In 2001, a number of organizations that provide mentoring services in Saskatoon began to explore the value of collaboration on common needs and goals. By 2004, they partnered with CUISR to conduct exploratory research (see Derek Tannis, “Mentoring in Saskatoon: Toward a Meaningful Partnership”). After analyzing those initial findings, the partners decided to pursue additional research by surveying the experiences of comparable partnerships in Alberta. A series of interviews were conducted with representatives of Alberta mentorship collaborations, the results of which are summarized and analyzed in Maureen Seguin’s Alberta Mentoring Partnerships: Overview and Recommendations to Saskatoon Mentoring Agencies.
Three levels of Alberta mentoring partnerships were consulted: the province-wide Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP); the Calgary-based Calgary Youth Mentoring Coalition (CYMC); and two smaller Edmontonsituated collaborations, Partners for Kids and Roots and Wings. Seguin conducted separate interviews with representatives from each of the above Alberta groups, focusing on three main areas (in accordance with the Saskatoon organizations’ wishes): the concrete steps taken to form the partnerships; specific areas of ongoing collaboration; and how to secure sustainable funding.
In the case of the AMP, the partnership was formed after inter-organization discussions on sustainability and a number of meetings between the provincial government and large mentoring organizations. The AMP’s main areas of collaboration are public awareness campaigns, and the recruitment and training of volunteers. Both CYMC and Roots and Wings came together after a series of informal meetings on collaboration and the benefits of addressing partners’ gaps. CYMC’s main collaborative strength is in volunteer training, while Roots and Wings includes both recruitment and training. Partners for Kids began as a means of addressing a host of problems in a single Edmonton school, but has expanded to several schools and includes a variety of supports for students and their families. Unlike the other partnerships, Partners for Kids members each provide a specific service under the auspices of the group. On the issue of funding, Seguin received markedly divergent answers. Representatives from AMP stressed the importance of applying for funding as a group (as opposed to doing so as individual agencies), emphasizing large, preferably province-wide, projects. The representative from CYMC, however, stated that the issue of collaborative funding applications almost destroyed the partnership due to disagreements about allocation and concerns from member agencies that their own funding would be at risk. Accordingly, the CYMC interviewee urged avoiding applying for funding as a group. Representatives from the two smaller Edmonton partnerships did not raise the same CYMC concerns, but confirmed that sustainable funding is always a challenge. The most important thing, they said, is to demonstrate results and maintain a common vision.
As alluded to above, there were contrary opinions regarding collaborative funding efforts. However, other advice to Saskatoon agencies included: being aware of the “big picture,” even when it seems contrary to organizational aims; keeping in mind the increased time and bureaucratic demands of a partnership; and setting clear agendas and running efficient meetings.