Best Practice: “The first letter – How ‘matches’ find each other and have a good start”

In this best practice we were thinking about possibilities to create a good start for the mentoring relationship for mentors and mentees. To ease feelings of awkwardness or shyness in the first moments of this unusual situation, we decided to prepare a short personal description of every participant of the matching event with name, age, district where he/she lives, languages spoken, if we knew about it hobbies and interests and how often or how long the mentor can meet for the mentoring. Then we put every description in an envelope and write the name of the mentor/mentee of the person on the envelope. When starting the matching event with the group we didn’t introduce participants to each other but only welcomed them and explained how the event was planned. Then we asked them to find the envelope with their name on it, open it and then read and find the person who was described in the letter, and like this the mentoring couples found each other and already had some basic information to start a conversation.

Aim of the best practice:

With this method we aimed at creating a good and casual start for the mentoring couples and minimizing the barriers that might come up when talking to a complete stranger (especially when there was also a language barrier in some cases). He had heard concerns of participants that this situation could be a bit stressful for some people as it is maybe not so easy to start a conversation instantly and ask many questions.

Objectives of the best practice:

The objective was to start with this somehow lively situation, when all participants walk around and talk to each other to find out who was the person they were looking for. When they then finally meet it doesn’t feel too much like a 1:1 meeting because the whole group was around and started talking as well. Additionally, participants already had some basic information about each other and could start looking for commonalities or ask some more specific questions. Then they had 90 minutes to get to know each other and make an action plan.

GFBM: Sonja Biering

MetropolisNet: Antonia Restemeier

This is possible within a range of 3 – 13 mentoring couples, so 6-26 persons. 

This best practice was applied in all matching sessions held since July 2020

Information about all participants

Paper, printer, pen, envelopes or strings to roll in the letter

The strength of the best practice was that it fulfilled its purpose of enabling a good start for the mentoring sessions and was a appreciated by the participants

Its implementation is somehow complicated as you really need to be sure who will be participating in the matching event and who will be matched with whom, because last minute changes create then a chaos and if some people don’t have a letter this feels bad for them.

But if this happens and last minutes adaptations need to be done it is advisable that you have some extra paper with you and pen and envelope so you can write at least something short for these new person(s).

It is especially nice if you do this outside in a park or garden when participants can move freely and decide whether they want to stay with the group for the whole time or take a walk to get to know each other and develop an action plan.