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 accordance with the Grant Agreement, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has prepared this Activity Report describing activities implemented with the funds of the second instalment ("Instalment 2") of the approved budget.
3.1 About the Mentoring Women in Business Programme
Many women across Africa, South Asia and the Middle East have the ideas and ambition needed to become successful entrepreneurs, but are held back by barriers such as lack of access to business skills, technology, networks and finance.
In response, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women developed the Mentoring Women in Business programme, which combines mentoring with technology to offer cross-border support to women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies.
This innovative programme aims to build capacity, confidence and capital through virtual mentoring of women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets. It combines a unique mix of e-mentoring, access to web applications, ICT training, capacity building, networking 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 communities.
Together with Google, the Foundation built a virtual community for women entrepreneurs to support each other and receive online mentoring and business advice. Through a pioneering e-mentoring platform (www.cbfwmentoring.org), successful women and men in business offer one-on-one, group professional support and practical advice to women entrepreneurs around the world, including in Bangladesh, India, Israel, Kenya, Palestine and Swaziland.
During an initial 12-month pilot phase, which concluded in July 2011, the programme tested the online platform, assessed the programme's approach and produced a series of best practices. An independent external evaluation of the programme by mentoring experts found that mentees reported improved self-confidence, business knowledge, marketing know-how and technological skills. Mentors benefited from a rich intercultural exchange, revitalised interest in their own businesses and satisfaction in seeing their mentee develop and succeed. Based on this success, the programme began expanding its reach to support increasing numbers of women around the globe.
On 6th October 2011, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women held the official launch of the Mentoring Women in Business Programme in New York. The event featured: Christiane Amanpour, Anchor of ABC News's This Week; Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues; Nikesh Arora, Senior Vice-President, Google; and Mr Aeneas Chuma, UNDP Resident Representative, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Kenya. Along with representatives from the programme, these guests generated a robust discussion on mentoring, technology, and women in development. The launch was attended by corporate partners and members of the international development community, many of whom share an enthusiasm for supporting women entrepreneurs and work in tandem with us to drive the Mentoring Women in Business Programme forward.
Since the launch, the Foundation has continued to develop and update the e-mentoring platform, refine the programme's design and recruit mentors and mentees.
3.2 Activity Report (Instalment 2)
Pursuant to the Grant Agreement, the Nando Peretti Foundation delivered the second instalment of the total approved budget in June 2011. The Mentoring Women in Business project has employed these funds to:
• Significantly upgrade the e-mentoring platform and develop the related management processes; and
• Hire external consultants to design and produce on-line training materials.
3.2.1 Upgrade and Development of the E-Mentoring Platform (Phase 2)
Below please find a brief description of developments made to the e-mentoring platform during the grant period:
Editable matching rules
Before joining the programme, mentors and mentees complete an application that includes questions about their expertise, needs, and goals. A system within the platform was developed to manually edit questions used for matching mentors and mentees, and build a more effective matching system. Up to 100 questions can be added to the matching system, which will allow for customisation and improved matching.
Flexible sorting of questions in reports
In previous iterations of the management site for the e-mentoring platform, sorting options were rudimentary and form results did not display in the appropriate order. In the past six months, the programme has invested in refining the e-mentoring platform's search function to allow for flexible sorting. This allows for better monitoring and reporting on recruitment and relationships.
Mentoring relationship tracker
The Foundation is establishing systems to monitor and evaluate each mentoring group as they progress over a 12-month period. To that end, the programme developed a questionnaire that gauges the health and productivity of the mentoring relationships, which is sent out every two months. The e-mentoring platform now automatically sends an email to all active mentees every two months, which includes a link to their profile in the online members' forums that automatically directs them to the monitoring form. Their submissions are stored within the e-mentoring platform and can be accessed and evaluated by programme staff. Moreover, the system automatically ranks the mentees' progress and produces a performance leader board, called a league table, based on mentee submissions.
This monitoring allows the programme to track the progress of each mentee towards her goals, better gauge the programme's impact and assess the health of the mentoring relationships and intervene if necessary. The information gathered in the questionnaires helps to generate in-depth case studies and feeds into monitoring and evaluation processes. It allows the programme to gather feedback and data on progress, and respond quickly to positive and negative feedback.
Online training process
The programme has developed an online training platform for mentees and mentors, which they must complete before being matched. Participants work through interactive modules on using the platform, mentoring, and Google apps. The system automatically sends applicants a message and link to the training programme once they are accepted into the programme. After viewing all of the training modules, participants are tested through the system to assess their capabilities. A score of at least 70% is required for participation in the programme.
The e-mentoring platform now records the number of days a mentor and mentee have been matched, which allows for better record-keeping as well as monitoring and assessment of their progress.
After an assessment of the My Mentoring site indicated that it was not sufficiently sophisticated for the online mentoring scheme, the programme opted to migrate the information previously contained on that simple page to the general e-mentoring platform. The programme launched an e-library on the e-mentoring platform, which houses a number of articles and resources for mentees and mentors. The programme also started promoting the use of Google hangouts and other Google tools for communication and interaction.
Form changes and platform development (in light of programme launch)
In advance of the Mentoring Women in Business launch in October 2011, the programme endeavoured to update the forms on the e-mentoring platform and improve the aesthetics of the system. The programme also produced a more detailed and user-friendly application form.
Grouping mentors and mentees by batches
The programme currently admits mentees during intake sessions in January, May, and October, and admits mentors on a rolling basis year round. Staff members review applications and invite accepted applicants to immediately undergo training. Following the application deadline, staff members start matching mentees with mentors, both manually and using the matching tool in the e-mentoring platform. In addition, the system now allows users to search by intake group and pull up participants by their intake date. This is a significant advancement as it allows users to easily sort applicants by intake group, review and track applications, and monitor progress by group throughout the year. As the programme grows and receives more applicants, this tool will be especially useful and will allow users to easily sort through the extensive data and records contained in the e-mentoring platform.
Optimisation of managing platform uploads
The programme invested in enhancing the speed and performance of the e-mentoring platform. Previously, the system froze, produced error messages and often processed information and uploads slowly, which acted as a barrier to participation and access for mentors and mentees. The e-mentoring platform now runs at a faster speed with fewer glitches, and better allows for mentors, mentees and staff members to make posts and engage with each other online. The programme will continue to build and refine the e-mentoring platform throughout the project period.
Filtering mentors by status for matching tool
In addition to the other advancements made to the matching tool, users are now able to search for mentors and mentees by their application/programme status, such as approved, training, rejected, and alumni. This allows staff members to easily sort and find applicants.
3.2.2 Part Two: Training
Since the launch of the Mentoring Women in Business programme pilot, the Foundation has partnered with Clutterbuck Associates ("CA"), a leader in the mentoring field, as its main adviser on mentoring and programme design. CA is periodically consulted by the Foundation to provide general mentoring guidance as well as to evaluate and further develop the programme's design and effectiveness.
Since March 2011, the Foundation has worked with CA to develop an online training system for the programme participants. The interactive training scheme revolves around online modules that include a series of videos, podcasts, and articles.
Participants are able to work through the training modules at their own pace by watching the video tutorials and interviews with mentors and mentees, downloading articles, and listening to podcast interviews with experts. New mentors and mentees are able to get a full sense of how the programme works, expectations, and ways to make the most out of their experience.
Upon completion of the modules, participants take a test to gauge their understanding of mentoring and entrepreneurship.
Additionally, participants are able to access training on various Google applications and the use of the e-mentoring platform. These tools are available throughout the course of the mentoring programme so participants can continue to grow their skills and understanding.
3.2.3 Stories of Change
The programme receives updates via questionnaires sent to mentees every two months, which allow staff members to access relevant information about the mentoring relationships, their frequency, their perceived effect on the mentees' businesses and material development of the mentees' enterprises.
Based on this feedback, we are able to track the progress of the mentoring relationships, celebrate mentees' achievements, gauge impact and produce stories change such as those below.
Angela and Carmen
Mentee: Angela Ndereyerio (Kenya, UNDP)
Mentor: Carmen Romero von Banga (Switzerland)
Background: Angela and Carmen started their mentoring relationship in early September 2011. Angela is in the early stages of starting a business to sells seeds. Carmen is an investment and sustainable finance advisor.
Targets: In order to generate a clear vision, focus on her mission and finalise her planning, Angela asked for assistance with refining her business strategy. Angela's goals are to produce a viable business plan, build an entrepreneurial mind-set and reach 10 million Kenyan shillings ($116, 820) in sales.
Actions: Angela and Carmen established a very good mentoring relationship from the start, committing to frequent meetings, exchanging relevant information and setting clear targets. They held online meetings every week at the outset of their relationship and communicated via email frequently in between meetings. At the end of each meeting, they set the date for their next meeting and generate a list of clear action items to address before they meet again. They have also been contributing to the programme's online community by posting useful information on the platform forums.
Impact: Angela reports that the mentoring programme has had a positive impact on her, both personally and professionally. She notes that Carmen coached her through making the shift from being an employee to being self-employed, and has helped her to see her business in a new light.
Angela says, "Carmen's experience is invaluable and I feel like she would like to get on to the next plane to Kenya to help me out. Carmen has made me look at things differently and from another angle. She has had a lot of patience with me. With her help, I am starting to shape up and beginning to understand what is required when setting up a business. It's not all about jumping into a pool; it's about learning the different strokes required to swim and get to the other side."
Angela reports that, due to Carmen's guidance, she was able to liaise with a potential Australian investor, with whom she feels she would not have been able to interact prior to this programme. She has also been in touch with a local university to garner advice from a business student on the requirements of a business plan.
Angela's bi-monthly progress reports have all been positive and she continues to benefit from the mentoring scheme. She is making progress on her business and is endeavouring the finish her business plan by the end of January 2012.
Angela was recently invited to attend the East African Women in Business conference in Arusha, which she indicates is a personal triumph and highlight of her year.
In tandem, Carmen reports that she too has benefitted from the mentoring relationship and that she has learned a great deal from Angela.
Carmen says, "I admire the way my mentee is open to receiving and following advice. She takes on everything with an open mind. My mentee is a single mum who battles every day, with everything from transportation to power outages, but she keeps moving forward towards her dream no matter what. I feel joy in sharing my experience with my mentee for I know what I have learned so far will help someone create something meaningful. The relationship is generating positive growth, both for myself and for my mentee. In return, I see my mentee gaining confidence, growing, expanding her mind, feeling happy with her achievements, proud of herself and ultimately...empowered!"
Mary and Maria
Mentee: Mary Muriuki (Kenya, UNDP)
Mentor: Maria Barczi (Czech Republic, DHL)
Situation: Mary and Maria started their mentoring relationship in June 2011. Mary owns and manages a sanitation company, Brooms Limited, in Kenya. Maria works in the Czech Republic for DHL as a GBS Global Employee Engagement & Talent Manager.
Targets: In the initial questionnaire, Mary said she wanted to improve her strategic planning, build finance policies and procedures, explore viable ways to finance her business for the next business cycle, and increase sales by 30% by strengthening capacity and reducing costs.
When they began their relationship, Mary and Maria agreed on the following topics and schedule for their mentoring relationship. They also aim to reserve 15 minutes during each session for personal development.
Month 1: Planning
Month 2: Strategy
Month 3: Access to Finance
Month 4: Finance
Month 5: Marketing
Month 6: Human Resources
Month 7: Operations
Month 8: Administration
Mary and Maria designated "SME Meets the Corporate World" as the theme for their mentoring.
Actions: Mary and Maria established a very intense and rewarding mentoring relationship from the very beginning of their journey. They first met every 2 weeks, but quickly decided to meet every Friday in case they are unable to meet in any given week. They have been consistent in attending their weekly meetings and preparing relevant materials in advance of their chats. For example:
8th August 2011 (Operations): Maria asked Mary questions on her processes and systems. She sent Mary materials and templates to assist her with documenting processes, roles and responsibilities in her business so she can build better clarity with her employees.
7th October 2011 (Access to Finance): They reviewed Mary's investment plan and were able to make changes to improve information and chances to get financing.
14th Oct 2011 (Personal development): Mary and Maria used a personality profiling tool to look into Mary's preferences, strengths, areas for development, and communication and management style. They discussed how she can adapt her style to manage people and improve customer relationships. In other sessions, they also used other self-analysis and career planning tools. Maria shared a career development guide and workbook for Mary's use.
21st Oct 2011 (HR Evaluation and Performance): Maria took Mary through HR evaluation procedures, including the concept of 360 degree feedback, annual review, self-review, and key performance management processes that could be implemented to improve performance.
25th Nov 2011 (Women in Management Positions): Mary assisted Maria with brainstorming ways to improve diversity in business, particularly talking about what women need to progress in their careers and how one can support their needs.
Impact: Mary and Maria report that they have built an excellent professional relationship and friendship that will last beyond the end of the Mentoring Women in Business programme. They write, "The matching software did a great job as our personalities are similar and we get along pretty well and we even have the same names."
Mary has benefitted greatly from the reflection and career-assessment tools and notes that she has grown, both personally and as an entrepreneur. She says, "With the help of my mentor, I am looking at the company's business processes to achieve increase overall efficiency and service delivery to our clients."
Maria's coaching and assistance helped Mary implement a performance evaluation system for her staff and design performance evaluation templates. Mary also reports that she is currently working towards improving her overall quality and efficiency by building systems and processes. Mary says, "This has been the biggest reward, as it supports the long term success of the business."