Volunteering Northland’s Governance Mentoring Programme strengthens community organisations January 2023


Story by Janine Duncan, Volunteering Northland

In recognition of the ongoing need to train capable and skilled board members; Volunteering Northland recently concluded their inaugural six month governance mentoring programme in collaboration with the Community Governance Aotearoa and Mentoring Foundation of New Zealand.  

As part of the Community Governance Aotearoa initiative to support great governance of community organisations across Aotearoa, the course, developed by the Mentoring Foundation, aims to develop confident, capable and empowered board members who are well connected to their local communities.”  Originally developed five years ago and successfully delivered throughout various regions in New Zealand, the Mentoring Foundation tailors the programme to meet the needs of the host organisation and provides support throughout it’s duration. The course was free and open to applicants Northland wide.

As the programme is practically based, mentees must be currently or soon to be serving board members.  Potential mentees apply online and are interviewed by a Regional Co-ordinator to ascertain their current governance experience and determine skills they wish to improve.  Community networks are utilised to source potential mentors who have governance experience and the level of expertise required to ensure their mentee can achieve their desired goals. 

Matched pairs are required to meet for a minimum of one to two hours once a month.  During these sessions, mentees set and fine tune goals, discuss areas of concern and engage in problem solving strategies with their mentor to address current challenges faced in their governance context.  At each meeting, progress is reviewed and new goals set for the upcoming session.

Additionally, three group networking events were held at the beginning, midpoint and end of the programme.  The first meeting was an orientation, while the remaining events provided opportunities to connect with one another, share feedback and to consolidate and reflect on learning experiences.  Throughout the six months, Jessie Manney, Manager of Volunteering Northland, held monthly group Zoom sessions which served as a further discussion and collaboration platform.

The programme concluded on the 15th of November with Leighton Littlewood (Mentoring Foundation National Co-ordinator) interviewing former Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai about her governance experiences.  Participants were given the opportunity to ask Sheryl questions and then discussed and shared course highlights with the group.

Mentees commented that it was helpful to have a sounding board, they felt uplifted and inspired by their mentor, the relationship provided an avenue to examine issues from a different viewpoint, and it was also empowering to reflect on achievements and progress made.  Likewise, mentors reflected on how privileged they felt within their role, the opportunity enabled them to forge further community connections and it was a pleasure to be a part of someone’s governance journey.  

Wishing to develop a governance career, Julia Hartshorne, programme mentee, applied with the intention of developing her skill set by gaining a solid understanding of governance processes, awareness of the specific skills she brought to her role and the ability to positively contribute to the board she served on. 

She commented that my “mentor and I were a fantastic match. Coupled with my mentor’s vast governance experience skills of enquiry and an ability to engage in strategic conversations; she was able to shape, form and challenge my direction and engagement in governance and pathway ahead.”

Julia was very surprised by the significant value she gained from the programme. She noted the  most valuable skills and learning experiences acquired were understanding her own capabilities and areas requiring development, awareness of ways in which she could contribute as a trustee, staying “professional and true to one’s values and truth” in the face of challenging dynamics and undertaking due diligence when choosing boards to serve on. 

Moving forward, Julia hopes to “develop as a professional director, work with my hapu in developing a disability advisory and to ensure that I fulfil my personal governance strategy” which she developed to assist in her future career.

At the programme conclusion, Leighton Littlewood (National Co-ordinator,) hopes participants “feel more empowered, effective and confident in their governance role” and have a broader range of community networks that can be utilised in the future.  He also noted that skills learned on the programme in addition to possessing greater confidence in one’s leadership ability are transferrable to other areas of life and useful in future endeavours.

If you are interested in applying and would like further information, please contact Jessie Manney, Volunteering Manager at Volunteering Northland.