The NWDA Business mentoring programme commenced in September 2009 and is seeking to support 3,000 SME leaders and managers in the North West of England over a three-year period. The aim of the programme is to establish an exemplary one–to–one mentoring programme demonstrating accredited quality standards. The focus of the mentoring is on small businesses with the potential to grow. This is a core objective of increasing the availability and standard of mentoring provision in the region and robust evaluation.
The NWDA delivery model has four key elements to it to ensure these deliverables:
- a quality framework based on the ISMPE standards (International Standards for Mentoring Programmes in Employment),
- a central co-ordination team,
- delivery through a trained and quality controlled provider network and,
- ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
Given the number of people involved in the scheme, we adopted a train-the-trainers approach to mentor development. We contracted a number of professional mentoring organisations (the providers) to actually deliver the mentor development to the mentors.
The on-going support and supervision for the NWDA mentoring programme has been provided at two levels: for the provider organisations and the mentors themselves:
Mentoring Supervision for Providers
Three times a year the Central Team (supported by Coach Mentoring Ltd) run Provider Networking Events to disseminate knowledge and share best practice. These sessions are an opportunity for the organisations to be versed in further mentoring themes and theory, which they can then deliver at their own Mentor Focus Groups. New research and cutting edge best practice is shared at these sessions. It is also an opportunity to share evaluation results from the programme and discuss aspects of interest to the providers to enable them to use this formative evaluation wisely.
In our heuristic, this provider supervision is providing a development function to the professional mentors. In the programme set up, the providers attended a workshop where they were given details about the expectations of them on the programme as well as some approaches and models to practice with in the session. Hence, these workshops provided both the Quality Assurance & Training Functions of supervision for these providers.
Mentoring Supervision for Mentors
In turn, the providers run Mentor Focus Groups for the mentors. Such meetings provide an opportunity for mentors to discuss concerns, to gain further knowledge or skills training and to network generally with other mentors on the programme. Again, mirroring the overall logic of the programme, a number of Exemplar Focus Groups are being run by Lis Merrick for the Central Team which serve a Quality Assurance, Development and Training Function for the mentors in terms of their supervisory needs. The process involves mentors working in pairs or small groups and discussing issues around their mentoring process and practice in order to receive:
In addition to these focus groups, the Provider organisations invite each mentor to attend up to three supervision sessions per annum, lasting between 2 – 3 hours. These tend to be group supervisions.
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