Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit

This Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit provides the tools, resources and support to create, implement, deliver and evaluate a quality group mentoring program for girls, ages 9-13, in your community. The Toolkit is intended to be used in a range of communities, and can be adapted to the unique values, needs, strengths and challenges that each community encompasses.

Assessment of Strengths, Needs & Collaborations

Gaining Support from Your Organization

We have experienced a paradigm shift in delivering this pilot. We’ve gone from programs that are full and intent on keeping kids busy to a program that is designed to empower girls. This is a big change for our organization.

- Girls Group Mentoring Program Staff

Launching a girls group mentoring program can present many opportunities within your organization, but it can also trigger some disruption. For many organizations, starting a girls group mentoring program marked a shift in programming from a less structured and less gendered approach to a very intentional, long-term and continuous program designed for a very specific set of youth in the community. Whenever major change is afoot, it is normal to expect some resistance or pushback as change typically presents both opportunities and potential risks. Rather than seeing this as a roadblock, we would encourage groups to embrace this as a valuable opportunity for mutual learning, discussion, shared planning and goal setting within your organization.

While this process will look very different from one organization to the next, there are some suggestions from the field that can guide program leaders to navigate some broader discussions when developing a girls group mentoring program:

  • Gather the facts: Having current statistics and information to support your proposed program approach can help to demonstrate its value and proposed outcomes. The introduction to this toolkit includes a wealth of current research that supports the value of girls group mentoring. You can also draw on Public Health Agency of Canada or Statistics Canada research to build the case for why your community needs this program. Use research that is current and specific to the neighbourhoods you will be serving. You might also link this program approach to future funding opportunities as a way of monetizing the potential value of the work.
  • Start out small: Adjusting your approach to programming can mark a major shift within an organization and making a long-term commitment to something new and uncharted might feel uncomfortable for your team. If you are being met with resistance, you could propose starting the program on a smaller scale, perhaps with only one or two matched groups, and then incrementally scaling up the program after the first few months.
  • Make connections: Connect the program you are proposing to the broader vision and mission of the organization. Find ways that the girls group mentoring program will address a gap, fit within a continuum or support and complement other programs within your organization’s portfolio of work. This will help it to be seen as a new and complementary piece to the stable and existing big picture of your organization.
  • Establish a working group: By including different organizational stakeholders and external partners in the early decision-making stages, you can help your team to create a foundation for success that incorporates the perspectives of different affected groups. Involving both your senior team and trusted partners in this process can help build comfort and credibility.
  • Emphasize value and impact: Every new endeavour can create some uncertainty and involve potential risks but with that comes an extraordinary capacity for value and impact within your community. Be sure to frame this opportunity as a means of addressing a real need within the community and an existing gap within programming. Consider consulting with community members, prospective mentors and girls to identify this impact. See My Program Population for ideas on how to achieve this.

The Boys & Girls Club of Hamilton has a longstanding history of providing effective programming to the youth in their community in a co-ed space. They received a granting opportunity from the Canadian Women’s Foundation to run a girls-only program and quickly learned the value of this gender-specific approach. Girls were more actively participating in sports, speaking up more and their overall engagement was stronger in the safe space created. The learning that the Boys & Girls Club of Hamilton gained in their program allowed them to influence other program approaches and for different age groups. The organization as a whole shifted their thinking around gender-specific programming and furthermore shared their learning with other clubs across Canada. By testing out the approach, evaluating its impact and sharing the results, they gained the support of their organization and influenced a transformational shift in programming.

While this process can feel daunting and require a great deal of discussion and negotiation upfront, the rewards are great and will be well worth the challenge. Many organizations have celebrated the impact of their girls group mentoring programs and continue to see their organizations evolve and adapt to have more inclusive programming with more structured and long-term impacts.

Key Take-Aways

Your program will be stronger if you consider the strengths, needs, and possible collaborations that exist within your organization or group, your community and your wider city/town/region. This section should have provided information to support you to:

  • Determine your strengths and assets and why they are important
  • Recognize your organizational needs and how you can fulfill them
  • Assess how your program can fill gaps in services at the organizational, community and local/regional level
  • Consider working with others to ensure the success of the program. When working with partners, think about ways you can involve them in the program to strengthen their commitment and engagement
  • Take the time to prepare information, arrange conversations and build the case for the value and impact that your organization will have when developing a girls group mentoring program

Contact: mentoringgirls(at)canadianwomen.org