At the recent Cornwall SSE graduation event, Tim Smit urged the social entrepreneurs in front of him to not just find themselves a mentor, but to demand one: he views it as that important. And there is no doubt that social entrepreneurs can learn a huge amount from their peers who are a little further on in their journey, or from those with significant reach, networks and experience (and who've made plenty of mistakes, of course). We also seek to match with those from other sectors, working with corporates to create what are genuinely mutually beneficial mentoring relationships…many of which endure beyond their supposed time limits.
It's partly about credibility, partly about an independence that the mentor has (the entrepreneur can be open), partly about an exchange of knowledge and skills but, ultimately, about developing a long-term trusted relationship; which, as we've written here before, is crucial for social entrepreneurs seeking to earn legitimacy and gain credibility in what they do.
Following on from that, it's worth drawing attention to the great series of posts about mentoring that have been written by the Social Enterprise Ambassadors. There are nuggets of gold in here, so do check them out. I particularly liked what Claudine Reid had to say about how mentors can model behaviour (and support when times are hard in your social enterprise) and Dai Powell's insight, based on his personal experience, that "effective mentors can come from anywhere and if it is to be effective,
mentoring should be without reference hierarchies or power structures".
Finally, if you haven't heard about it already, you can win 2 hours mentoring with an Ambassador in a competition running till the end of March. Here's the promo from John Bird: