main thing they mentioned is the lack of engagement between mentors and mentees.

Suhana Chooli: This is what you’ve observed as well, Mike – in some of the programmes maybe you’ve analysed, right? The lack of engagement?

Mike Ducker: Yeah. Maia’s right on and so many issues.

 Even the matching sometimes doesn’t even happen. Many ESOs have this open, network event, whether virtual or in person, and they expect the entrepreneurs, or the mentors to, kind of like a high school dance, almost just find their partner. And, you know, the whole matching part, the whole recruiting part also, I’ve seen a lot of programmes suffer.

Even the relationship of just managing that mentor suffers too. I was just recently working off one ESO and actually doing some focus groups with their mentors. And some of the mentors are like, we don’t feel appreciated, you know? I feel like some programmes try to efficient size themselves… And use technology, CRM systems and things like this, managing the relationship. And, and sometimes the mentors are getting these automated emails and just don’t feel appreciated sometimes, and not a part of the story.

So I think there’s, I think there’s probably seven or eight factors out there where, I think ESOs are failing regarding mentoring. It’s because I think it’s just so much more complicated and people in organizations realize if you really want the power and the magic and thus the impacts out of it.

Suhana Chooli: Let’s talk about the optimistic scenario, examples actually. Do you have examples of programmes where, where it really had an impact and it made a difference? Do you have any story of change to share, Mike?

Mike Ducker: Yeah. This was almost by accident. When I was first working in Egypt. We were a bit frustrated with the programme I worked on. It was a US Aid programme on some of the start-up approaches for entrepreneurship.

We co-developed a programme that was four to five months. It was really simple, to be frank. It was mostly just a reoccurring in-person mentoring and kind of a group mentoring. The way we measured the success of the entrepreneurs was just delta: where were you a month ago, six weeks ago, where are you today? And so that was sort of the accountability thing. And we were really fortunate that we had some of the most serious business people in Egypt who volunteered for this. And it was really interesting to see these relationships between these start-ups.

It was interesting. It wasn’t just start-ups. It was SMEs, it was companies have been around five, six years, consulting firms, manufacturing firms, tech, start-ups, it was a really mixed. The way we were able to do this was we were just saying, all we care about is Delta. At the end of the day, we’re sort of judging you on, are you able to push yourself over a short period of time? And your kind of accountable to these people that you’re building trust with. One of the companies, this consulting firm that does UI and UX, basically said, you guys are telling me I needed to focus on human resources and I was focused on human resources and this happened. I mean, it was like, I was all thinking about marketing and strategy and you’re telling me I need to focus on people and operations. And it was like, here’s what, what I did and here’s a transformation. So, it was really interesting that, by not worrying about the pitch and the strategy.

[00:21:34] I mean, all these things are fun. You know, they’re fun to look at, but like really getting into, you know, can we help you push your company further every time we engage with you. It was really interesting. You could see really, really direct impacts. And it was all about the relationship that was established between these business people who absolutely cared. They were there, pro bono as, as Maia was saying. They just wanted to help. They were serious business people, the entrepreneurs who knew there were serious.

And when they saw that, I think they saw the accountability of having people that are there to help them, want to help them. And, you know, felt accountable. Like if they’re going to see they’re going to do something in the next month, they did it.

So most of them did, I should say so it was, or if they didn’t do, they learned from something. They kind of failed and they learned. So, I just feel like that type of relationship where you establish it and, it just becomes, as Maya was saying, it becomes more natural.

I think that the great thing about the mentors is they really, really helpful focus the entrepreneurs. You know, these entrepreneurs are getting a water hose of information and getting all these ideas. They’re looking at competitors and, they’re unsure.

They want to try a thousand different things and the mentors, as Maia was saying, through questioning and questions, help them focus, really realize, you know, maybe I have a grand vision of all these things I want to do, but in the next month, I need to focus on these two or three things.

And it’s not that the mentor tells them that it’s that they ask a lot of questions to help the entrepreneur think about that and really realize where their priorities are for the next short-term period. So that’s been one of the, I think, most gratifying things I’ve seen in my career and just seeing sort of really quick impact, from such a programmeme.

Suhana Chooli: Okay. Thanks.

Thanks Mike, for sharing. Maia, do you have any other point?

Maia Gedde: It’s really interesting to listen to Mike and that accountability bit comes up time and time again. I think it’s quite a lonely journey sometimes, being an entrepreneur. So having someone who cares and asks you those questions is really important.

From Mowgli we have a lot of stories given that all our work is around mentoring, but I wanted to give a little bit of a high-level view. And I think one of the consistent things that we hear from entrepreneurs is that mentoring has helped us to get further, faster, to really focus on what we want to do, to have that accountability, to maybe be more motivated and to have a clarity of vision of where we’re going.

So, I think that getting further faster is something that comes up time and time again. We just did a programme in Tunisia, the GROW programme, and that was something that repeatedly came up in that. I think also for leaders, it’s also around being a better leader. And then I think what’s been interesting in times of COVID is around resilience and also navigating rapidly changing environments.

Entrepreneurs who have pivoted that business don’t feel so alone through it. So yeah, lots of different examples around that

Suhana Chooli: You were mentioning that, there’s a lot of mentoring programmes being developed by ESOs across the board, but they usually don’t live up to the expectations of mentoring.

And you mentioned it’s because sometimes the lack of understanding what mentoring really is about or how it’s being implemented. Do you think there’s any other challenges organizations face when running mentoring programmes? Because you also mentioned the resources and the lack of budgets, right?

Mike Ducker: Yeah. There are several different issues. The recruitment is always difficult. Especially now. Entrepreneurship is a bit of a hot topic. It’s the economic development tool that a lot of governments and donors are looking to, to solve a lot of problems.

There’s a lot of programmes that are often competing for mentors, to be honest. How can you be the programme that all these mentors want to engage with, work with, be part of? That’s a part of it.

I think there is mentor fatigue, to be honest, with the entrepreneurs.

I have lots of feelings about that, but I feel like part of it is justified, because, they’re getting introduced to lots of people, but I feel like so many organizations are not giving them the proper mentoring engagement and they’re not getting the magic there.

[00:25:56] And so they often feel like they’re wasting their time doing their meeting, talking about their business background, so I feel like there is definitely mentor fatigue for a lot of organizations at the entrepreneur level. When an entrepreneur finds its right mentor, they love it. When they don’t get that right relationship, it’s really a drag for them.

And so, it’s just a recognition you have to have when doing this type of thing. I think when it really, really works, it’s incredibly powerful, but when it’s just, okay, it kind of creates a drag, and I think that’s part of the problem. And then, like I said, the whole process of matching.

Organizations just don’t put the time into it. I know Mowgli has a really sophisticated way to match entrepreneurs and mentors, but I think most organizations don’t put a lot of time and effort into that matching.

And then the checking up on the relationship… it takes resources. It takes a person to manage this, to check in, to see how things are going. Even to prepare both the entrepreneur and the mentor on the relationship.

I know a lot of mentors get mad because he thinks they’re just going to give advice. And the entrepreneurs are just going to take the advice and run with it. And they get mad when the first time they gave, they think is amazing advice, the entrepreneur goes, “oh, that’s interesting, but that’s not what I’m going to do”. But the mentor needs to understand, that that’s not their role to give so much advice.

And it’s not the role of the entrepreneur to take every piece of advice that they’re given. And so even creating knowledge so both the mentor and the entrepreneur know that what this relationship is all about is important to o. I think you can go through every step of what Mowgli does, and the sequencing of an establishing a mentoring programme, and I guarantee you that a lot of the ESOs don’t put time and effort and the resources they need to do these types of things. Many don’t even know they need to do it. I should also say it.

Suhana Chooli: Yeah, that’s where I was going.

Like, it seems like they actually don’t know what it takes to implement an effective mentoring programme because maybe they haven’t even been exposed to the mentoring, to a mentoring relationship themselves, which could be helpful, obviously to understand really what you can get out of it.

So yeah, I guess it’s really about understanding what mentoring is.

Maia, do you have anything to add to.

Maia Gedde: Yeah. So, lots of reactions to that. I was just going to, slightly off piece but building on what Mike was saying around the matching… I think a lot of organizations match, and a lot of entrepreneurs naturally want to be matched with someone with a similar background to themselves, who’s maybe a couple kind of 10 years ahead of them or something. And actually, the way we do the matching is really around rapport in that relationship. We observe it and see who’s got rapport with each other. And actually, the greatest learning often comes from people who are different to yourself.

So actually, seeking out someone who’s very similar to yourself or matching mentor and mentee who are very similar always or doesn’t often create this space for learning. And so that’s just a side comment that I thought I’d make.

But I think where a lot of the challenges stem from when running mentoring programmes is really around understanding of what mentoring really is and how to lay those/ create those foundations, create that space for mentoring programmes really to flourish, and also what differentiates mentoring from pure business advice, technical assistance, consulting. They’re all really important tools for entrepreneurs, but they are different from mentoring and what differentiates it is really this rapport and the trust-based relationship in a business context. So as a mentor coming in. I think a lot of mentors may start by tell me about your business, tell me about your business plan. And actually, they should take a step back. And this is what our programmes, when we help mentors or entrepreneurs build their skills as mentors, it’s really to get to know the person behind the business- so the entrepreneur. And so, I often talk about entrepreneurial mentoring, much more than business mentoring because you can’t mentor a business, but you mentor the entrepreneur in it. And it’s very much around them as an entrepreneur, growing as an entrepreneur and their role in the business. And of course, the business may fail, but you strengthen the entrepreneur to become stronger and hopefully they’ll go on and set up another business.

So, yeah. So that’s kind of an understanding perspective of setting up the mentoring programmes.

I think funding is another element. Naturally, you think, okay, if my mentors are volunteers then I don’t need much funding to run the mentoring programme. We do need to recruit them in, but then we match them. We let them get on with it. And while you don’t need a huge amount of funding to run mentoring programmes, you do need some resources like anything to run it well. So, you need someone who’s a focal point to run the mentoring programme, who is the point of contact and manages it, has the overall oversight of it, and designs and sets up the programme.

You probably need a bit of funding also to build the skills of your mentors and mentees. And a lot of entrepreneurs may come in and say, I’m a successful entrepreneur. I don’t need to train as a mentor. But actually, the skills of a good entrepreneur and a mentor actually quite different. As an entrepreneur, you’re very focused on action and problem solving. And as a mentor, you probably want to take a bit of a step back and learn how to listen, more, ask those powerful questions, help someone to reflect. And they are good leadership and management skills as well. So, the mentors have a lot to learn from the process as well. And I think that’s one thing that you were kind of touching on before. That mentors are often not appreciated, but actually, that’s really important for mentoring programmes as well. If we want to retain our mentors, how can we help them to get value from the mentoring relationships and continue mentoring? So, feel appreciated, but also feel that they’re learning as well. So, if you’re going to run long-term sustainable mentoring programmes and build mentoring cultures, it is also important to recognize the value that the mentors bring to it.

Suhana Chooli: Yeah, that’s something we probably forget from time to time is usually we always see the value for mentees and entrepreneurs, not so much so for the actual mentors, but they get a lot of value in the process.

And if you’re not bringing the value for the mentors, there’s no way they’re going to mentor in the longer term and so your ecosystem might crumble if you don’t get to have those mentors afterward.

Maia Gedde: And organizations put a lot of effort into recruiting mentors, but actually, you need to retain them because it’ll make your life much easier if you able to retain your mentors to future cohorts, and enable your mentees to, in a couple of years down the line, loop back as mentors, because they’ve really understood the value that mentoring has had to them and will want to give back, but also learn as a mentor also.

Suhana Chooli: And that’s how afterwards you keep the ball rolling and grow your mentoring culture and strengthen the overall ecosystem.

All right. Great. And so basically, all of those pitfalls can be overcome obviously with the right preparation and the right designs for the programme. That’s the foundations of our new course called Running Effective Mentoring Programmemes that’s been developed by Mowgli. Maia, maybe you can tell us a bit more about why we’ve developed this programme.

Maia Gedde: Yeah, so Mowgli has been in existence for 14 years now. A lot of that time has really been focused on running mentoring programmes ourselves for other organizations. So, we would come in and run an end-to-end mentoring programme for a range of different organizations and clients. We’ve built up a lot of experience, expertise around what makes mentoring programmes effective, what creates that engagement, that trust, that rapport, and really has impact on the mentees we’re working with. So that’s really been our focus. But increasingly, we’re seeing more and more organizations wanting to run their own mentoring programmes, coming to us for advice and support to help them to improve their own mentoring programmes, but they don’t have a large budget to be able to get us to come in and run the programme for them.

And of course, they don’t necessarily want us to do it as well because they want to embed it within the organization and make it a sustainable offer for their entrepreneurs. So that’s the background to this. This is part of a package to respond to this is a course for organizations who are either running an existing mentoring programme, that’s not quite delivering what they were expecting from the programme- so not quite having the results that they were hoping for- or they’re setting up a new programme from scratch and want to get it right from the start.

Suhana Chooli: So, it’s intended for organizations to corporates, as well as ESOs, right?

Maia Gedde: Yes. Exactly. Across the board. So, the principles and how you set up an effective mentoring programme are the same. Yeah.

Suhana Chooli: Do you mind giving a brief outline of what’s being covered in that programme?

Maia Gedde: Yeah, of course.

So it covers everything from really focusing in on the objectives of the mentoring programme: why you’re running a mentoring programme and what you want to achieve. Because that’s really the foundation upon which everything else is layered. So, the whole design of your mentoring programme will always come back to, okay, what are we trying to achieve from that? So, from recruitment of your mentors to your mentees and to the programme and things. One big area that a lot of organizations struggle with, which we’ve already talked about, is around recruiting mentors.

[00:35:47] So how can you recruit mentors into your programme? How can you make the programme attractive to them? How can you articulate what they’ll get out of it and what you’ll be offering them? So really trying to make it an attractive offer to mentors.

Part of it is also, if you’re running a cohort based mentoring programme, mentors also want to interact and build their own networks. So just highlighting all the different elements from your mentoring programme that will be beneficial to them, through to how to do the matching. Lots of different options there. So again, it comes back to what you’re trying to achieve from your mentoring programme, different ways that you can do the matching, and what’s important to consider within that.

And then after you’ve made your matches- so after your mentor and mentee are together- A lot of organizations kind of step back and help them and just allow them to get on with it. But actually, an effective mentoring programme will provide ongoing support, both to mentors and mentees, provide a space for learning- so maybe for mentors to come together and also learn from each other for mentees, again, to do that and good evaluation. So, monitoring and evaluation of mentoring programmes, also something really critical there.

Suhana Chooli: And how can people join the next cohort?

Maia Gedde: We’re running the Running Effective Mentoring Programmes course twice a year, normally in March and September. So, if you’re interested in the course, there’s details on our website. So, you can sign up and then we’ll keep you updated with the next courses and when they’re running,

Suhana Chooli: Mike, you think, do you think this programme could be useful for the ESOs that are trying to implement their mentoring programmes?

Mike Ducker: For sure. We’ve covered some of the problems and issues that they have. I think it would be helpful, a programme like this, for a lot of ESOs to really understand how to design and really build up this mentoring community and get them engaged and how to match and how to manage, give them some structure and understanding that they probably could take back to their ESO and hopefully implement from that perspective. So, yeah, I definitely believe this is something that can be very helpful.

Maia Gedde: Maybe, if I can just add in briefly… one of the important components is it’s very, very practical. So, as they go through the course, they’re Maybe, if actually either designing or refining their own mentoring programme. So, it’s very much not theoretical. It’s very much based on designing/ developing their own mentoring programme.

It’s a six-week course, but then it provides ongoing support and the peer element. It’s running small cohorts where everyone really gets to know each other and they’re all going through similar situations, setting up their own mentoring programmes or trying to refine their own mentoring programmes. So that cross-cohort learning is really important.

That’s the feedback that we’ve got from the courses we’ve run so far, that they find it really valuable to interact and engage with other people who are going through the same thing.

Suhana Chooli: It all boils down to what Mike was saying earlier. That at the end of the day, it really is about people and engaging, and community and relationships, right?

Mike, any last words you’d like to add?

Mike Ducker: As far as the programme goes, I think that’s great. It’s great that it’s so practical. And hopefully there’s some design at the end that people can go back to the ESOs with.

I’ve learned a lot from Mowgli on mentoring and I’ve had conversations with you Maia, and Kat, and really, from the start, I think you guys are the organization leading the way. You almost have a religious belief in the power of this engagement, which I also believe.

So, it’s great you’re both sharing information and providing some products to help organizations out there.

But I would advise ESOs: if you’re going to do this, be serious about it like any of your activities. If you go half-hearted, it’s going to be a half-hearted result and you really need to understand the power of this. I think going through a programme like this, or just looking at other resources out there, it could really help you create the impacts of the relationship that can sort of be unlocked from mentoring.

Suhana Chooli: Thank you very much, Mike.

Thank you very much to both of you for this dive into mentoring and entrepreneurial ecosystem. I think we can all agree that provided we have the right understanding of what mentoring is and what it should result into and how it needs to be implemented, it can really make a difference in the life of entrepreneurs and by extension to their organizations and, even the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Just to note, if you want to join our next cohort for our rec course check out our website www.humanedge.org.uk and follow us on our LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you very much for your time, Mike and Maia. Stay safe and stay healthy, and we’ll see you soon.

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