Mentor groups can coalesce for a variety of reasons. Groups might support a vulnerable population, such as children, survivors, or the elderly. Other mentor groups might gather for professional reasons, such as career planning, creative engagement, or developing personal skills that could become job assets. An overall goal of the group though, whatever its stated purpose, should be fun, enjoyable interaction. Playful activities can help people get to know each other, creating even stronger possibilities for positive mentoring.
When groups first get together, people might feel awkward or intimidated about sharing confidences with strangers. Icebreakers can help group members introduce themselves and start sharing in a low-stakes, welcoming environment. One silly group icebreaker is to give each individual a small piece of paper with the name of an animal written on it – dog, cat, rooster and cow make simple choices. Then have everyone walk around the room making their animal sound. All the “cows” will locate each other by hearing a “moo” sound; all the "cats" will locate each other by hearing a “meow” sound. Once people are in their animal groups, they can introduce themselves.
Groups need to have an environment of trust for successful mentorship. To start building trust among members, give everyone a piece of paper and an envelope, and ask them to write down a secret they’ve never shared with anyone. Each person then folds up her secret, places it inside the envelope, seals it and writes her name on the envelope. The group leader collects the envelopes and playfully pretends to open one, but doesn't actually do so. He returns each unopened envelope to its original owner. This activity enables group members to experience the feeling of letting go of their secrets without sharing them. Afterward, the leader can guide members in a discussion about what it felt like to surrender their envelope to the group.
Group members can practice expressing their thoughts and opinions with fun sentence frames. Leaders can use the same frame and ask each group member to complete the sentence, or each group member could have a different sentence frame. Examples might include, “If I had $50, I would…” or “The funniest thing I ever saw was…” or “My dream vacation is to…” The frameworks can be lighthearted, funny, or thought provoking. Either way, group members get the chance to share their ideas in a structured but enjoyable way.
Photo Scavenger Hunt
As a group, brainstorm different goals and dreams that members have. Examples might include buying a home, taking a trip to Hawaii, saving $1,000, buying a new car, or learning to speak French. Use this list as the basis for a digital scavenger hunt, where partners go online and try to find an image that represents each dream. Alternatively, people can step outside with their smartphones or a Polaroid camera to snap images representing those dreams. The team that completes the scavenger hunt checklist first wins. If there is time, teams can share the different images they found and the person who named that specific dream can pick his favorite image.