K•A•C Academy and Mentor Scheme
Our Scholars are making a real difference to the lives of smokers all around the world. We have a similar ambition to make a difference to them. That’s why we invest so much into their development from the first day they start the THRSP. Here are some of the key features we have developed that make our Programme unique and so successful.
For our Scholars to get the most out of their projects, we know it is crucial they begin with a baseline level of knowledge about tobacco harm reduction. That is why we carefully devised an Induction Programme to kickstart their Scholarship. For the first two years of the Programme, every Scholar was invited to attend the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw so we chose to run the inductions there. This allowed us to point individual Scholars to those aspects of the conference which were most relevant to their projects.
It also provided them with the opportunity to:
- meet their peers;
- have a one-to-one session with the Programme Manager;
- network with experts in the field,
- meet their agreed Mentor, where possible (see section on the Mentor Scheme below).
The Induction Programme itself was delivered by experts in the field, including Professor Gerry Stimson and Jessica Harding, both of K•A•C, Clive Bates, Karl Lund, and Charles Gardner, formerly from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, now Executive Director of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO).
A short video of the first Induction Programme can be found at https://thrsp.net/
The K•A•C Academy – A Response to COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the early months of 2020, it became clear that the face-to-face Induction Programme enjoyed by the first two cohorts of Scholars would not be possible. It was therefore necessary for us to quickly design an online platform to deliver this part of the Programme for our third cohort. As with many unanticipated problems, we arrived at an innovative product which not only provided Scholars with an induction, but was also a much more interactive and in-depth resource. Rather than merely filming the experts’ presentations and holding Q&A sessions, we developed a multimedia approach to be completed over a longer period of time. We also designed a bespoke new website, The K•A•C Academy. This platform is open only to Scholars, K•A•C personnel and Mentors, and it now offers various features and functions that go beyond our original provision.
The Induction Programme is divided into three streams. One focuses on the Scholarship process itself, introducing Scholars to each other and providing frameworks for them to start their 12-month projects. The second stream focuses on basic tobacco harm reduction, while the third takes a deeper dive into some of the more complex aspects of the field. Each stream consists of videos and conference presentations, academic articles, news reports and questionnaires, against which Scholars and Mentors could measure their learning and progress.
The website contains a variety of features:
- the Induction Programme itself;
- a noticeboard for news and announcements;
- a feature enabling Scholars to talk to each other to provide mutual support, help and guidance;
- a resource library of key tobacco harm reduction research papers;
- a help desk.
Going forwards, the K•A•C Academy website could be opened up to people who wish to complete the Academy but do not wish to pursue a Scholarship, particularly as the Academy develops and more topics are added. If this happens we would seek to have the Programme accredited.
In 2021, the Academy was reviewed and updated (this will be an annual task). It was also moved to a platform with increased functionality.
2021 also saw the inauguration of a monthly seminar programme featuring prominent voices and experts from within the tobacco harm reduction community. Initial feedback suggests the seminar programme has been a useful and popular addition for Scholars.
In future years, as the pandemic subsides, the Induction Programme will consist of a hybrid format, with the face-to-face elements delivered in the first two years underpinned by the online K•A•C Academy.
Where possible, the Mentor Scheme aims to match each of our Scholars with an acknowledged expert from their area of study. Each Scholar is assigned a Mentor early in their Programme. The role of our Mentors is to help the Scholar to achieve their aims and objectives by providing support and guidance where necessary.
The scheme itself is very flexible to ensure that every Scholar’s needs are best met and that the project is well served. For example, one of our Scholars who undertook a demonstration project supplying safer nicotine products to homeless smokers worked with two Mentors. One was a social scientist who assisted with the more academic aspects of the project. The other was an experienced consumer of safer nicotine products who ensured the equipment used in the project was robust enough to be of use to the homeless population in question. This example illustrates the breadth of knowledge and experience required from our Mentor cohort.
But with such a wide-ranging Programme, it is neither possible nor useful to prescribe exactly how the Mentor process should be approached to meet the diverse needs of our Scholars. The onus is therefore placed on the Scholar to utilise their Mentors as required and this approach has proved successful during the first three years of the Programme.
We currently have 24 Mentors supporting a total of 27 Scholars (not all Mentors are active at any one time). In order to ensure a sustainable workload and maximise support for each individual, we aim to have no more than three Scholars supported by a single Mentor.
There is unanimity among the Scholars who have completed the Programme that their relationships with Mentors have been useful and fruitful. For several Scholars this has been extended to offers of employment when their Scholarships have completed. Some of our Scholars have also gone on to become Mentors themselves.
The THRSP – the next three years
The Kevin Molloy Fellowships
In his role as Head of the THRSP (2018 – 2021), Kevin was instrumental in the establishment of the Programme. At K•A•C, we wanted to celebrate his contribution to the lives of the Scholars he worked with, and to create a legacy for future THRSP participants. With the generous support of our funder, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, we are delighted that, from 2022, the THRSP will be offering up to three career development fellowships in Kevin’s name as a living tribute to our friend and colleague.
The Kevin Molloy Fellowships will last for up to two years. Applications will be open to graduates of our Enhanced Scholarships Programme, ensuring ‘rising stars’ from low and middle-income countries continue developing their careers while building further capacity in the tobacco harm reduction field around the world.
Looking to the future
The Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme is going from strength to strength. The Scholarships Team has adapted creatively to the disruptions of the pandemic. 27 Scholars from 18 countries are taking part in the Programme as part of the 2021/2022 cohort and application numbers continue to increase year-on-year as the word spreads.
To find out more about some of the people who have completed the Programme, visit the Meet Our Scholars section of the site.
Thanks to the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World
When K•A•C devised the concept for the THRSP in 2017, we approached Derek Yach, the former Executive Director of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
What we were proposing had never been done before in our field, which remained in a formative phase. The Programme set out to challenge the status quo. And it was significant in scope and scale. But Derek immediately understood the vision, seeing the potential that the Programme offered to develop a new generation of tobacco harm reduction researchers and communicators, particularly in the low and middle-income countries where the need is greatest. We remain grateful for the ongoing support offered by the Foundation to the Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme and our Scholars and Mentors worldwide.
We were also touched by the Foundation’s immediate and positive response when we wanted to honour Kevin’s memory with the establishment of the Kevin Molloy Fellowships.