Across organisational mentor/mentee matching in the Humanitarian sector

Leaders, or future leaders, in the humanitarian sector are benefiting from mentoring conversations with individuals from another organisation, yet with similar specialisms. Across organisational matching, in relevant thematic areas, creates more dialogue and powerful shared learning for both mentees and mentors. In 2023, 300 participants have joined AOMP from 17 organisations and 66 countries.

Participating organisations in AOMP 2023

Humanitarian Leadership AcademyThe Across Organisational Mentoring Programme (AOMP) began with a pilot of six organisations in 2016. Now, with ongoing support from by the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, AOMP 2023 has mentors and mentees joining from 17 organisations:

  • British Red Cross
  • Childfund Australia
  • Christian Aid
  • Greenpeace
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Malaria Consortium
  • Médecins Sans Frontières
  • Norwegian Refugee Council
  • Open Arms
  • Oxfam
  • Plan International
  • Save the Children
  • Tearfund
  • War Child
  • WaterAid
  • World Vision

Agency Focal Points (AFPs) coordinated applicants within each organisation.

Matching diverse AOMP mentors and mentees

AOMP Matching criteriaOver 300 applicants, speaking 10 languages from 21 time-zones, in 66 countries, with 36 thematic specialisms and differing combinations of 11 development aims, came together on the 2023 mentoring programme.

As the global AOMP programme has grown, we realised that various inter-related criteria meant that traditional matching software didn’t work. These systems struggled to match mentors and mentees from similar time-zones, or to recommend mentors who were a just a little more experienced than a mentee.

So for a good match, we developed a hybrid matching system. This combined the best qualities of the person and the machine.

Making shortlists of potential mentoring partners

Time zonesOur bespoke matching algorithm dealt with these fiddly numerical challenges. Moreover, it handled the typical machine matching duties based on development aims, specialisms, language etc. It identified potential partners sharing a common language, in similar time zones which had the most common development aims and areas of specialism.

We considered time in role, overall sector experience and if either or both mentee or mentor wanted a partner of a particular gender. Finally, to ensure varying perspectives, we took care that mentees were matched with a mentor from a different organisation and non-identical role.

The human touch to confirm mentee matching with mentors

Crucially, these machine-generated short-lists facilitated the successful creative choices that come from human matching. Removing the clutter inherent in a large programme, allowed an experienced specialist to propose an imaginative match. We did this by considering each applicant’s statements about themselves and their career. In addition, we checked if they were field or HQ based, if their roles were deployable and considered any further information to support the final match proposal.

Human touch in matching mentors and mentees


Introducing the mentoring pairs

We wrote short summaries for each mentor and mentee, describing the reasons for their match. Then the machine resumed its duties, sending individualised introductions to each participant. Each email included a personalised PDF with all the details required to make first contact and start their mentoring partnership.

Briefings, support sessions, evaluations and celebrations

Live briefings engender better engagement from participants than online learning. Given the multinational nature of the programme, we provided sessions to suit differing time-zones. To support participants where English isn’t their first language, we offered French language sessions. In addition, participants could choose live captions with optional machine translation between 23 languages. Evaluation questionnaires are multilingual.

Online mentoring support materials

Diverse langaugesWe supported participants online with recordings of the briefing sessions together with briefing notes. We offered short Mentor and Mentee toolkits in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, plus a detailed Mentoring Guide with further depth and tips for effective mentoring relationships. Checklists and templates proved popular, as did the regular email updates.

Participants could contact a mentoring programme coordinator with questions or challenges they might be facing with the process. This virtual programme manager also performed check-ins and other admin throughout the programme.

What did mentees want to talk about?

Mentees wanted to discuss a wide variety of areas with their mentors. Top of the list was Personal Development followed by Career Planning. Leadership Development, changes to working practice and self-awareness also featured strongly.

Areas of discussion in an AOMP mentoring relationship

What did the mentors make of their matching mentees?

We asked mentors to rate their mentees in six particular areas. They generally found that mentees were receptive to feedback and seemed to take advice seriously.Mentors thoughts on their mentees

Examples of positive experiences from the AOMP 2022

There have been many wonderfully positive experiences from mentees being motivated to take charge of their situations. e.g.

My conversations with my line manager are now more robust.

helped me to reflect on how best to work with challenging characters at work, which has been invaluable to have that external sounding board.

Now I can communicate well and clear to relevant stakeholders

I am now able to talk confidently to my employer or colleagues without being intimidated or feeling inferior.

I feel more confident and well-equipped to pursue my goals and aspirations.

The programme has helped me feel supported and encouraged in my leadership journey and in shaping my role to draw on my personal strength. I have gained a huge amount of confidence and feel ready to apply to more senior roles largely as a result of this programme.

Mentee Quotes:

“I have to say it seems I was perfectly matched with my mentor, we connected and I was able to learn so much on what it takes to proceed to the next level and the learnings will stay with me for a lifetime. I could not have asked for a much better mentor – Thank you AOMP.”

“My mentor has really helped restore my self-esteem, confidence and passion for my current role. Talking through some of the challenges I was experiencing just a few months ago with my mentor helped me sound out and make incremental changes to the way I work with and support my team and the projects I oversee. These changes have hugely improved my satisfaction in my role and supported my team to perform better than ever.”

Mentor Quotes:

“One of my mentees asked for my help to develop his leadership and confidence. We tackled both general concepts and practical examples, building on every mentoring meeting to take a step forward with the next one. By the end of the process, he was able to apply with confidence to a more senior position and was selected as the best candidate, which has become a great opportunity for him to grow professionally and contribute to his organisation”.

“I find more and more my own style in mentoring. I know better what is important to agree on in the beginning and what needs to be clarified (eg. being very clear on my expectation that they need to send invites and come prepared).
I’m getting better at listening more and talking less in every session .”

A scaleable approach to bespoke matching of mentoring pairs

This approach to matching each mentee with a mentor is scaleable across large numbers of participants. As well as supporting humanitarian organisations, we have applied our one-stop shop for mentoring techniques to internal programmes for health, financial and commercial industry, be it single-site, regional or multinational. Importantly, we can straightforwardly customise the matching rules to tailor matches to the needs of a particular programme.

Perhaps people in your organisation would benefit from an injection of thoughts and ideas from others? If you are part of a humanitarian organisation, maybe you’d like to join AOMP 2024? At Coach Mentoring Ltd., we love helping organisations with their mentoring programmes, so get in touch today for a chat!

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