Participation in the Mentoring Program: challenges vs. opportunities

December 6, 2021

This panel discussion was held on November 30 as part of the 10th Civil Society Development Forum. Mentors and mentees from previous programs told the audience what the mentoring process consists of and what challenges the mentors and mentors face.

“Everyone has their own unique way, everyone faces their unique challenges. Every mentoring path is a life. The lives of two organizations that have agreed to go along this path together,” said Olena Matviichuk, Mentoring Program Coordinator.

The discussion participants considered each stage of the mentoring program step by step: from selecting participants to summarizing.

If a film was made about the mentoring path, it would be a different film for every person. For some mentors it would be an action film, for others – an adventure film with the elements of drama.

Mentoring path can look like an autobiographical film. How did Lady Gaga become a star, for example? Mentees joining the program are just beginning their journey. But maybe it was you who had a chance to mentor rising stars. And then someone will make a movie about them,” said mentor Denys Baranets (Public Control Platform NGO, Dnipro).

Representative of the mentee organization BCD NGO (Nemishaievo town) Yurii Voinalovych compared mentoring and responsible parenthood: “As a mentee I felt that I got “As a mentee I felt that I got responsible parents.”

“We need to be ready to realize our incompetence in the process of setting a problem and finding a way to solve it,” continued Mr. Yurii. “It is quite uncomfortable. We understand that we have to do something about our conscious incompetence.”

The mentoring program boasts unique content and approach and aims to strengthen the advocacy capacity of civil society. 

According to the coordinator, the program aims to provide mentors with skills so that they could become a better version of themselves, and so that mentee organizations could continue to create and implement advocacy plans on their own.

So, there were some challenges that can be a powerful step in the organization development that attracted the attention during the panel discussion.

There can be many points on the mentoring support path. They include the reconciliation of the role and goals of the mentee organization. Mentors believe that it is important not to spread oneself too thin and to coordinate expectations: find out what exactly mentors and mentees expect from each other.

“Requests change within the process,” says mentor Bohdan Lepiavko (U-Cycle NGO, Kyiv). In addition, he advises to pay attention to the character traits of the people you meet, to consider personal contact  as early as at the stage of selection.

According to the representative of the mentee organization Viktoriia Kolodiazhna (Inclusive Studies NGO, Lutsk), getting out of your comfort zone may be a challenge: “We had done a lot of things before we registered the NGO, but we had never engaged in advocacy campaigns. It was a new level of activity for us.”

It is also important to be ready for long-term work, pointed out mentor Liubov Maksymovych (NGO Center “Women’s Perspectives”). According to her, her 23-year experience in the organization she heads has shown that the process should be step-by-step. “It may look like a crescendo: you work in one direction, then increase your competencies and start expanding your activity,” explained Ms. Liubov.

One of such challenges, according to Liudmila Yankina, a mentor from the ZMINA Human Rights Center (Kyiv), is to not overdo it.

“It is important to avoid becoming a rescuer when you want to save the organization you are mentoring from mistakes. Teach rather than do for the mentees. After all, good intentions can be toxic. This is the paradox of the hero syndrome, when you want to save the mentee,” said the mentor.

Motivation and teamwork can be challenging. As Denys Baranets noted, it is necessary to motivate people not with money, not with the authority of the boss, but for the sake of real changes and results.

The most interesting thing is that during the Program, the challenges other than those you expected may arise. Therefore, experienced mentors advise everyone to be ready to manage challenges and risks.  And the main support in this process is provided not only by the organizers of the Program, but also by other mentors and mentees.

“You can be as professional as you want, but feel lonely in your professionalism,” adds Liudmyla Yankina. “The mentoring program is a place where you find not only many people with whom you are on the same wavelength, but also professional friends. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Therefore, if an organization that sees itself as a mentor, is not afraid to give the mentee the right to make mistakes, is not afraid to adjust their pace, motivate, ground when needed, is ready to acquire their own skills and understand their own strategies – then it should fill out an application by December 10 by link.

If a young organization is not afraid to go beyond the comfort zone, wants to develop itself, test and strengthen its own team, and is ready to meet reality – then the organizers invite such an organization to apply for the Mentoring Program 3.0 as a mentee.

And finally:

“It’s an awesome program. I cant think of a program that would give more experience and enjoyment. This is a network a network of people who care and are ready to share their experiences. It is a resource for mentees, as well as networking and reinforcement for each other – for mentors” (Liubov Maksymovych, mentor of the Mentoring Programs 1.0 and 2.0).

Mentoring Program 3.0 to strengthen the advocacy and other capacities of civil society organizations from different parts of Ukraine is part of the Project Ukraine Civil Society Sectoral Support Activity implemented by the Initiative Center to Support Social Action “Ednannia” in partnership with the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research (UCIPR) and Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM) with the sincere support of the American people through United States Agency for International Development.