A Community of Practice (CoP) for Mentors and Mentees
What is a CoP?
A Community of Practice – CoP for short – is a group of people who share a common interest in a topic and/or practice who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. CoPs often focus on sharing good practice and creating new knowledge to advance a domain of professional practice. Interaction on an ongoing basis is an important part of a CoP.
A major outcome of my PhD research was the development of the High Impact Mentoring Model (HIMM). This model has become the foundation of Petersen Consulting, as it can be tailored for any organisation wanting to establish a mentoring programme.
The HIMM comprises several key processes, one of which is a CoP. It became very apparent to me as I was doing this research that there was a missing link in mentoring programme design – a gap between when mentors and mentees participate in mentoring training at the commencement of the mentoring programme – before entering into the mentoring partnership – and when the mentoring partnership concluded. As much as a quality training workshop definitely sets the mentor and mentee up for the ensuing mentoring relationship, there seemed to be no other mechanisms to support them during the programme duration.
This is where a CoP is a great structure to incorporate in your programme. And I advise every organisation I work with to seriously consider establishing a CoP for their mentors as well as their mentees. A CoP provides a place and space for mentors and mentees to share experiences, seek advice on any challenges they are having in the mentoring partnership, share successes, and swap notes on different approaches and resources they are using which are benefitting the mentee (and themselves more often than not).
If you mentoring programme runs for a year, consider creating the opportunity for your mentors and mentees to meet at least twice in that period. CoPs help maintain the momentum of your programme, the motivation and interest of the mentors and mentees to remain actively engaged, and show the organisation’s commitment to and valuing of mentoring.
So what does a CoP look like?
I have been involved in several projects designing and facilitating CoPs for staff development, in organisational mentoring programmes and in the higher education sector. Each of these projects has encompassed a blended approach, i.e., a combination of online and face-to-face meetings.
Here are a few suggested principles and practices for you to consider in establishing a Cop within your programme…….
- Commence the initiative with a workshop for the CoP members to familiarise them with the concept and practices of a CoP
- Establish a CoP facilitator to coordinate the meetings in the initial establishment of the group. The aim is for the CoP to eventually become self-managing, with the group members rotating through the facilitator/coordinator role
- In the meetings, all members have the opportunity to share, ask questions, discuss their practice
- In the early stages of CoP development, setting an agenda or deciding a focus for each meeting can be helpful until group members decide how they want to get ‘best value’ from the meeting
- Incorporate some informal evaluation into the CoP structure, for example, a few questions that the group members ask of themselves (self-evaluation) and ask as a group of the group process, benefits, any challenges or things that need to be changed/improved
- Establish peer mentoring partnerships to encourage and support group members to keep thinking about and reflecting on their practice through peer support, review and feedback (read on to next article for more details about this strategy)