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Program Profile: Baloo and You (Germany)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on February 12, 2019

Program Summary

This is a mentoring program for disadvantaged elementary school children that aims to enrich their social environment and enable their acquisition of new skills through an authentic relationship with a caring adult. This program was rated Promising. The findings show a statistically significant improvement in the prosocial behavior of the children assigned to the intervention, compared with children in the control group.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
Baloo and You (also known as “Balu und Du”) is a mentoring program in Germany designed to provide informal learning opportunities for disadvantaged (i.e., low socioeconomic status) elementary school children to support their healthy development through an authentic relationship with a caring adult. The goal is to improve children’s prosociality.

Program Components
Children in the program (Mowglis) are matched to volunteer mentors (Baloos) and expected to meet one-on-one for one afternoon a week for up to 12 months. They engage in activities adapted to the needs, strengths, and interests of the children and mentors (for example, visiting a zoo, doing handicrafts, or just having a conversation). Mentors are expected to act as prosocial role models and “benevolent friends” to encourage learning of new ideas and skills.

Mentors complete a weekly, online diary documenting the activities they engaged in with their mentees and any potential problems and highlights in the relationship. Program coordinators review diaries and provide support. Program coordinators also organize biweekly monitoring meetings with mentors to provide additional team-based support in identifying activities and addressing problems. Didactic materials (e.g. memos) are available and to be found in an intranet program.

Key Personnel
Mentors are usually university students aged 18 to 30. Mentors must pass criminal checks. Program coordinators are trained and paid professionals in education science or psychology.

Program Theory
The program’s focus on providing children with opportunities to enhance their social environments and provide social reinforcement for prosocial behavior is consistent with the theories of social support and social learning (Heaney and Israel 2002; Bandura 1971). Furthermore, the use of an authentic and personal relationship with a caring adult to foster healthy development is consistent with the model of youth mentoring (Rhodes et al. 2006).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Kosse and colleagues (2016) found that low-socioeconomic status (SES) children assigned to the Baloo and You mentoring program had higher levels of prosocial behavior than children in the low-SES control group 2 years after the end of the program, a statistically significant difference. The associated effect size indicated an impact of a small magnitude.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Kosse and colleagues (2016) evaluated the effects of the Baloo and You program on prosociality in a randomized study of low-socioeconomic status (SES) children (aged 7 to 9) in Bonn and Cologne, Germany. All families with children born between September 2003 and August 2004 and one third of families with children born between September 2002 and August 2003 were contacted via postal mail. Interested parents completed a non-binding letter of intent and a questionnaire about household socioeconomic characteristics. Responses (n=1,626) were used to categorize families into either low- or high-SES households reflecting level of material, educational, and time resources available. A household was classified as low SES if 1) it was low income (i.e., the income level was lower than the 30 percent quantile of the German income distribution, which was equivalent to 1,065 euros at the time of the study), or 2) low education (neither parent had education beyond the highest secondary school level), or 3) had single parent status (parent not living with a partner). Households that did not meet any of the criteria were classified as high SES.

Of the 590 low-SES families who participated in the first wave of data collection (fall 2011) and who consented to have their addresses sent to the mentoring program, 212 were randomly selected to receive the intervention after stratification into 14 groups based on a combination of location (Bonn or Cologne) and SES criteria (low income and/or low education and/or single parent). Additionally, because Bonn had a larger supply of mentors, more families were assigned to the intervention group in Bonn, compared with Cologne. The remaining 378 families were assigned to the control group. A third group consisted of 122 randomly selected high-SES families who provided wave 1 data. All families were invited to participate in wave 2 data collection after the 1-year intervention period (607 of 712 families provided data; 85 percent) and in wave 3 data collection 2 years after the end of the intervention (509 of 607 provided data; 83.9 percent). No additional information on the demographic characteristics of the sample was provided.

Seventy-four percent of children in the intervention group were successfully matched with mentors, 8 percent had matches that were initiated but closed early, and 18 percent were not matched due to mentor shortages. Children in the intervention group were provided with a mentor for up to 12 months. The average relationship duration for the study sample was 9.5 months: more than 50 percent of matches met for 12 months, and more than 80 percent met for at least 6 months. On average, each child met with his or her mentor 22.8 times, typically for an afternoon.

Data on prosociality was collected through interviews with the child and the accompanying parent (who was the mother in 95 percent of cases). A measure of prosociality was generated by combining responses for three facets of prosociality: altruism, trust, and other regarding behavior. Altruism was assessed using three incentivized versions of dictator games. In the first version, the children were provided with two paper bags, one for themselves and another for an unknown child from their same city. The children were also provided with two paper stars, the experimental currency, and informed that the stars could later be exchanged for toys in four categories of visibly increasing objective value so that more stars would allow them to select toys from higher categories. The children were then asked to choose how to distribute the stars between the available bags (i.e., to place both stars in one bag or one star in each bag). In the second version, the children were provided with two paper bags, one for themselves and another for an unknown child from a different German town, and six stars. They were asked to divide the stars between the two bags. In the third version, the second bag was for an unknown child in Africa, and again the children were asked to divide the six stars between the two bags. The average share of stars given to the other child was used to operationalize altruism. Trust was assessed with a 3-item children-report measure adapted from the German Social-Economic Panel Study. Each statement (e.g., “One can trust other people.”) was read out loud by the interviewer, and the child was asked to indicate agreement on a 5-point Likert response scale ranging from “totally disagree” to “totally agree”. Other regarding behavior was assessed using the 5-item, parent-report, Prosocial Scale of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Sample items included “My child is considerate of other people’s feelings” and “My child is helpful if someone is hurt, upset, or feeling ill”.

Interviews were conducted in central locations in Bonn and Cologne (waves 1 and 2) and at the participants’ homes (wave 3) by trained interviewers hired by a professional surveying company. Interviewers were blinded to the purpose of the study and group assignments. During the experiment, the accompanying parent completed a survey to provide information on the socioeconomic background of the family, the personality and attitudes of the child, the personality of the parent, and details on how the parent spent time with the child, including joint activities.

Intent-to-treat analysis was used to determine the differences in prosociality between children in the intervention group and those in the control group (i.e., low SES). Additional analyses compared prosociality between children in the intervention group and those in the high-SES group and between children in the low- and high-SES groups. There were no baseline differences in prosociality between children in the intervention and control groups. Furthermore, loss to follow up (30 percent of children in the intervention group, 30 percent in the control group, and 20 percent in the high-SES group were lost to follow up at wave 3) was unrelated to baseline levels of prosociality or group assignment.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Implementation information is available at the program’s website: (website is in German).

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Other Information (Including Subgroup Findings)

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Kosse and colleagues (2016) found that the Baloo and You intervention was more effective for children whose mothers scored low on prosociality at baseline and for children who experienced fewer social interactions in their home environments. Furthermore, 2 years after the end of the program, there was no statistically significant difference in levels of prosocial behavior between children in the low-socioeconomic status (SES) intervention group and the high-SES control group; however, there was a statistically significant improvement for children in the high-SES control group, compared with those in the low-SES control group.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Kosse, Fabian, Thomas Deckers, Hannah Schildberg-Horisch, and Armin Falk. 2016. “The Formation of Prosociality: Causal Evidence on the Role of Social Environment.” Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) Discussion Paper (No. 9861).
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Bandura, Albert. 1977. Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Bartl, H., S. Drexler, C. Weniger, and H. Müller-Kohlenberg. 2012. Studie zur Nachhaltigkeit der Wirkung des Mentorenprogramms "Balu und Du". Osnabrück.

Frankenberg, H., and F. Aufhammer 2012. Auswirkungen des Mentoren-Programms „Balu und Du“ auf die körperliche Stressregulation unter besonderer Berücksichtigung persönlicher Mentoren-Kompetenzen. Osnabrück.

Drexler, Sibylle, Brigitte Borrmann, and Hildegard Muller-Kohlenberg. 2012. “Learning Life Skills and Health-Related Quality of Life of Socially Disadvantaged Elementary School Children Through the Mentoring Program ‘Balu und Du’ (‘Baloo and You’).” Journal of Public Health 20(2):141–49. (This study was reviewed but did not meet Crime Solutions' criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

Drexler, S. 2015. "Resilienzförderung sozial benachteiligter Grundschulkinder durch das Mentorenprogramm Balu und Du. Eine Evaluationsstudie zu Lebensstilen und zur gesundheitsbezogenen Lebensqualität.“ (Dissertation Universität Osnabrück, Fb 3, 2015 [PhD diss., University of Osnabruck).

Heaney, C.A., and B.A. Israel. 2008. “Social Networks and Social Support.” In K. Glanz, B.K. Rimer, and K. Viswanath (eds.). Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, Fourth Edition. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass,189–210.

Muller-Kohlenberg, Hildegard, and Sibylle Drexler. 2013. “Balu und Du (‘Baloo and You’) – A Mentoring Program: Conceptions and Evaluation Results.” In Michael F. Shaughnessy (ed.). Mentoring: Practices, Potential Challenges and Benefits.  Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers, p. 107–23.

Muller-Kohlenberg, Hildegard, and Brigitte Borrmann. 2015. “Attention, Perseverance, and Stress Regulation in the Case of Primary School Children: How Does the Mentoring Program Balu und Du (“Baloo and You”) Facilitate These Competencies?“ In Wanda Slater (ed.). Mentoring: Perspectives, Strategies and Impacts on School Performance. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers, p. 1-19.

Ohlemann, L., and H. Angermann 2012. Die Mentoringbeziehung im Präventionsprojekt „Balu und Du“: Eine Analyse des Zusammenhangs inhaltsanalytisch erhobener Beziehungsaspekte mit der Veränderung des Cortisolspiegels der Mentees. Osnabrück.

Péron, C., and V. Baldauf 2015. Was bringt’s? SROI-Analyse des Mentoring-Programms Balu und Du. Berlin/München.

Péron, Clara, and Valentina Baldauf. 2018. What Good Will It Do? An SROI Analysis of the Balu und Du Mentoring Program (English Version). Berlin/München.

Rhodes, Jean E., Renée Spencer, Thomas E. Keller, Belle Liang, and Gil Noam. 2006. “A Model for the Influence of Mentoring Relationships on Youth Development.” Journal of Community Psychology 34(6): 691–707.

Szczesny, M., G. Goloborodko, [and] H. Müller-Kohlenberg 2009."Bürgerschaftliches Engagement als ‚additives Modell' zum Erwerb von Schlüsselkompetenzen: Welche Kompetenzen können im Mentorenprojekt "Balu und Du" erworben werden?“ In E. Müller, H. Küppers, [and] T. Brinker (eds.). SQ-Forum, Schlüsselqualifikationen in Lehre, Forschung und Praxis 1/2000,111–24.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

This practice provides at-risk youth with positive and consistent adult or older peer contact to promote healthy development and functioning by reducing risk factors. The practice is rated Effective in reducing delinquency outcomes; and Promising in reducing the use of alcohol and drugs; improving school attendance, grades, academic achievement test scores, social skills and peer relationships.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Multiple education outcomes
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Psychological functioning
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Program Snapshot

Age: 6 - 10

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Mentoring

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Director:
Dominik Esch
1st Chairman
Balu und Du e.V.
Georgstrasse 7
Koln 50676
Phone: +49.221.2010.326

Armin Falk
Brig – Institute on Behavior and Inequality
Schaumburg-Lippe-Strasse 5-9
Bonn 53113
Phone: +

Hildegard Muller-Kohlenberg
University of Osnabrueck
Neuer Graben, 27
Osnabrueck 49074
Phone: +49.541.969.4562