What is the One to One mentoring programme?
The One to One mentoring programme is designed to support people in learning roles in museums, heritage sites, galleries, libraries and archives during this time.

We currently have 57 mentors from across the UK who bring with them a wealth of knowledge, empathy and a desire to make our profession as resilient, responsive and supported as possible in a very difficult time.

Between us we’ve managed to create 83 mentoring partnerships so far and each mentee has 2 mentoring sessions between June and August with one of our mentors.

For those still on the waiting list, we are slowly adding mentoring partnerships and we hope that we’ll be able to match you to a mentor soon.

It’s also great that the programme is being sponsored by Nimrod Capital, which helps to support the ongoing work of GEM

How did I become involved?
I (Melissa), like many people in learning roles up and down the country, am furloughed. I’m watching with interest how other museums, heritage sites, galleries, libraries, archives and zoos are reaching out and engaging with visitors; and I’m looking forward to the case studies and toolkits that I hope will be created taking learning from the creative work being undertaken.

Saying that I’m still feeling slightly detached from our professional world, frustrated by the knowledge of what I might have done for my organisation (although being furloughed and following the rules is helping them) and I’m concerned about the unknown future of our profession in a rapidly changing world.  I don’t believe that I’m alone in these feelings and that’s certainly something that has come through from both my fellow mentors and the mentees.

There are many things that have kept me somewhat sane and connected over the last few months, including the museum twitter-verse with initiatives like GEM’s #EdSkillsShare (See GEM’s recent blog on navigating Twitter as a museum professional!). So when GEM Director Rachel Tranter’s request for mentors came out on JISCmail I immediately replied and offered to volunteer however I could.

That’s how I came to be the new Mentoring Champion for GEM – and after a week of planning we launched the One to One programme.


The mentors
First things first was finding out about our mentors, some had volunteered for GEM before as Area Reps or Trustees, others for the first time. As I didn’t know everyone very well we needed a way to help match each potential mentee to a mentor fairly, so a short profile survey was sent out to gather some information to help with this.

For the first cohort of mentors, Tamsin Russell from the Museums Association provided a virtual webinar, after which the mentee application was launched.

We’ve set up a small community of mentors, that’s still growing. Through our WhatsApp group and regular Zoom chats we’ve been able to support each other and our mentees through sharing of great case studies and courses, creating reading lists and we’ve got our first anti-racist learning book club in July.

Applications are open
We opened applications for mentees for one week in May. Unlike many of the other mentoring schemes available at the moment, the applications were open to both members and non-members. The only criteria being that they have a learning role in their organisation. In fact of the 93 applications there was a 50/50 split between members and non-members applying to the programme.

Matching of mentoring partnerships
When we started to talk about the programme in detail we thought that matching people within regions would be the best way to go – it would help with the possibility of people meeting in person after restrictions are lifted. It didn’t quite work that way.

Armed with an Excel spreadsheet where I’d marked all the types of organisations, audiences and skills that mentors felt that they could support the most, I worked my way through the application forms. Starting with the top three priorities highlighted by each potential mentee I matched by skill set so that each mentee will, I hope, get the best possible experience.

What that process started to highlight was that virtual mentoring in this way meant that we could connect skill sets and experience across the UK – skills and support that might not be present in the mentor profiles of those in the same regions.

What we’re learning so far
We’re learning a lot very quickly.

Setting up a mentoring programme from scratch has been hard work, and without the support, openness and sharing by Tamsin (Museums Association) and all the mentors it would have been a lot harder. We’re growing our mentor support system and as a team we’re constantly learning and developing our own practice and sharing good practice case studies.

We’ve gathered some generic statistics that will, I hope, help GEM in the future;

  • We didn’t ask in the application current employment status however 31% of the mentees stated that they had been furloughed and a further 21% said that they were still working – we hope in the full evaluation of this programme we might have a clearer picture for both mentors and mentees.
  • We know the geographical spread of mentors and mentees across the UK.
  • We have a comparison of length of time in the sector between mentors and mentees.
  • We’ve mapped the top 17 development priorities from the application forms and these have been passed to GEM to be part of the conversation for future training and professional development programmes.
  • Advocacy for and the future of learning seems to be high in everyone’s minds right now.

Mentoring Stats, GEM

We will be carrying out evaluation for the programme and, from a personal point of view, I would love to be able to compare it to any evaluation undertaken by other membership bodies like the MA and AIM who have also been running short term mentoring programmes over the last few months.

Is this something that GEM should do in the future?
Outside of the Museum Learning Foundation Course, this is the first mentoring programme that GEM has offered. With the response from both mentors and mentees for this programme so far, the questions become:

  • Is this a type of professional support that GEM should develop and offer in the future?
  • If yes, what should that look like?

My final personal thoughts on the programme so far
I feel extremely lucky to be part of this programme. I’m working alongside some amazing colleagues in this sector and, through them and the application forms, I know that there is some great work being done around the UK by dedicated professionals at all levels and in all types of organisations big and small.

One of the other mentors said it best recently – and to paraphrase – it’s a privilege to support someone’s journey through collaborative and authentic conversations.

Get in touch
If you have any questions about the One to One programme or becoming a mentor then please do get in touch with me at melissakate@melissamaynardheritage.co.uk.

If you want to find out or share ideas about future training then please email office@gem.org.uk.

Volunteer mentoring champion for GEM, Melissa is coordinating the new One to One programme. When not on furlough she is the Learning and Community Officer at Belton House (National Trust) and is also just starting out as a freelance heritage learning consultant. See her GEM Supplier Listing to get in touch for your freelance needs.