This is part four in EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring Essentials series, in which we explain the basics of EMPath’s breakthrough coaching approach. New blogs were posted every week throughout the month of September. This is the final post in the series.

What is recognition?

Recognition acknowledges and celebrates a participant when they are working toward and when they accomplish a goal.

Types of recognition may include:

  • Celebrations of success like community meetings or program graduation ceremonies, where participants can connect and hear about each other’s accomplishments
  • Certificates, typically given out at celebrations or during individual meetings
  • Supportive messages like calls, texts, or emails to congratulate and encourage participants
  • Earned incentives, monetary recognition like gift cards or cash

How does EMPath view recognition?

EMPath believes recognition should be consistent and openly communicated. From the very beginning of the goal setting process, mentors and participants discuss what motivates the participant and how that connects to the recognition the mentor is able to provide upon completion of the goal.

To understand recognition, it is helpful to know the concept of extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation. With extrinsic motivation, a person is motivated to perform an activity in order to earn a reward or benefit. With intrinsic motivation, a person is motivated to perform an activity because of their own interest in the activity itself. Mobility Mentoring seeks to cultivate a participant’s intrinsic motivation so that they are driven to complete goals for their own sake rather than for an external reward. After the program ends, even in the absence of external recognition, participants have become practiced and accomplish goal setters.

Why does EMPath use recognition?

EMPath uses recognition for a number of reasons:

  • Recognition gives a participant a clear sense of achievement, providing a concrete reason to check in on a goal and to celebrate when a goal is achieved. It establishes a clear end to the goal.
  • Recognition acknowledges a participant for completing smaller goals along the way to a bigger goal. Without this continuous recognition, there is often nothing to focus on except major goals — buying a home or getting a job offer, for example. These big goals can take a long time and are daunting if not broken up into smaller steps and checkpoints along the way. Additionally, participants often have limited control over whether or when they accomplish many of these the bigger goals, as they often depend on outside decision-makers like an employer or the government. However, by breaking the goal up and providing continuous recognition for the things they do have control over, participants gain a greater sense of self-efficacy.
  • Celebrating success through recognition allows us to highlight the positive parts of a person’s identity — that they are someone who gets things done, someone who is doing great things for their family, someone who is moving up. Developing positive identities is valuable to the work of economic mobility.
  • Recognition also helps build a sense of momentum (the mentality that ‘I can keep going and do even more’), provides a “down payment” on longer-term goals, and provides an emotional connection to the accomplishment.

What is an earned incentive?

An earned incentive is monetary recognition for the work associated with a goal. It can come in the form of a gift card, cash, or something else with monetary value that the participant identifies as motivating for them. Like other forms of recognition, earned incentives are communicated with the participant early in the goal setting process.

At EMPath, the level of earned incentive corresponds with the type of goal set, based on factors like the complexity and length of time of the goal.

Why does EMPath use earned incentives?

EMPath believes people deserve to be recognized and compensated for their work. Participants work hard to achieve their goals, and earned incentives provide them with an extra boost at a time when they may be striving to meet basic needs.

The important thing to remember is that earned incentives are not the primary motivation for participants to achieve their goals. Through their mentor’s support and other forms of recognition, participants develop sustained intrinsic motivation to continue setting and achieving their goals.

Combined, the four essential elements covered in this blog series — Coaching for Economic Mobility, the Bridge to Self-Sufficiency®, Goal Setting, and Recognition — make up the foundation of Mobility Mentoring, EMPath’s breakthrough coaching approach. All EMPath programs use Mobility Mentoring when working with participants.

Mobility Mentoring has proven to be very successful in propelling people towards economic independence. This success has led to the creation of the Economic Mobility Exchange™, a global network of nonprofits, schools, colleges, health providers, human services programs, government agencies, and other organizations learning about and implementing a Mobility Mentoring-informed approach. Each member organization is encouraged to adapt Mobility Mentoring to suit their own needs. Just as participants are treated as the experts of their own lives, organizations are treated as the experts of their own programs.


Read Part One: Brain Science and Coaching

Read Part Two: The Bridge to Self-Sufficiency®

Read Part Three: Goal Setting