Building mentoring cultures in emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems
“I was at a conference when I heard a lady speak about the importance of mentoring. As I was just starting my business, I had already identified that I needed a mentor. So I went up to her after the conference and asked her if she would be my mentor.” says a young entrepreneur from Rwanda. “ But she declined. She was too busy. And this is not an isolated case: it is a constant barrier. We know we need mentors, we want mentors, but the people who would be good mentors to us, aren’t willing to dedicate the time!”
Finding mentors who are willing to work with individual entrepreneurs is a challenge. This is where organisations like Mowgli Mentoring and our partners step in, helping to run structured mentoring programmes and attract and support high quality mentors. But engaging seasoned entrepreneurs as mentors is not always a challenge: the more supportive and interconnected the entrepreneurial ecosystem is, the greater the availability of mentors.
How can we accelerate the availability of mentors, and create a culture of mentoring within a relatively new entrepreneurial ecosystem? Recently Mowgli Mentoring undertook a study for GIZ Make-IT in Rwanda, and we made the following observations which are equally relevant to other new ecosystems.
- The best mentors are those who have personally experienced the value of quality mentoring
Due to the very personal nature of mentoring we found that the real advocates for mentoring — and those who regularly mentored others — were those who had practical understanding of what mentoring was and how it added value, rather than purely theoretical. This is where formal and structured mentoring programmes play an important role, to initially kick-start mentoring programmes and build a critical mass of mentors within an ecosystem to promote a culture of mentoring.
2. We need to develop a common understanding of what mentoring is
Interpretations of mentoring vary amongst ecosystem actors, which causes confusion. Entrepreneurs and mentors will have different expectations of what mentoring is, according to the programme they join. This can result in ineffective programmes, especially where mentors and entrepreneurs are starting to engage with or work across multiple organisations within the ecosystem. A common understanding is key to effective communication, long term engagement and developing a cohesive culture of mentoring within an ecosystem.
3. Understand how to run effective mentoring programmes
While there is no one-size fits all approach, and effective mentoring programmes come in all shapes and sizes, (one-to-one mentoring, group mentoring, structured mentoring, ad-hoc mentoring), there are some key factors which influence the outcomes and effectiveness of a mentoring programme. Mentoring programmes need to be well set up, with trained and prepared mentors and mentees, who are supported in their mentoring journeys.
In order to build mentoring cultures, Mowgli Mentoring supports organisations and ecosystems to develop all three of these areas.
We work with clients and partners to set up quality mentoring programmes, giving mentors a head-start in their mentoring journeys, and continue mentoring others. We also support organisations to build their own capacity to run high-quality mentoring programmes.