How to mentor busy mentees at small local NGOs

Picture of author Ayele sitting in a chair.

Ayele Ashagre has more than 18 years’ experience in the civil society organisation (CSO) / non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector. He worked as a Country Coordinator, Capacity Development Manager, and Programme Manager/Director for different national and international NGOs, including All We Can, British Council – Civil Society Support Programme, Voluntary Service Overseas, Mekdim Ethiopia. He has extensive experience in the areas of organisational capacity development, programme/project cycle management, strategic planning and management, and safeguarding and partnership management.

I’ve had some mentoring and coaching experience in the past, and I believe that for the benefit of the mentees, you have to put your feet in their shoes, especially when they are facing challenges.

The Safeguarding Mentoring Training provided by the RSH has helped me to be more confident in providing the safeguarding mentorship service to local CSOs and NGOs as an independent consultant/mentor. I was eager to start working with the two organisations assigned to me as part of the mentorship project.

During the mentoring programme, I met monthly with RSH capacity development lead Angie Bamgbose to discuss the mentoring. In our supervision meetings I reflected that the mentoring guidelines and some of the recommended methods like the GROW model, which helps people to identify Goals, the current Reality and Options to move towards their goal and then finally commit to actions and the Way forward. This model is in line with my personal values, character and ways of working. 

I listen to and motivate others, encourage people to take responsibility, discuss the work together and give constructive feedback, and I acknowledge and praise good performance. These ways of working are not only important for mentoring, but also for a positive safeguarding culture. 

When mentoring the CSOs, I tried to fully understand the situation of my mentees, shared my own relevant experiences with them and promoted the importance of the safeguarding mentorship and its contributions to sustainable organisations and to staff’s career development. This has enabled me to establish good working relationships with the mentees, gain their trust, and assist them to accomplish some of the key safeguarding capacity development action plans and bring about positive changes. 
Despite this, I found there were two big challenges:

  • Expectation of financial support, like a grant, associated with the safeguarding mentorship. This happened even though the mentorship service application guidelines clearly indicated that the intervention was non-grant. 

An Executive Director told me, “Capacity development support without a grant or a project, for us small CSOs is like the well-arranged and beautiful ‘teeth without lips.’ We are not in a position to absorb this support.”  

  • Shortage of time and high workload among CSO staff.  

Given the limited financial resources of local CSOs, they hire only few technical staff, who are engaged in different project activities – one staff may manage several projects at a time. Therefore, because of the workload, staff are very busy, and they may struggle to consider the mentoring support as an asset – and may see it more as a liability.

Therefore, as a mentor, while working with these mentees who might consider the RSH support as an additional workload and/or are very busy with different urgent issues (project/donor requirements), you need to understand their situations and pains. You need to put your feet in their shoes, be patient and think positively. Otherwise, you may feel your offer is unwelcomed, could confuse lack of time for the lack of commitment and get disappointed.

Image of a question mark. Have you had a similar experience while working as a mentor? Share your views in the comments!
 

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