Mentorship has long been a central practice of radical and non-hierarchical left pedagogy. The goal for “the students to become teachers” invokes an ethos of education as an open-ended, developmental process. For nearly fifty years, the Institute for Social Ecology has thrived through mentoring relationships that nurture and support radical, independent scholarship. Murray Bookchin was an autodidact (a self-taught intellectual), but he was also a product of mentoring relationships outside of academia. His deep commitment to this pedagogy appears in his own personal mentorship of many of today’s ISE instructors; individuals who have themselves gone on to mentor emerging movement leaders through study groups, classes, and one-on-one relationships.
Building on this dynamic tradition, the Institute for Social Ecology launched its first formal mentorship program this past spring and summer as a pilot project. After six months of experimentation, we have done some collective and personal evaluation, and are prepared to kick off a second cycle, with a mix of continuing mentees and new participants. We are also hoping to recruit more mentors so we can open it up to more people.
Structured with careful thought and intention, this program nurtures emerging social ecology thinkers, teachers, writers, and organizers as they develop their thinking, writing, public speaking, and activism. We hope that this program will also provide students of the ISE with an opportunity to deepen their involvement with the organization beyond taking courses and attending events: to build long-lasting relationships, produce their own original work, and develop the critical skills of powerful movement intellectuals.
- Each mentee will be paired with a mentor, who will work with them and provide them guidance on their research, writing, organizing project, and/or skill development.
- Mentees who share a mentor constitute a “cohort.” Each cohort meets as a group with their mentor at least once a month for guided group discussions. Cohort members will also hone their skills of providing effective feedback on each other’s writing and public speaking.
- Mentors, mentees, and members of the ISE board will also meet as a whole group once a month to present their work, share ideas and discussions, and receive feedback from the group. These monthly meetings will also allow mentors and mentees to engage in different forms of collective study based on participant interest.
- Mentees will have the option to take part in a writing and/or public speaking workshop offered by Chaia Heller. These will equip them with critical editing skills that will enrich their ability to offer one another effective feedback on each other’s work, as well as skills in organizing and delivering presentations/talks that are central to their work as activists, organizers, educators, and radical scholars.
- The program is run in six-month cycles. After six months, participants may decide to stay with their same mentor, switch to a different mentor (limited space allowing), or move on from the program. At the end of each cycle, we will conduct a personal and collective evaluation of the program.
Program will be open to all regardless of their ability to pay, but we will have a sliding scale of contributions from participants, from $50-200 per month. As the program develops over time, we will also seek additional funds to better support mentees and mentors.
We will open up our next cycle of the program in May 2024. Space is limited. We will do our best to match mentees and mentors, based on interest, experience level, and sensibility, while also prioritizing participants from marginalized backgrounds. Preference is also given to those who have previously participated in ISE programs, either online classes or summer intensive courses.