Mapping the mentoring gap and capturing the landscape of mentoring in Canada - ON-193

Preferred Disciplines: Social Sciences (PhD or Post-Doc)
Company: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC)
Project Length: 4-12 months (1-2 units)
Desired start date: As soon as possible
Location: Flexible as BBBS is a National serving organization
No. of Positions: 1-2
Preferences: None

About the Company: 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada has been working with vulnerable populations for 105 years, we have 5 nationally recognized mentoring programs and services with testing and piloting of other innovative mentoring programs and services that are responsive to community needs across Canada.  Our history is long and rooted in community serving over 42,000 young people in over 1, 500 communities across Canada.  Our ability to partner with organizations in community is a fundamental practice in working with young people in community as we know we cannot do it alone, we ensure that our partners are fully engaged, and that the relationships are meaningful and solutions focused with roles and responsibilities well defined before project execution.

We rely on our outreach and connections to community partners to reach targeted populations.  We rely on schools, police services, child welfare services for referral opportunities and other youth serving organizations who have connections to these populations.  Also we have taken a youth centred approach to service and have found by enhancing youth ‘voice and choice’; providing tangible supports for youth we remove barriers to have young people engaged in our services. Our programs are delivered in community by screened, trained and supported volunteer mentors by matching a young person with a mentor.  Our qualified expert staff person manages the process. Mentoring programs in community are evaluated on their effectiveness, the results and learnings are shared and incorporated into the program for better outcomes.  Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada is also connected internationally and as well leads an International Research and Trends committee that provides direction and expertise from an evidence informed position.  This is helpful when developing and establishing mentoring services to populations of high needs or in areas of risk like delinquency, Youth In Care, etc. Partnerships with organizations in community that have specific expertise on the population we are serving is a critical factor in success as well.

Project Description:

Mapping the Gap: As we work to improve the life outcomes for young people, their voices must guide our efforts. For this reason, BBBSC and its partners will conduct the first ever nationally-representative survey of young people’s perspectives on mentoring in Canada. Core to our collective work is the fundamental belief that children and adolescents should receive the supports they need and deserve — including consistent and caring relationships with adults. A survey will be developed and administered to youth aged 15-30, through telephone, online and in-person interviews, that will include a research-based risk screen. Findings will then be applied to the 2016 Census to give an accurate picture of how the mentoring needs of young people are presently being met, while providing evidence of the gap.

Capturing the Landscape: In addition to the voices of young people this work will also be informed by a comprehensive literature and landscape review and will be shaped by conversations with a variety of representatives within the youth development field, researchers, as well as leaders in government, philanthropy and the private sector. To that end, BBBSC and their partners will develop a National Mentoring Program Survey to collect nation-wide data about mentorship activities through examination of the prevalence, practices and scope of youth mentoring programs across Canada.  Marketing and promotional materials will be developed to assist in outreach. 

Research Objectives:

Mapping the Gap: This will provide new data to inform our collective work, adapt our approach accordingly and attract new partners and advocates to begin to close the mentoring gap. We believe this approach will provide the most accurate picture possible of how the mentoring needs of young people are currently being met through their perspective, highlight gaps that remain, and allow BBBSC and their partners to chart paths forward to create more caring adult relationships in the lives of children. By connecting young people to caring, consistent, and supportive adults, the nation can help young people achieve their dreams, and also strengthen communities, the economy, and our country.

Capturing the Landscape: The major goals of this exercise are to better understand the structure, services, and challenges of mentoring programs; identify who programs are serving and the groups/types of adults who are stepping up to mentor in these programs; and provide us with a baseline understanding of the field so that we can use that information to inform our strategy. This information will also be extremely helpful in the years to come in advocating for more public and private investment in mentoring, helping to identify gaps in services, and developing new training and tools that can support programs as we seek to expand and enhance mentoring in Canada.


Surveys will be developed and administered to youth aged 15-30, through telephone, online and in-person interviews, that will include a research-based risk screen.

Expertise and Skills Needed:

  • Knowledge of or interest in child and youth development, mentoring, social justice, work, community development, public policy, educational policy studies, psychology, public health and preventative medicine.
  • Bilingual is a great to have as we will need to actively engage in Quebec, but English only can work if we have the right candidate

For more info or to apply to this applied research position, please

  1. Check your eligibility and find more information about open projects
  2. Interested students need to get the approval from their supervisor and send their CV along with a link to their supervisor’s university webpage by applying through the webform.