02: Choosing a mentoring approach

If you have not yet selected a mentoring coordinator, you may wish to look at Module 4 – Building a program team before starting this module.

After reading this section you should:

● understand the different possible approaches to mentoring

● know which mentoring approach is best suited to your situation.

Key questions to ask yourself

  1. What are your motivations and objectives for running a mentoring program?

  2. What sort of mentoring relationship is needed to achieve these?

  3. Approximately how many people will participate as mentees or mentors, and for how long?

  4. What are the opportunities and constraints associated with your situation (as identified in Module 1 – Getting started)?

  5. Do you want to have a cohort or ongoing mentoring matching?

2.1 What are some different mentoring approaches?

As you have learned in Module 1 – Getting started, your approach to mentoring will be guided by your own situation, values, and objectives. While mentoring programs come in many diverse forms, we have identified four main approaches that can be adapted to your situation:

1. Face-to-face mentoring

2. Online/remote mentoring

3. Event-based mentoring (event-only)

4. Event-based mentoring (long-term).

While these can have some overlap – for example, a face-to-face program would likely involve some element of online communication to sustain the mentoring relationship; and event-based mentoring, by definition, involves a face-to-face connection between the mentoring participants – selecting and understanding your overarching approach to mentoring is a crucial first step in designing your program.

2.2 Choosing an approach

Face-to-face, online, and event-based mentoring should be thought of as broad approaches that you can adapt to your specific mentoring situation and objectives. Each of these approaches has its own set of benefits and challenges.

Your choice of approach may also be influenced by the scale of program you wish to run. In this context, scale refers to the time scale (how long mentees and mentors are committing for) and geographic scale (where people will be based), as well as the number of participants you want to involve.

Table 1 below summarises the four mentoring approaches, and presents some key questions and case studies to help guide your decision making.





Questions to consider


Face-to-face mentoring

  • Usually delivered locally (e.g. country or even state/province-specific)

  • Usually involves a group “intake” or cohorts of participants

  • Facilitated workshops at the beginning, middle, and end of the program

  • Communication between mentees and mentors involves some face-to-face meetings

  • Can establish strong relationships between participants

  • Mentor more likely to understand mentee’s local and national context

  • Individual mentees and mentors can meet and network with broader group of participants

  • Can be linked to on-ground implementation of a project

  • Resource intensive

  • May offer smaller pool of potential participants

  • Resource and workshop capabilities generally limit number of participants

  • Distance (even within more locally-based programs) can be challenging for ongoing face-to-face contact

  • Do your program objective and mentee needs require your mentees and mentors to meet face to face?

  • Do mentors need an understanding of local issues and cultural contexts?

  • Where will your mentees and mentors be based, and what does this mean in terms of face-to-face meetings (e.g. travel time, resources)?

YPARD Kenya mentoring program

YPARD Nigeria – Grooming Young Leaders for Agriculture Program

YPARD Philippines mentoring program

Online/remote mentoring

  • Online platform to train and connect participants

  • Extensive use of online communications technologies and learning/educational resources

  • Allows for international pairings and expansion of global networks

  • Matching process can be ongoing

  • Can be implemented on a larger scale (more participants)

  • Different time zones can pose a challenge for and disrupt communications

  • Requires strong internet connectivity, which is not always available in rural areas

  • Establishing and maintaining strong relationships is harder without initial face-to-face contact

  • Do your potential mentees have an international focus? Will they benefit from increased global networks?

  • Will you have to develop and maintain your own online platform?

  • Will internet access likely be a constraint for your participants?

Cherie Blair Mentoring Women in Business

Event-based mentoring (events-only)

  • Mentoring participants are delegates at a defined event (e.g. conference)

  • Matching criteria are often related to the event (e.g. specific research interests for a scientific event-based program)

  • Participants introduced via email prior to the event

  • Mentoring is focused around providing support and guidance during the event (e.g. in networking, discussing and presenting key topics, and seeking feedback on ideas related to the event’s themes)

  • May involve an initial workshop or networking event

  • Offers opportunities for face-to-face mentoring without logistics and resources for travel and venue

  • Can bring together a diversity of participants

  • Provides a guiding framework for identifying and matching participants (e.g. based on specific conference themes)

  • Can be run on limited funding (if partnering with existing event)

  • Limitation on time and capacities of participants, particularly mentors, during conferences

  • May not lead to longer-term mentoring relationships

  • If you are not the organiser of the event, do you have an existing partnership with the event coordinators or will this need to be established?

  • Who will coordinate the application/registration process?

  • What guidance or support would you offer during the event?

  • Will the program be event-based only, or do you intend to continue it beyond the event (longer-term mentoring)?

Youth in Landscapes Initiative Mentoring Program at the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF)

IFSA-IUFRO 125th Anniversary Congress

Event-based mentoring (long-term)

  • As above, but usually involves an initial workshop

  • Mentees and mentors matched at conference, with mentoring relationship intended to continue beyond the event

As above, with exception of final point (requirement for additional resources and/or funding)

Mentees and mentors may be located in different countries/regions, posing challenges for ongoing communication and engagement (as with online/remote mentoring)

How would you establish and facilitate this ongoing mentoring relationship?

Young Agripreneurs Project (YAP) at the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3)

Long-term mentoring program launch at the 2015 GLF

2.3 One-on-one vs group mentoring

Mentoring is often thought about as a one-on-one relationship, with a more experienced mentor matched to a more junior or inexperienced mentee. However, this is just one of type of mentoring relationship.

Group mentoring can involve one or more mentors supporting a group of mentees. In this case, the group of mentees usually have a collective goal, such as a team of young professionals working together on a project, or a group of students learning particular course content, with the mentor supporting them towards that goal.

Peer-to-peer mentoring can also take a group approach. Here, “peers” are thought of as people of similar standing, whether in terms of age or level of experience (or both!). In group peer-to-peer mentoring, all participants varyingly take on the roles of both mentee and mentor. This approach may be a good option when community building, or increasing collaboration and knowledge sharing, is a key goal.

However, group mentoring can also occur naturally and more informally, such as between individual mentees or mentors participating in the same mentoring program. This sort of informal mentoring can be a valuable way for participants to share and learn from their experiences of mentoring, and to broaden their peer networks. Think about how you can design your program to enable interactions and collaboration between mentoring program participants.

2.4 The process of matching

While Module 9 – Selecting and matching mentees and mentors goes into detail about key things to consider when matching mentees and mentors, it is useful to think early on about how you will structure the matching process.

There are two different options for this process. The first is having a single intake of participants in the program; this intake could be thought of as a mentoring “cohort”. In this approach, all mentees and mentors would be matched, and would then start the mentoring program, at the same time.

These mentoring pairs or mentoring groups might work closely together, for example through a local face-to-face mentoring program. Limiting each group to 10–20 mentees will allow for more in-depth training and bonding. Alternatively, this approach might simply involve many pairs being matched at the same time, but then having limited to no interaction with other pairs. An example of this is a mentoring program at a large international conference, in which young delegates are partnered with experienced delegates, and each mentoring pair is separate from the others.

The alternative to a single intake is ongoing matching. This means that you will match mentees and mentors on a rolling basis, as soon as you find a suitable match.

Each of these alternatives has pros and cons, which we outline in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Types of mentoring relationships and matching processes




Appropriate contexts


  • Targeted, individual support for mentee

  • Allows for in-depth relationships to develop

  • Participants do not benefit from the wisdom of other mentees and mentors

  • The impact of a failed/unsuited match may be greater without a community of support

  • Mentees with specific needs or defined individual goals

  • A sufficiently large pool of mentors to draw on

Group (mentees and mentor)

  • Can promote a culture of support and collaboration

  • Allows a greater number of mentees to access a mentor’s knowledge/skills/support

  • Can also promote peer-to-peer mentoring between mentees, and between mentors

  • Less opportunity for individual development and guidance

  • Mentoring benefits may not be experienced equally among mentees

  • Supporting team-based projects and professional development

  • Existing groups with collective needs (e.g. class of students; young agricultural cooperative group)

Group (peer-to-peer only)

  • Encourages knowledge sharing

  • Can facilitate collaboration and peer networking

  • Builds leadership and mentoring capacities among whole group

Some mentees may require input from more experienced or connected mentors

  • A group of people going through the same experience or working towards similar goals

  • A group of people with a diversity of skills and experience to share


  • Streamlined process (everyone starts and ends at the same time)

  • Can enable informal group and peer-to-peer mentoring

Not all potential mentees or mentors may be available for the defined intake

Works for all mentoring approaches

Important for face-to-face programs and any programs that require more in-depth training and orientation

Ongoing matching

Mentees and mentors can sign up whenever they like

  • Fewer opportunities for group learning and collaboration

  • More time intensive (each match must be guided individually)

  • Online/remote mentoring (e.g. with a platform seeking ongoing expressions of interest, and either participant- or coordinator-driven matching)

  • Organisational-based mentoring (e.g. new members matched with a mentor as they join)

Take action!

  • Work through the questions presented in Table 2.

  • Consider and weigh up the pros and cons of each approach as they relate to your situation.

  • Complete the Decision Filter to identify which approach may be best for you.



Jim, YPARD Philippines Country Representative, talks about his experience of choosing to run a face-to-face, cohort-based mentoring program for YPARD members in the Philippines, including the factors that influenced his decision to choose this approach and how this related to YPARD Philippines’ objectives.

Sarah, former Youth in Landscapes Initiative Mentoring Coordinator, shares the story of choosing to coordinate a one-on-one mentoring program for a cohort of youth leaders taking part in the youth program at the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum. Mentors were selected from senior/experienced delegates at the conference who had expressed interest in participating in youth-related activities.