Behind the scenes

Transforming International Mentoring with Hub Mentors

Transforming International Mentoring with Hub Mentors

Mentoring has always been a part of Hello World. Sugata Mitra, who inspired the Hello Hub, tested ‘the granny cloud’ in 2009, connecting volunteers around the globe with children in India. Children in places where there were few resources got access to uninterrupted time with their ‘granny’. They played games, read stories and explored big questions. The Granny Cloud continues to have great success and has created long-lasting relationships like that of Gouri and Mavashi.

At the Hubs, we have always done informal mentoring, usually via whatsapp, learning from Hello Hub users and offering support to them on projects and ideas, or simply listening to their experiences. As anyone who has ever mentored knows, the benefits go both ways. We learn so much about how to improve our work through these conversations and we were finally able to pilot an official mentoring programme when we partnered with abrdn.

More than a traditional donor/NGO relationship, we saw that by pairing Hub users and abrdn employees, our partners at abrdn would have the chance to learn from the real experts of the Hello Hubs. They would gain invaluable insight into life at a Hub and learn from the multilingual, courageous, enterprising and creative Hub users. We also saw the huge potential benefit for our Hub users, offering them one-on-one regular support from experts at abrdn in leadership, technology, marketing and more. It was an opportunity to create meaningful connections on both sides.

Hub Mentors, The Pilot

At every stage of our Autumn 2021 pilot, we took time to listen to feedback and understand where and how we could improve.

1. In September, we sent out a survey to abrdn employees and Hub Community Support Officers to understand the need. Do people want a mentor? What would they like to learn through mentoring? When would they be available and how much time could they commit?

2. In October, we matched pairs based on preferences and skills. We also provided resources to use in the sessions like conversation starters, goal setting questions and discussion ideas.

3. Then, we delivered safeguarding and cross-cultural training for everyone taking part.

4. By late October, partners were meeting on video calls. Despite some teething problems with internet connections and software, we had 15 pairs meeting once a fortnight for 6 half-hour sessions.

5. In December, we sent out a survey to all of the Hub Mentors. The feedback was insightful. Perhaps the biggest frustration of those taking part were the times when they couldn’t manage to talk because of technical issues, a great indication that the project was valued by both sides.

We are thrilled with the result of this first pilot. We have been able to improve the process by closely supporting pairs with connection problems, changing some of the hardware and software we use and providing better training prior to video calls.

Hear what participants had to say about the experience:

CSO Justine in Nakivale said:
"Yes, it help me to improve my skills, cause my English is good in writing and hearing, I'm so shy to speak, I can write, hear but to speak was be very complicated for me, and with this mentor, I can speak now“

abrdn mentor, Gillian McAuslane said:
“Lovely getting to know a bit more about life and routines and how the Hello World Hub fits in. Managed this time to discuss some information I can go and source so it’s great to feel I can add value.”

What’s next for Hub Mentors?

Over the course of the next two years, thanks to abrdn, 64 new communities will build their own Hello Hubs in Uganda. That means hundreds more Hub users signing up to be Hub Mentors. And we already have a long list of abrdn employees who want to be involved as we scale.

This two-way international mentoring offers a learning and skills exchange rather than the patronising and unequal one-way mentoring model often found in international mentoring schemes. As we scale and bring on hundreds of new mentors, we are proud to say that many of the partners from our first pilot have continued to meet their mentors beyond the agreed timeframe, working together to solve problems, give advice and mutual support.

If you’d like to find out more about Hub Mentors, get in touch.

Further reading

A world apart but united by a shared passion - my experience of mentoring with Hello World by Jennifer Yearick