Innovative Mentorship Program Pairs Young Climate Leaders with Veteran Staff

The Will Steger Foundation launched an innovative mentorship program this fall with support from the RE-AMP network, connecting ten youth climate leaders with ten 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 is to facilitate cross-generational learning and dialog that can provide growth opportunities for both parties and be shared across the climate movement. Matches were made based on skills, knowledge and desired outcomes, as well as geographic location. We made an effort to match people in the same state as face-to-face time has proven to be most effective. The program will run through spring of 2013.

Meet the matches! We want to thank everyone who has volunteered to participate in this program and acknowledge that meaningful participation demands time and commitment. The pairs below include a veteran staff member and an active member of the youth climate movement.

Institute for Local Self Reliance, Minneapolis, MN
Grand Aspirations, Minneapolis, MN

1K Friends of Wisconsin, Madison, MN
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

Our research included investigation into a wide range of mentorship programs through online sources and surveys as well as listening sessions with staff from ten diverse organizations (both for-profits businesses and non-profits). While the key elements for success listed below may seem obvious, it is important to remember that many mainstream programs do not incorporate these components:

Strategic Matching

  • Same geographical area to allow for in-person meetings
  • Goals that align

Clear Expectations

  • Effective orientation to the program and mentor relationship
  • Mentorship agreement signed by both participants. This can also act a guide for the initial meeting

Open Communication

  • Active listening
  • Step up, step back and be aware of any unspoken power dynamics that might exist
  • Committing to constructive feedback as a tool for growth
  • Be Respectful of time and schedules. Use your time well and make it count

Ongoing Support from Program Facilitator

Balance Between Accountability and Flexibility

Adult and Youth Initiated and Directed

Keeping these in mind will help participants be mindful and avoid getting pulled back into top down paradigm. It is the egalitarian nature of this program that provides a unique opportunity for new growth in both directions.

Look for a series of blogs from the Will Steger Foundation this winter and spring sharing more of our research on effective mentor relationships, as well as valuable insights and learning from our program participants.

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