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Mentoring Programme: Action Learning Circles

What is a mentoring circle? →
What is action learning? →
What are the benefits? →
What are the roles? →
How will it work? →
What is the time commitment? →
How to apply →
Further information →
Resources, tools and training →

The IGNITE Network+ Mentoring Programme: Action Learning Circles launched in 2023/2024!

The recuitment of mentors (facilitators) and mentees (circle participants) to take part in the IGNITE Network+ pilot Mentoring Programme to support researchers in energy has now closed for the 2024 intake. In particular, the programme will create peer-learning opportunities for and from underrepresented and minoritised groups in energy research, including early career researchers, women, racialised minorities*, LGBTQ+ individuals, and individuals with disabilities.

The aim of the IGNITE Network+ Action Learning Circles is to support career advancement, facilitate networking and develop a community of researchers in energy, across academia and industry. Participants will have the opportunity to share lived experiences and to support one another.

Our innovative approach to mentoring will enable mentees to find peers with diverse backgrounds and experiences, who share common interests or learning objectives, to focus on the personal development of those involved, to grow and learn together as a small group (up to 5) which is facilitated by a mentor.

Action learning circles will be reflexive and co-created. We therefore ask that you are fully committed to the process before completing an expression of interest to participate and that you are able to engage meaningfully.  It is our intention that this pilot programme will:

  • be inclusive and centred around people.
  • be useful, new and innovative and does not replicate what already exists in your own University.
  • make you accountable for your own personal development goals.

The pilot programme commenced in January 2024 for 6 months.

What is a mentoring circle?

Mentoring Circles are an innovative, group mentoring model.  A group of mentees meet together with a mentor who will facilitate conversations are ensure that they are focussed and productive (Darwin and Palmer, 2009).  Circles allow participants from different backgrounds to work together to combine their knowledge and experience to learn and develop.  This mentoring approach is based on the belief that everyone has something valuable to share, regardless of their experience level, and everyone can learn from each other. [top]

What is action learning?

Action Learning is a framework which facilitates group peer mentoring support. It is defined as a "continuous process of learning and reflection, supported by colleagues, with an intention of getting things done" (McGill and Beaty, 2013).  In other words, mentees will work on tackling concrete problems. This is done through the process of group questioning in a confidential, supportive environment. Supported by mentors, mentees reflect and identify possible solutions and take subsequent commitment to action. [top]

What are the benefits in taking part?

There are many benefits to using mentoring circles and action learning. Here we highlight a few key benefits (Darwin 2000, Darwin and Palmer, 2009, Given & Kelly, 2016):

  • Broadening connections: Mentor circles allow mentors and mentees to get to know a wider group of individuals, expand their networks, building their social capital, and encourage collaboration.  This greater connectivity reduces feelings of isolation and provides a support network.
  • Hearing diverse perspectives:  Mentoring circles provide a range of perspectives (experiences, skills and opinions), which a traditional one to one mentor relationship may not be able to provide.
  • Increasing accountability: Working with a group means more accountability towards career development goals.
  • Learning from others:  One of the most important benefits of mentoring circles is being able to learn from others’ experiences. This enables you to gain insights through working with others and building confidence.
  • Developing your own leadership:  Action learning focuses on changing the ways individuals  interact with others—which allows to develop leadership skills, for example,  by learning to ask and respond to open, probing, and challenging questions
  • Promoting change:  By working together, both mentees and mentors can increase their understanding of challenges and best practice existing within different academic environments. Participants are encouraged to formulate actions and make decisions, which they can share with colleagues in their workplaces to promote positive change. [top]


What are the roles?

Each action learning group will consist of four to five participants (early to mid-career researchers) and one facilitator (more experienced individual).

Mentors (Facilitators)

Mentors will facilitate a group of up to five mentees (early or mid-career researchers) through an exploration process, helping them to recognise their areas of strength and blind spots, seek new experiences, and come to a greater understanding of a range of lived experiences.

Who can be a mentor (facilitator)? Leaders and senior staff from any field/discipline/sector working in energy research area.

Interested in being a mentor (facilitator)? Complete this brief online Expression of Interest form

Mentees (Circle Participants)

Mentees (circle participants) will join a small action learning group where they can expect to gain a greater sense of belonging to a professional community as well as management and leadership skills such as active listening, motivating others, building commitment to action, and coaching.  

Who can be a mentee (circle participant)? Early to mid-career researchers from any field/discipline/sector working in energy research area who are from underrepresented and minoritised groups, including early career researchers, women, racialised minorities*, LGBTQ+ individuals, and individuals with disabilities.

Interested in being a mentee (circle participant)? Complete this brief online Expression of Interest form  [top]

How will it work?

Interested individuals should submit an expression of interest form by 27 October 2023.  You will be invited to attend a Briefing Session, and those who wish to continue will be invited to complete a full profile application to allow the mentoring circles to be matched together. Participants will be invited to join a launch event in Bristol on January-24, which will be an opportunity to meet your cohort in person.

Matching mentoring circles: Once the mentoring team (Dr Neha Chandarana, Dr Marco Reggiani, Claire Scott) receive the full profile applications by 15 November 2023, they will meet to match the circles. You will be notified if you are successful by the end of the following week (Friday 8 December 2023).  We may not be able to match everyone in this pilot.

Once matched, the circle participants will be responsible of setting up the series of meetings over the course of the pilot programme. Circles are required to meet at least four times. We would recommend  monthly meetings of between 90 minutes to two-hours over the six-month programme.

You should be able to commit to attend all of the mentoring circle meetings to benefit fully from the experience. 

Participants will receive a certificate upon completion of the six month programme.


What is the time commitment?

The total time commitment for the six-month programme is between twelve and eighteen hours depending on how often your circle agree to meet. This includes the Briefing Session (approx. 60 minutes), Training session for Facilitators (approx. two hours), the Bristol launch event (half day), mentoring circle meetings (between six and twelve hours), plus all associated paperwork and programme evaluations (90 minutes).


Timeline diagram 2 Oct-23 Mentoring Expressions of Interest Opens; 27 Oct-23 Closing date for Expressions of Interest; Week Beginning 30 Oct 23 Briefing Session(s); 15 Nov-23 Closing date for Completion of Profile Application; week ending 8 Dec-23 Notification of Circle Groups; Jan-24 In person Launch Event, University of Bristol; Jan-24 to Jun-24 Four to six circle meetings/ evaluation; Jul-24 to Aug 24 Evaluation


Scheme opens: 2 October 2023
Expression of Interest closing date:  27 October 2023
Briefing session: 30 October 2023, 10am

  • Q&A Briefing Sessions for circle participants, and facilitators to introduce the programme and explore mentoring circles and action learning. 

Registration closing date: 15 November 2023
Notification of group allocation: 8 December 2023
Online Facilitator Training: 17 January 2024, 1-3pm
Launch event: In person event will take place on 25 January 2024, PM in University of Bristol which will be an opportunity to meet your cohort in person.
January - June 2024: the matched circles will be expected to meet at least four times for 90 minutes to two hours.
End of Programme:  for circle participants and facilitators will be invited to provide us with feedback about their experiences of the pilot programme.

Programme Dates Cohort One 2024

The programme will run between January and June 2024.

Suggested programme of dates: Each mentoring circle should discuss setting the schedule of future meeting dates and agree the length of the meetings at the first meeting.  Applicants should commit to attend ALL Mentoring circle meetings.

Example Timetable

Activity	Date	Time	Location Cohort Welcome	Jan-24	 In person, University of Bristol Mentoring Circle Meeting 1	Jan-24	90 mins to 2 hrs	Online, e.g. Teams/ Zoom Mentoring Circle Meeting 2	 90 mins to 2 hrs	Online, e.g. Teams/ Zoom Mentoring Circle Meeting 3	 90 mins to 2 hrs	Online, e.g. Teams/ Zoom Mentoring Circle Meeting 4	 90 mins to 2 hrs	Online, e.g. Teams/ Zoom Mentoring Circle Meeting 5	 90 mins to 2 hrs	Online, e.g. Teams/ Zoom Mentoring Circle Meeting 6	 90 mins to 2 hrs	Online, e.g. Teams/ Zoom [top]

How to apply

The application process will entail an initial short Expression of Interest application form by 27 October 2023.  This will be followed by completion of an online profile application which should be submitted by 15 November 2023, the link will be sent upon receipt of the Expression of Interest.

The programme doesn’t cost anything to join but you must join as a full member of the network before you can apply. 

Applications are now open for Expressions of Interest - we are still accepting Expressions of Interest.

  1. Register an Expression of Interest Please note that must join as a full member of the network before you can apply. 
  2. Attend the online briefing session 30 October, 10am.  Please note: you will need to complete the Expression of Interest to attend this session.
  3. Complete the online profile application form by 15 November 2023.  You will be sent the link upon receipt of the expression of interest.

We are committed to ensure that our work is accessible for all. If there are any factors which you feel would be a barrier to you accessing or participating in any of the online or offline elements of this programme, please get in touch so that we can discuss this in more detail.   Please also refer to our EDI action plan which outlines our approach to embedding EDI in the network. [top]

Further information

If any of the above is of interest to you but you have some questions or something that you're not sure of – please contact us. We'd love to have a chat, this is a pilot and we are looking for your feedback. [top]

Resources, tools and training

Researcher Development Framework About the Vitae Researcher Development Framework — Vitae Website

STEM Equals Mentoring web pages By Dr Kay Guccione, Head of Researcher Development at the University of Glasgow.

* We have opted to employ the term racialised minorities, yet we acknowledge the criticism of the use of umbrella terminology to describe underrepresented and marginalised groups. We recognise that terms such as racialised minorities may be used to homogenise experiences of racism, potentially ignoring the unique ways discrimination affects specific individuals and/or communities (for example, Black people in the UK).

Pilot IGNITE Mentoring Programme Closing Date for Expressions of Interest extended 8 November 2023

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Mentoring Information Guide

We are delighted to announce the launcg of the IGNITE menotring Programme: Action Learning Circles!  We are recruiting mentors (facilitators) and mentees (circle particiapnts) to take part in the IGNITE Network pilot Mentoring Programme to support researchers from underrepresented and minoritised groups in energy research.  Closing Date for Expressions of Interest 27 October 2023. More information at Q&A