Peter de Cuyper: Quality criteria and impact assessment of ‘mentoring to work’ programmes

by Juhair Mahtab

How can quality criteria be defined for developing an assessment framework in mentoring?

This is where Peter de Cuyper comes in. As a sociologist, Peter is deeply interested in the idea of integration in our society. Peter’s work in mentoring itself started eight years ago where he was part of developing a ‘mentoring to work’ project with the public employment service and integration centre of Antwerp, Belgium. The most important question which arises in quality thinking is ‘what is quality?’ According to Peter, [the literature indicates that there are four dimensions of looking at quality; the client perspective, the results perspective, organisational perspective and the process perspective]. The client perspective indicates that the quality is good if the client is satisfied, which in the case of mentoring is if the mentee is satisfied. The results perspective indicates quality based on achieving the goals of the mentoring project, such as mentees getting a job or a degree. The satisfaction and results are related in this case. Then there is the organisational perspective which is based on the performance of the organisation based on good HR management, financial management, etc. And finally, the process perspective looks at the process of mentoring, the screening of mentors and mentees, the matching, the closure, etc. In this case, there is good quality if these processes are meeting certain standards. Peter and his team continue to research the topic of mentoring, focusing on three main topics. The first is ‘mentoring to work’ for unemployed migrants. Then there is the research line about ‘mentoring at the workplace’, aimed at vulnerable groups and looks at how they fit in the workplace. And the third line is on social mentoring aimed at newcomers and refugees. This is also known as ‘buddying’ in Belgium, where migrant newcomers and refugees have a buddy. These programmes are aimed at integration in society and the city, learning a language, finding friends and doing things together.

Peter gives the example of a project where he developed quality criteria for a mentoring-to-work project. This was challenging since there was not much literature and research on mentoring-to-work. [Peter and his team started by comparing seven quality standards of mentoring from different regions] (such as the ones developed by, the quality criteria of the Scottish mentoring networks, the standards of the Coordinadora Mentoria Sociale, and a few more). These standards were then compared and discussed in a report. From these, they chose the criteria which applied to adult mentees and compiled a long list of criteria. After a discussion with the Flemish mentoring to work projects, they choose and reached a consensus about the criteria which applied mentoring-to-work projects, made additions if required criteria were not on the list and finally determine the minimal criterion for mentoring-to-work projects. [And while working on that, Peter and his team considered that it is a good methodology for other kinds of mentoring projects working with adults that can’t rely on ‘evidence’ about what works. It gives mentoring organizations a framework for self-reflection on their process and results and a way of reaching consensus in a mentoring field about what should be adopted as minimum quality standards.] Initial impressions indicated that mentoring organisations were enthusiastic about this system as it made them aware of quality criteria they failed to include in their programmes and give them a basic framework on which they can improve their programme. [“Providing accurate and realistic information about the content, benefits and challenges of the program to potential mentors” and “explicit and clear selection criteria for mentors and mentees and ensures that they are aligned with the objectives of the project”] are some of the criteria highlighted in this study.

These mentoring programmes are also gaining the attention of the government and the Belgian government is getting involved in the mentoring programmes, especially regarding social mentoring for migrants and newcomers. In Flanders, there is a law that every newcomer will get a buddy, which is mandatory. This is being tested with 26 pilots in 26 cities and towns. Some of these projects have a lot of experience while others lack this expertise. [Peter and his teams hope to help these projects by showing them the best practices, providing them tools from other projects and create learning networks. And at the end of the day, “we are going to evaluate the impact of the pilots”.] They have developed a framework for the evaluation of the impact of social mentoring projects. [To further assist with the evaluation, they are also developing an app.] This app will make it much easier for mentoring projects to evaluate their methodologies and impacts.

Peters final words about the European mentoring field is that mentoring can help tackle various social issues but in his story [mentoring is “not a standalone, but is like a piece in a broader puzzle”.] Problems need to be tackled in the mentoring field’s cooperation with governments and other civil society organizations. It is interesting to see that governments getting more involved in mentoring. One of the important questions for the mentoring field is, [“how are we going to work together with governments that are interested and getting more involved in mentoring?”] Can mentoring keeps its own identity? Isn’t mentoring seen as a cheap way to tackle societal problems? Can it still provide good quality? How do mentoring organizations work together with ‘professionals? But also how can we prove the quality of mentoring and its impact. For now, he and his team have developed quality criteria and instruments to measure the impact of ‘mentoring to work’ and ‘social mentoring’.

About Peter de Cuyper
Peter de Cuyper has been a researcher for over 20 years on several topics which is related to the European mentoring field. Topics include migrant integration, labour market integration as well as socio-cultural integration. He has been trying to find out how people integrate into society, learn new languages and several issues related to getting to know life in the new country. Currently, he is a research manager at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

[Learn about these minimum criteria and the research process on Peter’s presentation on this research here.
Find more information about this study here.]

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