One to One Mentoring
Facilitating meaningful connections
One of the key means of delivering the charity’s mission of supporting disabled entrepreneurs in the UK is our mentoring programme.
A mentor/mentee relationship can play a pivotal role in supporting people to achieve their professional goals and is considered a vital part of the support we offer.
It is important that this relationship is safe, respectful and relevant. We strive to meet these necessities by ensuring we team up the right mentor with the right mentee and promise to monitor the entire process throughout, to be confident everyone involved benefits from this level of support and that the environment, content and expectations are appropriate for all involved.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring in a business sense can be defined and viewed in many ways. To use the definition preferred by SFEDI (The Awarding Organisation for Enterprise); ‘an experienced person acting as a sounding board and critical friend to help someone develop their abilities or run a business’.
The role of a mentor should be complementary to a business or businessperson and add value, confidence and support without being relied on to provide all solutions. This is important as a good mentorship should aim to strengthen ability and autonomy and not remove opportunity to grow.
As per every policy of The Accessful Foundation, we must keep to our charitable aims and purposes. This means we view a mentoring relationship and its outcomes by understanding barriers and impact specific to the groups we exist to support. We look to see how the barriers, those relevant to our purpose as a charity, may be impacted by our support. This is the basis for creating the mentoring programme and providing relief to these identified needs.
Why is mentoring important for disabled entrepreneurs?
These are a few key reasons that we believe makes mentoring particularly important for promoting and supporting disabled entrepreneurialism, these include;
It is not uncommon for disabled people to miss schooling or further education for health or accessibility purposes, and therefore secondary education skills like business studies can sometimes be missing. Working with someone that has relevant first hand business experience can help bridge this gap.
As the employment gap between disabled people and non-disabled people is currently around 28% in England (and similar in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) it is clear that many disabled people will be without the work experience necessary to build the professional network that is often a major support for new and existing businesspeople.
Although not every mentor in our programme will have personal first-hand experience of disability, some will. We believe disabled entrepreneurs are underrepresented in the private sector and that representation in the media as businesspeople is very low. Creating direct links to other disabled people with business experience creates a very relevant representation that can be hugely beneficial for some and illuminate the unique pathways and challenges involved in a positive and realistic manner.
For those mentors that are not disabled themselves (and even for those that are) we are in the process of creating a document titled ‘Mentoring Disabled Entrepreneurs’, which is to be a staple part of training for mentors. This document, a guidance paper, is currently being commissioned and is being authored by disabled entrepreneurs, disabled leaders and community stakeholders to address common challenges around disability that mentors and mentees may come up against. Other training opportunities, specifically aimed at mentors and delivered by groups similar to the authors of the guidance will be available throughout the year, alongside basic training of understanding commitments, obligations and responsibilities as a mentor including risk and safeguarding. We hope to create a network of mentors and network of mentees in the future that will allow for shared good practice and moral support.
The below shows our stages of the process in creating mentoring relationships.
Advertisement – Unlike our grant welcoming periods, mentors and mentees are welcome to apply to join The Accessful Foundation’s Mentoring Programme all year round, however, we do withhold the right to have periods where we will not be accepting applications.
An application does not guarantee we will have a mentor/mentee available to team an applicant up with immediately (or at all), as we take great care to ensure a positive partnership.
Application – Those interested in the programme (as mentors or mentees) will be asked to fill in an application pack that will seek to find out more about the person and their needs and wants from mentoring, how mentoring will impact them and their logistical requirements, experiences and ambitions. There are separate application packs for mentors and for mentees.
Parts of each of these applications will be shared, with permission, with a potential mentoring partner if/once we find an appropriate match.
Training – Before a mentoring relationship can be developed, our mentors are given a document produced by the charity, titled ‘Mentoring Disabled Entrepreneurs’. This is developed by The Accessful Foundation and authored by disabled entrepreneurs, disability rights stakeholders and other relevant experts. Although this is hopefully helpful, it must be understood that every person and every person’s health is unique, so this is a general guideline to be used to create an open mind to the extra challenges associated with supporting disabled people in business and not necessarily relevant to every mentoring relationship. We will also use this time to make mentors very aware of their role and responsibilities and discuss good practice. Consideration will be given to enrolling mentors into any appropriate external training that may arise. DBS checks will be completed at this stage.
Selection and Agreement – After application and training there is no guarantee a placement will be made immediately or even at all. We try to ensure that mentoring is built sustainably and with both parties’ interests in mind, so we will always wait for the right mentoring relationship rather than just any available opportunity. Once we have determined a potential match, we will contact both parties and suggest a time to informally meet. This may be virtually, on the phone or email and we may need to arrange any extra needs that need to be met to facilitate this first discussion and ensure accessibility. A few days after this initial chat, we will speak with both parties and should both mentor and mentee decide to proceed, we will create an agreement with each party.
This agreement will use information from both the mentor and the mentee applications to marry the skills, experience and knowledge of the mentor with the needs and aims of the mentee.
If you would like more information on our mentoring programme, or would like to submit an application to mentor or become a mentee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.