Anelda (from Talarify) invited me to an event entitled The ESCALATOR virtual Computational Research and Open Science Community Mentorship Indaba. As an organization, they are working on the development of a champions network to grow a community of practice around digital and computational skills amongst South African humanities and social sciences researchers and students. Her intention was to bring experienced mentorship programme practitioners together to share their operational knowledge, to assist them as, they put the project together and also to contribute towards the general development of mentorship experience.

For the last three years, I’ve been a part of Open Education for a Better World (OE4BW) – a tuition free international online membership programme. Igor (Open Education Global & OE4BW Advisory Board member) and I presented about Mentor Recruitment, Support & Reward Strategies in OE4BW. We were one of the 8 programmes from a totel of 18 participants and what a fascinating experience it was, learning about mentorship activities across the African continent . Each programme had the opportunity to address a specific topic that had been allocated. The presentations were divided into focus areas, and a discussion followed the presentations.

The Indaba was followed by an invitation from Anne (from Tlarify) to participate in co-wrtiting an academic paper entitled “Ten simple rules for setting up a mentorship programme” for PLOS, and their Ten Simple Rules collection. This was a collaborative writing process with authors drawn from many of the projects that presented earlier on. Our activities included a clustering process, a sequence of drafts, peer reviews and comments.

Current Trends

Online mentorship has become quite a popular approach to enabling capacity with large groups of people. There are many organizations and people who are committed to a particular cause. Many of the mentors are volunteers and so the reward is not financial. I suspect the reward is intrinsic satisfaction. Mentorship relationships seem motivated by a mission or cause (and not by profit). Those who mentor often have some link to education or have personally been exposed to a mentorship opportunity. Many mentors occupy roles that blurs boundaries between their professional role and a support role. Perhaps we can call these people unbounded professional who are comfortable working a “third space” (Whitchurch) or para academics (Mc Farlane). Mentors can offer insight when they have traversed typical borders (between their profession, administration and management). Mentorship works in a third space and this becomes a place where these para academics are recognized for their art, skills and craft.

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