The Connected Mentor project happened in two phases. The entire project was participatory involving the input of both youth program practitioners and youth. Their practices are reflected in the final framework.

Phase One: Understanding Mentoring in Informal Spaces

Phase one involved convening a mentoring working group that included researchers, designers, and practitioners with the goals of:

  1. Creating a mentoring framework that places the types of adult-youth relationships present and desired in out-of-school programming
  2. Establishing a shared understanding and language that facilitates communication about adult roles and adult-youth relationships
  3. Collecting and sharing best practices within and across organizations. This included collaborating with a group of youth-serving institutions to garner feedback on the mentoring framework, which would inform the final iteration of the mentoring framework.


Phase Two: Youth Voices

Phase two of this work involved talking with youth to get their opinions about mentoring. We decided to do a focus group project in which we gained youth’s perspectives about their interactions with adults. This consisted of five focus groups at different youth-serving organizations in Chicago with a total of twenty-six youth. We asked them questions about:

  • Positive characteristics of adults that facilitate relationship building with youth
  • Negative characteristics of adults that impede relationship building with youth
  • Environmental characteristics that facilitate relationship building between adults and youth
  • How adults build connections and support youth

After the focus group discussions were transcribed, we read and coded the transcripts to generate themes related to the topics above. Then we shared these themes with nine of the youth who participated in focus groups. These young people attended a workshop in which we shared themes in each of the previous categories to obtain their feedback. Basically, we wanted to know whether we got it right. The youth elaborated on many of the themes and added additional themes to be included.

As a result, much of the content that we include on this website have been informed by youth’s experiences with adults.