At Get IN Chicago, we focus our energy on funding, measurement, and thought leadership.  Through our work, we hope to discover the best ways to reduce violence in Chicago.  We invest in a small number of programs that allow for rigorous evaluation and measurement.  Our ultimate goal is to use our findings to inform large-scale efforts, aligning state, federal, and private funding dollars with the most effective and efficient strategies.

Over the past year, we have been working with NORC at the University of Chicago on a high-rigor evaluation of our school-based mentoring grant recipients.  NORC’s evaluation seeks to answer two main questions:

1) Do Get IN Chicago mentoring programs increase school engagement and reduce violence? (outcome evaluation)
2) Which parts of a mentoring program make the biggest difference? (implementation evaluation)

These questions won’t be answered until after the 2015-2016 school year ends, when NORC can analyze the school attendance, grades, and behavior violations of Get IN Chicago participants alongside students at similar CPS schools without GIC mentoring programs.  Comparing these numbers will help illustrate how Get IN Chicago mentoring programs specifically impact risk factors for violence.

But the evaluation also provides the opportunity to better understand the “secret sauce” of a good mentoring program.  All of our school-based mentoring programs incorporate common program elements reflecting best practices in the field, such as counseling/behavior management (one-on-one meetings, group sessions, goal setting, etc.), education, employment/career, and recreational activities.  These commonalities give the researchers a Get IN Chicago “Central Mentoring Model” to evaluate. End-of-the-year numbers, combined with data from interviews, site visits, observations, and participant/staff feedback, will ultimately help us understand which components of a mentoring produce the best effects.

NORC will spend the next few months visiting our sites and observing the programs in action.  They plan to finalize their mentoring findings in late 2016.