Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"These Relationships Really Matter" - review of mentoring research

Below is a podcast interview with mentoring researchers David DuBois and Carla Herrera, who reached out to youth from the 1990s Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS) research by Public/Private Venture and tried to determine long-term impact. Below the podcast are some of my own thoughts on this.

In the early part of the podcast David DuBois talks about the lack of long-term research, and ties this to the lack of consistent, long-term funding of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.  This is what I've been focusing on for past 25 years.  The rest of the podcasts describes efforts to find the 1200+ youth who were part of the 1990's study, and to try to determine how/if participation in this mentoring affected future work, education, justice system involvement, etc. It was a huge effort that resulted in survey responses from about 300.  Rather than me trying to provide a summary, I encourage you to listen.

All programs need same resources

While the research done by P/PV focused on the BBBS program, I've been building a database of all organizations in the Chicago region who include volunteer based tutor and/or mentor involvement as a core part of their strategy. Then I've tried to increase the frequency of media stories, and social media mentions, of all of these programs, with the goal of drawing needed resources though my database and directly to programs.

This is part of a 4-part strategy developed in 1993 and still followed in 2018.

I still don't find many who do this. While the use of map-based directories is growing, most of this is intended to "help people find programs" and not to help build an understanding of service levels and program distribution, or to help improve the flow of needed resources directly to all of those programs, not just BBBS or other high profile programs.

As you listen to this podcast, I encourage you to visit this 2007 article that I posted on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum and follow the link to a Public/Private Ventures brief, titled Mentoring, Policy and Politics, written by Gary Walker, president of P/PV.

I wrote "In the report, Walker concedes that the BBBS results research are limited. “Though the impact findings are real and impressive, in fact they apply only to the 18 months after mentoring began … thus “we have no scientific evidence that mentoring turns lives around.”

He also shares that it’s not the most at-risk youth who are likely to be in traditional BBBS type mentoring programs. He writes, “Mentoring’s strengths, based on experience and data, are generally in the 8-through 13-year age range, and concentrated on 9-11-year olds.” As Walker states “They are youth with responsible parents or teachers who want to connect them with mentors”, not the youth who are most in need of mentors and more extensive adult support."

In the podcast DuBois talks the duration of matches in the original research about how the length of mentoring matches has increased in the past decade. Since this lack of long-term research, or on-going funding of programs, has been an issue since the mid 2000s, why have we not yet convinced donors and government funders to provide more consistent funding to programs in more places?

In the concluding minutes positive results from the follow up research were discussed and Herrera tells how the survey responses of many show that "these relationships really matter".

Computer Lab at
Cabrini Connections
I've receive similar feedback often from alumni of the tutor/mentor programs I led between 1975 and 2011. Here's a 2013 comment from one alum.

I joined Cabrini Connections in 1999 and was recently reminded of the positive impact that it had on me. It profoundly impacted my relational abilities.

I recall Cabrini Connections being a third place for me; it was my home away from home. The staff were beyond friendly; they took an interest in your life. My tutor exemplified this value as well. His name is Larry.

Larry volunteered after work hours to help me with my homework. This was his only official commitment. However, he excelled beyond that and taught me more about life. A short list includes challenging me to strive for higher goals, do things economically, and instilling confidence in me. Now, I am am event supervisor and do volunteer work with a church. I have to talk with people routinely and I have the confidence and drive to excel in this. In part, because Larry believed in me when I was a teenager.

Larry and I still talk from time to time despite that he now lives in Costa Rica. We Skype and chat on facebook. He still supports and challenges me occasionally like the friend he has become. Thank you Larry.

My path since 1990s.

While I was closely connected to the National Mentoring Partnership in the mid-1990s I've never been an affiliate, or a part of their research process, partly due to my own lack of resources over the past 25 years and partly due to a broader focus on "mentoring as part of a larger strategy" and narrower focus on site-based non-school organizations that provide volunteer based tutoring/mentoring and a variety of learning and enrichment support to k-12 kids living in high poverty areas.

Different types of mentoring
Yet I regularly share ideas with David and other researchers via the listserve David has hosted since the mid 2000s (partially based on a Yahoo Tutor/Mentor ER Group (Evaluation and Research) that I launched around 2004 after David participated in one of the Tutor/Mentor Conferences I hosted in Chicago.

One recommendation is that an effort be made to inventory all of the different programs operating to classify them by who is being served (age group, economic level, social/emotional need, workplace etc) and by type of strategy (community based, school based, non-school site based, informal, etc.)

Chicago Hospitals
T/MC map
Then, plot this on maps that show layers of information, such as this map created by Tutor/Mentor Connection in late 2000s. It shows Chicago boundaries and expressways as the bottom layer, then shows poverty and poorly performing schools as the next. Then it shows locations of existing non-school tutor/mentor programs, from the survey we had done since 1994. Finally, it also shows assets, who could be helping programs in different parts of the city grow. In this map hospitals are shown.  The goal is that each hospital create a research and planning team that builds a map like this for a 2-3 mile circle of neighborhoods surrounding the hospital.

We put our directory in an on-line search page in 2004 and launched an interactive map directory, with these layers, in 2009. Unfortunately, the financial crisis of late 2000s cause us to lose financial support to continue updating this, and ultimately led to my need to create the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011. I've not been able to update the Program Locator since 2013.

So far, I don't find others duplicating the 4-part strategy, or the program locator, in Chicago or other cities.  Nor has anyone with wealth, doing research, leading a hospital or business, or university,  read my blog articles and sent an invitation saying "let's meet" or offered to become a benefactor to support this work.

I share ideas and strategies and point to my list of Chicago programs on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site. I encourage all to spend some time browsing the site and try to put the ideas to work in Chicago, or in other areas.   I'd be delighted to become a consultant within your process.

There's a link on the page to my FUND ME campaign and another to my 72nd Birthday appeal. If you value the ideas I'm sharing I'd appreciate your support.

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