Ignite Mentoring
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles

Overview

Practice focus

The use of promotional and marketing strategies to both recruit mentors and gather support for the program in the local community.

Delivered by

Anglicare Riverina: A non-Government organisation.

http://www.ignitementor.com.au

The information for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by the Senior Coordinator, Youth & Communities at Anglicare.

Service type

This mentoring program for young people was initially developed to be exclusive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. However, as the program has gained momentum it is now available to non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders: 51-75% of program clients were reported as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

The mission of the program is to support the development of strong, happy and connected youth who are actively involved in creating a future they can be proud of.

Location(s)

Wagga Wagga: Regional city within the Riverina region, NSW.

Description

The Ignite Mentoring program is an initiative of the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC), Anglicare and the Wagga Wagga Business network. The program evolved initially from Anglicare's Nginda mentoring program that sought to provide opportunities for cultural leadership to support young Aboriginal men and women who were in contact with the juvenile justice system. This was an identified program with Aboriginal mentors receiving training and supervision via a Youth-at-Risk coordinator. Currently, the Community Justice and Offending Intervention elements of the program operate from the Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre in the Wagga Wagga community. The aim is to recruit and train volunteer mentors who provide individualised support to youth who have no family or supports while incarcerated, and who have been socially excluded from the community. Mentors provide guidance to young people in making effective choices for their future and mentors are provided with training and support through a variety of flexible models.

Mentors for the Community Justice Program undertake 10 x 1-3 hour sessions on a weekly basis over the period of the standard school term, with options to extend into the next school term. A three hour workshop is provided and Working With Children Checks are mandatory. Training and screening processes are designed to allow the program officers to get to know volunteers and ensure that the program recruits mentors with a genuine interest in, and commitment to, young people. Training covers program expectations, effective communication with young people, roles and responsibilities of mentors, and skills in creating relationships that focus on the needs of the young people.

When a mentor and young person have reached the end of their program the formal relationship and commitment concludes. This is marked with a closure meeting of celebration. Some mentors and young people may choose to continue their relationship. However, this is done in consultation with the program supervisors and the young person's caregivers. There is no cost associated with mentoring and all training and Working With Children Checks are covered by IGNITE Mentoring. Petrol vouchers are available to assist with transport costs associated with travel to and from mentoring activities.

Resourcing

Ignite has applied for numerous small grants, although it has not yet attracted funding. However, Ignite is fortunate that it has had the flexibilty of recieving support from both existing programs and from within DEC and Anglicare. In addition, some sponsorship has been provided and in-kind contributions have been received.

Practice

MOST promising aspect

The whole-of-community approach helps to facilitate the provision of specialist / Aboriginal mentors who are strong in their culture. With a combination of mentor recruitment and marketing initiatives, and through productive partneships with young people, parents, community and business, program providers report that the community has come together regardless of cultural background. This offers the impression of a united front to support the troubled young people. The business arm is an innovative way to tap into a pool of mentors and works toward ways to display the hardships that young people are faced with. This ultimately helps to break down stereotypes and provides more positive perceptions from the community towards young people.

Other promising aspects

Program providers highlight the generosity of the community in supporting the program.

Evidence base and opportunities

Mentoring programs are an effective way to help achieve positive outcomes for "at-risk" youth and matching the mentor to the young person is important to the success of this program. Ignite Mentoring works closely with the community not only to recruit culturally appropriate mentors for the program, but to gain support from the wider community to help break down traditional stereotypes of young people, particularly those who are involved in the criminal justice system.

For socially excluded young people with specific needs, Ignite's facilitation approach to include those young people and others in the broader community to have a say in the way the program is delivered, is an effective way to promote community ownership over the program and to enhance their commitment to the program.

By linking targeted recruitment strategies with a whole-of-community marketing approach, Ignite have reportedly enhanced community support for young people involved in the criminal justice system. This may help to provide these young people with pathways to be more involved in the wider community and to establish supportive community connections and thereby reduce their level of social exclusion.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

The program was initially developed exclusively by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Refinements to the program continue to be informed by local Elders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mentees are matched with mentors who are strong in their culture. The delivery of the mentor program is also enhanced by a whole-of-community approach by establishing effective partneships with young people, parents, community and business.

Adaptability

The adpatability of the Ignite Mentoring Program is clearly demonstrated through the expansion of the program's focus from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to other young people who experience some form of social exclusion.

This was achieved by recognising the need to gather support for the program from the local community while taking a marketing approach to recruit appropriate mentors. The Wagga Wagga Business Networx successfully gained sponsorship for Ignite to provide various promotional tools. Throughout 2012 a media campaign was undertaken that utilised print, radio, television and social media. A community information session was then held to build on the momentum of the media campaign and generate further support for Ignite in the community. Information received via evaluations at the sessions indicated those in attendance (including a large proportion of representatives from stakeholder organisations) found the session to be productive and informative. An official launch was held in September with the aim of raising funds for the program and creating community ownership for the program.

Evaluation

Evaluation status

An external evaluation of the program has not been undertaken. However, evaluations were undertaken at the initial community information sessions and a further internal evaluation is underway. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and Elders will be involved in the design and/or conduct of the evaluation. It will assess the effects of the program on participants by pre-test and post-test comparison and written evaluations will be undertaken following client participation in the program.

Effectiveness

Demonstrated outcomes

Program providers report that outcomes have been demonstrated by increased school attendance, achievement of clients' personal goals, improved links to other services and activities and enhanced community perceptions of young people.

Replicability

The initial program was designed by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The program has since been expanded due to the perceived effectiveness of the program in responding to the specific needs of its clients. At some point during the evolution of the program it was found that the approach had the potential to reduce the levels of social exclusion experienced by mentees. As a result, a whole-of-community approach was adopted in recognition of the need to gain the support of the community to break down the negative stereotypes that perpetuate social exclusion.

 

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