Peer Mentoring and Governance
Survivors’ Poetry is a national literature organisation dedicated to celebrating the creative expression of survivors of the mental health system and to promoting poetry by survivors of mental distress.
Having attended our Introduction to Coaching and Peer Mentoring Course, Celia Potterton Trustee of Survivor’s Poetry, was able to mentor other trustees within the organisation to address some of the organisation’s key issues.
As a result of going on the finance course at VAC and understanding what peer mentoring was I mentored the trustees through a programme of cutting our expenditure. And we actually cut our expenditure radically as a result of that.
Survivors’ Poetry has been going since 1980. I got involved with VAC’s peer mentoring course because I am a trustee of a charity, Survivors’ Poetry, and they sent me on a VAC course for finance. So this ties in with what I was doing with Survivors’ Poetry because Survivors’ Poetry also mentors people with mental health problems and encourages them to write their own poems and publish them.
We did the course which spelt out the procedures. The first thing is to build up a rapport, then to gather intelligence, find out about the organisation and decide what needs to be done and how to achieve the objectives. We were mostly supposed to be dealing with finance issues that was the point. I’ve had governance training at VAC which made me realise I hadn’t been a great trustee in the past. We owed money to an organisation because of our oversight so we have a better grasp of that now. It was a highly complex situation which I had to unravel and set up the meetings where we had to actually admit liability. Getting to the bottom of all that was one of the hardest things I did. So peer mentoring has helped in trying to get things done properly within organisations. It’s quite hard, particularly in a small charity.
Well, it gave me the confidence to go in and discuss things that you’ve already done in your organisation and advise other people, in my case mostly on finance. So as a result of me going on the finance course at VAC and understanding what peer mentoring was I mentored the trustees through a programme of cutting our expenditure. And we actually cut our expenditure radically as a result of that. We just took it in stages, like paying less rent. We got rid of these extraneous expenditures, a massive amount of wastage. We found cheaper ways of doing everything. I don’t think I would have tackled the Director and the Trustees if I hadn’t been on that course. If I hadn’t realised there was actually a way of doing it I don’t think I would have done it.