Mobility Mentoring is defined as the professional practice of partnering with participants so that over time they may acquire the resources, skills, and sustained behavior changes necessary to attain and preserve their economic independence.

Mobility Mentoring has four essential elements:

1. The Bridge to Self-Sufficiency® The layout of the “Bridge” serves as a visual tool for participants who are learning and engaging in setting goals and making future-oriented decisions. This “scaffolding” acts both as assessment tool for the mentor, as well as framework for participants charting their own path toward economic independence. The Bridge acknowledges the interrelations between the five domains of life: Family Stability, Physical & Mental Well-Being, Financial Management, Educational Attainment, Employment & Career. As each pillar is strengthened, so is the Bridge as a whole.

The Bridge is informed by what brain science tells us about how poverty impacts decision-making and our sense of self. Functions like working memory, mental flexibility, and impulse control are all skills that can be learned and practiced—and can also be negatively impacted by the chronic stress of poverty.

2. Coaching Using the Bridge as the framework and engaging in a one-to-one partnership, coaching is a process designed to, over time, improve a participant’s persistence and resilience. Through repeated practice, this process becomes internalized and enables the participants to coach themselves. Mentors observe unconditional positive regard for their participants and regularly engage in motivational interviewing. EMPath mentors treat their participants like the experts of their own lives. Mentors and participants work together for up to five years.

3. Goal-Setting Mobility Mentoring uses the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals format to set goals leading towards economic mobility outcomes. Mentors and participants set SMART goals together, breaking it down into smaller action steps. This highly specialized goal-setting process allows EMPath also to collect data to measure program effectiveness and identify trends over time. Last fiscal year, EMPath’s overall goal achievement rate (among 10 programs) was 78%.

4. Recognition A system of positive rewards, both tangible and intangible, supports successful goals achievement. The recognition part of the process is critical to help participants celebrate small wins that build up to big achievements. Incentives are calibrated based on the difficulty and complexity of the goals achieved. Recognizing a participant’s hard work over many months is essential to building momentum toward bigger goals in the future.

Mobility Mentoring differs from a traditional ‘case-management’ approach because it is informed by neuroscience, comprehensive, integrated, and organized in a way that helps participants develop and strengthen their own skills and confidence to continue setting goals, even after the mentor-participant relationship ends. Data shows that participants who complete our programs continue to achieve goals and advance their economic mobility.

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EMPath participant Lauren shares her journey and explains how Mobility Mentoring helped her succeed.