Mentors from Diaspora for Aspiring Belarusian Social Entrepreneurs Wanted!

The international team of organisations comprised from the ODB Brussels (Belgian non-profit organisation established by Belarusians living abroad), TNU Network University (the Netherlands), Public Association of Belarusians of the World ‘Homeland, Youth Organisation New Faces and a number of prominent independent consultants want to suggest you cooperation on a very interesting and useful initiative.

Many countries have seen a brain drain in the past decades: highly educated people left the country and are now living elsewhere – but would still like to contribute to the further development of the country where they were born.  This could turn the “brain drain” into a “brain gain”. 

We have started a programme that would help to do just that. We want to support young people in Belarus to start social enterprises, which would offer them attractive careers, while at the same time address social needs. We use a hybrid entrepreneurship programme to do so, which offers a 26 week online component and offline face-to-face meetings in Minsk (or elsewhere in Belarus, depending on where the participants live). This programme will start in November 2016 and mentoring activities in January 2017.

Who we are looking for?

For the online programme, we are looking for mentors among the Belarus diaspora: people who have experience with setting up and running an enterprise who are willing to act as a mentor for a few participants. Belarus has a highly educated population, but comparatively little experience with running independent enterprises. “Social enterprises” that do not aim to accumulate individual wealth, but reinvest an eventual surplus in their operations are a relatively new breed in the country.

Below, you will find a description of the overall project, of which the online programme forms a part. We would warmly welcome you to become one of the mentors who could support our participants online from abroad. Or maybe you could help us find among your network a diaspora mentor?

Social Entrepreneurship Incubator (Description)

What can we suggest?

What would that entail?  We offer a diaspora coach a short (free) online programme on “Online coaching” and then bring you into contact with a number of participants. The participants (and you, of course) will get access to the online entrepreneurship programme of The Network University (TNU), which we are actually translating into Russian and adapting to the specific environment in Belarus. During 26 weeks, participants go through the programme and do an assignment every week. All the assignments are steps that help them to set up their own social enterprise. Your role would be to encourage them, ask critical questions, comment on their progress, and make additional suggestions. Previous experience with social enterprises is not necessary (and hardly exists, anyway). Experience in other countries shows that the coaching activity is a very rewarding experience for both sides.  Long-term personal links, trade connections, and all kinds of cross-border cooperation may result from the interaction.

What we expect from mentors?

We are not able to offer a direct financial remuneration for the contribution of the coach. But we can offer to bear the cost of a visit to Belarus (airfare plus the costs of accommodation for up to five days) after the first 5 months of the course to meet the participants in person. Coaches who have gone through the short online programme and afterwards supported several starting entrepreneurs will themselves get a certificate for their coaching activities. The major reward, however, lies in the interaction itself, in the contribution to the work of young entrepreneurs, and in the additional insight in the opportunities for business in Belarus that is gained from the experience. 

The time involved is about one hour a week during the 26 weeks of the course. Afterwards, it depends a lot on how the interaction with individual participants has evolved and the engagement of the individual coaches.
We hope that you take the role of mentor in consideration. If you think you are not the right person but someone from your network is, please let us know. You may still have a lot of questions. We will be glad to answer them and to provide any further information on the project that you would like to receive.

If you like to participate, you will get access to the short coaching online course. This will also offer an opportunity to get to know each other better, and it will help you to decide whether you want to act as a coach after this introduction.

Please contact Masha Cheriakova at, ODB Brussels consultant on social entrepreneurship and one of the Programme developers and CC Alyona Lis, the programme coordinator, at The applications must be sent not later than 30 September 2016.

The Programme is funded by the EU.

ODB Brussels