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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.