mentoring

supporting community action through reflective practice

Learning to bring about change doesn’t need to be lonely or tough. Sometimes it helps to have a fellow traveler to debrief with, to share stories and insights, and to talk through challenges and opportunities. Mentoring is one way this can happen.

Since 1995, the Change Agency team has supported social movements through education and training, facilitation, action research and mentoring. We are committed to creating opportunities for people engaged in social change work to undertake deep reflection about their work. Mentoring can be a powerful aid to learning and development.

Members of our collective are experienced strategists and adult educators with a deep commitment to skill sharing and empowerment. We each bring different strengths and insights to our work as mentors. We’ve each learnt about bringing about social and environmental change the hard way – through ‘having a go’, teaming up with others to attempting the impossible, trying, failing and sometimes succeeding!

“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé).”
(Bozeman & Feeney, 2007).

Mentoring provides an opportunity to think and reflect in a confidential and supportive environment. It may make sense to review the preceding period, identify challenges, and workshop ways to respond to challenges in the future. If needed, sessions can include skills practice, campaign analysis, interpersonal skills development, role-plays and other activities.

We believe less is more. The most powerful social movement learning tends to be ‘slow’ rather than ‘fast’ and involves reflection, patience, probing and action learning (trial and error). Rather than discussing many topics during a mentoring session, we encourage people to identify just one or two key challenges or opportunities they’re facing.

The mentoring relationship can take many forms. Generally, we negotiate what people would like to discuss, for how long and in what way. Some people prefer a structured and quite formal approach whereas others opt for a casual and free-flowing discussion. Our approach is guided by people’s preferences and instinct.

Mentors can also play the role of a critical friend.

“A critical friend can be defined as a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.”
(Costa & Kallick, 1993)

How does it work?

Mentoring involves an initial session to clarify expectations and how the mentoring relationship will proceed. It works best if a regular time can be established, or dates set in advance so both people can ensure they’re available and focused. Mentoring sessions are for one hour and often occur via Skype, although face-to-face sessions will be scheduled where possible.

The structure of a mentoring session varies, but to give you an idea here is an outline of a session:

  • Initial check-in. How are you going?
  • What’s been happening? A review of activities and developments since the last session.
  • Focus on a current or past difficulty, or upcoming challenge. Talk through the issue. Explore options for how to approach it. Share ideas and resources.
  • What else is of concern or interest? What’s coming up?
  • Summarise key points from the discussion. Check time and date for next session. Check-out and next steps

The mentor may follow up the session by emailing relevant resources,ideas or feedback.

Preparation can make a difference to the effectiveness of mentoring sessions. If both the mentor and the person receiving mentoring are clear about issues that upcoming discussions will focus on, we can reflect deeply, prepare ideas, share useful resources and so on.

To read more about mentoring…

Bozeman, B. & Feeney, M. K. (2007). Toward a useful theory of mentoring: A conceptual analysis and critique. Administrative and Society, 39 (6), pp. 719-739.
Aubrey, B. & Cohen, P. (1995) Working Wisdom: Timeless Skills and Vanguard Strategies for Learning Organizations, Jossey Bass.
Costa, A & Kallick, B 1993, Through the Lens of a Critical Friend, Educational Leadership vol. 51 no. 2, pp. 49-51.

What are people saying about us?

Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens

The fellowship has helped me further develop the skills and strategic thinking necessary to ensure that we deliver sound policy by working in partnership with our supporters and volunteers in communities across Australia.

Organising helps to build relationships and skills both within and between communities and the fellowship follows the same approach. The fellowship is essential for organisations that are working to build power within communities or considering making the leap into this work. 
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T21:03:10+11:00
The fellowship has helped me further develop the skills and strategic thinking necessary to ensure that we deliver sound policy by working in partnership with our supporters and volunteers in communities across Australia. Organising helps to build relationships and skills both within and between communities and the fellowship follows the same approach. The fellowship is essential for organisations that are working to build power within communities or considering making the leap into this work. 

Peter Callender, Quit Coal



Like many campaigning groups, we are constantly grappling with capacity issues, a lack of funding/resources, burnout and how to best manage volunteers. While it's early days, the fellowship is already having significant flow on effects to the rest of the Quit Coal collective and the lessons we are learning are both effective and reinvigorating!


The Change Agency
2014-04-16T22:34:36+10:00
Like many campaigning groups, we are constantly grappling with capacity issues, a lack of funding/resources, burnout and how to best manage volunteers. While it's early days, the fellowship is already having significant flow on effects to the rest of the Quit Coal collective and the lessons we are learning are both effective and reinvigorating!

Cherry Muddle, Australian Marine Conservation Society

The Community Organising Fellowship has rooted in me a deeper sense of belonging to an intentional, international movement to create the positive changes we wish to see in society, environment, culture and climate. The program delivery is varied, fluid and always interesting. The strengths and highlights for me include learning through shared experience and critical analysis. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed forging strong connections and bonds between fellow organisers, facilitators and guest speakers.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T21:02:16+11:00
The Community Organising Fellowship has rooted in me a deeper sense of belonging to an intentional, international movement to create the positive changes we wish to see in society, environment, culture and climate. The program delivery is varied, fluid and always interesting. The strengths and highlights for me include learning through shared experience and critical analysis. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed forging strong connections and bonds between fellow organisers, facilitators and guest speakers.

Anna Rose, ASEN Convenor and NUS National Environment Officer 2005

As a direct result of the training you ran at Melbourne Uni, they will be running a real campaign on public transport concessions next year and are even investing in properly researching so they can have a strategic, directed campaign.
The Change Agency
2014-03-30T07:48:37+11:00
As a direct result of the training you ran at Melbourne Uni, they will be running a real campaign on public transport concessions next year and are even investing in properly researching so they can have a strategic, directed campaign.

Isaac Astill, Divestment Campaigner, 350.org Australia

It would take years of fumbling along for me to learn what the Fellowship has taught me in a few short months. I feel more powerful for it, and I’ve walked away with the ongoing skills and relationships I need to build a more powerful movement.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T19:37:41+11:00
It would take years of fumbling along for me to learn what the Fellowship has taught me in a few short months. I feel more powerful for it, and I’ve walked away with the ongoing skills and relationships I need to build a more powerful movement.

Anna Keenan, Students of Sustainability Collective 2006

Thank you for your involvement in SoS this year and for your continued commitment over the years to effecting sustainable environmental and social change. Your co-facilitated presentations on activist learning, campaign strategy and activist sustainability were all very well received, generating discussion, excitement, considered thought and motivation from the participants, including myself. Not only was the content inspirational, but to see the way that the two of you work together and so effectively co-facilitate was a lesson in itself. At your “Moving beyond Tactic-Led Campaigns”, you so successfully engaged all in the room and drew from their experiences that it was the most effective workshop I attended through the whole conference. Your involvement in SoS 2005 has had a significant impact on the future of Australian environmentalism by sharing the tools of individual, collective, and community organising, and inspiring us to advocate for and take action towards positive social change.
The Change Agency
2014-03-30T07:52:56+11:00
Thank you for your involvement in SoS this year and for your continued commitment over the years to effecting sustainable environmental and social change. Your co-facilitated presentations on activist learning, campaign strategy and activist sustainability were all very well received, generating discussion, excitement, considered thought and motivation from the participants, including myself. Not only was the content inspirational, but to see the way that the two of you work together and so effectively co-facilitate was a lesson in itself. At your “Moving beyond Tactic-Led Campaigns”, you so successfully engaged all in the room and drew from their experiences that it was the most effective workshop I attended through the whole conference. Your involvement in SoS 2005 has had a significant impact on the future of Australian environmentalism by sharing the tools of individual, collective, and community organising, and inspiring us to advocate for and take action towards positive social change.

Alycia Gawthorne, GetUp! organiser

The Fellowship has challenged the way I previously thought about campaigning and community organising, and made me rethink how I approach my work. It’s afforded me the space to take a step back and look at the entire movement. I feel like the skills I take away from the Fellowship will be invaluable, but far more important will be the deeper understanding I have about my role and how it fits within a larger movement.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T19:33:28+11:00
The Fellowship has challenged the way I previously thought about campaigning and community organising, and made me rethink how I approach my work. It’s afforded me the space to take a step back and look at the entire movement. I feel like the skills I take away from the Fellowship will be invaluable, but far more important will be the deeper understanding I have about my role and how it fits within a larger movement.
John Hepburn

John Hepburn, Outreach Manager, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

When you stop learning, you stop growing. For social movements and organisations to grow and develop, they need to learn from their successes and failures. The Change Agency have played a key role in helping Greenpeace to do this, to reflect on our work, to focus on what is effective, and to map out some exciting new strategic directions. They've supported our staff and volunteers with some great practical training on campaign strategy, and, of course, they've been a joy to work with.
The Change Agency
2014-03-30T07:35:05+11:00
John Hepburn
When you stop learning, you stop growing. For social movements and organisations to grow and develop, they need to learn from their successes and failures. The Change Agency have played a key role in helping Greenpeace to do this, to reflect on our work, to focus on what is effective, and to map out some exciting new strategic directions. They've supported our staff and volunteers with some great practical training on campaign strategy, and, of course, they've been a joy to work with.
Sophie Peer

Sophie Peer, ChilOut campaign director

The Change Agency is like a best friend in the drawer. As the only paid employee in a very small not for profit, it is fabulous to know there are trusted, well tested resources a click away. Whether it's workshop planning, strategic re-think, tactics - tCA is the chamomile tea to my campaigner-stress.
The Change Agency
2014-05-16T14:31:59+10:00
Sophie Peer
The Change Agency is like a best friend in the drawer. As the only paid employee in a very small not for profit, it is fabulous to know there are trusted, well tested resources a click away. Whether it's workshop planning, strategic re-think, tactics - tCA is the chamomile tea to my campaigner-stress.

Glenn Walker, National Campaigner, The Wilderness Society

The Wilderness Society has embarked on a major organisational change project to embrace community organising as our core way of doing business. I’m leading on this project. The Community Organising Fellowship has helped me to define the key principles and approaches of community organising and has provided me with the space and support to plan for this critical change process within my organisation.
The Change Agency
2014-03-27T02:09:18+11:00
The Wilderness Society has embarked on a major organisational change project to embrace community organising as our core way of doing business. I’m leading on this project. The Community Organising Fellowship has helped me to define the key principles and approaches of community organising and has provided me with the space and support to plan for this critical change process within my organisation.
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The Change Agency