Last month I attended the 13th annual Youth Mentoring Summer Institute hosted by Portland State University and sponsored by MENTOR. The Institute’s goal was to bring leading mentoring practitioners and policymakers together with first-rate mentoring researchers to discuss new research findings and implications for program implementation and high-level advancements for our field. The greatest asset to attending for me was the opportunity to connect with and learn from colleagues across the field who are experiencing and approaching the work in mentoring in similar ways.
We're all familiar with that feeling--the warm sense of affirmation after attending an event with professionals who share your passion, your challenges, and your desire to do the work better. You feel driven, energized, perhaps overwhelmed with an invigorated sense of purpose and challenges to consider, but mainly emboldened. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have acknowledged the joy and appreciation for connecting with others in a new way.
As mentoring professionals, we understand that people are relational beings, and we thrive in community environments where we can bolster each other and expand perspectives through interpersonal engagement. Yet, even before the pandemic, how often did we embrace opportunities and partnerships for collective growth?
Absorbed by the daily needs of our program beneficiaries, stakeholders, and the demands of staying ahead of our work, we secluded ourselves from sources and connections that ironically may have helped expand our capacity.
The following are my "Three C's" as to why professional networks can be so powerful:
Collect - Connecting with other organizations and like-minded professionals provide us with the opportunity to gather helpful tools and resources without having to reinvent the wheel.
Contribute - Programs have approaches or findings that could benefit other programs. Professional networks allow us to elevate and scale solutions.
Continuously Improve - Collaborating with others expands our perspectives while also challenging our status quo. By uniting practitioners across the field, we can compare and contrast interventions, more securely test and analyze new approaches, and keep each other accountable to deepen and improve strategies.
The familiar phrase is, "it takes money to make money." What about, it takes capacity to build capacity? It's simple. If we invest time and resources in connecting with others, we invest in our development and growth. As we know, the young people we serve benefit from the social capital, encouragement, and empowerment our mentors offer; similarly, we benefit from expanding our networks to learn from others across the field.
I am constantly looking for ways to connect with others to strengthen our work. Nothing gets me more jazzed than elevating and celebrating emerging practices in the field to inform and scale impact.
Do you feel similarly? I invite you to join me for an informational webinar about the New York Mentoring Network.
A community of practitioners committed to the advancement of mentoring relationships for youth across New York State is the vision for the New York Mentoring Movement. Together, we can influence the field, better our programs, develop professionally, and have a great time doing it through community connection and intentional relationships.
To join the network now, visit: https://www.mentornewyork.org/join-the-network and register here to learn more at our informational webinar on Wednesday, August 18th at 2pm.
About the Author:
Joie Golomb is the Associate Director of Partnership Development & Engagement at MENTOR New York. In her role, Joie fosters high-quality partnerships by convening, engaging, and facilitating initiatives with mentoring and youth development programs across the state and cross-sector collaborations. Joie has years of experience in the nonprofit sector—designing, executing, and sustaining youth development programs. As a former arts educator in theater, dance, and music, she brings creativity, interpersonal skills, and playfulness to her work! But above all, she loves connecting with others, cultivating community, and sparking joy.