3.4 Building a Supportive Social Network for Your Mentee
As already described, it takes more than a mentor to motivate and support NEETs in the long term. A network of professionals can be helpful to deal with problems and challenges they are faced with. However, in order to be able to support mentees in the long term, the goal is to reduce the professional network due to reach empowerment. There are different ways of implementation, ranging from the personal environment, to volunteering, to possible peer-to-peer counselling. Two methodological approaches are also presented for identifying and strengthening the network on the mentees. A prerequisite for this work is the knowledge of local conditions about possible projects or initiatives as well as economic and institutional knowledge.
Working with Volunteers – Beyond Neet(d)s and Sinbad Austria
The coaching process via the Beyond NEET(D)s platform brings many advantages for mentees. For example, challenges such as fears, accessibility or no financial means for transport can be excluded. Another positive aspect can be the anonymous form of the coaching setting. Especially for NEETs which are meant to be hard-to-reach, it can offer an easy access for receiving counselling and support.
As the platform and it’s functions are described in chapter 5, the mentors can get a deeper understanding on how to use this innovative approach for supporting the vulnerable target group.
Critically, however, this setting also brings disadvantages. These were also identified in the preceding survey (IO1) and should be discussed. For example, personal contact is seen as a success factor for a sustainable coaching process. There is also a lack of digital skills or resources (internet, laptop) seen as possible barriers for mentees to use the platform. Young people who do not feel comfortable in this online setting should be offered an alternative form of counselling. In Austria, Sinbad Austria provides a successful and innovative form of guidance. Combined with volunteers who make themselves available as mentors, mentees are accompanied and supported on a personal level and far from hierarchical structures. This leads to a positive and easy access to the needs of the target group. However, even if the support is provided by volunteers, the initiative is connected to a professional network and cannot be called the personal network/surroundings of the mentee.
Setting up a peer-to-peer support system
Guidance in a peer-to-peer mode again raises the guidance setting to an innovative level. With this approach, guidance moves a bit further away from systems such as school, labour market or family. The conversation at eye level gets rid of the hierarchical aspect and thus allows for an easier relationship building.
In addition, a peer is an expert in the field of action, i.e. the environment of the interlocutor. Understanding the current challenges and being able to put oneself in the other person’s shoes makes it much easier to identify realistic goals.
Peer-to-peer counselling can be used to help with orientation and decision-making. The definition of a solution or its success is not within the competence of the peer. Therefore, a training or briefing of the counselling person is absolutely necessary if a sustainable and long-term success of the counselling is desired. The tasks and objectives of the role should be clarified and reflected upon before the guidance process begins.
A combination of a professional mentor and peer-supported counselling can thus represent the connection of the two approaches and cover the understanding of the life situation on the one hand, but also the long-term support and accompaniment of goal achievement on the other. In the course of developing the Beyond NEET(d)s platform, this aspect was not explicitly integrated. A reflection on possible access to peers represents a possible extension and resource of the platform.
Tools to Support your Mentee
If networking is to be integrated into the work in a sustainable and effective way, the mentee’s environment must also be considered more closely. The methods network map and resource map refer to the participants and their personal network and life environment.
The two methods are easy to use and flexible to integrate into the coaching process. They can be used in personal conversations to work on long-term goals. In the meantime online versions are possible and make it even more easy to implement. It is important to have a personal discussion after filling in the worksheets. Understanding people as resources and possible supports are an important part of working on goals in a sustainable way. The mentees need to understand the potential of their own resources and relationships before using them in the future (see Pantucek-Eisenbacher P. 2019).
The method can be used to map the person’s network. In order to plan long-term goals or next steps after the training, it can be of interest to reflect on the current network of the mentee. Which people are part of the network? Is the focus on private or professional contacts? Do the participants understand their own network? Have they already reflected on the people around them?
When it comes to personal challenges, the network can be used as a first point of reference. For this, it is relevant to know possible professional support systems and to be able to point them out if needed. A possible implementation is attached to this chapter as an example for usage.
Network map (Jugend am Werk Stmk GmbH)
This method focuses on people themselves. The method allows a deeper look into the person and its environment. Social contacts are shown in combination with other resources like money, equipment, or education. These areas can also be essential to identify or work on further goals.
Resources can be divided into 4 different categories: The personal resources/competences, the social resources (relationships), material resources and infrastructural resources. Also for this approach an example of usage is attached as activity to this chapter.
Reflective questions for the reader:
- Where can the mentee find support concerning the personal environment?
- Which resources does the mentee have when reflecting about future goals?
- Which relationships are positively, and which ones are negatively associated by the mentee?
 see Westphal P., Stroot T., Lerche E. Wiethoff C. (2014)
 practical example: http://www.pfeffer.at/egonet/Hollstein%20Pfeffer.pdf
 practical examples: https://wayacademy.de/was-sind-persoenliche-ressourcen/