Setting up a social innovation mentor network
Nesta has a very successful and established Creative Business Mentor Network. Entrepreneurs who have grown successful businesses mentor high growth creative businesses for a year with some very positive impacts on participating businesses and some hard work and challenging moments along the way!
Could we recreate a similar network for social organisations?
To investigate this, we set up our first Social Innovation Mentor Network early this year. Given that the pool of social entrepreneurs who have grown a business is small, we widened the criteria for mentors to include mentors from corporates, the public sector and charities. With the help of our mentor champion, Adele Blakebrough, CEO of the Social Business Trust, we sourced a really good group of mentors with a range of skills and experience in scaling organisations and ideas.
The mentees in this pilot programme are a group of ambitious social innovators backed by the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund. They were matched to mentors based on skills and experience and all our matches then met for a coffee before committing to each other. This meeting is an opportunity to agree a way of working together and to confirm both parties are satisfied with the selection.
Andrew Berwick from The Access Project talked to us about his mentor Elspeth Openshaw currently with Social Business Trust and previously Head of Legal, UK Retail Bank Barclays:
“Elspeth is great” he said “She's very perceptive and outcomes focused, whilst managing to be quite subtle and non-directive in how she manages our sessions. I think our 'fit' in terms of personality is excellent - I don't know if this was part of Nesta's decision making but it has certainly worked out very well.”
The mentoring pairs came together at an event in June, facilitated by our executive coach who supports the programme, and we’ll bring them together again in November. At this point, we will be keen to hear more about the outcomes of the mentoring and if it has had a positive impact on the mentees and their organisations.
A recent survey of our creative businesses showed that mentees typically get clearer on business direction and strategy and gain greater confidence in managing the organisation.
We look forward to equally positive outcomes from our social organisations and will keep in touch with their progress over the coming months.
We also now have the structures in place to grow and develop the Social Innovation Mentor Network and expand it to support other organisations across Nesta’s Innovation Lab.