The translation of fresh research into innovative program practice and meaningful advocacy is one of the most important aspects of the youth mentoring field — it allows programs to deliver more impactful services to youth and spurs interest and investment by key policymakers, funders, and other stakeholders. New research, and the fresh thinking it provides, is the lifeblood of any strong social movement, and the mentoring movement is no exception.
In a field as diverse as mentoring it can be a challenge to make sense of all the new research that comes out in a given year. Scholars around the world are continually adding to our knowledge about what works for mentors and mentees, the types of outcomes mentoring can foster, and the best ways to apply mentoring to social concerns. Aggregating all this new information into a coherent whole remains a difficult task, as the volume and variety of research can overwhelm even the most connected mentoring professionals.
To address this challenge, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Canada and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) recently hosted the Mentoring Researcher Symposium, which brought together many of the leading mentoring researchers for a two-day examination of the current state of mentoring research and the many paths forward with new research that will support the mentoring field into the future.
The event was held on the campus of the University of Massachusetts – Boston at the university and MENTOR’s Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring, which is led by acclaimed mentoring researcher Jean Rhodes’. The symposium featured a stellar line-up of mentoring and youth development researchers (see below). Over the course of two days, these leading researchers along with MENTOR and BBBS of Canada staff wrestled with questions such as:
- What can we definitively say about what mentoring can achieve and how it can achieve maximum impact for youth (and society as a whole)?
- What gaps remain in our understanding of mentoring relationships and program services?
- What new research might benefit the field moving forward?
- What kind of “evidence” do policymakers and funders need to deepen their investment in mentoring?
We concluded that while these questions have no easy answers, there is a lot we can say about mentoring as a human development strategy. The types of caring adult relationships one finds in mentoring are linked to a wealth of meaningful outcomes at the individual and societal level. But there is still much to be learned about how mentoring can be used to address serious societal issues, how we can maximize the delivery of mentoring relationships to youth in need, and how exactly adults can go from being someone a youth simply knows to that “special person” that provides critical support at just the right moment in life.
BBBS of Canada and MENTOR will use the information from this event to launch new research agendas that will guide each organizations’ research efforts over the next decade. In the case of MENTOR, this new research agenda will cover the most meaningful new research ideas that we anticipate will propel the mentoring field forward. Some of these new research priorities will be addressed directly by MENTOR and others will be pursued by researchers around the globe. This is an important opportunity to develop critical new knowledge about mentoring and mentoring programs. Look for more information about this innovative new research agenda at the 2016 National Mentoring Summit.
Mentoring Researcher Participants
Bernadette Sanchez DePaul University
David DuBois University of Illinois – Chicago
Janis Kupersmidt iRT
Jean Rhodes University of Massachusetts – Boston
Kent Pekel Search Institute
Lindsey Weiler University of Minnesota
Michael Karcher University of Texas – San Antonio
Renee Spencer Boston University
Roger Jarjoura American Institutes for Research
Stella Kanchewa University of Massachusetts – Boston
Tim Cavell University of Arkansas