Building a Mentoring Scheme for Members in Discourse

At College Confidential, a forum for students applying to college, we set up an essay feedback process. To summarize our process:

  1. Students must join a group for mentees. This gives them access to a private category for essay proposal topics. (I don’t think this step is strictly necessary for the general case, but we want the essay proposals to be somewhat protected from search engines and casual viewers. A public category without a group would be simpler. Still, having a mentee group allows for titles and flair, which is helpful.)
  2. Essay reviewers apply to join a group for mentors. They must explain their credentials and we have a moderator who evaluates them based on experience on the forum and their outside credentials.
  3. Mentors get access the category for proposals and another private category for mentors. The mentor category is helpful for them to compare notes and for the community team to give advice without making private conversations broadly public.
  4. Mentees write proposals (essay topics in our case) in the appropriate category. Mentors get notified of new proposals and may claim one if they have the time and inclination. When a proposal is accepted, the title is modified to include :white_check_mark:. That way everyone knows the proposal has been taken.
  5. The mentor contacts their mentee via private message and the relationship begins.
  6. We have some limits on the number of essays a student can send to avoid abuse of the system. We also survey participants from time to time to make sure the program is working. We don’t see most of what happens because it’s in PMs.

We purposely made the system lightweight because we wanted to have room to fix problems. The main thing we added based on feedback was the checkmark system. We considered the Solved plugin, which would serve a similar function without requiring an edit. The trouble is we don’t want mentees selecting mentors, but the other way around. Sounds like your plan is the other way around, which makes Solved a better choice, I expect.

I think this process checks all your boxes if you are ok with private message being the way mentors and mentees communicate.