What is a Mentor?

+27 votes
744 views

Over the past few months, there has been quite a bit of discussion about what Mentors do. To clarify and avoid future misunderstandings, I thought this would help...

What is a Mentor?

First and foremost, Mentors are a group of special volunteers that try to see the best in every member and situation. When you are struggling with an aspect of WikiTree, no matter how long you have been on the site, they are the experienced volunteers who are happy to help you resolve your WikiTree problems!

These members are familiar with the WikiTree tutorial pages, are knowledgeable about WikiTree principles and procedures, know how to find answers to some of the tougher questions, are able to communicate with guests and new members in a friendly, helpful manner, and are a positive and helpful presence in the G2G Forum. They provide experience, share knowledge, and offer assistance where needed. They encourage, motivate, and promote balance and independence...

So the best way to describe a Mentor is - ‘Helper’, ‘Assistant’, ‘Companion’, ‘Aide’, ‘Collaborator’, ‘Colleague’, and ‘Friend’.

What do Mentors do on WikiTree?

In order to understand the role of a Mentor, it is helpful to understand their basic functions and responsibilities on WikiTree.

The first function of a Mentor is serving as a New Member contact point. They participate regularly in G2G to help answer any questions that may be asked, and they serve as a partner and assistant for any member who has questions or is seeking one-on-one assistance:

  • Are you struggling with inline sourcing and want to learn more on how to work with them?

  • Have you uploaded a GEDCOM but are struggling through the GEDCOMpare process?

  • Did you accidentally create a duplicate profile and need assistance with merging?

  • Do you need help, reassurance, or resources for applying a specific style guideline to a pre-1700 profile?

Good news! Mentors are available and listed on the Contact a Mentor page!

The second function of a Mentor is serving as a frontline helper during the first stage of the Conflict Escalation process

“A Mentor contacted me and told me I did something
wrong! How can they be my friend?”

The responsibilities during this process are typically where most of the confusion comes into play surrounding the Mentor’s role. Since WikiTree is a multi-national site that is freely available to everyone who wants to join, well-intentioned WikiTreers may make mistakes or come into conflict with others from time to time. It's unavoidable…

  • Have you found some bad merges by a member that now conflate multiple persons?

  • Is a member creating a bunch of duplicates?

  • Has someone been less than courteous in a discussion with you?

In accordance with our Honor Code, we understand that mistakes and misunderstanding are inevitable, and we assume that these are unintentional. If a member sees that another member is struggling or making a mistake, and doesn't feel comfortable helping them, they may request that a Mentor help them.

  • Am I in trouble if a Mentor contacts me?

  • Is someone going to yell at me?

  • Am I being punished?

The short answer is - No!

While almost all changes are relatively easy to fix such as reverting changes, editing or deleting bad comments, merging duplicates, or adding sources that were left out - Mentors also help with preventive actions. After identifying and correcting the issues, Mentors also ensure that members who made the mistake are aware of how these items can affect our shared tree and understand how to address these items in the future if they arise again. 

In simple terms, the entire objective of a Mentor is to:

  1. Identify the issue;

  2. Explain the issue to the member so they understand how it affects our shared tree;

  3. Provides resources, examples, and one-on-one assistance to the member to ensure they know how to correct the issue;

  4. Provides resources to help avoid future issues; and

  5. De-escalate any other issues or concerns before they become a major problem.

What Mentors Are Not

  1. Mentors are not always Leaders. Any WikiTree member who is willing to assist the community, and meets certain requirements, can apply to become a Mentor.

  2. Mentors are not Mediators. The Mediator's role in Conflict Escalation is to take a neutral look at the situation when a mentor and mentee cannot resolve the problem.

  3. Mentors are not here for general Genealogy assistance. While they may be willing to assist in these efforts, if you have a specific genealogy question or need help breaking through a brick wall, it is best to ask for help in our community's "G2G" Q&A forum.

While understanding the roles that Mentors play on WikiTree is important, it is also equally important to understand the roles that Mentors do not play.

Above all, Mentors are not disciplinarians and do not punish other members. Mentors do not force others into a certain direction, but rather focus on support and facilitation. They do not condemn others or convey to members that honest mistakes or misunderstandings are account-altering disasters. 

Positive mentoring also doesn’t ‘just happen’. It is a two-way street that requires a conscious effort and a commitment on the part of all parties involved. Most mentoring scenarios involve initial goal-setting, frequent communication, and a consistent desire on the behalf of the mentor and mentee to connect, teach, and learn.

Sometimes a mentor/mentee partnership doesn't click. If a mentor or mentee doesn't feel like they're making progress together, either the mentor or the mentee can initiate a change to a new mentor. Sometimes, that's all it takes for a mentee to learn better ways of resolving whatever the issue was. In other cases, there is nothing more that mentoring can accomplish, and the help of a Mediator is needed.

in The Tree House by Steven Harris G2G6 Pilot (510k points)

I'll be bookmarking this smiley  Well done, Steve.  Thank you!

Thanks, Steve.  I believe this is entirely accurate and true, with the understanding that you are referring to the functional roles rather than the people filling them.  I would be more comfortable with the reality if I knew that completely different individuals occupied each of the functional roles.  That is not the case.  For example, seven members of the Mentors Project also hold Mediator badges, including four of the five Leaders of the Mentor Project.
Thanks Steve! I'm bookmarking this very helpful post as well.
Herbert, there is no need for separation of the functional roles, or having different people fulfill them. In both cases, the responsibilities and the volunteer work provided is the exact same. One function is requested by a member for themselves, the other is requested for another member.

In regards to badge holders or members fulfilling multiple roles - that is not a concern. If I were to serve as a Mentor a conflict escalation case, I would not be assigned as the Mediator - it would be given to another Mediator not involved with the case.

Apples and Oranges. Much in the same way being a United States Project Member and a Germany Project member would have no relation.
Did Herbert hide his post that was just here?
Melanie --

No posts have been hidden or unhidden here.
Then one was deleted.
Melanie, there is (as of this writing) no hidden post in this thread of comments.

Herb - I'm sure some of the Leaders who are both Mentors and Mediators would be happy to hand back one of their badges if there were enough volunteer Mentors (Mediators are of course a bit different since they have to be Leaders). Actually, that includes me. I'm only keeping my Mentor badge in case someone is needed for a mentee who would speak French and not English. I'm the only available French speaking mentor. I would step down immediately if there was another one. I'm also the only francophone mediator and the only francophone leader.

Sadly, I don't think the recent insinuations against mentors and other misrepresentations of their role (even if they were unvoluntary) seen elsewhere will encourage more volunteers to sign up to help.

Thanks Steve, but I am a bit confused. Are you saying that a Mentor is never requested by one member for another? Or that members request a Mediator for themselves? I have no doubt that you would never act as both Mentor and Mediator on the same case. All the same, is it not true that the Mediators group is centrally involved in all conflict escalation cases - receiving MIRs, assigning Mentors (who might also have Mediator badges), receiving and processing Conclusion Reports, processing and sometimes issuing MRFs, etc? Is it not also true that the Mediators group maintains a private discussion group for the purpose of keeping abreast of cases? Would it be unfair for an ordinary member, not privy to the day-to-day workings, to expect that you would pass your experience as a Mentor on a case on to your fellow Mediator and possibly influence his or her handling of the case? Is it completely beyond the bounds of reason that an ordinary WikiTreer might perceive a conflict of interest?

Herb posted the above post sometime yesterday, and it was deleted. We're still trying to figure out how. 

I'll post my response below. 

Thanks Steve, but I am a bit confused. Are you saying that a Mentor is never requested by one member for another?

The following factors are considered when assigning a mentor

A) Their skillset (see: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Contact_a_Mentor)

B) Their availability.

C) The seriousness of the situation -- more experienced mentors take more difficult situations

D) Whether or not a mentor has a conflict of interest with a mentee (we'll assign someone else in this case)

Members don't request mentors for mentees. 

Or that members request a Mediator for themselves?

Absolutely not.

I have no doubt that you would never act as both Mentor and Mediator on the same case. All the same, is it not true that the Mediators group is centrally involved in all conflict escalation cases - receiving MIRs, assigning Mentors (who might also have Mediator badges), receiving and processing Conclusion Reports, processing and sometimes issuing MRFs, etc?

Mediators are able to see all MIRs that are submitted and comment on them. That is their function. You can read about them here: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Mediators.

MIRs are not assigned through the Mediator group.

Sometimes, if a problem is serious enough, Mediators will collaborate on a solution. Sometimes that solution is to send the subject of an MIR to mediation. 

Is it not also true that the Mediators group maintains a private discussion group for the purpose of keeping abreast of cases? Would it be unfair for an ordinary member, not privy to the day-to-day workings, to expect that you would pass your experience as a Mentor on a case on to your fellow Mediator and possibly influence his or her handling of the case? Is it completely beyond the bounds of reason that an ordinary WikiTreer might perceive a conflict of interest?

It's no big secret that we keep notes on conflict escalations, because we have to have a way to manage and communicate about them. Resolution of conflicts doesn't happen in a vacuum.

Your unwillingness to trust the people who have volunteered for the mostly thankless jobs of Mentoring and Mediating conflicts does not invalidate the process or the successes they have. 

"a Mentor is never requested by one member for another?" - No member can request a specific mentor for someone else.

"members request a Mediator for themselves" - No. A Mediation request is filed and a Mediator is assigned, basically on a rotation basis. The mediator can then accept or refuse to handle the mediation. I've refused some in the past, because I was not available, or had a previous experience with the person in mediation, or saw that the mediation was around a genealogical debate that was above my skills.

The mediator will ask the mentor and the person in mediation for their input but after that usually completes the mediation on their own, though they can ask for advice from peers.

Sorry for the delay, I was away for the weekend and just getting back to G2G. Herbert, I received notification of your reply (thank Julie for reposting it) and I wanted to go ahead and reply myself even though a few answers have already been provided:

Thanks Steve, but I am a bit confused. Are you saying that a Mentor is never requested by one member for another? Or that members request a Mediator for themselves? 

A Mentor may be requested for another member via a Mentor Intervention Request (MIR); however, a specific Mentor cannot be requested (e.g., please assign MentorA to MemberB).

I am not sure I am understanding the question for Mediators, since Mediators are only available within the Conflict Escalation Process; but as I understand the question - No - A member cannot request a specific Mediator be assigned to them in the Conflict Escalation process. (Let me know if this was not the question)

All the same, is it not true that the Mediators group is centrally involved in all conflict escalation cases - receiving MIRs, assigning Mentors (who might also have Mediator badges), receiving and processing Conclusion Reports, processing and sometimes issuing MRFs, etc?

Partially. The Mediators Group does serve as the incoming email group for Mentor Intervention Requests (MIRs), Mediation Request Forms (MRFs), and Conclusion Reports (CRs). However it is important to note that "Mediators" as a group are not responsible for assigning Mentors. In my role as Mediator, I am assigned tasks, I do not help to assign them to others.

This takes place in the Mediators group because ALL Mediators are Leaders and are held to very high privacy standards. Not all Mentors are Leaders, so posting those items to the Mentor group would hinder privacy.

Is it not also true that the Mediators group maintains a private discussion group for the purpose of keeping abreast of cases? 

Sort of, but not really in the manner insinuated. The Mediators email group works as a way to track cases through their Conflict Escalation stages (from initiation to closure). This email group does NOT, however, maintain every aspect of a case (such as Mentor notes). So as a Mediator I can see what stage a case is in, but not the details of the case. So No - we are not "keeping abreast of cases."

Would it be unfair for an ordinary member, not privy to the day-to-day workings, to expect that you would pass your experience as a Mentor on a case on to your fellow Mediator and possibly influence his or her handling of the case? 

From my position as a Mediator, and given the details I have explained above - Yes - it would be unfair. The Mediator examines entire case files, and tries to identify the underlying issue. The information from the Mentor is passed to the Mediator, and the Mediator also requests information from the member who is the subject of the case in order to get their side of the story. This way, the Mediator has access to everything - not just the "experience a Mentor wants to pass on".

Is it completely beyond the bounds of reason that an ordinary WikiTreer might perceive a conflict of interest?

Yes and No.

  1. Yes - because when someone does not understand a process, they may perceive it to be something it is not.
  2. No - A conflict of interest would be the gain of personal benefit from actions or decisions made by someone in their official capacity. In reality, there are no fewer than three (3) people who see a case from MIR through escalation to the Team (in most cases, much more) - all of varying roles - so there can be no conflict of interest to a single party or even a group of people.
Thank you Steve.

8 Answers

+17 votes

Excellent piece, Steve. Thank you for sharing this knowledge.smiley

by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (838k points)
+12 votes
Thank you Steve for posting this it was very explanatory
by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (499k points)
+17 votes
Thank you for posting this.   It is a nice write up of a complicated and not clearly understood WikiTree position.  I have always thought of the Mentors being coaches, educators and people who try to get concensus on things that might be in conflict.  And hopefully are successful in stopping any issues from escalating.  

Thank you for what you do.

Steve can you also clarify what the process is when a Mentor is also a Mediator.   Is that something that impacts the write up at all?  Is it something you make clear to someone so they don't think you are acting as one verses another and if something needs to be moved to a Mediator do we assume it will be a different person?  Because there are a few people who seem to wear multiple hats I wonder if that impacts your write up.   I am really glad you posted it.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (674k points)

Laura, when a case is sent for mediation, a different person from the mentor takes over the mediation.

Sometimes when mediation is successful, the case goes back to the original mentor. It's really decided a case-by-case basis. I have worked with members both before and after their mediation, for instance. 

Thank you Natalie, that is the answer I was hoping to see.  It is good to explan those parts of WikiTree that are not easily understood.  I appreciate you clarifying that part.
+16 votes
Thank you for this excellent description.
by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (421k points)
+13 votes
Steve: Thank you for explaining all of this in such detail.

Thank you to the Mentors for the important work that they do and the kind way in which they do it.
by A. Creighton G2G6 Pilot (651k points)
+10 votes
Thank you, Steve, very well explained.
by David Selman G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+6 votes

Ok, I honestly believe all sides need to take a step back.  Feelings are getting in the way of thinking and that is dangerous.  

Assumptions are being made on both sides and we have I fear lost sight of why this was posted by Steve to begin with.  Steve, I did not communicate with you about this so please forgive me for speaking for you, and if I am wrong please say so.  

In another post a Proposal was made by Herb to amend the escalation process.  Part of that proposal dealt with feelings that surfaced from a prior thread about rules and one about the escalation process that led to the closing of a member account..  

Transparency was a stated issue (I stated it from reading a number of posts)  So, I believe Steve was trying to take off the cloak of secrecy of what Mentors are and do and I applaud him for doing that.  He listened and he reacted in an effort to answer that.  

In one of the prior threads I made the comment that what we are being asked to do is evaluate the process not the people who follow the process.  That is still what I believe we should be doing.  A good process is going to be fair despite personalities of people who use it.  The fact there is this much continued uproar tells me there are some weak points in the process and one of those is lack of understanding of how this process actually works.  

Mentors, Mediators, and Admin see things the rest of us don't.  I know personally a lot of these people and go on record as saying I trust them.  They are good, hard working caring members of WikiTree. But that doesn't mean the process makes that clear.  And that is a weakness in the process.  If the process is making good people look unfair then we need to fix the process.  Don't defend it... it is making you look bad!  See why it is giving that impression.  And there is a a huge number of groups all talking now off of G2G about this and you are not hearing the full input of the members.  And I find that very sad.  

I , like Herb, asked about how people who have dual hats are handling escalation in the process.  Not because I thought it was sinister but because I thought that needed to be made clearer.  It was answered and I felt it was an adequate answer, Herb did still think there were some possible conflicts in that set up. That is ok, part of a great process is all members feeling like they can question the process.  And we don't have to all agree. 

Some of the members who volunteer hours of their time working in the process I think are feeling defensive.  Some of this is coming off as attacking them or what they do.  I also do not think that is the case but I can also understand where those feelings are coming from.   My advice is if you feel attacked or upset by the question, don't respond.  Have someone on your team who is not as emotionally upset answer with the details.  When you deal from truth you deal from strength.  

So I would like to ask everyone to take a big step back and stop and try to see this from the eyes of the person who is upsetting you. Good grief this is a family genealogy site and we really need to work together to solve the perception so we can have the perception align with a reality.  

I hope no one feels like I have yelled at anyone because that is not my intent.  .My intent is to honestly and openly look at the process Eowyn asked us to say if it was fair r not.  

I trust that Eowyn wants an honest answer to the question she asked and really wants to know do we think it is fair?   So let's all agree, Eowyn wants an honest assessment and let's all work together to get one.  Eowyn, if I am wrong about that, please say so.  

Once again let's remember the Honor Code and let's assume both sides are talking from a position of wanting to do what is right for WikiTree.  

Cyber hugs to all of you.  I am not a Mentor or Mediator or Admin.  I have great respect for those who are and for all members of WikiTree.  

by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (674k points)
+5 votes

This is fantastic Steve! Thanks for sharing, and I too will be bookmarking this. smiley

by Kylie Haese G2G6 Mach 7 (75.4k points)
bookmarking...
if you click the light blue + near the top of the page, it will add this post to your "favorites"

then when you look at your own g2g profile (click on your own name here), there's a tab for favorites.

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