Supporting new activists

Activists are at the heart of our union and of our ability to organise and represent members. It is vital to recruit new activists and reps and offer them all the support they need.

What support is available?

Support, including training, is available at both national and regional level, but the key to supporting new activists is through the personal touch at branch level – in other words, mentoring.


Sometimes a mentor is seen as someone very experienced whose role is to teach a new person the ropes.

Others see a mentor as someone who is skilled in asking questions, listening, and encouraging the person they’re mentoring to work things out for themselves.

In UNISON, something between the two will usually work best.

In your branch

Some branches may want to train several more experienced activists to act as mentors for new reps over a set timescale of a few months.

For other branches, this role is already carried out effectively by the branch secretary or education co-ordinator.

In any case, though, the key roles for a mentor or buddy will be to:

  • talk to the rep about their training or other development needs;
  • direct them to key people in the branch;
  • encourage new reps to work out solutions to issues as they arise;
  • help them find ways to follow up actions from courses and put their learning into practice.