CANARI selected a pool of mentors based across the 11 CEPF countries, recognising that CSOs would need additional hands-on support to develop applications and manage grants under the CEPF Caribbean islands programme. In particular, this was seen to be important in the eight countries where the RIT did not have a staff person based: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mentors were selected who CANARI had previously interacted with from a mix of government agencies, regional agencies, CSOs, and academic institutes. Mentors selected are based in the Caribbean islands and have competencies (skills, knowledge, and experience) in:

  • natural resource management and building sustainable natural resource-based livelihoods;
  • project identification and development, proposal writing, project management (including monitoring and evaluation) and communication;
  • providing capacity building through training, coaching and mentoring to civil society organisations.

The twenty mentors attended an orientation workshop held in October 2011 in St. Vincent. The Programme Manager from the CEPF Secretariat also attended the workshop. The workshop was very participatory in nature and confirmed the willingness of the mentors to help build the capacity of civil society to play a more effective role in biodiversity conservation in their countries. Participants were able to define what mentoring means to them and explored the different capacities that are needed to be an effective mentor. In particular, mentors built and strengthened their capacity in participatory problem analysis and identification; project planning and proposal writing; and participatory facilitation. These were seen to be essential competencies in supporting CSOs to effectively access the CEPF programme. One of the main findings of the workshop was that the very nature of mentoring requires a less rigid approach to what was previously proposed with having somewhat formal terms of reference. As participants and facilitators discussed, mentoring entails a long-term supportive and developmental relationship that does not necessarily fall into structured, predetermined terms but rather one that can be guided. It was realized that having ‘Guidelines for Being a Mentor’ may better suit the programme than a more rigid Terms of Reference.

Following this, a second mentors workshop was facilitated in July 2012 for 15 mentors from 10 countries. Participants built on the process of action learning for effective mentoring that they were introduced to in the first mentor workshop and had an opportunity to use the approach to solve specific problems and challenges they had been encountering in their roles as mentors. In particular, mentors built and strengthened their capacity in conducting community needs assessments, enhanced their understanding of the different stages of NGO development, monitoring and evaluation, and using participatory video as a tool for evaluation. The field visit during the mentor workshop was particularly valuable as a learning experience and validated the need for mentors to increase their capacity in facilitation and the need to be neutral and independent in one’s approach to mentoring. Mentors also evaluated the application of their training since the initial workshop through discussion and the use of participatory video (PV). This latter activity contributed to the testing of PV as a participatory monitoring and evaluation tool and a participatory video was developed.

The contribution of mentors to building capacity of CSOs was promoted in two issues of the newsletter produced by CANARI about the CEPF Caribbean Islands programme:

Mentoring (including peer mentoring) is also being used in several other CANARI projects, including several to support community enterprises (under CANARI’s Rural Livelihoods programme) and efforts to strengthen Caribbean fisherfolk organisations (under an EU-funded project in 18 countries). Mentoring has been promoted to UNDP GEF SGP offices in the region.

Outcomes:

  • Mentors provided additional support to CSOs applying to and managing grants under the CEPF Caribbean islands programme, particularly in the eight countries where the RIT does not have a physical presence.
  • Mentors have built strong relationships with CSOs and groups in their countries, and are likely to continue working with some of them on an as needed basis.
  • Mentors have built capacity and will be more effective in continuing to provide support to CSOs and their own organisations. Providing support to CSOs is a core function of many mentors in the work of their organisations (which include government agencies, NGOs and international organisations).
  • Mentoring is an approach to capacity building that is being promoted by CANARI throughout its work as well as to key agencies and regional programmes.