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Articles > Customer Showcases > Making matches: Mentoring at the Institute of Development Studies

Making matches: Mentoring at the Institute of Development Studies

Tips for kickstarting mentoring at your organisation & encouraging mentors to sign up

The Institute of Development Studies is a global development studies research institute which has been at the forefront of shaping international development ideas, learning and action since its foundation in 1966 and is world famous for its work on gender, livelihoods, participatory development, and health and development. . Over the course of its history, the IDS alumni community has grown significantly, and their online community of 1,500 members is a hive of interesting discussion, peer-to-peer support and networking.

IDS alumni live and work across the globe undertaking important transformative work, which ranges from being country presidents to grassroots activities. With the diverse range of career paths that IDS alumni take , it presents a great opportunity for more junior alumni or current students to learn from their peers. One of the ways that the IDS encourages this is through their mentoring programme, facilitated by their ToucanTech platform. Established in 2019, their programme began with 118 mentors and they now work with over 400 mentors. They cover a range of industries, from NGOs to investment, and offer career guidance, CV reviews and sector-specific advice. 

Encouraging mentors to sign up

Often, one of the most unpredictable parts of setting up a mentoring programme is how many alumni will be available to help as a mentor, and making sure that they can sign up to the platform easily. As part of the online registration process, new IDS members are asked whether they would like to sign up to become a mentor, and this has been instrumental in signing up a significant number of new mentors. They have also introduced regular workshops for featured mentors to help with their skills and training.

Using resources to help mentees/mentors get involved

Often, the purpose and responsibilities of mentoring can be misunderstood, both by the mentors and mentees. IDS have penned an article on ‘What mentoring isn’t’, and created a set of resources to help both parties to understand what they could achieve with mentoring, and what the typical roles and responsibilities are in a mentoring partnership. Download the ‘Guide to getting started with mentoring’ for lots of templates and resources for your own community. 

In addition to the resources that they provide, they have also established a specific ‘IDS Alumni Mentors’ group where mentors can share success stories, ask for tips and upload resources for others to use.

“An engaged online community is essential to making the connections needed for mentoring relationships. IDS alumni and students are more likely to sign-up to be mentors/take part in experiences where this is promoted where they are engaged with other online activities and the alumni network website provides us with a space to do this easily and effectively.” 

Michelle Cruickshank, Alumni Relations Officer, Institute of Development Studies

Top tips for getting started

Making sure that your mentors and mentees are on the same page when setting expectations is important before they even begin to match. Often, postgraduate students are looking for very specific industry advice or networking opportunities, which may misalign with what mentors are offering. To help mitigate this, the IDS offers regular training for mentors and information sessions for potential mentees. They also offer ‘Virtual Connections’, which once a year offers current students the chance to be connected to alumni for a one-off virtual coffee meeting to talk about life after IDS. Virtual Connections gets students used to speaking to the alumni network for help and engages with alumni that do not otherwise sign-up for online mentoring.

Michelle Cruickshank, Alumni Relations Officer at the IDS also offers these five tips to ensure that mentees and mentors are well-matched:

  1. Clear and transparent expectations and objectives, these can be published on the website and linked in communications and online groups for mentoring and careers
  2. The workshops with our mentoring consultant will help relationships get off on the right foot by explaining the role of mentors and helping mentees see how a mentor can help them
  3. Bookable slots with our alumni relations officer for students to talk about how to use the online mentoring will also help manage expectations in mentoring relationships, and ad-hoc advice via the online system
  4. Having student organisers and facilitators for the ‘Careers with Alumni’ seminars to learn more about how the IDS can support them in their careers early on
  5. A clear outline of what our ‘Virtual Connections’ mini-mentoring programme is, and providing more ideas of what to talk about irrespective of specific career goals

The Institute of Development Studies facilitates their mentoring programme through their ToucanTech platform. To find out more about how members of your community can connect online and learn from each other, contact a member of the ToucanTech team

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