Calling All Youth & Veteran Climate Leaders! Join the Midwest Mentorship Program

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RE_AMP Community Mentorship Program (Click to Enlarge)

The Will Steger Foundation is expanding our innovative mentorship programming in 2013 with support from the RE-AMP network, connecting youth climate leaders with veteran staff at environmental non-profit organizations across the Midwest. The program fosters an egalitarian learning relationship where both participants are seen as equals and experts in their own right. The goal of the program is to facilitate cross-generational learning and dialog that can provide growth opportunities for both parties and the climate movement as a whole. Matches are based on expertise and desired outcomes, as well as geographic location.

Our 2012 program matches connected emerging leaders and veteran staff from the following organizations:

  • Institute for Local Self Reliance, Minneapolis, MN
  • Grand Aspirations, Minneapolis, MN
  • 1K Friends of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
  • Grand Aspirations, Minneapolis, MN
  • Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Minneapolis, MN
  • Minnesota Youth Environmental Network, Minneapolis, MN
  • Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Minneapolis, MN
  • University of Minnesota Beyond Coal Campaign, Minneapolis, MN
  • Michigan Energy Options, East Lansing, MI
  • Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, Ann Arbor, MI
  • National Wildlife Federation, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Chicago, IL
  • National Wildlife Federation, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Missouri Statewide Student Coalition, St Louis, MO
  • Hennepin County Environmental Services, Minneapolis, MN
  • Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota – Will Steger Foundation, Minneapolis, MN
  • Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Minneapolis, MN
  • Eco Watch – University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

We are looking to match fifteen young climate leaders with fifteen veteran staff across the Midwest, to join the program October 2013 –May 2014, free of cost. Interested in participating? Contact

Why ‘Egalitarian Mentorship’?

Young people have always been at the forefront of social movements. Right now, across the globe and here in the Midwest, youth are on the frontlines of the climate and environmental justice movements exploring new tactics and models to affect change. They are pushing the boundaries and changing the dominant narrative around climate – many emphasizing a focus on people and the economic and social systems in which we live. Many valuable insights have been formed from these young people’s experiences, and youth still have a lot to learn.

Veteran staff bring a wealth of experience to share, from organizing experience, to fundraising strategy, and financial and legal structures. The access to networking opportunities and spheres of influence is a huge asset, and can help open doors to emerging leaders to valuable career development and employment opportunities. On the flip side, veteran staff can run the risk of becoming soloed in their field and in their particular area of expertise/influence, and miss opportunities to innovate and keep their work relevant to a generation of young people coming of age.

By fostering open dialogue and mutual learning between young climate leaders and veteran staff from environmental organizations, we can increase the flow of knowledge, resources, and ideas across the generational spectrum and lead to necessary growth in the climate change movement across the Midwest and beyond.


Before launching this program in 2012, the Will Steger Foundation completed an in-depth research project examining existing mentorship relationship models and drawing from existing research to select best practices for innovation and success.

  • 12 surveys with Midwest youth climate leaders and 21 staff within the RE-AMP network
  • 40 online reviews of mentorship models
  • 10 listening sessions with staff running inter-generational mentorship programs
  • Peer reviewed articles and books

Program Recommendations

  • Match participants in the same location. Face to face time is critical to building
  • Provide an orientation for all participants to create buy-in and build a culture of egalitarian communication and shared learning
  • Check in on pairs throughout the program to support accountability
  • Build the connection to a broader network and offer participants opportunities to interact outside of the 1-on-1 mentor match

Program Design

Based on this research and findings, the Will Steger Foundation piloted a nine-month mentorship program in Fall 2012 matching eight youth climate leaders with eight veteran staff at environmental non-profit organizations across the Midwest.

Matches were made based on skills, knowledge and desired outcomes, as well as geographic location. Pairs were matched in the same state if possible and introduced to each other via email, and again during an initial program orientation via conference call.

Program structure included:

  • Structure to guide goal setting and accountability during the first mentor match in-person meeting
  • Monthly in-person meetings with mentor matches (over the phone for matches in different cities);
  • Two group calls during the nine-month period to share insight and learning
  • Two participant surveys over the course of the program

Participant Feedback

Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive with a significant number of people, both youth and veteran staff expressing interest in participating again, several requesting the same match. There was general agreement that more support for accountability would have been helpful, to make sure matches were meeting as planned and pursuing the goals and guidelines of their initial mentor-match agreement.

The following captures some of the more interesting goals and outcomes shared by our participants.

What participants were seeking from their mentor-match:

  • Strategies for combing grassroots and grasstops work
  • How to navigate challenges of coalition building
  • How to diversify funding sources
  • Career development
  • How to connect with young people

A sample of participant learning:

  • “That I have a lot of experience to draw from”
  • “How to effectively market my skills”
  • “Learning about the challenges of launching a new organization”
  • “How to better involve the communities and groups I work with”

Other outcomes:

  • Career coaching
  • Website development to reach and develop a younger membership base
  • New paradigms on theory of change
  • Cross-generational networking across specific states
  • Cross-generational collaboration on specific campaigns, actions, and events
  • Relationships that will continue beyond the parameters of the program

Interested in participating? Want to learn more? We encourage you to contact Savannah Duby, Youth Climate Coordinator for the Will Steger Foundation:, 612 278-7147


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