New research on how to systematically improve mentoring programs through the implementation of evidence-based best practices

Lachance, L., Watson, C., Blais, D., Ungar, M., Healey, G., Salaffie, M., Sundar, P., Kelly, L., Lagace, M. C. (2019). Strengthening child and youth programs: A look at inter-organizational mentoring strategies. Evaluation and Program Planning, 76, 1-9.

Summarized by Karina DeAndrade

Notes of Interest: The purpose of this study was to examine an effort by an organization called Wisom2Action, a knowledge mobilization network, seeking to improve the use of evidence and evaluation tools in mentoring and other youth-serving programs. This research highlights five important aspects of successful mentoring that should be shared with youth-serving non-profit programs: 1) the importance of relationships; 2) understanding context; 3) mentoring not managing; 4) adaptive and responsive work plans, and 5) staying connected. These results emphasize the importance of providing research findings and evaluative ability to community programs as these are essential to improving their efficacy.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Community-based non-profit organizations rarely have access to research or evaluation evidence to inform their programs and often lack the capacity to gather or use this information independently. In 2016, Wisdom2Action—a network of knowledge mobilization (KMb) experts, policy makers and service providers across Canada—launched an inter-organizational mentorship program to facilitate the implementation and sharing of best and promising practices within community-based programs for young people. This article outlines the findings from a developmental evaluation of eight mentoring relationships. Drawing on the Promoting Action on Research in Health Sciences (PARiHS) model of KMb, we look at mentoring as a type of facilitation that supports the increased use of evidence and evaluation information by non-profit organizations and identify key themes that support effective organizational mentorship in this sector. Findings reinforce the importance of establishing connected relationships and understanding context in mentoring relationships, creating adaptive and responsive work plans, ensuring consistent communication, and maintaining a focus on capacity-building if knowledge mobilization is to occur.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Collaborative relationships are key to successful mentorship projects. The Wisdom2Action philosophy, by valuing the knowledge and expertise of all stakeholders, helped to foster and ensure the development of relationships that are particularly supportive and respectful. Both at the conceptualization stages of the mentoring relationship and throughout the mentorship process, the development and maintenance of strong interpersonal relationships between individuals is important in inter-organizational mentorship programs.

It seemed that the greatest challenge for the mentors was the difficulty of maintaining a focus on capacity building while under pressure to achieve specific organizational deliverables. Mentees reported that mentors in this program maintained a high level of professionalism and responsiveness, and this may have helped avoid the trap of “doing’ rather than facilitating. This appeared to support capacity building and sustainability. Due to the ongoing contextual challenges facing youth serving organizations, the work planning process is important, and Wisdom2Action should consider adding in planned check-ins each quarter to assess if any work plans changes are needed.

The evaluation interviews identified several themes that reinforce this mentorship program as being an effective model of facilitation in KMb. To strengthen future facilitation projects, programs should emphasize the importance of building personal relationships; understand the context of the community, organization, and individuals within it; focus on mentoring not managing; ensure ongoing communication; and anticipate adaptive and responsive work plans


To access this article, click here.