Published on Voices

Mentoring entrepreneurs: Finding out what works and what doesn’t

The Caribbean CIC Team after the Workshop kick-off. © Elaine Tinsley
The Caribbean CIC Team after the Workshop kick-off. © Elaine Tinsley

Start-ups in emerging markets are disadvantaged when it comes to accessing mentors and mentorship programs. The infoDev Climate Technology Program has been working to fix this challenge and recently launched two mentorship pilots in partnership with Climate Innovation Centers in Ghana and the Caribbean.  
Entrepreneurs are powerful agents of change. They are catalysts for job creation and drivers of economic growth.  Successful entrepreneurs from developed technology hubs often engage mentors so that they can learn from experienced industry veterans, solve unfamiliar problems, and navigate blind spots. In emerging economies, great mentors are harder to come by, founders are less familiar with what to expect from a mentor, and support programs and networks are less established.

An infoDev team has studied the unique challenges faced by mentoring initiatives in emerging economies, including access to information, expectations, and knowledge sharing.
In order to develop new, market solutions, infoDev is responding to several critical issues through a learn-as-you-go piloting approach across the globe.  Some of the questions the pilots hope to answer: How can international mentors successfully engage virtually? What types of mentorship require face-to-face interaction? How can start-ups mentor each other? Should mentor engagement focus on a specific goal or be broadly consultative? The piloting approach is intended to create real value for mentors and mentees in the short term, while also establishing new best practices for other programs. 
Partnership with MicroMentor in the Caribbean
In the Caribbean, a limited number of players and the physical separation of the islands make face-to-face mentoring a challenge. To address the issue, the infoDev’s Caribbean Climate Innovation Center (CCIC) is working with MicroMentor, an online mentoring platform that connects entrepreneurs with skilled business mentors around the globe. In the first phase of the pilot, MicroMentor will work with a curated list of 40 local and global mentors and 60 mentees. In Phase 2 of the pilot, entrepreneurs from the CCIC will have access to all international Micrometer mentors. MicroMentor estimates that entrepreneurs who are mentored through the platform create an average of 3.24 jobs, increase individual revenue by $18,000, and improve their skills by three to five times more than those who did not receive mentoring.

Partnership with Mowgli in Ghana

The infoDev’s Ghana Climate Innovation Center (GCIC) is partnering with Mowgli, a non-profit organization driving inclusive and social change in the Middle East and Africa through mentoring services. In January 2018, Mowgli will roll out a mentorship awareness program to match 12 local mentors with 12 mentees.  The initiative will determine the mentor’s commitment to the program, how “mentorable” the entrepreneurs are, and whether mentorship should focus on personal leadership, technical skills or both.
The program aims to find the best way for mentors to give advice to mentees and manage expectations of both parties. Ruka Sanusi, executive director of the Ghana Climate Innovation Center, says, “In addition to providing the technical and advisory services that allow our entrepreneurs to elevate their entrepreneurial journey, our partnership with Mowgli Mentoring provides an additional mechanism to support our entrepreneurs to optimize their mindset for entrepreneurial success – and to become extraordinary.” 
At the end of the pilot, infoDev expects to have a manual on how to sustain the mentor-mentee engagement in the country. 
Throughout the design and implementation of these six-month-long pilots, the infoDev team plans to capture real-time learning about the process, challenges, and opportunities of mentoring programs across the Caribbean and Ghana.  These findings will guide the design and implementation of future initiatives, promoting the quality of mentoring and training in other developing countries.


Raj Nandy

Digital Strategy and Product Officer

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