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News — 13 April, 2021

Mentoring a Community Through a Microgrant Application

As part of the most recent call for Facebook Community Impact Microgrant applications, HOT tried a new mentorship approach to supporting OpenStreetMap (OSM) community members through the application process.

Since 2017, 221 communities and individuals have applied to HOT’s microgrant program and 66 of them have received the award. With each open call, the applications received have varied in strength.

Between 1 January and 31 January 2021, communities who signed up to the program were paired with mentors who would help with project identification and development and guidance on budget creation and project plan articulation. OSM communities and mentors were paired based on skills, experience, location, expertise, and interests.

By providing guidance during the ‘idea development’ phase, the mentorship program’s goal was to enable communities to submit more developed proposals with clearly defined project objectives and detailed, realistic work plans and budgets.

Overall, the project was a success. All of the participants (both mentees and mentors) said they would take part in the program again. All of the mentees would encourage communities to apply for a microgrant to participate in the program, and all of the mentors would recommend participation in the program to their peers.

We requested feedback from the participants to understand the program’s strengths and identify areas of improvement if the program is to be iterated on in the future.

Feedback from the mentees

Usefulness of the mentorship:

  • 91% of mentees found the microgrant mentorship program very useful, and 9% were neutral.

  • Most of the OSM communities met with their mentors for an hour, once a week over four weeks. Some OSM communities were not able to meet as regularly due to challenges such as internet connectivity.

  • One OSM community found that communication with their mentors via email was very helpful.

  • All of the OSM communities feel that they were provided with appropriate feedback and useful suggestions for proposal improvement.

The mentees outlined their key learnings gained during the program:


  • A new understanding of how to approach challenges faced by my community

  • How to align community goals with the funding organization’s goals

  • Technical solutions to challenges faced in communities

  • How to engage with partnering organizations, and why it’s important

  • How to involve community members in project planning

Grant writing:

  • Improved grant writing skills

  • Clear articulation of project goals

  • Concisely answering question with objective answers

  • How to write a competitive proposal

  • Gaining a reviewer’s perspective

  • That a strong application should have a proven data user

  • How to back up claims in the proposal with evidence

Project planning:

  • How to produce a project plan

  • How to prioritize project activities

  • The value of additional perspectives on project planning

  • Proposal planning and its importance

  • “The plan drives you, so make a nice plan!”

Project management:

  • New skills in time management, project timeline, and work plan

  • New skills in project management


  • How to produce a project budget

  • How to use the funds effectively, and how to communicate this in budget

  • The importance of budgets in project planning

OSM Wiki:

  • How to upload my proposal onto OSM Wiki

  • How to use OSM Wiki as a resource

Overall, feedback on the mentors was very positive:

  • “The mentorship pushed us to critically think about the problem that we’re trying to solve and how best to curate a convincing proposal. The feedback was very constructive, and this really helped and motivated us to finish the application.”

  • “Our mentor was very knowledgeable and gave great insight in how we developed the proposal. With the direction from my mentor I was able to put the pieces in place, and to fill in the missing pieces as well.”

  • “I will use the information learned in several applications that I plan to submit in the future, including applications for [a] Masters degree in the Fall of this year.”

  • “I trust and believe that this initiative will greatly improve the quality of applications that HOT receives from different microgrant programs. I am truly grateful for being given the chance to be mentored under this program; it surely helped.”

  • “We’re super appreciative of this kind of support. It’s a great way to make sure we develop a good proposal that’s in line with what we want to accomplish.”*

Feedback from mentors:

Every mentor who was able to take part in the program found it personally and professionally beneficial. Benefits included developing mentorship skills, an understanding of the internal (and nuanced!) mechanisms of OSM communities, insights into local humanitarian work, a better understanding of how to write proposals themselves, and the difference between guiding/directing and mentoring.

Mentors identified the development and/or improvement of skills in listening, leadership, feedback, communications, and strategy.

From the feedback provided by the participants, and an internal review, there are several areas in which we feel that the program can be improved:

  • At the project onset, both mentees and mentors were briefed and provided with resources to support their participation in the program. The benefit of this was that expectations were managed on each side, and it provided a baseline from which both parties could understand more about the objectives of the Facebook Community Impact Microgrants. In future programs, we will share the resources more publicly so that all communities benefit from the resources.

  • Communities expressed the difficulties experienced by smaller groups getting the exposure they want within the OSM ecosystem and that the mentorship program helped them develop their ideas. Rather than an opt-in approach, we might plan an outreach strategy that more actively encourages participation in the mentorship program,

  • It should be made more transparent that involvement with a mentor does not mean that an application will be favored during the project selection phase. It should also be more transparent that the mentors have zero involvement in the award selection process. This will be made more explicit in future programs.

  • Example budgets and work plans have been requested. We will provide this in future iterations of the program.

  • The length of the mentorship was only 28 days, which resulted in some OSM communities only meeting with their mentor once or twice. The program period will be increased if the program is replicated.

  • In future iterations, there will be more instruction/suggestions for mentees on how to frame what they want from mentors to enable optimization of support.

Overall, the mentorship program was a great success, and we look forward to facilitating future iterations. We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part and who provided feedback.