Getting the most out of twinning and mentoring

Twinning and mentoring are key support activities in the development process of a Science Shop, and can help contribute to the sustainability and success of a Science Shop over time. But, what do we mean when we talk about mentoring and twinning?

 Mentoring can be defined as the relationship in which more experienced/knowledgeable Science Shops help to guide less experienced/knowledgeable Science Shops. On the other hand, twinning is it more related to the pairing of two (or more) Science Shops for the sharing of best practices.

 Overall, new Science Shops can benefit greatly from the support and knowledge that can be gained through twinning and mentoring activities with established Science Shops and the new Science Shops being set up as part of the Horizon 2020 SciShops project are being encouraged to set up twinning partnerships to support their development.

At the SciShops Summer School held in July 2019, participants were asked about their views and experience of both activities. Regarding experience with twinning/mentoring, more than half of the participants hadn’t had any experience to date (55.56%). But amongst the group that had some experience of twinning/mentoring, 26% said that they had been able to draw upon their experience within a Science Shop context. Overall twinning/mentoring was valued positively (with a mean of 3.6 points; 5 points the being highest value). 

 Here are some of the top tips that came out of the discussions about how to get the best out of mentoring and twinning activities: 

The top three best ways to find a mentor:

  • Networking events
  • Upon recommendation
  • Making your Science Shop interesting for partners

The benefits of twinning/mentoring:

  • Best practice and ideas exchange
  • Providing support
  • Access to new networks
  • Learning new skills
  • Keeping up your motivation
  • Saving time so you can avoid reinventing the wheel and making mistakes
  • Gaining increased confidence
  • The potential of new collaborations

It’s also important to be aware that things can go wrong in a twinning/mentoring experience. These include: 

  • A lack of chemistry
  • A one way relationship in which only one side benefits
  • Different expectations between mentor/mentee resulting in disappointment and frustration
  • Not being open to share failures with your mentor/twinning partner
  • Poor communication

Success factors that make a positive twinning/mentoring experience:

  • Good communication
  • Ensuring mutual benefit
  • Being open
  • Geographical proximity – being able to occasionally meet face to face
  • Having a clear framework of cooperation and setting clear expectations and objectives
  • Having similar goals and topics that you are working with
  • Having a clear vision of both sides
  • Being generous
  • Being respectful
  • Regular reviews to see what is working and what needs changing


Author: Dr Franziska Stelzer (Wuppertal Institute)