Designed by: Anne Bartlett-Bragg
Organisation: Australian Businesswomen’s Network
Implementation: Anne Bartlett-Bragg in conjunction with Ripple Effect Group (formerly Headshift)
Community Management & Facilitation design: Anne Bartlett-Bragg
Launched in early 2007, MentorNet was the first national mentoring program for women in business in Australia and the first to use the early Web2.0 technologies (blogs, wikis, social networks, webinars, photo-sharing and social bookmarking) to provide education and mentoring in an enriched technology enabled experience.
The program provided a niche network that supported entrepreneurial women to grow their businesses through education, networking, and mentoring over a period of six months.
The main challenge for MentorNet was to overcome the geographically dispersed nature of its participants, and to create a vibrant online social learning network that was able to support and empower Australian business women wherever they were located.
Essential to the design of MentorNet was clarity of the underpinning assumptions about the nature of the mentoring and learning to be provided, while understanding the parameters or constraints that would need to be addressed before selecting and designing the software platform.
A social learning network is informed by the following principles:
- people want to communicate and collaborate with others;
- people enjoy sharing their ideas with like-minded others;
- people will openly share their experiences;
- people look for recommendations and feedback from trusted resources;
- people will create their own contextual knowledge by self-publishing;
- people will manage their own learning by subscribing to information that is relevant to their context. (1)
MentorNet incorporated a blended selection of the most powerful social software options to create a rich learning environment for all participants. Live meetings were conducted through synchronous webinar technology provided by Webex. Structured business sessions occurred fortnightly, and informal mentoring meetings in a small groups, or Pods, were scheduled in alternate weeks.
The core web-based learning context was shaped through a variety of large group, peer group and individual spaces based a heavily customised enterprise wiki using Atlassian’s Confluence.
Mentorees built their business plans in a dynamic, personal wiki spaces, while collaborating with the larger group on case studies and focus activities on the group blog.
Templates and examples provide a framework for the mentorees to apply the knowledge acquired directly into their own contexts and received feedback from their peers and mentors.
Mentors were also provided with personal wiki and blog spaces, where they could comment and provide their own experiences and knowledge for the benefit of others to learn from.
Additional functions, like event calendars, resources, bookmarking, photo sharing, and other subscription services were displayed in the central wiki as the main portal for the group.
All individuals developed profiles based on digital storytelling principles that incorporated photos and other rich media. These profiles allowed participants to connect with each other in a more personalised way and create stronger network connections.
The results from the program which ran from 2007 – 2013 were impressive.
- 100% increased their business skills
- 95% had more direction in their business
- 100% expanded their networks
- 50% reported an increase in turnover (during the 6 months program)
- 35% employed more staff (during the 6 months program)
- 100% report increased confidence about their business
- 100% were more enthusiastic about their business.
- 100% expanded their networks;
- 100% were more enthusiastic about their business; and
- 100% reported an increase their business skills.
2008 Forrester Groundswell Finalist.
2010 LearnX Asia Pacific eLearning Awards – Platinum award for Best Mentoring Program.
(1) Bartlett-Bragg, A. 2013, PhD Thesis, The Adult Learners’ Experience of Self-Publishing.
Conference presentation at LearnX 2007.