Natural mentoring relationships (NMRs) can positively affect children's cognitive and socio-emotional development, well-being, and authentic agency. In addition, NMRs contribute to the intergenerational dialogue and social cohesion in EUs societies, that is, to the current priorities of the EU Council’s youth policy. Though formal youth mentoring interventions (FYM) that aim to foster the benefits of NMRs for socially disadvantaged youths are modelled on NMRs, there is a gap in knowledge on the dynamics and benefits of NMRs experienced in the general population of young adolescents (12-15 years) in the EU. Besides, despite the recognised benefits of NMRs, no mentoring programmes target the empowerment of youths in mentoring skills in the general population. Building on my previous experience and research on youth mentoring, the ENCOUNTER aims to examine the NMRs in experiences of young adolescents in the EU context, using the exploratory qualitative research design that draws on phenomenological interviews and visual participatory methods (PhotoVoice), and focusing on three main objectives:
• RO1: To examine the characteristics, dynamics, and perceived benefits of the natural mentoring relationships experienced by young adolescents in an EU context
• RO2: To conceptualise the theoretical, interdisciplinary youth-centred framework on natural mentoring phenomena by reviewing the relevant theories on youth’s development across disciplines, and research literature on NMRs.
• RO3: To contrast the functions, characteristics, and dynamics of NMRs among gender; and the features of NMRs experienced by young adolescents in the CZ and in an international context.
ENCOUNTER will expand research, theory, and practice in the field in EU context by implementing novel methodological approaches in the field, enabling interdisciplinary conceptualization of natural mentoring phenomena, and addressing UN SDG Goals 2030 and EU’s Youth Sector Strategy 2030.
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