Ireland Calling: Engaging the diaspora through professional development mentoring

By Colman Lydon, Executive Director, IEMP

There are scores of great Irish business and professional networks scattered across the globe. Some are run by volunteers, some have abundant financial resources. Some are connected to other networks, some stand alone. Some include Irish people, separated by generations from Ireland, others have a member base dominated by Irish-born people. They all share one common trait. They explicitly exist in support of fostering business opportunities, both locally and internationally, among members of the Irish diaspora.

The global expansion of the Irish Executive Mentoring Program (IEMP) was announced at the recent Irish International Business Network’s Annual Global Conference in New York, by the Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan. The program is designed to match knowledge with need in structured 1:1 mentoring partnerships, among members of the global Irish business community. This voluntary program has been available in New York since 2012. It became clear that the program was relevant everywhere, so it has been opened up to the global Irish community, with the help of the Irish government’s Emigrant Support Grant.

IEMP-HEROThe newly expanded program is built for purpose and scale, leveraging data and technology to make great mentor matches and manage the program, with no immediate limits to the size of the participant population. In fact, the larger and more diverse the population, the better the results.

There are a number of qualitative and quantitative measures, including engagement, progress towards goals, satisfaction with match, willingness to renew and refer others, etc. However, the fundamental measure of success is in the number and diversity of participants. Ultimately, it is the experience of the mentor and protégé that is the greatest indicator of success. A great program experience will result in a bigger program, a more successful program.

If Ireland is to excel on a global level in the decades to come, stakeholders are duty-bound to foster purposeful engagement with an increasingly fragmented and dislocated diaspora. It demonstrates great foresight, on the part of the government, to inaugurate Jimmy Deenihan as the nation’s first Minister for Diaspora Affairs. It is yet another example of how, in diaspora affairs, Ireland endeavors to lead globally, by starting locally. The IEMP is designed to complement the Irish government’s recently announced diaspora policy review.

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