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Mentorship

The key to fostering intrinsic growth in others is mentorship. In the context of social change, mentorship is the act of one party helping another increase its capacity to achieve aspirations. During the mentorship process, both parties achieve greater intrinsic growth. Mentors and mentees can be individuals, groups, or entire countries. Toyama asserts that India’s pioneering nongovernmental organization Pradan, which works to improve the lives of over 350,000 families, has a highly effective model of mentorship. To implement Pradan’s mentorship model, agents of social change must:

*Build relationships with the mentee in the driver’s seat. After deciding what community to work with, mentors must spend a few days there each month for several months to establish trust and rapport. If the relationship is weak or the community is uninterested, the mentors must leave. If the relationship is strong and the community accepts their offer of mentorship, the mentors must let the mentees set the agenda for its own aspirations. Mentors should never push their own attitudes onto mentees.

*Wake mentees’ aspirations. Mentors must help the community form self-help groups (SHGs) that meet regularly. The point of SHGs is to help the community articulate its aspirations by providing gentle and frequent support. The process is essentially an aspiration assessment to determine what the community actually wants and needs rather than what outsiders think they need.

*Drive intrinsic growth. The next step in the process must be for the mentors to bring in technical experts to teach the community about the skills and resources necessary to achieve its aspirations. Meanwhile, mentors can increase the community’s capacity to meet their aspirations by providing them with encouragement, inspiration, and sometimes pressure. Mentors do not provide food, equipment, money, or technology–they provide their time, energy, and expertise. Mentors should not leave until SHGs are autonomous and the community’s capacity is strong. This can take years. Packaged interventions and technologies should be used as supplemental tools to help achieve the end goal of intrinsic growth.

At the end of the day, creating lasting social change is a long, hard road comprising mentorship, aspirations, and intrinsic growth. In other words, it requires agents of social change to zero in on the kind of goals that technology is poor at serving: educating communities, reforming dysfunctional institutions, organizing marginalized groups, preparing for long-term crises, and encouraging self-transcendence.

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