WANBAM started in 2019 with a group of volunteer mentors. As we build and grow the program, we collaborate to create and test mentorship resources. While we created this with our mentors in mind, we hope these insights can assist other programs. During our first two rounds, we produced two mentor resources:

In March 2021, WANBAM held a sharing session with twenty-five of our mentors, where we discussed insights and useful resources on mentoring. This builds upon that discussion and will be refined over time. Additionally, mentors made recommendations on specific resources they find helpful. Those have been added to the second resource above.

It is important to note that WANBAM mentees consistently rate their mentorship very highly. This is not intended to recommend a “one-size-fits-all” mentorship style but to provide insights into what our mentors have found helpful. We are incredibly grateful to our mentors for their expertise and guidance. 

On setting goals with mentees:

Mentees have varying goals and support needs. For the WANBAM program, the first meeting is ordinarily to get to know one another and explore how to work together productively. The second meeting delves further into goal-setting. While optional, this encourages mentees to consider how we can best assist them and make meetings as productive as possible for both parties. When setting goals, our mentors have found the following helpful:

  • Ask your mentee to reflect on their goals prior to your meeting and then refine them together. This gives mentees time to reflect on and research their ideas independently.
  • Consider how you can realistically assist and set expectations with your mentee about how much help you can provide. Setting expectations in advance about the time you have is incredibly helpful in ensuring mentees feel supported while protecting your time.
  • Break goals into long and short-term goals: Set goals for the duration of the mentorship while encouraging the mentee to think of how this can inform their longer-term aspirations. For example, if you have a mentee who wants to be promoted to Head of Staff in the longer term, short-term goals may be to identify opportunities for skill development and create a plan.
  • Consider working together: A great way to tie mentorship to your own personal development is to include your mentee. For example, if you are both developing your management skills, you could pick a resource to explore and discuss together.
  • Encourage mentees to focus on their well-being and sustainability when goal-setting. A resource we have found helpful to spark these discussions is Sustainable Motivation by Helen Toner. 
  • Provide examples of the types of goals you would be happy to assist with: This can be particularly helpful when a mentee feels stuck or uncertain. For example, “I’d be happy to recommend the following resources. Would it be useful for you to explore them, and we could discuss what really resonated with you during our next meeting?”
  • Using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) can be helpful. You can find more information about OKRs here.

On building a relationship with mentees:

Our mentees report that a core value of mentorship is having someone who listens and is genuinely invested in their progress. Our best-reviewed mentors are those who build a kind and supportive relationship with their mentees. As such, we have found managers and community-builders are frequently some of our most successful mentors. Some recommendations on building trust and understanding are:

  • Empower your mentee to lead the session: this also allows you to tailor mentorship based on the needs and preferences of the mentee.
  • Encourage feedback on what style of mentorship is most helpful.
  • Practice active listening: Try not to jump into solution mode too quickly but listen and reassure.
  • When appropriate, share failures and lessons learned: Showing vulnerability and sharing times where things haven’t progressed as smoothly as you would have hoped can be really valuable in normalizing failures and challenges as par for the course.
  • Explore deeper values together: A source of values may be Effective Altruism. One of our mentors found that using the 80,000 Hours’ key ideas helpful to prompt these discussions.
  • Consider attending an event together: If you are comfortable, this could be something outside of a professional context in an interest area you both share.

Some logistical tips:

  • Consider using a Guidance Sheet (ours is linked as an example) as a helpful starting point to spark discussion.
  • Suggest to mentees that they send questions or topics prior to your meetings: This helps you to explore resources and reflect on guidance in advance. Mentors usually don’t make this required, but emphasize it as an option. A simple Google doc template to fill out in advance can be useful.
  • Book meetings in advance: Some of our mentees can be nervous to reach out and worry about “wasting their mentor’s time.” Setting meetings in advance reduces this concern for mentees and stops them from self-selecting out of the program. It also removes logistical pressure.

Concluding note:

We are very encouraged by the initial outcomes of WANBAM and are here to help other programs. If you have any other suggestions or would like to discuss what we have found helpful/challenging, please reach out to Kathryn at eamentorshipprogram@gmail.com.

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Status Update:

We are incredibly grateful to the EA community for their support. A quick status update on the progress of our program is below, particularly for those who donated to the Effective Altruism Infrastructure Fund (thank you!). At a glance: 

  • Ninety-three mentor sign-ups with sixty-two mentors active in round three.
  • Mentors from most of the major EA and EA-aligned organizations.
  • 54 mentees from round 2, with over 188 self-reported meetings of 30-90 minutes each in length.
  • Our second round evaluation forms (completed by 46 out of 54 mentees) indicate that our mentee satisfaction is very high. 57% of our program's mentees gave a 10/10 to "I recommend being a WANBAM mentee", creating an average of 9.22/10, and our Net Promoter Score is 70.
  • Mentorship, a diverse and supportive community, varied activities, and excellent program management were the most frequently mentioned program strengths.
  • Over 230 people participated as mentees in our first year and a half of operations. We have interfaced to varying extents with close to 500 people. 
  • 150 applications for round 3 with 117 mentees onboarded.
  • From the first meeting of the third round, the average score to the question "How useful was the first meeting for you?" from 84 forms completed was 4.55/5.
  • Significant geographic and other diversity using round 3 data: Our mentees represent all inhabited continents with just below 40% (39.6%) of mentees being people of color (increased from 34% in round two). Mentees most frequently selected interest in emerging technologies (67%), Research (59%), Public Policy, and Politics (56%), International development (49%), Cause prioritization (49%), Community Building (43%), High impact philanthropy (41%), mental health and wellbeing (40%), Philanthropic education and outreach (33%), Operations (33%), Animal advocacy (30%), Women in technology (29%), and Earning to Give (20%).
  • We additionally provide recommendations to a number of EA organizations for hiring.
  • We are currently actively exploring how we can scale and provide mentoring support, in addition to WANBAM, to our community (those who are interested in/ inspired by Effective Altruism) more broadly. 

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Thanks for this writeup Kathryn! One question:

We are currently actively exploring how we can scale and provide mentoring support, in addition to WANBAM, to our community (those who are interested in/ inspired by Effective Altruism) more broadly.

Do you mean you/your team are exploring how to provide mentoring support to men in the EA community?

Yes to both questions. We are still discussing exactly what this could look like. My guess is parallel streams, i.e. myself and a team would run a WANBAM round then at the mid-point of that round we might kick off the second pool of mentees. My early intuitions would be to advertise to a restricted pool to maintain the quality of current service to all users.  We might do something like WANBAM/"Longtermist Entrepreneurs"/WANBAM/"Effective Animal Advocates" and so on, depending on the demand. It is early stages and we would need more money and time but I feel excited about exploring this idea and cautiously optimistic thus why I worded it carefully in our update ;) Thanks as always, Brian!

Got it, thanks! Yeah I think quite a few men could benefit from mentorship, especially those in countries with small EA presence, or men that are people of color. Mentoring either subgroup of men would still fall in line with what I assume is one of WANBAM's goals, which is to improve the diversity of the EA community.

Also, is it correct that since you have 62 active mentors and 117 mentees for round 3, that most mentors are assigned to 2 mentees?

Also, you've probably already thought about this, but it would be great to see WANBAM publish more details about its impact in an annual report or end-of-grant report. 

I'd like to know things such as what mentees are able to achieve as a result of the mentorship, i.e. how many mentees were able to land better jobs or take further studies thanks to the mentorship, how many new connections they were able to form thanks to any introductions made by their mentor, how much they feel they belong more in the EA community, and how counterfactual these likely were.

WANBAM seems to be the biggest mentorship program currently in EA, and is quite different from the model 80K or Animal Advocacy Careers uses. I know WANBAM isn't mainly a career advising program, but the mentorship probably helps people in their careers, which makes it comparable to 80K or AAC. Local group leaders like me often have to weigh a tradeoff of whether one-off calls like 80K's or regular mentoring calls like WANBAM works better, so being able to view deeper impact data would be good!

I agree. Next in the production line as our capacity (hopefully) grows! I can give my intuitions based on the program on the question of:

"Local group leaders like me often have to weigh a tradeoff of whether one-off calls like 80K's or regular mentoring calls like WANBAM works better, so being able to view deeper impact data would be good!"

Commenting on the models: I would say it depends on what your program user is looking to achieve and your capacity. At WANBAM, we have experimented both with one-off calls (now combined with access to our Slack and all our events) and our standard model of an average of monthly meetings for six months. To make this concrete, if I had someone who was interested in lots of different career paths but whose plans were still in the process of developing, I might connect them to a handful of people for a one-off call and then invite them to our events.  If I have someone who is building their leadership skills with the aim of being promoted at work to management, I might connect them to one person who excels in this field to work with them over a period of six months. Essentially, capacity allowing, I work out (and this is not to say flawlessly- I am learning!) what we can concretely help with and try and tailor to do so. Thanks so much, Brian! Always happy to have a call with Group organizers if I can help :)

Ah I didn't know WANBAM has experimented with one-off calls, and it makes sense that you would try that out. Thanks for the information!

We are currently actively exploring how we can scale and provide mentoring support, in addition to WANBAM, to our community (those who are interested in/ inspired by Effective Altruism) more broadly.

You probably thought of this, but I suppose you could move in more of an 80K-ish direction by asking mentees to take notes on the best generalizable advice they get in their mentoring conversations, then periodically publishing compilations of this (perhaps organized by topic or something). If I was a mentor, I think I'd be more willing to spend time mentoring if my advice was going to scale beyond a single person.

Yes! We have a couple of pieces a bit like this, notably our career profiles and a blog I put together /update around once a round of resources recommended by our mentors/mentees and indeed the piece above. In our post-survey, I ask mentees what was a particularly useful piece of advice their mentor gave them, and plan to create a blog in that vein when it hits a critical mass (we have a large cohort this time so I think that might be next round). Thank you, John! :)