Proving the social impact of online mentoring during the COVID-19 pandemic

How Big Brothers Big Sisters proved the social impact of their online mentoring platform with impact technology.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia (BBBS) have developed an online interactive mentoring platform ‘OurSpace’ that allows mentees to receive mentoring support across Australia.

The secure platform allows young people to participate in traditional face-to-face mentoring programs regardless of geographic location, long-term illness or disability.

This digital approach to mentoring aspires to break down the barriers prohibiting support for isolated young people. BBBS aims to ensure all young people can benefit from high-quality, intensive, one-to-one mentoring programs via a secure online platform.

Find out more about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ OurSpace online mentoring platform here.

This data was vital in demonstrating our impact back to multiple stakeholders and for funding applications.

Mark Watt AM, CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia
Mark Watt AM, CEO
95% of mentees felt more comfortable after catching up with their online mentors.
The BBBS online mentor program survey submission rate was over 90% with Socialsuite.
100% of mentees feel that mentoring has had a positive impact on them.

The Challenge

With the onset of COVID-19 impacting Australian youths, BBBS had to adapt their services and programs to meet the new challenges of forced social isolation. Their existing framework needed to be updated to meet the unique mental health challenges posed by the pandemic.

Missing valuable data, and having to move more of their services fully online, BBBS needed a solution that allowed them to update their impact framework, automatically collect data digitally, and demonstrate their results visually.

COVID-19 & Mental Health Challenges

Since the onset of the pandemic, mental health organizations have been predicting an increase in mental health issues due to the increased levels of isolation, loneliness, and uncertainty brought on by the rapid change in lifestyle.

Researchers at Australian National University found that the COVID-19 pandemic had led to an increase of mental health problems in young people (18-24 years old), substantially more than any other group.

"Young people are more vulnerable to mental health problems at this time than at other times."
Ben Edwards

Associate Professor @ ANU

As organizations were rapidly adjusting to meet these new challenges, Big Brothers Big Sisters continued to have their mentees catch up with their mentees online through their OurSpace Program to ensure young people had an avenue to connect with their mentors.

How impactful was BBBS Online OurSpace program?

Did their online approach help reduce young people's feelings of isolation and connectedness during COVID-19? Let’s look deeper...

We needed data to demonstrate the positive impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters OurSpace online mentoring program for our upcoming funding drives.
With Socialsuite, we were able to quickly design a plan to collect data and understand how our mentees were responding to COVID-19. This data was vital in demonstrating our impact back to multiple stakeholders and for funding applications.
"We were able to demonstrate 95% of our mentees reported catching up with their online mentors helped them feel more connected during COVID-19."
Mark Watt AM
CEO @ Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia

The Plan

BBBS reviewed their impact framework for updates to meet the new landscape presented by COVID-19 and future grant applications. Additional questions were added that specifically addressed the impact of COVID-19 on their young mentees.

BBBS needed to amend their framework and set up the OurSpace program to automatically collect impact feedback data from mentees.

The Approach

BBBS’s outcomes framework was updated within Socialsuite, aligning new questions around COVID-19 and connectedness. In-built survey tools allowed BBBS to schedule data collection emails to be sent to mentees after they have participated in the online delivered program.

Future grant and funding applications will likely be reliant on demographic information collected from the mentees participating within the program. BBBS decided it was best to configure the data collection to include additional demographics for future segmentation. In particular, an upcoming funding application centred around female outcomes, so Socialsuite was updated to capture program participants' gender through the survey.

Operationally, BBBS needed to enroll participants for evaluation on an ad-hoc basis, as the young mentees would be starting the OurSpace program on an ongoing basis. This was different to how BBBS had collected data in the past, but was easily solved by updating their data collection plan in Socialsuite.

Purpose-built for online mentoring, the OurSpace platform offers the ability to moderate each mentoring interaction in real time, which ensures BBBS can continue providing best-practice mentoring programs in a digital environment.

Submissions Rates

Maintaining high and consistent submission rates are a challenge across the sector, especially when evaluating young people. However, there are steps that organizations can take to boost survey submissions, helping to make evaluations more comprehensive.

BBBS needed high submission rates in order to increase their sample size and boost the coverage of the evaluation of Ourspace and create more data points. With Socialsuite, BBBS were able to track all submissions, and monitor those we started, but did not complete their surveys.

Since the evaluation timeframe was limited, BBBS decided to simply search for any program participants who hadn’t completed surveys and follow up with them directly. Moving forward BBBS could make use of Socialsuite’s reminder email feature to automatically send followup surveys to those mentees who were unable to complete the survey.

As a result, BBBS achieved a submission rate of more than 90%. Building on this,  BBBS plans to incorporate more communications directly to their mentees on how important these surveys are to complete, as they roll out more evaluations.

The Feedback Loop

With the data collection now automated, BBBS needed to report on OurSpace’s outcome results in a manner that can be easily interpreted by their varied stakeholders. The feedback loop is a central tenet of Socialsuite’s approach to impact measurement and the holy grail of our software. We want all impact focused organizations to be able to ask the right questions, analyse the outcome data and ultimately act on their data.

With Socialsuite Analytics, BBBS developed custom visual dashboards that highlighted the OurSpace program’s impact across their targeted outcomes. This program level analytical dashboard was tailored to showcase how different demographics responded to feelings of connectedness through the OurSpace online platform.

With one click, BBBS can quickly visualise how the program impacted male or female participants. This data slicing will be crucial for future BBBS grant applications.

As BBBS enrolls more participants in OurSpace, the program's analytical dashboard will automatically update, in real time, as new impact data is collected, providing BBBS a full picture of how the OurSpace program is impacting their young mentees.

After analysing the outcome data through Socialsuite’s visual dashboards, it had become very clear that the BBBS’ OurSpace online mentoring program was highly impactful. 95% of mentees reported that catching up with their mentor online has helped them feel more connected during COVID-19.

As well as collecting outcome data for grant applications, BBBS communicated to the wider community the importance of their OurSpace Program.

To close the feedback loop, BBBS demonstrated their results back to their stakeholders, detailing encouraging signs that young people participating in OurSpace were feeling less isolated and more connected.

Seeing the results of the OurSpace program has encouraged BBBS to roll out Socialsuite to their other programs, helping to set themselves apart from other nonprofits for their grant applications.

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