Building a mentoring program to enable mutual learning with BMW

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An ever growing number of companies are looking for ways to connect to innovators and incorporate entrepreneurial thinking, aware of the rippling benefits of such collaboration. In 2018, BMW had bigger ambitions: the company wanted to develop its own entrepreneurship support and mentoring program

If you should know anything about Bridge for Billions, it’s that our overarching goal is to democratize entrepreneurship. We want anyone who has an idea for a business, especially those with a positive social impact, to have the opportunity to make their business come to life — no matter where in the world they may be from. And it’s with that singular vision in mind that we seek out partnerships with organizations that can help us reach a broader audience of people who can benefit from our platform. 

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Along with Ashoka Germany, BMW set out to create a mentoring program for global change makers that would leverage the skills and expertise of top BMW employees to have an impact. The goals of the program were to give social entrepreneurs from the global ChangemakerXchange community a chance to get quality mentorship, to allow both mentors and entrepreneurs to develop new innovation skills and a more agile mindset, and to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

However, the costs for global reaching, in-person entrepreneurship programs add up quickly due to the dispersed network of people involved, event and transportation costs, and all of the required planning.

At the same time, BMW was facing other questions: What core methodology would the participants follow? How would they make sure their employees were trained for the task and had the right tools to be the best mentors possible? How would they coordinate meaningful collaboration across many countries?

Building a mentoring program from scratch

When it came to creating a program that guides employees to become mentors, BMW knew that we had all of the right tools already in place. Our entrepreneurship mentoring process fit perfectly with busy schedules and the easy-to-use online platform eliminated physical constraints and time limitations for this international group. That’s how the first edition of BMW’s program in partnership with ChangemakerXchange took place between November 2018 and January 2019. 

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For 3 months, 10 BMW employees volunteered to mentor 10 entrepreneurs from around the world whose projects ranged from providing mental health aid in India to reducing waste in Japan. Not only did the teams of mentor-entrepreneur got all of our remote collaboration benefits like a shared online workspace, the ability to leave comments on the business tools, and a private video room, but we organized specialized calls for the mentors and entrepreneurs with tailored content for each. 

We ran an initial mentors training call for the BMW mentors, weekly group check-ins throughout the 3 months, and a closing session, all of which allowed the BMW employees to get to know new coworkers of theirs from around the world. Thanks to reverse mentoring, BMW employees were able to further develop their leadership and management abilities and take pride in their work by giving back in a meaningful way.

Mentors stated that with the guidance of Bridge for Billions, they gained more confidence in their work and took pride in the company they work for while learning how to become more flexible and open-minded. Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs were able to develop a business plan and new skills that they could use to improve their business idea. Thanks to the volunteer mentors, they developed the confidence and structure needed to move their ventures forward.” Julie Murat, program manager at Bridge for Billions

Bridge for Billions should be the backbone of any mentoring program. Without the well-structured platform and its guiding role, the program would not have been a success! What differs Bridge from any other program is the human aspect; the support received from Bridge staff throughout the program was outstanding and influenced the overall satisfaction highly positive.
— Jonas Nipkow, BMW-CXC, Program Admin

Like BMW, you’re looking to build or grow your own program for open innovation, employee engagement or entrepreneurship impact?