Road to a quality certification system for the mentoring field

Europe shows a high diversity of cultures, values and habits. There are differences among countries as well as among regions within countries. The needs of people in society differ, as well as the way they create relationships. The structures that organisations develop to solve social and economic challenges are therefore highly different as well. As a next step, the way of evaluating action highly differs amount communities in Europe. This has implications for mentoring programmes.

As activities of the European Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring show, there is a growing demand in the European mentoring field for knowledge about evaluation and quality. Practitioners seek quality standards and support in how to apply it in a tailor-made way to their own programme. The main questions that rise are:
- what is mentoring with quality?
- when is our work effective and what do we consider impactful?
- if we know about what works, how do we get there? And at last,
- how do we continuously improve our services?


Quality is a contested and a context-specific term. In case of mentoring programmes, defining what quality means for mentoring programmes is in close connection to the goals of programmes. Quality standards refer to processes that organisations implement; it is a system that people create. Standards do not guarantee the quality of the mentoring relationship and its effects; on the other hand, they contribute to an awareness within organisations that leads to a road of ever-improving quality.

Based on this mindset, the European Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring sets a path of quality thinking, connecting four actions:
- Conducting common working sessions of mentoring practitioners and researchers from all over Europe to collect elements of best practice and results of scientific research;
- Defining a set of criteria, standards and recommendations on what works. These are based on evidence and practice;
- Starting a learning process connecting practitioners and researchers, engaging in discussions on how to apply criteria and best practices to your own mentoring programme in a customised way;
- Launching a (self)-evaluation procedure that offers practitioners the chance to work with quality system and improvement. This procedure includes instruments that are developed based on scientific evidence and at the same time are easy to use.


Our values of quality thinking

- Mentees and mentors stand centrally. People are at the core of attention.
- Our method and processes are tailor-made according to our culture, region, people, challenges, goals and strategic partnerships.
- Just like in a mentoring relationship, we strive at a process of learning from each other; as an organisation and team, we strive at continuous improvement.
- Our decisions are based on evidence.
- We seek impact on different levels: people, organisations, cities or regions.

"Successful mentoring programmes are knowledge intensive organisations that have to operate in an ever changing context, while - simultaneously - they have to deliver customised services through the mentors to mentees and their parents. However, in order to provide this customisation, a mentor should not follow a certain path that is set by the organisation, but have a large degree of autonomy. A mentor should deal with this scope for action in a particularly responsible way, which in turn puts pressure on a mentoring programme to recruit suitable mentors. The challenge for a mentoring programme is therefore to develop a shared vision for all stakeholders which is specific enough to drive the concrete actions of the mentors, without prescribing it in details. "
(Meijers, 2010, Learn to choose and choose to learn)

@ 2019, Szilvia Simon (community manager) and Migchiel van Diggelen (member of the researchers' committee European Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring)