What enables some children and youth to do well in life, to successfully navigate life’s challenges and to feel hopeful about the future in spite of adversity, while others are over-whelmed or uncertain? Research has determined that the one clear difference between these two categories of young people is the presence of a significant mentoring or supportive adult influence in their lives that enhances their strengths, resources and ability to thrive in the face of life’s inevitable challenges. Click here to download the entire document, or click the image to the left.
Rather than the traditional perspective of engaging young people with a problem orientation and risk focus, a strength-based approach seeks to understand and develop the strengths and capabilities that can transform the lives of people in positive ways. The strengths approach, like mentoring itself, recognizes that prevention is only one part of an integrated approach that looks at what all people need to mature in healthy ways. Although focused on developing the wholeness of young people, this approach does not ignore the critical role prevention and intervention in addressing the risks and significant challenges many young people face. Instead, it highlights the strengths and capacities in and around a person that are critical to their well-being and how these protective factors can be nurtured and enhanced. The challenge that faces community mentoring programs that wish to embrace a strength-based approach to working with people is the reality that you cannot give anything away that you have not experienced yourself. Developing and sustaining a strength-based approach in an organization requires the creation of a strengths orientation throughout the culture of an organization. This requires commitment and leadership that reflects and models its principles. It is about having a strength-based way of thinking, describing and practicing that is consistent and purposefully supported by everyone.
What is involved in a strength-based organizational review?
Living a strength-based approach, as described on page 4 and 5 of the Strength-Based Community Mentoring Guidebook, involves thorough self-reflection and assessment. A strength-based organizational review means examining programming, decision-making, planning, supervision, communication, marketing, evaluation/tools, administration and training/orientation. The Strength-Based Community Mentoring Workbook provides examples of a strength-based organizational practice, strength-based exercises and tools to help you through the processes of learning strength-based practices.
A Practice Guide For Mentors
The most effective mentors are strength-based. That is, they will always find opportunities to build a caring, respectful relationship with their mentee while supporting them to develop in positive ways through activities and interactions that are mutually enjoyable, meaningful, challenging and success oriented.
Taking this approach, mentoring has the potential to forever change the lives of both mentees and mentors.
In order to support strength-based mentoring in Alberta, the Alberta Mentoring Partnership has engaged in the effort to provide resources that supports mentors in better understanding and becoming strength-based in their relationships with young people.
This manual is your practical guide to strength-based mentoring and building on the strengths of your mentee. Along the way, you’ll probably find that you learn more about and build your own strengths as well.
Interest in strength-based practice as a way to enhance the positive development of children and youth has increased significantly as practitioners, educators, researchers and community care providers shift their attention from the prevention of specific problems to a more positive, holistic view on youth development. Interventions have moved increasingly toward creating a coordinated sequence of positive experiences and providing key developmental supports and opportunities. Rather than the traditional perspective of engaging a person with a problem orientation and risk focus, a strength-based approach seeks to understand and develop the strengths and capabilities that can transform the lives of people in positive ways (Alvord & Grados, 2005; Barton, 2005; Benson, Leffert, Scales, & Blyth, 1998).
Although every adult who interacts with a youth educates in some way, it is in the school setting that teachers, support staff and collaborating community members have a significant opportunity to facilitate students’ academic achievement and healthy social development in a safe, caring and supportive learning environment.
As Cummins (1996) has stated, “Human relationships are the heart of schooling. The interactions that take place between students and teachers and among students are more central to student success than any method of teaching literacy, or science, or math. When powerful relationships are established between teachers and students, these relationships frequently can transcend the economic and social disadvantages that afflict communities and schools alike.”
To help educators leverage these opportunities with students, the Alberta Mentoring Partnership has developed a resource to support those wishing to explore how to work from the underlying values, principles and philosophy of strength-based practice. As well, this resource will help you develop a better understanding of the benefits mentoring initiatives can have in a school
If schools are able to teach young people to have a critical mind and a socially oriented attitude, they will have done all that is necessary. Students will then become equipped with those qualities which are prerequisite for citizens living in a healthy democratic society. Albert Einstein
A comparison of Strength-Based Concepts versus Deficit-Based Concepts