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.
Some group mentoring programs try to place siblings and friends with different mentors, to allow them the space to grow and develop in new relationships.
After you’ve selected your participants, you can begin the process of matching mentors with mentees. Consider the difference between matching individuals in a one-on-one mentoring relationship versus a group mentoring relationship. As Sherk (2006) asserts: “staff will need to match peers-to-peers (in deciding the make-up of each group), mentor-to-mentor (if there are two or more mentors in each group), and mentors to specific groups of mentees.” Matching within groups requires additional consideration as to how each participant will relate and engage with the others.
In any mentoring program, matching program participants should be intentional. It is important that mentees are visiting with the same mentor each visit as it is the consistent positive relationships that makes the difference, fosters resilience and empowers young people.
When selecting your participants:
The Meet & Greet Process
This approach involves input from the mentors and the mentees and gathers everyone initially in a large group orientation to observe potential matches:
“Mentors should be instructed beforehand (i.e. at the start of the Orientation) to make note of with which children they meet and seem to feel a natural connection. Mentees will only be told to try to remember the names of the adults they meet. Program staff will make notes throughout the Orientation about the interactions and natural pairings that occur as well; but the program staff will pay most attention to those children who do least well because of being overly shy or active, aggressive, or demanding—as these are the least likely to be selected by mentors.”
- Michael Karcher (2007)
There are many different processes for matching participants in a Girls Group Mentoring Program. Two common approaches are highlighted below:
“In long-term, relationship-based (developmental) mentoring programs the importance of intentional matching procedures cannot be underestimated. Building the foundation for lasting, quality mentoring relationships begins with effective matching.”
- Oregon Mentors (2014)
Staff facilitate activities and expose the girls to each of the mentors during a large group session. Staff take note of how the girls and mentors interact, as well as how the girls relate with one another. Upon leaving, girls are asked ‘who stood out to them?’ and staff record this. Mentors are presented with similar questions like ‘who did you best bond with?’ Staff will make the matches based on the feedback from both parties. The matched groups begin meetings in the following weeks.
“The mentors-mentees were given small activities to do in the beginning and staff would monitor who worked well together. As well, the mentors and mentees themselves were asked who they worked well with. This gave us an opportunity to let them create meaningful relationships based on their own experience.”
- North York Community House
Developmental matching is typically staged over a series of sessions. Girls and mentors all take part in large group activities for several weeks. Staff create space for the girls to get to know one another and observe which natural relationships are developing. After three or four large group activities over a series of weeks, staff break them up into ‘trial’ matched small mentoring groups based on the natural relationships formed. Girls are not informed that these are trials, rather they are informally tested out in case they do not work as hoped for. They ‘trial’ these matches for two to three weeks before announcing the formal match. This allows time to make changes as needed since sometimes it takes several weeks before conflict arises or issues form between mentees or with the mentor.
“We chose to match the mentor and mentees through introducing the mentors to the girls in the regular girls group programming and observing who was bonding and connecting with whom. This allowed us to see if any connections were forming naturally. Along with this we also asked the mentors what skills, talents, or hobbies they may have and compared this to hobbies and interests the girls stated they had when starting in the girls program.”
- Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc. (2013)
Remember to consider the girls’ compatibility with the mentor and with the other girls in the mentoring group. In order to manage group dynamics, it is important to balance out different behaviours, temperament and attitudes. Some programs have found it helpful to break up good friends to avoid cliques and to encourage new relationships to form. It is also important to know which girls are in the same class/school, who is entering as friends and where conflict currently exists between the girls at school or in their community. Facilitating diverse groups can also be strategically done so girls can learn from one another’s perspectives—such as consciously matching girls of different cultures, sexualities, life experience, community, countries of origins, etc.
Additionally, when using co-mentors, it is important to be mindful of who you are matching. In addition to the above listed points, consider their goals for the program, leadership and personality type. The bond and positive relationship they forge will set the tone for the group dynamic.
The process you choose for matching participants will depend on your program goals, the resources available, and your program participants.
The energy spent recruiting, screening, selecting, and matching mentors and mentees will lead to a stronger, healthier and safer program for all your participants. When developing these program pieces it is helpful to: