Cohort 4 have been delivering our OCN Level 3 Reintegrative Mentoring© programme since 2014. We’ve delivered units of the programme to a range of groups in England and in the EU, including: mentoring for young people not in education, employment or training, to those at risk of criminalisation, to BAME groups, those who support women with multiple disadvantages, to statutory asylum and leaving care teams and to women’s groups reinforcing survival after experience of abuse(s). We’ve written policy and handbooks, peer mentoring matching tools and have trained managers and mentor coordinator teams for county councils; we’ve developed bespoke peer mentoring units specifically for women from European women’s organisations and we are now preparing to deliver units via online means to three groups across the region.Today I am preparing two half day sessions for a wonderful women’s group very similar to ourselves in a coastal area of England. I have also been asked to consider training and offering a franchise of our training package to a large women’s domestic abuse charity to use our training to enable women surviving domestic abuse to peer mentor women in the service. A new direction to consider for an organisation that usually prohibits disclosure of survival.
Peer mentoring women with often complex issues and multiple areas of disadvantage is something Cohort 4 have been doing for years now. It’s not an easy process and even when you have committed, well trained women peer mentors, there can be occasions of significant issue. Over identification and maintenance of boundaries being the main two issues that have impacted on Cohort 4’s delivery of peer mentoring a few years ago. That said, when it works well, there’s nothing quite like it for positive impact on both peer mentor and peer mentee.
I’m undertaking a doctoral study on peer mentoring with women who have multiple and complex needs at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and have been fascinated by the position of peer mentoring within the women’s sector. I am due to start fieldwork alongside women from three women’s organisations in England in the Autumn and am really excited to hear their perspectives, stories and feelings about peer mentoring.
There’s nothing more powerful than the hope generated by being mentored by a women who has ‘walked in your shoes’, has an awareness of what it feels like to survive abuse and to show you a hope for an optimistic future as a woman survivor. I hope the training Cohort 4 delivers in the next couple of weeks will enable peer mentoring to be rolled out in other organisations in England where lived experiences can be appropriately used for a positive impact.
Peer mentoring works – or it can do with training and thoroughly supportive supervision!