Mentoring has been a part of Indigenous culture for generations and is seen as an important part of preserving cultural knowledge and passing on lifeways to younger generations. Mentoring relationships help to build trust between mentors and mentees, strengthen communities, and provide a safe space for learning.
Understand Indigenous Communities and Their Needs
Before embarking on a mentoring program, it’s important to understand the specific needs of Indigenous communities. Be sure to build relationships based on respect and understanding, and work with the community to create programs that meet the unique needs of its members. Consider any cultural sensitivities and be aware of ways in which you can help young people gain greater access to resources, education, and support.
Identify Opportunities for Mentorship Relationships
An important first step in developing a mentoring program is to recognize the opportunities for relationships in communities and identify potential mentors. These could include family, community members, or other professionals who are willing to give of their time and resources. A mentor might also be a trusted elder or someone who has already been successful in achieving goals similar to those of an individual mentee. Mentors can provide connections that help open doors and provide guidance on educational and job opportunities.
Discuss What Makes a Quality Mentoring Relationship
The Foundation for Indigenous Community-based Mentoring offers some advice on what makes a quality mentoring relationship, including respect and honesty between the mentor and mentee, mutual trust, clear expectations and goals, shared responsibility in the relationship, and collaboration with the family or community. Through open dialogue and mutual understanding, mentors can empower their mentees to make their own decisions while also providing them with tools like resilience building and problem solving strategies. By offering advice that is culturally sensitive and appropriate to their individual circumstances, mentors are able to build meaningful relationships that support youth as they transition towards independence.
Establish Guidelines and Parameters of Mentorship Programs
When it comes to mentorship, guidelines and parameters need to be established that are agreed upon by both the mentor and the mentee. Establishing guidelines for your program provide structure for the relationship and help mentor and mentee understand their expected roles and responsibilities. Some important points to consider include the frequency of meetings, a timeline for meeting objectives and goals, communication protocols, confidentiality standards, dispute resolution policies, boundaries on conversations topics, reward systems for positive behaviour, expectations for resources available if needed (e.g. financial assistance), etc. These parameters should also be in line with any cultural or traditional norms that may be applicable within the Indigenous community.
Track Impact and Create Strategies for Continuous Improvement
After setting mentor-mentee guidelines and expectations, it is also important to consistently track impact and make adjustments as needed. It is vital to assess the relevance and efficacy of the program regularly in order to get feedback from mentors and mentees on how the program is working for them. From this data, improvements can be made by identifying areas where changes can be made or additional resources may be beneficial. This will help ensure that the program continues to drive positive change for Indigenous communities.