Planning - Mentoring
A critical early decision for your group is whether to link in to an existing mentoring program or develop a new program.
There are two ways of delivering a mentoring program in your community:
- Identifying young people (potential mentees) and linking them to an existing or established mentoring program
- Developing your own mentoring program, including recruitment, training and matching.
Existing mentoring programs
Locate existing mentoring programs
Contact the mentoring program of interest to explore its availability and suitability. Each program will have its own requirements and processes.
Consider, for example:
- Is the mentoring program available in your geographic area? If face-to-face delivery is not available, is remote access (e.g. e-mentoring) an option?
- Has the mentoring program been shown to be effective at building positive relationships and reducing and preventing alcohol and other drug harms? What evidence is available to demonstrate this?
- What is the focus of the program? What young people does the program serve?
- Is the mentoring relationship one-to-one, group-based or team?
- Can young people be referred into the program?
- Can community members become mentors? What screening and selection processes are in place?
- Can the program match mentees and mentors from your community in a mentoring relationship?
- What training is offered to mentees and mentors?
- How are mentors/mentees matched?
- What ongoing oversight and support is provided to mentor/mentees?
- What relationship will your group have with the program? Can the program provide materials that can be used in the community to help identify and recruit young people? Is feedback regarding local participants provided? What resourcing is required?
If you and your partners agree that an existing mentoring program is a good fit for your community, it is time to register with the program.
A number of established mentoring programs exist in Australia, including:
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Australia (BBBS). BBBS has been running in Australia for around thirty years. BBBS sets up positive relationships between young people experiencing difficult situations and supportive adults, in order to improve young people’s self-worth and participation at school and in their community.
- Panyappi Mentoring Program. The Panyappi Mentoring Program works with Aboriginal young people to develop culturally appropriate approaches to mentoring programs. The program helps to support positive relationships between young people and schools and family support services, and includes activities such as dance, gym, art and employment training.
- Raise – The Youth Mentoring Foundation. The Raise foundation helps to support young people by offering training and support to both mentor and mentee in a school environment to strengthen relationships and improve the wellbeing of young people at risk.
If the existing mentoring program does not suit your community needs and LDAT objectives, your group could consider developing your own activity.
Developing your own program
Finding ways to engage young people so that they are actively involved in the planning and design of activities is a critical step in community based work. Engaging with young people means that programs delivered to them are appropriate, relevant, supportive and responsive to the needs of young people.1
Engaging young people involves much more than getting them into the program as mentees. It as about enabling young people – the people impacted by your project/s or activities – to voice their ideas and concerns, and to have a meaningful role in decision-making, planning and design of them.
It is important to remember that when we describe ‘young people’ in this resource, we are describing people aged 12 to 30 years of age. This means that those who are 18 to 30 are legal adults themselves but still face many of the same challenges, barriers and issues as those under 18.
Young people are a diverse and dynamic population, and there is no single, one-size-fits-all approach to engaging them.
Some useful tips for engaging with young people include:
- Be genuine: Ensure that you are engaging with young people for the right reasons and at the heart of your engagement is a partnership approach and an adherence to the values and contributions of young people.
- Be meaningful: The content of the consultation should be something that matters to young people, something they can believe in and a process that they can actually influence and see an outcome from.
- Provide young people with skills: Ensuring young people have the skills to undertake the activity or will be trained in the required skills is crucial; otherwise they may feel overwhelmed and disconnected.
- Timing, location and accessibility: To ensure young people participate in the engagement process the location of the (physical) engagement is crucial. While some consultations will work better in school hours, it might also be necessary to undertake the engagement after hours or on the weekend. Ensure that the venue is accessible to young people (e.g. close to public transport, wheelchair accessible).
- Out-of-pocket expenses: If possible, ensure young people are reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses to attend engagement processes. Some young people may have either a low income or no income and may only be able to engage if suitably compensated. Consider offering an honorarium (a small complimentary payment) to participants to cover their expenses.2
Some examples of ways agencies have successfully engaged young people include:
- Training young people to lead consultation sessions with other young people and adults
- Setting up an internet discussion/feedback page and using it to post a survey or ask for feedback or input on a topic or issue
- Including youth representatives on program working groups
- Helping committees of young people to complete their own projects and events, with independent outcomes besides providing ‘advice’ to adults
- Employing and/or developing the skills of young people in specific pieces of work – e.g. re-designing a website, producing artwork and/or videos.
Better Together: A practical guide to effective engagement with young people.
Setting objectives is an important part of the planning process.
Some example objectives for mentoring programs are provided below. Groups can develop their own objectives, although you may find these a useful
Over the next six months, work with (xx number) key partners of the (xx name) community to:
- Increase (xx number) mentors’ knowledge of the harms associated with risky drinking and drug use
- Increase (xx number) mentors’ confidence to engage with young people as mentors
- Through engagement with (xx number) mentors, increase (xx number) mentees’ knowledge of harms associated with risky drinking and drug use
- Through engagement with (xx number) mentors, increase the number of mentees feeling increased levels of self-confidence
- Through engagement with (xx number) mentors, increase the number of mentees experiencing positive social connections in their community.
Working with community partners
Whether you are linking in to an existing mentoring program or developing your own activity, strong partnerships will be critical to your success.
Partners can support the mentoring program in many different ways, including promoting the program, recruiting young people and mentors, providing a venue for training, financial support, and much more.
The focus of the mentoring program (e.g. social emotional wellbeing, individual talents and leadership, youth justice and crime prevention, identity, culture and faith, and/or education, training and employment) will influence the type of individuals, networks and organisations that your group partners with.
Partners may include:
- Youth workers in migration/settlement agencies, alcohol and drug support services, community health agencies and similar groups
- Local libraries, councils and schools
- Youth associations and groups in the area
- Major employers of young people
- Sporting clubs, community arts centres
- Homework clubs and study groups.
Determine resources required
All mentoring programs need to be adequately resourced, and this is particularly valid when developing a new activity.
It is important to ensure that your group has the capacity and resources required to deliver a successful activity. Below is an indicative list of resources required to develop a new mentoring program. Groups that are linking in to existing mentoring programs are encouraged to find out what resources are required for the specific program.
- Program participants, including the availability of suitable mentors
- Basic administrative tools. Access to stationary and office supplies, printers, phones, printing, a workspace for administrative duties.
- Venue for meetings – this may include in-kind use of meeting room from a partner organisation, local library, community halls (your local council will have a list of available places for community use). It is not appropriate for meetings to be held in people’s homes.
- Funds to undertake police checks/working with children checks where necessary
- Knowledge and/or funds to deliver orientation and training of mentors and young people
- Travel costs (in particular if geographic region is large and travel may be involved to attend and facilitate program set up and supports)
- Design and publish promotional material, implement a media campaign to publicise the program.
- Insurance and liability coverage (where appropriate) .
Consider measures of success
While you are planning your activity, it is important to consider measures of success for your activity. Determine how you will evaluate the success of your activity linking your success measures to your objectives (see Measure your success)