Sustaining peer mentoring groups

Sustaining a peer mentoring group (and many other activities like organising group shows and similar) involve working effectively as a collective. One of the biggest challenges to keeping a peer group going is the demand on the organiser’s time. The suggestions below are intended to make working together on a peer group easier for those involved in running (and participating), thereby making your groups activity more sustainable.

PEER FORUM at Camden Arts Centre, photo Lea Colett

PEER FORUM at Camden Arts Centre – Photo Lea Colett

Below are things that artists cite as challenges to sustaining peer mentoring groups. Some of them may cost money, but many can be sourced for free or near as with a bit of planning and resources/contact pooling with members.

Time commitment from organiser
Though you might be able to apply for funding to cover the time it takes to organise sessions funding applications and reporting are a time commitment in-themselves. It might be more effective to reduce the workload by effective planning and collective working. Read the Administering peer mentoring groups page for tips on how to make this a minimum hassle.

Venue and equipment
Between your members you’ll likely find a studio space, or a contact with a space you can use for little or no money. Failing this there are a few affordable room hires is community centres and similar. If you take this approach its worth asking them for discounted rates (many spaced do this for arts/charity initiatives). If there is a cost for room hire see if the group members are happy to split this. Similarly with equipment, someone in the group will have access to a laptop and perhaps even a projector.

You may even be able to find a suitable free public meeting spaces that are quiet / private enough to host peer mentoring meetings. Think places like the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican or the National Theatre that have space and times when they’re pretty empty. You won’t be able to run AV presentations in places such as this, but round-table conversations around printed images, or smaller pieces of work might be possible.

Refreshments
Ask if members are happy to bring a packet of biscuits, or even a dish to each session. Many peer mentoring groups build unstructured discussion around sharing such meals

Travel costs
Other than being mindful of inviting members who live a commutable distance from each other and picking a mutually convenient meeting venue, the only other option is applying for funding to cover costs such as these.

External speaker fees / expenses
As mentioned, while you may have external speakers within your group’s networks who are willing to present without a fee, offering something greatly increases the chance of them accepting an invitation. You can apply for funding, or if the group are happy to they can make a contribution to cover speaker fees / expenses.

Ultimately peer mentoring groups are for the benefit and development of you and your groups practice and careers. Only you are able to decide how much of a priority is to you and what resources are realistic for you to commit to this.

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.

Review and reflection – Have a review meeting every 6 – 12 months where those involved can meet to discuss the future of the group. This meeting can revisit the questions asked in the initial meeting and is a good way for the group to reflect/review on what’s worked and what hasn’t. It’s also a good chance to think about adding new group members if you need to. Bringing in new blood by introducing new artists, or visiting external speakers is a good way of keeping more long standing members engaged.

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