Civil service Mentor Match site to close

Users express sadness at loss of digital platform for forging relationships

Mentor Match, a digital platform to help civil servants forge mentoring relationships, it is to close on 6 February.

The site, which launched in summer 2016, is run and funded voluntarily by its four founders, civil servants Andrew Wilkinson, Andrew Whitten, Alys Cooke, and Bryony Taylor. The platform uses an algorithm to analyse factors including users’ skills and experience, and suggest matches between people interested in mentoring or being mentored. 

In its two and a half years in operation, it has attracted more than 7,000 users, a number of whom expressed to PublicTechnology their disappointment at the closure of what is seen as a valuable and effective tool. One Twitter user, who had mentored several people with whom he had connected via the site, described it as “really sad news”, while another said they were “gutted” to hear of Mentor Match’s impending closure.

PublicTechnology understands that, as the number of users has grown, the hosting costs have become prohibitive for what is a registered charity, reliant on funding from its founders. The platform has also suffered connectivity issues in recent months.

It is also understood that the team that run Mentor Match have, in the last few months, sought to find a home for the site within government. After some discussion, the Cabinet Office declined to pursue the possibility of adopting the platform into its Civil Service HR function.

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The central Whitehall agency will, instead, launch its own mentoring offering at some point, as part of the Learning Platform for Government programme being rolled out by Civil Service Learning (CSL). In the meantime, it is understood that CSL will maintain an offline list of civil servants interested in mentoring opportunities.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Many government departments and professions in the civil service already provide specific mentoring support. We plan to provide further mentoring opportunities via Civil Service Learning in the future.”

In an email seen by PublicTechnology, Mentor Match told users that it found itself facing “a choice between closure or continuing to run the platform with a steadily deteriorating user experience”.  

“Closing Mentor Match has been a very, very difficult decision both from a personal and professional standpoint, and not one that has been taken lightly,” it added. 

No new matches will be made by the site and, once it is closed, all accounts and user data will be permanently deleted. Users wishing to maintain conversations held via the site are advised to move them onto other communications platforms. Mentors can also sign up for CSL’s offline list here.

When Mentor Match launched in 2016, it quickly attracted a large number of users, as well as supportive public statements from a range of high-profile officials – including then cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, who encouraged civil servants to sign up.

“Despite its end, Mentor Match has highlighted some of the most positive, generous and supportive characteristics of our fantastic civil service,” the email to users said. “Four people came together to improve something, but most of all to learn and build their skills. Running the Civil Service Live spot mentoring section for three years, [we] met hundreds of people, frustrated by their inability to reach out easily and quickly for a mentor, and for whom Mentor Match has brought about a profound change in their career and awareness of what the civil service can offer them. We are so proud of this.”

It added: “We are immensely grateful for the support we have found in the 7,000 users and from senior SCS across the service who have helped us over the entire journey and also more recently. We know mentoring is incredibly important, we really do believe in it, and… we are confident the mentoring revolution will continue gathering steam without us.”

Sam Trendall

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