Mentoring for Disadvantaged Young People

Innovate Communities, established in 2015, is dedicated to collaborating with local communities to address real-world issues. The Inspire Mentoring program, targeting socioeconomically disadvantaged youth, offers free online mentoring. This case study delves into the independent evaluation commissioned by Innovate Communities, conducted by Interactions Research.

The evaluation employed a comprehensive three-part plan:
• Literature Review: A thorough examination of programme activities, progress reports, and academic literature identified key indicators for successful mentoring.
• Qualitative Interviews: Online focus groups with mentors and mentees explored perceptions of success and refined the identified indicators.
• Survey Methodology: A survey gauging personal growth was sent to programme participants past and present, as well as students who dropped out of the programme.

Findings:
Success Indicators from Literature Review: High-quality mentoring relies on clear expectations, proper onboarding, empathetic mentors, and a safe space. Successful mentor-mentee pairings often share values and interests. The matching process, training, goal-setting, regular feedback, and support structures are crucial for success.
Qualitative Research with Mentors: Mentors play a vital role in providing professional and social network access. They act as role models, offering career advice and guidance. Imposter phenomenon and resilience were identified as challenges, but mentors helped build resilience and employability skills.
Qualitative Research with Mentees: Mentees reported positive impacts on academic success, goal-setting, resilience, employability, and social capital. Mentors assisted in navigating challenges, broadening horizons, and addressing imposter thoughts. Suggestions for improvement included a wider mentor variety and more interaction opportunities with other mentees.
Quantitative Research with Mentees: Mentees exhibited significant improvement across all domains, demonstrating more positive self-perceptions and increased aspirations. Those who completed the programme had a more positive self-image, especially in social capital and employability than those who dropped out.

Our recommendations:
• Collaborate with more organizations for diverse mentors. Some mentees dropped out due to a lack of suitable mentors, emphasizing the need for a wider mentor pool.
• Strengthen partnerships with educational institutions for deeper engagement.
• Target specific groups such as Travellers, mature students, and further education graduates to align with government policy.
• Enhance the online platform for better user experience and to reach a broader audience.

Future considerations:
• Technological Advancements: Keep pace with technological developments (AI, VR, AR, gamification) for an engaging mentoring experience.
• Peer-to-Peer Mentoring: Facilitate interaction among programme participants to create a supportive community of learners.
• Mobile Accessibility: Develop an app version for on-the-go engagement.

Read the full report here: Inspire-Mentoring-Final-Report_Dec23.pdf (inspirementoring.ie)

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