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Intergenerational Mentoring - A Service Model

The Mentoring Alliance Singapore aims to foster a culture of youth mentoring in Singapore. One of the ways it does this is by providing a standard service model which outlines guidelines and criteria for mentoring practice, while providing flexibility for alliance members to employ their own unique programmes and approaches. Its slogan “Every Youth Empowered Through Mentoring” is reflective of its desire that mentoring will become a natural, and essential, part of life for every youth in Singapore.


Significance of Intergenerational Mentoring

Intergenerational mentoring springs from a motivation to increase interactions between different generations (Tan, 2017; Goy, 2017); and also between young people and the ageing population in Singapore (The Straits Times, 2014) bridging the generational gap (Teo, 2015).

Intergenerational mentoring programmes have been implemented in various countries, creatingopportunities for meaningful engagement of older adults in the holistic support to youths-at-risk (Rogers & Taylor, 1997). These programmes enable older mentors to impart their insights and rich experiences to future generations thus enhancing the social development of the seniors in what Erik Erikson (1950) termed the life stage of generativity (Taylor, 2006).

This life stage refers to a sense of significance felt by seniors contributing to the community in a meaningful way. Simultaneously, for youth mentees, intergenerational mentoring programmes facilitate development in their behavioural, social, emotional and academic domains (DuBois et al., 2011).

Such programmes can have a positive impact on youths since older adult mentors are known to be able to establish genuine close relationships with their youth mentees, and have wide social network connections that provide mentees access to resources and wisdom of the experienced older mentors(Freedman, 1988).


A Collaborative Alliance


Given the potential benefits of intergenerational mentoring, the Mentoring Alliance Singaporeproposed a collaborative programme among participating youth agencies, working together to share resources and best-practices, to carry out a joint pilot project using intergenerational mentoring principles.

Youth mentoring, as a concept and practice, is not new to Singapore. There are quite a number of different mentoring programmes for youths conducted by various youth agencies across Singapore. They often operate independently of each other with limited reporting and publicity of programme outcomes and evaluation.

By initiating a collaborative alliance, relevant and important information about youth mentoring can be shared across the youth sector for better programme planning and execution – and potentially breaking silos. An assurance of a minimum standard of programme quality can also be attained by benchmarking best practices, guidelines and criteria for mentoring.

This rationale, thus, gave rise to the formation of The Mentoring Alliance – a ground-up initiative of eight social service organisations: 4PM, Architects of Life (AOL), Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association (CARE), Lakeside Family Services (LFS), Metropolitan Young Men’s Christian Association Singapore (MYMCA Singapore), Reach Community Services Society (REACH), The Salvation Army Youth Development Centre, and Youth Guidance Outreach Services (YGOS).


Regular sharing and planning meetings are held by these agencies as well as bi-monthly equipping seminars known as Community of Practice or CoP sessions with the following goals:

i. to develop a standardized intergenerational mentoring programme (IMP) framework;

ii. to organise an annual Mentoring Summit; and

iii. to ensure continuous engagement with youth agencies.


Support by the National Youth Council


Uniting under the banner of the Mentoring Alliance, the eight aforementioned agencies pitched a combined proposal to the National Youth Council for programme funding support under the auspices of the National Youth Fund. The proposal was to run the Mentoring Alliance Service Model as a pilot for one year targeting some 240 youths from selected schools and the community.

The proposal was formally approved in August 2019 with the agencies endorsing their acceptance with the National Youth Council respectively. The mentoring programmes then took off in earnest, only to be somewhat disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic which caused the 12-month pilot run to stretch to the end of December 2020.


Components of The Mentoring Alliance Service Model for Intergenerational Mentoring


The Mentoring Alliance envisions a nation in which all youths are loved, cared for and guided through mentoring. Its aim is that every youth has an adult mentor - someone they can turn to when they face challenges at home, in school or in their community. Mentors are trained to help these youth make healthy decisions so that they can be successful and fulfil their potential.

The Intergenerational Mentoring Programme (IMP) connects an older adult (21 to 70 years) with a youth (aged 13 to 21) for a duration of 6 to 12 months. The programme consists of 20 sessions: 10 group sessions and 10 individual sessions.

It adopts Lerner et al.’s (2005) Positive Youth Development framework, which is a strengths-based approach that places emphasis on developing relevant competencies, compassion for others, good character, self-confidence, positive connections with others and the youth’s contribution to society.


The overall goals of the IMP are to:

§ firstly, allow older adult mentors and youth mentees to establish a trusting relationship, accountability and responsibility;

§ provide youths with adult mentors who display care such that they can be assured that they are not alone in facing their challenges; and

§ educate, equip and empower youths with pro-social skills and resilience.


Objectives and Targets


The process objectives for each participating agency were as follows:

a. To maintain a minimum of 30 active mentor-mentee pairs targeting mid-level needs youths in the 6 to 12 months programme duration.

b. For mentors and mentees to attend 70% of the mentoring sessions.

c. For mentors to attend the 4 training sessions and their quarterly mentor support group meetings.

d. For mentors to provide mentees with care, resources and assistance according to mentee’s level of need.


The targets set for the youth mentees were to:

a. indicate reduced risk behaviours (at least 70% of youths)

b. indicate increase in desired youth outcomes: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Contribution and Character (at least 70% of youths)

c. indicate increase in regard for others (at least 70% of youths)

d. transit from being mentees to become mentors (at least 20% of youths)


The objectives for mentors were to:

a. indicate improved self-development by learning befriending, helping and mentoring skills (at least 70% of mentors)

b. transit from mentors to regular volunteerism (at least 70% of mentors)


A set of target clientele and eligibility criteria was also designed for the IMP. The programme serves youth with low to medium needs. Youth who are in state-funded programmes are excluded.



Eligibility Criteria for Mentees


The eligibility criteria are:

i. Youths aged 13 to 21 years old;

ii. Youths with low-level needs with aspirations to do well in school;

iii. Youths with mid-level needs with life circumstances that put them at risk of not performing well in school or not remaining in school;

iv. Youths with minor disciplinary and conduct issues, peer or family relationship issues, social issues, bullying behaviour and anti-social attitudes or behaviour.

The mentoring model adopted by the IMP is shown below in Figure 1. The mentor to mentee ratio is 1:1.



Every youth mentoring agency in the Mentoring Alliance follows a general outline of activities:

a. 10 individual sessions

b. 10 group sessions

c. 1 mid-term group event

d. 1 final-term group event


Within each component, each agency in the Mentoring Alliance is given the autonomy to come up with their own lesson plan.



Mentor Training


Two types of training are provided for the adult mentors. They first undergo a common core training consisting of a 1-day workshop conducted by Mentoring Alliance Singapore on the Positive Youth Development Framework. Following this, they attend four equipping sessions organized by the respective youth agency of Mentoring Alliance. These equipping sessions are tailored specifically to each agency’s unique programme outline.


Stages of training include:

a. Pre-programme mentor training

b. Mid-point mentors training

c. Equipping sessions throughout the mentoring journey

d. Regular briefing and check-ins during the programme


Topics covered in the training include:

§ understanding perspectives of youths;

§ communicating with youths;

§ code of conduct;

§ crisis management;

§ rapport building;

§ facilitation skills;

§ mentors’ roles and responsibilities;

§ positive youth development (PYD) framework;

§ youth mentoring models; and

§ youth theories and working strategies.



Monitoring and Support for Mentors


In terms of monitoring and evaluation, the partnering agencies in the Mentoring Alliance areresponsible for monitoring the effectiveness of all mentoring services, extent of utilisation and reach, data collection and maintenance of statistical records for purpose of service and programme review and planning. They are required to submit updated and accurate data of its core services, and any other data, as required by National Youth Council. The partnering agencies in the Mentoring Alliance also cooperate with relevant agencies for all evaluation and reviews.

Throughout the course of the mentoring programme, mentors are also provided with quarterly support where they can raise any challenges they face and receive advice and encouragements from fellow mentors and the programme coordinator.

In addition, Mentoring Alliance organized regular Community of Practice (CoP) sessions as well as the annual Mentoring Summit to help mentors be updated with best practices and trends in mentoring practice.


Community of Practice (CoP) Sessions

The CoP sessions serve as a useful platform for agencies or organizations to share their best practices, challenges, efforts and achievements in running mentoring programmes. Representatives from the Steering Committee of the Mentoring Alliance provided support and coordination for the CoP sessions. It is hoped that through a consistent and open sharing of expertise and resources, agencies can collectively grow the mentoring movement.


National Mentoring Summit


The Mentoring Summit is an annual event that educates and rallies like-minded individuals and teams to unite in a common focus to make mentoring a thriving and sustainable national movement in Singapore. The goals of the Summit are to acknowledge and monitor the progress of the mentoring movement; ppropagate collaborative effort among agencies, corporates and individuals; ensuree sustainability and propagation of the mentoring movement, and improve competencies to ensure healthy growth of the mentoring networks.

The inaugural Mentoring Summit was held on 25th January 2019 at

Metropolitan YMCA Singapore. Around 220 participants from various youth mentoring agencies, government agencies, and interested corporations attended the Summit. The second edition, held on 31st January 2020 at *Scape, saw some 320 participants attending. Of significance was the launch of the WeConnect digital platform as well as the Asian Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring (ACEBM).



Impact of Initial Pilot Run of the Mentoring Alliance Service Model for Intergenerational Mentoring


Impact Assessment Study by Conjunct Consulting

An Impact Assessment Study by Conjunct Consulting was conducted at the end of 2020 to evaluate the outcomes of the mentoring programmes of the eight agencies participating in the Mentoring Alliance Service Model pilot. A total of 129 mentors and 159 mentees filled in a post-survey. Of the mentors who responded, 57% were female. Incidentally, racial composition of the mentors who participated in the survey was closely reflective of the demographics of Singapore, comprising 76% Chinese, 13% Malay, 8% Indian and 3% other.


Feedback by Mentors


In the post-survey, the mentors were required to rate how the mentoring programmes conducted by the agencies affected their personal development based on the 4 Cs: Competence, Confidence, Connection and Contribution. The results of the survey are reflected in Figure 2 below.



Figure 2: The Impact of Mentoring Programmes on the Mentors in the Areas of the 4Cs.


The highest score in the survey comprise the area of ‘Connection’ which was rated 84.3% by the mentors. The mentors reported that they cared about their relationship with the mentees and enjoyed supporting them. One mentor gave the following feedback, “I gained a better understanding of the interests and concerns of the youth.”. Both ‘Competence’ and ‘Contribution’ scored the second highest in the survey, at a percentile of 82.4%. Regarding ‘Competence’, some mentors reported that resolving conflicts posed a difficulty for them, even after the training and advice they received. The mentors were less positive in their rating on the increase in knowledge and skills in the areas of ‘Dealing with Conflicts’ and ‘Leadership’. In comparison, they were more positive in their rating concerning ‘Communication’ and ‘Providing Feedback’. The responses of the mentors in this post-survey are significant in showing the areas of training that need to be intensified. It is crucial to examine the causes of the conflicts and equip mentors with the relevant conflict resolution skills. As the mentors rated their ‘Communication’ and ‘Providing Feedback’ quite highly, they can be trained to see how such communication skills can be harnessed in their conflict resolution. In addition, mentors need to be more conversant in identifying the areas of growth in leadership as they mentor the youth. As they recognise their development in the specific skills relating to mentoring, their confidence in mentoring will increase, and the retention of mentors in the programmes will subsequently increase.


In the area of ‘Contribution’, the mentors who participated in the survey felt that they were able to contribute to the growth of their mentees by giving guidance and direction to them. The areas of ‘Contribution’ that they rated highly were ‘listening effectively and acknowledging the message’ and ‘being sensitive to their mentees’ feelings and thoughts’. Mentors reported lower scores in the areas of helping their mentees ‘overcome challenges and ‘develop strategies to reach set desired goals’. Concerning this area, it is important to note that the activities that the mentors could engage in with the students were limited to those that the schools had approved. It could be deduced from the results of this survey that the mentors felt they had contributed significantly to the socio-emotional needs of the youth. However, it is important to investigate the reasons why they felt they were constrained in helping the youth overcome challenges and develop strategies to achieve their desired goals, apart from the reason of being confined to school-approved goals. The reasons could vary from their feeling of needing training in identifying challenges and obstacles that youth face in obtaining their goals and helping them to overcome these. In other words, mentors may need training in other disciplines apart from mentoring, such as academic work, skills and perspectives that youth have, in order to be able to advise and guide youth effectively to achieve their goals.


In addition, the overall rating on the 4Cs was higher for mentors with previous experience compared to those without prior experience. The difference between these two groups of mentors were more evident in the areas of ‘Competence’, ‘Connection’ and ‘Contribution’, compared to ‘Confidence’. This can be shown in figure 3 below. Experienced mentors took a shorter time to connect with their mentees compared with inexperienced mentors, though the latter group was able to connect with their mentees after a few sessions.



Figure 3


When asked if they would be keen to continue mentoring after the IMP, 75% indicated they would choose to rejoin the programme. In the interview with the mentors, some confessed they would like to continue, while some indicated they would like to continue in other programmes that work with children. One mentor was quoted as saying, “I enjoyed watching my youth grow throughout the past months and would like to inspire and advocate more youth in the future.”

The overall results of the survey showed that small group size was more ideal for effective for the mentors to resolve conflicts confidentially and connect with the mentees. The mentors also gave the feedback that it was very helpful for them to have debrief with supervisors after individual or group sessions and this causes them to gain confidence to help the mentees. The major benefits that the mentors gained from the IMP are: they can evaluate their own qualities and abilities; they learn to be strong in difficult situations; they are thankful for having a family and home; they learn to be kind and not judge others and they felt that learning works both ways, that youth learn from them, as much as they learn from the youth. The interview responses show that empathy was an important learning outcome that mentors experienced throughout their journey in IMP.


Impact of IMP on the Mentees

A total of 159 mentees from the different agencies in Mentoring Alliance each filled out a self-assessment survey before and after the IMP. Those who were 14 years old and above formed the majority of the participants, namely, 71.7%. Another 8.2% of the mentees were aged 13 and below. Figure 4 below shows the gender, racial and age make-up of the mentees who participated in the self-assessment survey.


Figure 4


For 64% of the mentees, it was their first experience of being mentored in the IMP programme. The mentees rated themselves as having had a positive impact from the mentoring programme. Their rating on the self-assessment questionnaire increased significantly in the post programme survey compared to the pre programme survey.

The impact of the mentoring programme experienced by the mentees varies by their mentoring experience. The mentees with no previous mentoring experiences gave themselves a lower overall rating compared with those with previous experience though they rated the impact higher than those with mentoring experience. The difference between the rating of these two groups of mentees is reflected in figure 5 below.


Figure 5


The impact experienced by the mentees also varies according to their demographic characteristics. The younger mentees (12 years old and below) and the oldest ones (15 to 17 years old) reported the highest increase in all the 6Cs put together. In addition, the impact on the lives of the boys appears to be greater than the girls, with the boys reporting a higher overall increase on the self-assessment. The mentees with a Malay background also reported a slight decrease in their overall score in the self-assessment survey. However, they rated themselves fairly high before the programme started compared to the Chinese mentees or those from multiple backgrounds, who reported an increase in overall score.

Figure 6 below shows their rating in the pre and post programme surveys. The improvement in their character was rated the highest, namely, 85% in the pre survey and 86% in the post survey, followed by ‘Caring’ which is 84% in the pre survey and 85% in the post survey. ‘Competence’ was rated the lowest, at 74% in the pre survey and 81% in the post survey. Although competence was rated the lowest in the survey, it was the quality that was underwent the highest increase when comparing the pre-survey with the post-survey. The mentees reported improvements in their management of their emotions and ability in explaining their decisions. The mentees expressed that they received helpful emotional support from the mentors in the planned activities in the programme and their personal issues. Overall, they confessed they had a positive relationship with the mentees. One mentee confessed, “Whenever I am having a bad time and cannot share with anyone, I share it with my mentor which gives me much comfort”. The different volunteering and leadership activities conducted during the mentoring sessions also contributed to an increase in the rating in ‘Competence’ in the post survey. One mentee explained this in the interview, “We played leadership roles in different programme activities. During the Cambodia trip, I was the education leader to ensure the lessons taught to the children were smooth. I took leadership in planning the trip too”. Some of the agencies arranged projects where the mentees helped children in an orphanage in Cambodia and disadvantaged families in Singapore. The mentees who had the opportunity to contribute in these activities revealed that they gained in leadership skills, patience, communication skills and confidence in public speaking as they had to take on responsibilities and play leadership roles in different aspects of these activities. One mentee concluded that through such activities, “I’ve gotten to know and understand myself better”. While the relationship between the mentors and mentees is positive, the results of the mentees’ survey correlates with the responses from the mentors that competence in mentoring is the area that needs further strengthening.


The impact of the IMP on the confidence of the mentees was rated as the second highest learning outcome in the post survey. The only area they reported they have made no improvement on was ‘perfectionism’ which had a high score in the pre-survey. Most of the mentees confessed they would like to become mentors in the future which indicated a significant increase in their confidence.


The category of ‘Connection’ in the survey refers to ‘room to grow in ‘feeling connected to the community’. The mentees reported no change in this area though in the interviews, they indicated they were better connected with their community after the mentoring programme though the average score they gave themselves for feeling connected with their community is rather low after the programme. This is reflected in the words of a mentee, “I feel more accepted and safer with the help of my mentor”.


The category of ‘Contribution’ refers to improvement in ‘actively participating in efforts to help the community’. The mentees reported no significant increase in their contribution to the community although before the programme started, they had rated themselves relatively high on how much “they enjoy to make a positive difference in others’ lives”. They reported a slight increase in how they actively participate in efforts to improve the community. An improvement in their empathy for those around them was expressed by a mentee, “I cannot imagine how much sometimes I hurt my mum whenever I had a bad day. My mum was always there for me. After the programme, I realized what I have done. Now every single day I hug my mum several times and tell her I am always there for her. It makes me feel good. I love my mum.”.

Interestingly, the impact of the mentoring programme was lowest for the categories of ‘Caring’ and ‘Character’. However, during the pilot study of this programme, the level of ‘Caring’ and ‘Character’ was reported highly by the mentees. The mentees care about and want to help others. They had an awareness of their actions and consequences, even without intervention from the mentoring programme. As one mentee confessed, “I’ve gotten to know and understand myself better” while another mentee expressed, “I learned to be more compassionate to those in need. I value the people around me more”.


Overall, the mentees experienced a positive impact from the mentoring programme. The mentees’ major takeaways from IMP were: They gained more confidence; were more optimistic; became more aware about their own qualities and limitations; began to appreciate and not judge others; could better cope with changes without controlling others and were more organised.


Recommendations

The Impact Report showed overall positive outcomes of the IMP. This provides an optimistic premise for the continuation of the IMP. There are various lessons that can be drawn from this initial stage of the IMP and the impact study on it. The following are the recommendations for taking the IMP forward:

1. In the initial stage of the IMP, Covid-19 hit Singapore. In accordance with Covid-19 safety measures, the Mentoring Alliance Singapore had to prepare the mentors to transit from offline to online engagement. Subsequently, it was a challenge for the mentors to keep in touch with the mentees, particularly during the Circuit Breaker. Conducting group sessions was also very challenging at this time due to lack of resources. In addition, youth from low-income families lack digital resources like mobile phones and internet data that were needed for communication between mentors and mentees in this period. Therefore, the rapport and progress in the relationship between the mentors and mentees that developed before the Circuit Breaker were interrupted and more time had to be devoted to bring everyone back on track. As we need to be prepared for eventual crisis in the future, digital mentoring will become an indispensable and valuable means of conducting mentoring programs. It is recommended that mentors and mentees be trained in the digital mentoring apps which have been developed prior to and during the Covid-19 period. Programme managers and administrators should also be trained in the use of digital mentoring tools so that they can support and assist mentors and mentees in the digital mentoring process. This is particularly so for more senior mentors who may be less digitally savvy compared to younger ones.


2. Some of the programmes conducted by the agencies in this impact study involved larger groups. This may have affected the confidence of the mentors adversely. It is recommended that agencies conduct smaller group sessions before moving unto larger groups to enable mentors more time to gain confidence and skills in managing group activities as well as mentor their mentees in these activities. In addition, the training of mentors could include skills in managing group activities. In addition, the need to recruit a large number of mentees added significant burden and operational challenges. For more effective participation by and impact on the mentees, it is recommended that the programme provides flexibility in recruiting the number of mentees. This will help the agencies to recruit the desired age group and profile of mentees more effectively, as well as enable the mentors to connect with their mentees and conduct their sessions with more confidence.

3. The recruitment and selection of mentees include the youth-at-risk as well as those who did not fit into this category. Consequently, it is important to provide the mentors who mentor youth-at-risk with the training on the basic therapy skills that address the needs of the youth. In addition, it is important to communicate these different groups of mentees to the mentors and provide them with relevant information on the differences in mentoring both groups of youth. The more experienced mentors, particularly those with experience working with youth-at-risk could then be matched with the youth-at-risk. Furthermore, it is important that the different agencies discuss and align their criteria for the selection of youth-at-risk to facilitate the planning of appropriate mentoring activities for them.


4. There needs to be discussion about the different types of activities that different agencies plan to organise for the mentoring programme. The recruitment activities that were organized to encourage mentee participation for this round of IMP might have set up different expectations of programme objectives among the mentees. Therefore, it is important for the agencies to communicate how they are planning their activities to align with the programme objectives among themselves first, then communicate these with their mentees. Given this alignment of activities to a common set of objectives, it will then facilitate the benchmarks to measure the impact of the overall programme.


5. The impact study should encompass all the learning outcomes of the programme. In the survey for this impact study, the quality of ‘Caring’ was not included and should be included in future impact study. The survey conducted on the mentors should also include a pre programme, in addition to the post programme questionnaire. This will provide a more meaningful insights on the impact on the mentors.


6. Allow mentors to have ad-hoc interaction with mentees. Beyond the planned activities, the programme can consider allowing mentors to have ad-hoc interaction with their mentees under certain circumstances, and upon consultation and approval from the school. This will help mentors to increase their opportune time with the mentees, thus increasing their contribution.


7. Finally, it is important for the agencies to share learning outcomes and good practices with one another. Different agencies have their uniqueness in delivering their activities although Mentoring Alliance has a common approach for all the agencies to follow. In addition, the impact study measure a consistent and similar set of benchmarks across all agencies. In addition to having a systematic and standardised approach of mentoring, it is suggested that the agencies meet to learn from one another’s distinctiveness and adopt the best practices.



REFERENCES

DuBois, D. L., Portillo, N., Rhodes, J. E., Silverthorn, N., & Valentine, J. C. (2011).

How effective are mentoring programs for youth? A systematic assessment of the evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12(2), 57-91.


Erikson, E.H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.


Freedman, M. (1988). Partners in Growth: Elder Mentors and At-Risk Youth. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.


Goy, P. (2017, March 27). Inter-generational programme launched to spur interaction between children and the elderly. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/inter-generational-programme-launchedto-spur-interaction-between-children-and


Kotwani, M. (2017, September 26). Back to School documentary pairs seniors and students to assess benefits of intergenerational friendships. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/back-to-school-documentary pairsseniors-and-students-to-assess-9252348


Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., Almerigi, J., Theokas, C., Phelps, E., Gestsdottir, S., Naudeau, S., Jelicic, H., Alberts, A. E., Ma, L., Smith, L. M., Bobek, D. L., Richman-Raphael, D., Simpson, I., Christiansen, E. D., & von Eye, A. (2005). Positive youth development, participation in community youth development programs, and community contributions of fifth grade adolescents: Findings from the first wave of the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. Journal of Early Adolescence, 25(1), 17-71.


Lou, V. W., & Dai, A. A. (2017). A Review of Nonfamilial Intergenerational Programs on Changing Age Stereotypes and Well-Being in East Asia. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 15(2), 143-158.

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