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Supporting Economic Mobility through Community Mentorship

The project: The Eastside Community Network in Detroit and the University of Michigan School of Information evaluated the impact of the Lower Eastside Economic Mobility (LEEM) program, which connects residents with low incomes with mentors from the community, with the goal of addressing known barriers to stable employment such as low self-efficacy and limited access to social support. This evaluation aimed to answer three research questions:

  • What is the impact of the LEEM program on participants’ psychosocial development (i.e., hope, self-efficacy, self-sufficiency, and social support)?
  • How do participants perceive the program’s impact on their economic and psychosocial development? How do participants perceive the usefulness of the mobility mentoring model in supporting their mentoring relationships?
  • What opportunities exist to support similar mentoring programs with digital tools?

The process: Researchers designed a survey, which was given to LEEM participants when they started the program as well as three months later. Researchers also interviewed 30 participants and two staff members connected to the program.

Results: Preliminary results from the surveys suggest increases in hope, self-efficacy, and hope for employment. After three months, the data suggest participants experienced a slight decrease in social support. As far as participants’ perceptions of their economic and psychosocial development, interviews indicate participants started to see themselves as leaders, had a positive experience in the program, and the program’s meal clubs offered an important socializing experience. Participants also described the importance of their relationship with program coaches.

Even though program participants were assigned community mentors, participants perceived two staff members who served as program coaches as their main mentors. While the relationship with the coaches proved valuable to participants, more study is needed to determine how to better support the mentor relationships.

Tawanna Dillahunt, University of Michigan School of Information
Donna Givens, Eastside Community Network
Angela Brown Wilson, Eastside Community Network