Administering peer mentoring groups

An organiser should take on responsibility for administration of the group. They need to be reliable, competent, have adequate free time (around 2 days per month) and it helps to have good personal networks from which to draw speakers and practitioners for the group.

PEER FORUM at the Photographers' Gallery, photo by Rikard Österlund

PEER FORUM at The Photographers’ Gallery – Photo by Rikard Österlund

An organisers tasks include

  • Finding and liaising with venues
  • Liaising with presenting artists
  • Booking / liaising with occasional visiting speakers (if appropriate)
  • Communicating with / acting as the main contact for group members
  • Arranging refreshments
  • Arranging presentation equipment

Key deadlines for organisers

  • At least one month before a session the organiser should contact the group confirming  the venue, equipment and timings of the meeting, which group members are presenting and any external speakers who are participating.
  • Two weeks before a session send they should send a reminder to group members informing them of the above asking for any apologies
  • One week before a session send the group a reminder and schedule / agenda and list of attendees (or cancel session if there aren’t enough participants)

The tips below are designed to make administering peer mentoring groups easier.

Share the workload – Be clear about how long an individual will take on organiser duties. At the end of every 6 – 12 months a different group member should take on organising the sessions.

It’s not generally efficient to split the organiser’s regular tasks between group members. This increases the need for ongoing communication about the admin for the group and the likelihood of something going wrong.

Drawing on the collective knowledge of the wider group however, can save organisers a lot of work without creating extra work for group members. So for example if you asked each group member to suggest a venue for meetings to take place and a guest speaker this would reduce the amount of research you would have to do as an organiser at little demand to the rest of the group.

Effective decision making – One of the most time consuming things about working collectively is discussion and reaching consensus. Containing this to specific planning (and occasional review) meetings, and then sticking to the decisions reached at these will reduce the workload on the organiser, and mean peer groups run more smoothly.

Clear roles and boundaries – Clearly define the role of the organiser so the other members of the group understand what the organiser does (and does not) do. The organiser should feel comfortable with drawing boundaries around this (and repeating them if and as necessary).

Efficient communication – Email or WhatsApp groups can be a good way of keeping in touch, but reducing the number of emails/messages is vital.  Have a clear policy on how the group will communicate. So for example, it’s not necessary for members to copy the whole group in when giving their apologies. Just email the organiser who will then send a single email to the whole group confirming attendance. This reduces the volume of emails for the group to read and makes life generally easier.

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