Best Practice For Community Based Mentoring

By Barry Sweeny, © 2008


What is the ONE Most Important Practice?

If you were asked, “What’s the ONE most important best practice for people who use mentoring in a community-based setting to be SURE to use?” – what would you answer?

Before you read on – think about it. What WOULD you answer?

  • Surely, it would have to be something about using partnerships and collaboration – right?
  • Or maybe it would be something relating to having an advisory board made
    up of community representatives and stake holders? That’s good advice.
  • Perhaps it would be about the need to plan long-term and build incremental
    success steps. After all, the problems took a long time to reach what they are today – ao it’s going to take some time to solve them too. Right?

I KNOW the general, give me the SPECIFIC.

These are all true, but these are all applicable to your work in general, and our interest is specifically using MENTORING in this setting. So . . . how does mentoring tie in with all these other good practices?

What’s the MENTORING best practice that’s most critical for your work? It is . . .


The ultimate goal for HOW we DO our work should be to make the mentoring we do and all the other work we and our partners do as similar as possible.

Applying this Best Practice in Community-Based Work

For example, in community-based settings:

Collaborating with strategic partners increases the benefits for all involved.
Some of those benefits are for one partner and not always the other, and some
are mutual benefits that all participants receive. So, with our best practice
in mind, we need to decide:

1. How can this truth improve our community-based work?

2. How can we help people in our work setting see the value of mentoring, for others and for themselves in their own work? And…

3. How can this truth to improve our mentoring work and the work of the mentors and protégés in our programs?. And . . .

4. How can we help mentor program participants apply the effective strategies they know from mentoring into the rest of their work and lives?

Wow! If you could answer these four questions, how powerful might that be?

Wow!  What If We COULD Do That?

  • If we can do that, even people who have never been mentored or been involved in mentoring, will understand what it is we are trying to do in our mentoring work. This will happen because mentoring is ALL about collaboration, ALL about partnerships, all about mutual support and creating mutual benefits, ALL about getting more accomplished together than what we can attain by working separately. That’s mentoring, and that’s the essential work of YOUR setting.
  • If we can do that, the mentors and protégés in our program would really build their skills because they’d be practicing mentoring best practices all the time, in and outside of mentoring. Their mentoring work would become all the more effective and fruitful.
  • If we can do that, the people with whom we work outside of mentoring, in our partnerships, in our families, our marriage, our churches, our communities, they’d all learn specific mentoring strategies that would improve their other relationships, and they’d all become a force for human development.
  • If we can do that, what we learn in our mentoring will directly impact and significantly improve our own other work. Our own work as supervisors, our work as community partners, our work as fundraisers, our work as problem solvers, our work as leaders, our work as parents, as spouses, as family members, and as teachers. Mentoring should be incorporated into all of that work because ALL that work is essentially about human development, and mentoring is the most essential aspect of human development.
  • If we can do that, we will create a powerful synergy, a multiplying effect that is more than the sum of the parts. Then, every thing we do in one setting will have applications and help us to improve what we do in the other settings in which we are involved.

HOW Can We Do That?

How can we make the mentoring we do and all the other work we and our partners
do as similar as possible.

1. We can use the same vocabulary

  • When we talk about mentoring, use “partnership”, “collaboration” and Community service”, etc.
  • When we talk about the non mentoring work in our setting, we can continually point out the ways that mentoring strategies can help us improve that work, as supervisors, teachers, parents, board members, etc. Think others will get tired of hearing “mentoring” all the time? You are probably wrong, because others will understand it’s your passion, just like they have passions in their lives. But if you feel this way – just offer the mentoring strategy without the label.

2. We can explicitly teach the concepts

  • We can explain to non mentoring persons what effective mentoring really
    is and does, and how these skills are exactly what any human development worker (parent, supervisors, teacher, counselor -you name it) must do.
  • We can explain to mentoring people specifically how what they know from
    mentoring can and should be applied in their other relationships and other
    work (same list as above). For example, teach parents how mentoring strategies can help them, such as a strategy for working with a reluctant protégé (child, spouse, even their own parents). Teach teachers how the “reluctant protégé strategy” can work with and engage their students. Teach supervisors how to increase employee commitment to improvement goals by using mentoring strategies to get the employee to do the self-assessment and thinking.

3. We can model the mentoring strategies

Sometimes the very best way to teach something is be a model of it. I’ve heard it described as, “BE the model of the change you want to see.”

  • Whenever we are involved in non mentoring work and we see an opportunity,
    model the use of a mentoring strategy and then clarify that what we just did
    was actually a mentoring strategy.
  • Whenever we are working with mentoring participants and we can model a mentoring strategy for them, we should then also get them to think about how what we just did was a mentoring strategy, or, if they cannot see it, describe what we just did as a mentoring strategy. Then we need to lead them to think about how to apply that strategy in the other non mentoring aspects of the work. A question like,”How do you think that mentoring strategy for assessing
    protégé needs might be useful in our community work too?”

Think about it. Think of one specific way you can use this powerful mentoring
best practice in your own work. Now. start to DO it.