Emerging Leaders Mentorship Program: New Tools to Facilitate Shared Learning

Mentorship-image1-XLThis year marks the third generation of our Emerging Leaders Mentorship Program. Each round brings new insight as we strive to support powerful learning relationships among Midwest change-makers. We are excited to see the new tools we have launched this year further deepen our participant’s experience – an online community forum, and a suite of guided activities – as pairs report in on their conversations.

As of February 2014, 22 participants across three Midwest states have been meeting monthly to share knowledge and support each other’s growth. By matching young climate leaders with veteran staff, this program aims to facilitate cross-generational learning and healthy mutual relationships that foster a more connected, dynamic and effective Midwest climate movement.

This year’s participants come from the worlds of policy and advocacy, non-profit management and network facilitation, grassroots organizing, and cooperative social business development, as well as other sectors. The blend of ages and experiences is making for rich conversation. New insights have emerged while discovering both differences and commonalities.

One pair found great value in exploring their differing perspectives on the need to incorporate systems change as strategy to support climate change solution. They agreed that quantifying effective movement building is important in order to explain the value of deep community work to someone coming from a strictly policy oriented approach.

Another pair explored challenges related to focus and productivity, drawing from shared experiences. One participant observed: “My match feels more busy than any other time in her life, like she is continually holding more and more; I definitely resonated with that.” Together they explored solutions: “We felt there was lots of room for improvement in how we are using our time and that could help us feel less stressed, so we shared our learning on time management.”

Many of these conversations are spurred by a new suite of activities we have developed this year, designed to help program participants explore and grow through their challenges.

Some of these activities focus on unpacking the beliefs that either hold us back or open us up to new ways of innovating and working collaboratively. Drawing from the work of the Garfield Foundation, one activity allows participants to try on “Transformative Mindsets” as they strive to work through challenges and explore new approaches. Other activities are more process oriented, helping the pairs try out new visual or creative ways to use their shared knowledge to problem solve together.

After completing the Accountability System Map Activity, where a pairs discuss what motivates them to do their work and then draw their personal system of accountability, one mentee reflected: “The drawing really helped us shed light on how unsuccessful our systems were, and was a more productive way to think about our systems of organization than simple lists. For both of us, working together with others and having mutual accountability was really important/successful.”

The Emerging Leaders Mentorship Program is evolving rapidly, responding to participant preferences and ideas. Some changes are made from year to year while others happen month to month. We have created our suite of guided activities in response to what participants have needed – and will continue to develop our toolkit based on participant feedback. We are excited to continue building out adaptable program infrastructure to consistently facilitate intergenerational shared learning. Mentorship activities will be available on our website later this spring.

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