Mentoring Women in Business Programme

Project location: WORLDWIDE, Bangladesh, India, Israel and Palestine
Project start date: December 2010 - Project end date: December 2011
Project number: 2010-73
Beneficiary: The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women

In order to address some of the common restrictions and barriers facing women entrepreneurs in developing and transition countries, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, in partnership with Google, has developed the "Mentoring Women in Business" programme. The programme aims to build capacity, confidence and ultimately capital through virtual mentoring of women entrepreneurs in countries where they lack equal opportunities.

The Foundation has created an e- mentoring platform ( where successful women and men in business offer one-to-one and group professional support and practical advice to women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, India, Israel and Palestine. This innovative programme combines a unique mix of e-mentoring, access to web applications, ICT training and peer support to unlock the potential of women who want to start or develop their businesses so they can become greater contributors to their economies.
An increase in women's economic activity has an immediate positive impact not just on women themselves but also on the well-being of their families and communities.

The programme uses an approach whereby mentoring is a two-way learning process and Mentors as well as Mentees gain from the relationship. This method empowers the Mentees to define the parameters of the mentoring relationship while Mentors need to exercise self-awareness and humility.

The Foundation is currently implementing a 10-month pilot project of the programme with approximately 60 participants. Initial results are very encouraging and the aim is to launch the programme globally in September 2011.

Mentees for the pilot are recruited through the Cherie Blair Foundation's local partner organisations in Bangladesh, India, Israel and Palestine; by doing so, the mentoring programme adds value to already existing practical support provided by the Foundation. Our Mentor group is made up of successful businesswomen and men who generously lend their time and expertise.

The Mentees receive training on how to use free web-based applications providing them with practical tools to expand their businesses and reach out to new markets. Mentors are also trained and have the opportunity to network with like-minded people. So far the programme has trained the Mentors (at the Google offices in London) and the Foundation is in the process of training the Mentees (at various locations around the world, including the Google offices in Mumbai and Hyderabad) to use the platform developed with Google.

Making the most of Google's online applications such as Sites, Docs, Chat and Gmail, the pilot aims to demonstrate that there are measurable and tangible benefits from partnering entrepreneurial women in developing and transition countries with more experienced business leaders.
The support provided through an e-platform is cost effective and allows for sustainability as it exists beyond the classical project timeframe (usually one to three years) and will therefore serve as ongoing support as well as a marketplace where Mentors and Mentees exchange ideas, promote their products, develop their skills and overcome isolation.

The programme aims to reach 1000 women entrepreneurs and involve over 1000 Mentors by 2013. Thus, the focus during the pilot is to test the programme and to further develop the platform management, in view of the potential increase in the number of users when the programme is launched globally next year. The Foundation is in the process of reviewing potential partners for the roll out of the initative and are in discusions with UNDP as a possible strategic partner.

The Cherie Blair Foundation believes that regular monitoring and evaluation of the pilot is pivotal for the success of the mentoring programme and will help in developing feedback mechanisms that will strengthen the programme in the long term. The Project Manager will measure quantity and quality of online engagement, obtain feedback from Mentees and Mentors and, with the support of the partner organisations, will assess progress made and future challenges to be addressed. The final evaluation of the pilot will be conducted by a credible third party, Clutterbuck Associates, an institution with mentoring expertise.

The main goal of the programme is to enhance entrepreneurial success of Mentees' businesses by raising their confidence and capacity, offering networking and leadership development and by strengthening their businesses, financial and IT skills. Mentoring and peer networking can be a solution to overcome barrier such as lack of access to financial services, networks and business associations, lack of IT and financial management skills.

This project has received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation.

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