Mentorship programme developers share experience at first Mentorship Indaba

About the event

In April 2021 ESCALATOR hosted a virtual Computational Research and Open Science Community Mentorship Indaba. The aim of the event was to bring together mentorship programme developers to share knowledge and lessons learned. Since one of ESCALATOR’s flagship activities will be the development of a mentorship programme for Digital Humanities & Computational Social Sciences in South Africa, we wanted to learn from others' experience. At the same time, we recognised an opportunity for other practitioners to learn from each other and share their knowledge with a wider audience. Recorded talks and presenters' slides are all available - see links below.

Representatives from seven established mentorship programmes presented their work and participated in the discussion sessions (see full details in the table below. Other participants included representatives from the ESCALATOR programme, Youth Mappers, and afrimapr.

The programme and presentations

The schedule included eight presentations focusing on five core topics with time for open discussions.

Next steps

During the Indaba participants had lots to discuss and, as always, the time was too short. Information gathered during the sessions and in subsequent conversations with various mentorship programme developers, will be used to inform the design of the ESCALATOR Digital Champions Initiative that will be launched later in 2021.

We are really grateful to all participants and presenters for generously sharing their knowledge and experience!

We are currently exploring ways to continue and expand the conversation about mentorship programmes. All participants agreed that the experience was valuable for their programmes.

Pie chart showing most people found event really valuable
How valuable did you find the mentorship indaba for your own programme?

Mentorship programmes and participants

Programme NameDescriptionParticipants
Open Life ScienceOpen Life Science is a program to create open research ambassadors - originally specific to life sciences, now expanded to a larger domain. Our programs are 16 weeks long and involve both group learning calls and one-on-one mentoring, covering community building, project management, bias, inclusion, self care, and ally skills. The program was launched in 2019, and we are currently running the third iteration of the mentoring cohort.Yo Yehedi; Malvika Sharan
Zindi Mentorship ProgrammeThe Zindi Mentorship Programme is an experimental programme where we pair senior data scientists with juniors looking for the next rung in their career ladder. All participants (mentors and mentees) come from our user base on, a data science competition platform. The programme is built around hard and soft data science skills such as designing models, good coding practice, working effectively in teams, communication of results and CV guidance. Participants have short weekly contact with mentors as well as some webinars, but otherwise are grouped to self-learn and support each other using online platforms. Mentees are guided through 3 practical data science challenges on Zindi over an 8-week programme, with a final presentation of their last project to the whole group.Paul Kennedy
CORE Africa Research Mentorship Scheme (CARMS)The CORE Africa Research Mentorship Scheme (CARMS) connects mentors and mentees from various academic disciplines across Africa, and provides an opportunity for students and young researchers in Africa to have access to experienced and supportive research mentors. It is a platform where researchers who have ‘been there and done that’ can support less experienced researchers through their challenges. Mentors support their mentees in developing their research skills and mentees benefit from real-life research experiences, guidance and advise from skilled researchers. Mentorship is provided on various aspects of research including research methods, research design, research writing, research publication, career prospects, research opportunities and much more. Mentor-mentee meetings take place face-to-face or online. Mentees are targetted through our e-learning programmes like the Research Made Easy webinar, and we collaborate with universities and research organisations in Africa to publicise the scheme and recruit potential mentors and mentees. The programme has been running for three years.Lem Ngongalah; Rawlings Niba; James Musisi
She Code Africa Community Mentorship ProjectThe She Code Africa community mentorship project is a program that brings together African women who are young in their technical fields - but seeking mentors to help navigate their career journey - and field experts who wish to give back to the community by sharing their knowledge and laying impact. The program runs in cohorts (3-months duration). The first cohort formally started on January, 1st 2020 and we are currently on the fourth, which had an onboarding session on February 27th 2021, and will officially kick off on April, 1st 2021.Sharon Ibejih
WanaDataWanaData is a Pan-African network of female data scientists, journalists and technologists working to change the digital media landscape by producing and promoting data-driven news while applying digital technologies in storytelling. It is an initiative of the Pan-African organisation Code for Africa which is an impact accelerator, and a collaborative federation of civic technology organizations. WanaData aims to turbo boost networks of women, by deepening their expertise in tech, data science and journalism, amplifying their voices and fast-tracking careers. The network was first established in Nigeria in April 2017, under the name of Naija Data Ladies, before expanding to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.Adaugo Trinitas Isaac
Deep Learning Indaba Mentorship ProgrammeThe Deep Learning Indaba Mentorship Programme aims to strengthen the African Machine Learning (ML) community via the development of fundamental skills, in areas of research and industry. The Programme matches community members with mentors from a global network for short-term personalised interactions across a wide range of topic areas. The short term personalised interactions typically involve one or two video calls (one initial session, with a follow up). The pilot programme ran from June to November 2020, with the fully fledged programme launching in January 2021.Siobhan Hall
Open Education for a Better World Online Mentoring Programme“The Open Education for a Better World (OE4BW) online mentoring program supports the development and implementation of Open Educational Resources (OER) on topics with social impact according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All OE4BW projects follow the structure of addressing the problem (at least one or more SDGs), finding a solution with impact on society and ensuring quality of the developed OER. OE4BW enrols mentees from all over the world to, under the guidance of internationally recognized mentors, develop and implement OERs based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The process is person focused, led by the mentee and supported by the mentor through dialogue. Mentee owns the process and takes the main responsibility for defining his/her needs for gaining from the mentoring relationship what is intended. The role of the mentor is to help the mentee find their own solutions. Mentoring relationships are unique, based on the mentee’s individual needs and the mentor’s area of expertise". The program was developed by Tanja Urbančič, Slovenia and Mitja Jermol, UNESCO Chair on Open Technologies for OER and Open Learning.Igor Lesko; Derek Moore
Digital Champions Initiative through ESCALATORESCALATOR is a programme aimed at growing an active and inclusive community of practice in Digital Humanities (DH) and Computational Social Sciences (CSS) in South Africa. The Digital Champions Initiative will be a flagstone activity in the ESCALATOR programme. Participants will submit small DH or CSS projects on which they will work during a three-month cycle under the guidance of a mentor or mentorship team. Through this initiative early career and established researchers will get an opportunity to learn digital and computational skills related to their research area. Champions will be supported to share what they learn within their communities. Mentorship programme currently under development.Anelda van der Walt; Menno van Zaanen; Juan Steyn; Anne Treasure
HOTOSM YoutmappersCapitalizing on web-based open geospatial technologies, and a network of universities around the globe, our mission is to cultivate a generation of young leaders to create resilient communities and to define their world by mapping it. (Information about the mentorship will be available in due time)Laura Mugeha
afrimaprafrimapr will create R building blocks and learning resources to make it easier to make data-driven maps in Africa. The created resources will be promoted in Africa and beyond to initiate a community of users and developers. The R building blocks will make it easier to perform spatial data management tasks that should be straightforward, but seldom are, including: summarising data by administrative regions of different levels; joining and displaying data referenced by administrative region names; access to environmental, socio-economic and health data and displaying data in static maps and interactive web applications. (No mentorship programme yet, but considering to develop one in future)Andy South
Anelda van der Walt
Anelda van der Walt
ESCALATOR Programme Manager