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.
Your program should be tailored to your own community, needs, goals and resources. Below is a list of considerations and questions to help you define what your program is going to look like on the ground. The Meeting Logistics Checklist can help you organize your planning.
From the outset, it is crucial to determine when girls can join and how many can be involved in the program. Take the time to reflect on the following:
Both have benefits and drawbacks. An open group allows you to accept new members throughout the year, giving you the ability to grow your program past your initial start date and beyond your original scope. If you choose to operate an open group, you will need to consider the process for introducing new participants, the effect that has on current participants, and how you can best support the mentoring relationships to grow and flourish when participants begin at different times. A closed group allows for one mentoring group to build close relationships because of the consistency of the group.
The number of participants may depend on the scope of your program, the resources available, the space you have access to, the size of your community, the mentor/mentee ratio chosen and many other variables.
A critical factor you must determine is how long and how frequently you will run your program. Be mindful of the following considerations:
Some programs run their girls’ group mentoring program every week for one hour, or every week for two hours. Others run it for two hours every two weeks. Visit frequency will depend on the availability of your meeting space, your participants, your program staff and other variables.
Ongoing communication allows girls to build trust with their mentor and fosters the dynamics of the group. Some programs in rural locations, or those with limited access to space, use technology for ongoing communication between meetings. For example, this has included weekly emails between mentors and mentees or a closed Facebook page, both carefully monitored by program staff.
Some programs allow an extra half hour either before or after the mentees have arrived or departed to prepare and debrief with mentors. This is an excellent opportunity to provide extra support and monitoring for mentors.
Generally, research on mentoring suggests that the longer the mentoring relationship, the more effective it is. Grossman & Rhodes (2002) found that “youth who were in matches that lasted more than 12 months reported signiﬁcant increases in their self-worth, perceived social acceptance, perceived scholastic competence, parental relationship quality, school value, and decreases in both drug and alcohol use.” Girls group mentoring programs should strive for a minimum of a one-year relationship. This allows girls to forge stronger relationships that result in greater impact.
It is common for girls group mentoring programs to work alongside the school and subsequently run the course of a school year. If you choose to run a program for the school year, considerations can be taken to facilitate meetings and ongoing relationship-building throughout the summer months. While the summer can present scheduling conflicts due to vacation and camps, some programs have opted to include large group gatherings such as picnics or outings or use technology to bridge the communication when physical distance presents itself.
For many programs, gathering girls and mentors regularly throughout the summer months can be difficult. One program decided they would fuse a regular pen pal exchange with monthly summer gatherings. Girls and their matched mentors continue to participate on their closed Facebook group every week to stay connected. In addition, all of the mentors and all of the girls in the program are invited to take part in monthly summer gatherings. These events included a picnic, a scavenger hunt and a campout in the community. Everyone was invited to attend and participate as a large group. This way, girls did not feel left out if their mentor was not available and mentors could provide support and company for girls outside of their matched groups.
Thinking about your unique program population and participants, consider the following questions about your mentoring program sessions:
Consideration should be given to transportation, community schedules, space availability and parental schedules. Some possibilities include directly after school or during the lunch hour.
This will largely depend on the mentors you wish to engage in your program. If you are working with students, school schedules must be considered; if you’re working with adults, their other commitments will be a factor.
Time should be allocated for meetings outside of the matched mentoring group meetings. These often work best when attached to the meetings and when hosted in the same space.
The possibilities are endless! See the Planning Activities subsection below for considerations.
Will you create a schedule in advance with planned topics and activities, or will you determine this as you go? Some programs decide to schedule planned topics and activities in advance so that mentors know what topics will be discussed each week. Other programs determine activities and topics week to week, often based on issues that came up in the previous week’s meeting and discussion. Flexibility can allow for programs to be more girl-directed and create space for their voice to shape the mentoring experience. It can also allow for increased leadership opportunities for the mentors to have an active role in planning.
See Planning Activities for ideas and considerations.
Preparing materials can be done by staff or mentors, or a combination of both.
Who does the preparation will depend on a number of factors, including the staff time allotted to support the mentoring groups, the experience of the mentors and whether one of the goals of the program is to build leadership skills of the mentors.
This will depend on your program population, the time and duration of your program and the resources available. Food is particularly important if running a program over a meal time or after school. Ensuring the girls are well fed will allow for better engagement throughout the session, particularly in communities where food access is an issue.
To locate space and plan sessions that will accommodate the schedules and safety needs of the girls in your community, be sure to consider:
How will you make your program site safe and accessible?
Ensuring that your program site is safe and accessible is of critical importance when developing a girls group mentoring program. See the Safe Spaces section below for further instruction on creating safe spaces.
Does your organization/group have an appropriate space? Does a school, university, college, community centre or youth-serving organization have a space that you can utilize?
Is the meeting place big enough for the number of girls in the group? Is it safe? Does it allow for privacy?
How will participants get to and from the program? Can you hire a bus or a taxi? Are you able to drive them? Will their parents be in charge of transportation? Will they walk? What liability issues will you encounter with any of these options?