Mentoring and Coaching under Research | Insights

Mentoring and Coaching under Research | Cover Image
Mentoring and Coaching under Research | Cover Image

Mentoring and Coaching under Research explores the current mentoring and coaching practices within the European Solidarity Corps programme. The research provides insights into the current concepts, practices, challenges and needs concerning mentoring in Volunteering projects and coaching in Solidarity projects.

M entoring and Coaching under Research (MCUR) was carried out in 2022 and is part of the strategic initiative Mentoring under Construction, initiated by the SALTO European Solidarity Corps Resource Centre together with the Romanian National Agency for Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps. The initiative aims at building an international community of practitioners that support the development of quality in mentoring in the European Solidarity Corps programme.

The MCuR research has been conducted by a team of three international experts, Corina Pintea, Marzena Ples and Darko Markovic, and has been supported by SALTO European Solidarity Corps and National Agencies from Romania, Austria and France.

Mentoring and Coaching under Research | What’s inside?

  • Outcomes of the desk research on concepts of mentoring and coaching looking at the larger field, beyond and comparing them with the current concepts of the the European Solidarity Corps programme.
  • Results and insights about mentoring in Volunteering projects,
  • Results and insights about coaching in Solidarity,
  • Mapping of existing resources for mentoring and coaching.
  • Recommendations and proposals for further actions for mentoring and coaching development within the European Solidarity Corps programme.

The report addresses core issues like understanding mentoring and coaching, mentoring/coaching in practice, the contribution of mentoring/coaching to the project’s impact, quality in mentoring/coaching, mentor/coach competences, inclusion through mentoring/coaching, etc.

Download the full report Mentoring and Coaching within the European Solidarity Corps

Mentoring and Coaching under Research | Insights

#1: Seek Clarity

#2: A Mentoring System

#3-5: Sustaining Motivation

#6: Recognition Matters

#7: Ensure Inclusion

#8: Strengthen Partnerships

#9-10: Ensure Quality

#11: Embrace Solidarity

#12-13: Needs & Resources

#14: To-Do List

Insight #1: Seek Clarity

Clarify the role and responsibilities of a mentor and a coach, develop a competence framework and set clear and agreed ethical principles for mentoring and coaching.

“The research clearly shows that there are still strong ambiguities and unclarities regarding the role of a mentor in volunteering projects and even more in the case of a coach in Solidarity projects.” (p.101)

The current definitions provided in the Programme guide are not sufficient. This leads to very diverse understandings of these roles by mentors/coaches, organisations and National Agencies.

Clarify the key role and responsibilities of mentors and coaches through developing a competence framework and set clear ethical principles and values.

“…one of the ways to address the challenge of unclear roles is to consider developing competence frameworks for European Solidarity Corps mentors and coaches at the level of the Programme.” (p.101)

The research identified possible “building blocks” of a competence framework, such as listening skills and empathy, flexibility in communication, guidance/orientation, encouragement and facilitating learning. This can be complemented with inclusion-related competences mentioned.

In addition to the role, responsibilities and competences it is important to set ethical principles and values. Clear and agreed ethical principles would be beneficial for all actors involved.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.101

A mentoring & coaching competence framework

A competence framework for mentors and coaches in European Solidarity Corps:

  • helps clarify the role and responsibilities of mentors/coaches.
  • balances the need for clarity and the flexibility of adjusting mentoring/coaching the the local and organisational context. Such a competence framework should be both concrete enough to strengthen the role clarity AND loose enough to encompass the diversity of mentoring/coaching practices and working contexts.” (p.101)
  • supports the recognition of mentor and coach competences, and provides useful guidelines for designing training courses for mentors and coaches.

Insight #2: A Mentoring System

Inspire a shift from a mentor to a mentoring system.

The list of role and responsibilities of a mentor/coach has grown over the years. this adds to the unclarity in how to understand mentoring/coaching and calls for a superhero if one would hold up to all those demands and expectations.

Volunteering organisations can think of making a shift – from a mentor/coach to a mentoring/coaching system. The various tasks and responsibilities of a mentor/coach could be shared among several support people in the organisation.

“Think about what support is needed and then think about what persons we delegate this to – we may call them mentors or support – persons, but maybe we need more people than one.”

A trainer, MCuR, p.45

Source: MCuR 2023, p.102

Insight #3-5: Sustain Motivation

Know the obstacles that you are facing. Learning (still) trumps money! Different motivational factors for juniors and seniors
Insight #3: Know the obstacles that you are facing

The two main obstacles to engage mentors and coaches in European Solidarity Corps projects are:

  • people are not trained to be mentors/coaches,
  • people are not paid for the role and
  • lack of understanding of the role and what is expected from the role.
Insight #4: Learning (still) trumps money!

The opportunity to learn and develop as a mentor/coach is the number one motivator for being engaged, financial remuneration is on the second place. The study shows that covering the costs of mentoring/coaching and/or providing a small fee for their involvement can have a positive impact on their involvement and motivation.

Insight #5: Different motivational factors for juniors and seniors

For experienced mentors/coaches who are engaged for more than 5 years comes a third motivator in place: getting a formal recognition of competences that they have gained as a mentor/coach.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.102-103

Insight #6: Recognition Matters

The insights on sustaining motivation (insights #3-5) lead directly to the topic of recognition: The support mentors and coaches provide to young people and their projects is very valuable and significant. There are several ways to ensure recognition of mentors and coaches:

  • The organisations should provide enough learning opportunities for mentors and coaches, including specific mentor and coach training, in-country and/or abroad.
  • Mentoring/coaching competences can be recognised with Youthpass creating certificates for “team members” (including mentors and coaches), although these certificates are more adjusted for ETS competences for youth workers.
  • The  current financial rules of Programme should be reconsidered. The European Commission could create a possibility for mentors to get some financial remuneration for their work and the possibility to increase the fees for coaches.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.103

Insight #7: Ensure Inclusion

Reinforced mentorship needs additional competences and qualification for mentors and coaches

Reinforced mentorship is a practice of working with young people with fewer opportunities. It includes more meetings, more thorough preparation, better psychological support, preparation of the host organisation, more variety of possible tasks and preparatory visits.

Reinforced mentorship requires knowledge and understanding of the concept of young people with fewer opportunities. Mentors and coaches need to master additional abilities and skills such as being able to recognise the potential in a person, to understand the volunteers’/participants’ needs and to adapt to their needs constantly. And finally, a non-judgemental attitude is helpful.

Mentors and coaches need additional qualification aiming at developing their inclusion-related competences.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.104

Insight #8: Strengthen Partnerships

Create spaces and structures for long-term partnerships between the inclusion-focused organisations

“The way the Programme is promoted makes it harder for inclusion. Now it focuses more on young people finding opportunities for themselves and the partnerships between the organisations are much less at the core of the programme. When the quality of the partnerships is less in the focus, it can harm inclusion.”

NA staff member

The way the programme is structured promotes young people searching for opportunities, which can jeopardise the inclusion dimension of the programme.

Therefore, it is recommended to create spaces and structures for long-term partnerships between the inclusion-focused organisations. such relationships are one of the key success factors for the inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.104

Insight #9-10: Ensure Quality

Poor quality is easy to spot. Good quality is hard to get
Insight #9: Poor quality is easy to spot

Main indicators of low quality in mentoring

  • poor listening skills of the mentor,
  • conflicts between the mentor and the volunteer and
  • lack of mentor’s flexibility to adjust their approach towards the needs and profiles of the volunteer.

In the case of coaching, the main signal of low quality is a wrong interpretation of the role by the coach, e.g. when the coach stops fulfilling role as a coach but becomes a leader or a participant of the project group.

Insight #10: Good quality is hard to get

In regard of the job profile of a mentor and coach in the European Solidarity Corps programme good mentors and coaches are hard to find. It must be a person with superpowers to fulfil all those tasks and responsibilities.

Rather that overwhelm mentors and coaches it is important to realise that mentors and coaches need to grow in their competence and quality together with the organisations.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.105

MCuR Insight #11: Embrace Solidarity

Linking mentoring and coaching as support measures with the solidarity impact of the project

The research shows that there is a large unclarity among the mentors and coaches to what extent “working on solidarity awareness” is part of their job description. Somehow mentoring and coaching has an impact of the project. However it is not clear how  mentoring and coaching as support measures contribute to this or if solidarity is part of a mentors’/coaches’ business at all.

A starting point could be to create more opportunities for reflection about how to situate mentoring and coaching within the solidarity framework and see if there are ways to enhance this awareness and competence amongst mentors and coaches.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.105-106

Insight #12-13: Needs & Resources

Similar needs, but different learning opportunities. Face-to-face as an antidote for digital fatigue.
Insight #12: Similar needs, but different learning opportunities

Mentors and coaches have similar needs and priorities if it comes to their learning and development:

  • training in mentoring and coaching skills,
  • exchange of experiences with colleagues and
  • developing their competences in the facilitation of learning.

Additionally, mentors have a stronger interest in inclusion and well-being.

Support for coaches focus more on individual learning. They prefer support measures like study visits, training in coaching skills and individual mentoring. Mentoring development is more focused on sharing and mutual learning. “Support measures like creating a peer-learning community and organising peer-sharing events have more relevance for mentors…” Both groups agree that mentoring and coaching handbooks and manuals are very beneficial for their development.

Insight #13: Face-to-face as an antidote for digital fatigue

Face-to-face learning events have a much stronger priority for both mentors and coaches (maybe because of the nature of mentoring and coaching as well as recent experience during pandemic time).

Source: MCuR 2023, p.106

Insight #14: To-Do List

The insights and recommendations are meant for mentors and coaches, organisations as well as National Agencies and SALTO Resource Centres. This is a list of recommendations for them:

The last insight is a list of recommendations for SALTO ESC and the network of National Agencies on the question how they can provide support and development measures for mentors and coaches:

  • Continue building the mentoring community of practices as already started under the “Mentoring under construction” initiative.
  • Establish standard and regularly provided training courses for mentoring and coaching skills including two-level training: basic and advanced. These courses should aim not only at competence development but also at enhancing mentor/coach recognition.
  • Create a training or webinar for ESC organisations dedicated on how to work with mentors and coaches, including topics like recruitment, setting expectations, monitoring their support work, providing learning opportunities and recognising their competences.
  • Set a mentoring scheme for mentors and coaches. This could take the form of pairing up more experienced ones with the newcomers or simply a reciprocal mentoring/coaching scheme between the peers.
  • Create a user-friendly web-based resources platform with mentoring and coaching tools in one place.
  • Develop a series of practical mentoring and coaching handbooks and video material, which may complement the existing resources in the field.

Source: MCuR 2023, p.107

Download the report

Corina Pintea, Marzena Ples and Darko Markovic: Mentoring and Coaching within the European Solidarity Corps. Common Practices under Research; OeAD-GmbH, Vienna, 2023

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