Credible Messenger mentoring is an evidence-based, proven model for addressing the increasingly challenging and pervasive issue of youth incarceration and violence within the United States. Credible Messengers (CMs) are often defined as individuals with lived experiences, often with the criminal justice system, who seek to make change within their communities. CMs use their lived experiences to deter others from destructive pathways by meaningfully engaging youth in the transformation of their own lives. Neighborhood Benches (NB)—a small, grassroots youth mentorship organization based in NYC’s Central Harlem and operating in Manhattan and the Bronx—commissioned the SIPA Capstone team to report best practices for growing the CM field while maintaining its existing quality and community-developed practices. In this report, the Capstone team highlighted the invaluable work that CMs perform as mentors and agents of change.
This report shares a collection of promising recruitment practices being utilized at the grassroots and government levels of the CM movement and makes recommendations in the interest of further strengthening the quality of the CM workforce as the field expands. In addition, and with equal importance, it attempts to increase the visibility of the CM movement to diverse audiences. By leaning into the CM community, and through the generosity—in word and in spirit—of its members, the team has honed an understanding of the CM movement and the people who are whole-heartedly devoted to its mission.