Measuring Our Success and Proving Our Impact with The National Mentoring Partnership

Here at BCM, we recognize that to warrant continued investment from communities and supporters we must continually prove our model of youth development is successful. In a resource thin and competitive environment, relevance is key. To be sure, we must strive for increased cultural relevance in the communities we serve, constantly build trust, and challenge ourselves to have difficult conversations about power, privilege, justice, equity, and inclusion. But we also must look at our program analytically. We must be humble in seeking outside support for the best evidence and innovations to achieve positive life outcomes for our students.

To advance our work and ensure ever-impactful programming, BCM has embarked on a multi-year organizational review and quality improvement campaign in collaboration with MENTOR the National Mentoring Partnership. Mentoring works best when steps are taken to ensure program practices meet quality standards that are safe and effective. Titled the National Quality Mentoring System (NQMS), the initiative has created recognized standards and procedures for the operation of high-quality mentoring programs based on evidence and requires participating organization adopt a process for continuous quality improvement.

At the end of the day, the NQMS provides a meaningful indicator of quality for youth mentoring programs and lends credibility to Big City Mountaineers’ programs. It will help families, students, and youth agencies feel confident about participating in the BCM program knowing that we meet national quality standards. In a crowded field it will also help BCM stand out to prospective mentors, funders, community leaders, and policymakers that we are a safe and effective mentoring program.

The standards are based on MENTOR’s Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTMguidelines. They are a collection of research-informed practices for youth mentoring programs. It promotes overall program quality and strong mentoring relationships by recommending evidence-based Standards with Benchmarks that programs can implement in delivering services, as well as many enhancements that can additionally promote strong outcomes. It also offers recommendations on program management, leadership, evaluation, and core principles and values for youth mentoring organizations.

In our initial self-assessment BCM was “In Practice” with 77 percent of the standards. After working with MENTOR to understand our gaps and make improvements relative to programming protocols and policies, we achieved 92 percent of the standards. We have earned our first badge but we’re not done yet. Again, part of the NQMS process is that we commit to continuous improvement. MENTOR has developed a work plan for us which outlines how we can achieve improved program practices going forward.

Our goal in working with the NQMS is to enable our entire organization to better understand our current strengths and weaknesses so we can improve program practices, operations, and management. The NQMS provides much needed technical support for us to make these improvements as well so we can bring improved training and capacity building to the organization to help addresses gaps or embark on new innovations. In the end, we want BCM to achieve positive outcomes for our students and evidence shows that quality mentoring practices are a determining factor in helping organizations realize this goal. NQMS helps us do better by our kids.