This year, more than ever, youth were an integral part of the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), with almost one in five delegates aged between 18 and 30 years old.
But, for many of these young delegates, a huge forum like the GLF can be a daunting experience. Challenging questions like ‘how can I meet and network with senior professionals?’ and ‘how can I better understand and contribute to complex discussions around landscapes and sustainability?’ were at the forefront of many youths’ minds as they arrived in Paris.
The Youth in Landscapes Initiative Mentoring Program, launched at the 2014 GLF, was developed to address these challenges.
This year, this program successfully partnered 22 youth with 20 senior delegates – a mix of business leaders, development workers, researchers and government officials, all passionate about supporting youth. Over the two days of the GLF, these senior mentors guided their mentees through sessions, plenaries, and networking opportunities. And, in turn the mentees had the opportunity to share their own knowledge and experiences of studying and working in landscapes around the world.
Many of these pairs plan to stay in touch following the GLF – one mentee is already excited about the possibility of getting involved with her mentor’s work on deforestation free supply chains.
However this year, we didn’t want to leave these lasting relationships to chance.
Five mentoring pairs – carefully matched from a large pool of applicants – were selected to take part in a pilot ‘long term mentoring program’.
But what should such a program look like? How should it be structured and designed to meet the mentors’ and mentees’ needs? We had some ideas, but soon realised that the best answers lay with the participants themselves.
Design thinking for sustainability – getting to the core of the mentoring relationship
What is a ‘supportive relationship’ to you?
This was the question posed to the group of ten mentors and mentees at the start of a ‘design sprint’ mentoring workshop, held on the morning of Saturday December 5th before the GLF. Drawing on the ‘design thinking’ approach, which puts people at the centre of the design process, this workshop aimed to empower each mentoring pair to design and take ownership of their own mentoring program.
For a fast-paced 90 minutes, each pair was guided through a series of activities: interviewing each other about a recent ‘supportive experience’; ‘digging deeper’ to identify their partner’s needs; sketching creative ‘solutions’ to meet these needs; and working together to define the key elements of their program.
Where to next?
The workshop sparked many ideas as for collaboration. Jhannel Tomlinson, a young researcher from Jamaica, spoke with excitement about starting a new blog on Climate Smart Agriculture with her mentor Catherine Mungai (Partnership and Policy Specialist in the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security), where they could each share insights and experiences from their home countries. Mentor Peace Musonge is looking forward to sharing her networks with her fellow Ugandan mentee Daphne Nansambu, to help Daphne in her work with NGO Tree Adoption Uganda.
Over the next month, the Youth in Landscapes Initiative will support each of these five pairs in finalising their individual, tailored mentoring programs. Mentors and mentees will build on the outcomes of the workshop, defining their goals and how they will communicate, work together, and overcome challenges to achieve these.
We’ll also be following each mentoring pair as they continue to work together over the coming year (and perhaps beyond) – so stay tuned!