Mentoring as a Strategy to Support Youth Social Inclusion Processes: Evidence and Challenges

Jan 2017
The social development gains made by Latin America and the Caribbean have driven the need for differentiated services to enhance the inclusion of specific groups and to respond more effectively to their vulnerabilities. In the case of adolescence-a key stage in life during which skills are accumulated and conditions created for a full and independent adult life-tutoring programs have emerged as a promising alternative to reduce risk behaviors and encourage positive life paths. Establishing a bond of trust with an unrelated adult peer acts as a protective factor by offering a positive behavioral model at a key moment of the transition into adulthood. The expectation is that the mentoring process will generate impacts on the young person’s social-emotional and cognitive development and the formation of his or her identity. In this study, we propose to analyze some recent evidence on individual mentoring programs. Aspects including mentor profile, length of relationship, and frequency and type of activities, among others, determine the effectiveness of this methodology. Outcomes also vary depending on the objective the program seeks to achieve, such as academic performance, self-esteem enhancement, or reduction of risk behaviors. In addition, the study presents three promising programs in the region that incorporate professional mentoring into their work with at-risk youth: Caminho Melhor Jovem, the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Abriendo Caminos, the Security and Opportunities Subsystem of the Social Protection System, Chile; and Jóvenes en Red, the national government of Uruguay.