Growing Insights and Innovations: A Research Agenda for the Modern Youth Mentoring Movement


Growing Insights and Innovations: A Research Agenda for the Modern Youth Mentoring Movement

2 years ago 2 years ago Published by
This report was published by MENTOR.


One of the simple truths about mentoring young people is that it’s a complex activity, one that brings a wide variety of individuals together, often during moments of hardship or transition, to create something new, unique, and personally meaningful. Like all human relationships, mentoring relationships require not just initial connection, but also care and maintenance over time and a set of conditions that allow them to thrive and work toward a common purpose. Although the concept of mentoring is as old as civilization itself (and certainly embedded into the culture and ways of knowing of many communities), one of the defining features of the modern youth mentoring movement is the use of scientific research to better understand and scale these complex relationships — what makes them work, how they support individuals’ development, and how we can create even more of these relationships than the world we inhabit might produce naturally. From the seminal research of organizations such as Public/Private Ventures almost 30 years ago to the advanced meta-analytic studies of today, mentoring research has allowed us to examine — and in many cases improve — the availability, quality, and impact of mentoring relationships for young people across America.

Because of this investment in research, we now have a wealth of evidence that these relationships —both through dedicated mentoring programs and those occurring naturally in communities — can contribute positively to just about every aspect of a young person’s development and life journey. Crucially, this research has also highlighted key practices for mentoring that occurs in programs and helped guide a generation of adult volunteers how to step up more effectively in support of young people. We know more about the science, and art, of mentoring than ever before.

But as the mentoring movement has matured, so have the questions we ask of it. Our field is rapidly evolving to question old modes of thinking and embrace new ideas, to center youth voices and align this work with efforts to address long-standing American problems and inequities. There is always more to learn.

This Research Agenda highlights four key areas for future mentoring research that MENTOR believes will help strengthen the mentoring movement over the next decade. These calls to action were developed in collaboration with a working group of leading researchers, practitioners, and thought-leaders and this document reflects their consensus on what is most critical to study in the years ahead so that the power of mentoring relationships can benefit even more young people.

MENTOR. (2021). Growing Insights and Innovations: A Research Agenda for the Modern Youth Mentoring Movement.

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