Thursday, December 08, 2016

Mapping a Week of Learning

I created this StoryMap to focus attention on some articles I read over the past 10 days and to show how I'm connecting with people from all over the world to build a deeper understanding and a network of people who support each other.

The link to the article is here.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Creating Opportunity for Urban Youth: Resources

As we head into the new year I want to share some resources I focus on regularly:

Maps that show where people need extra help, based on indicators like poverty, poorly performing schools, incidents of violence, income inequality, etc.  A map motivates us to think of how we fill all of these places with needed services. Without the map we could fill a football stadium with people supporting urban youth in a city like Chicago, and still be missing most of the neighborhoods where kids need help.  I share mapping ideas on this blog and the MappingforJustice blog.

You also need a Directory and map showing organizations already providing needed help in different neighborhoods. Here's a map that I've created, showing non-school tutor and mentor programs in the Chicago region.

Any strategy should start with "how can we help the programs already operating be as good as they can be" before starting something new.

These are maps created by Tutor/Mentor Connection 

A blueprint that shows what needs to be done, and what we need to know.  We understand how builders and engineers using blueprints to show step-by-step work that needs to be done, from the beginning of a project until it is completed.   So why don't we have blueprints showing support kids need to move through school and into jobs?

I created this concept map in the mid 2000s to show supports kids need at each age level as they move from first grade, through middle school, then high school and into their adult lives.  Each node on the concept map should have a link to a directory, showing existing organizations in a city providing that service, plotted on a map showing where they are located.

While I have a few links from the nodes on this concept map, it's not complete.

I've not found any 'blueprints' like this in Chicago. I've not seen anything like this for other cities. However, the technology exists to create such map-directories and tie them to blueprints like this. This could be an on-going project by a team of students from one or more high schools and/or universities.  Here's another article about "what we need to know".

At each age level all youth need a range of support.

Visualizations that communicate ideas:  "A Picture is Worth 1000 Words."  In the graphic below I used a photo of a building to communicate the complex, long-term process of helping kids move from birth to work.   Every worker needed to build the building requires a certain level of skills and must be paid. In the same way, we need to not only build well-organized youth supports in every high poverty neighborhood, but we need to find ways to hire and pay talented workers. 

This is just one of many visualizations you can see on my blogs and web presentations that communicate strategies and actions that are needed to help youth living in poverty move through school and into jobs and careers.
Helping kids grow up is long-term process.

Identify a source of ideas, such as the Tutor/Mentor web library.  We all have a limited range of knowledge and experience that we can bring to solving urban poverty and income inequality. You'll find many ideas and articles in Tutor/Mentor web library, which I've been building since 1993. Below is a concept map  that shows the four sections of the library.  You can search Google for the words "tutor mentor" and any of the words in the tag list shown at the left and find articles I've posted on-line over the past decade. 

At the bottom of each node is a link that opens to a new map.

Finally, we need many leaders with a deep, long-term commitment to create these resources, maintain them on an on-going basis, and point growing numbers of people to the information that is available to them. Such leaders need to act as intermediaries, to mobilize the people and resources needed to fill every high poverty neighborhood on the map with services described on the blueprints showing support that is needed.

Influence your Network!
Leaders can be high profile people, like business CEOs, political leaders, entertainers, etc. They can also be students, volunteers, members of civic, alumni, social or faith communities, etc.

Leaders can be people who spend a little more time than others browsing through the Internet for ideas, and then share those ideas on a regular basis with people in their networks.

Every day you can read an article on one of my blogs or from the library on, then share it with people in your network via social media, one-on-one conversations, group presentations, and/or learning circles.

Start out by saying "Do we have something like this in our community?"  Here's an article shared on the I-Open blog, in the  Cleveland area, which is an example of how you could launch this discussion in your own community.

Help Youth Orgs Throughout City.

Leaders are people who bring others together to learn more about a problem and to innovate solutions.  Using maps, blueprints, visualizations and program directories groups can build an understanding of what services are available in different areas, and ways to support them on an on-going basis so they become the very best they can be. At the same time, groups can identify voids where services are needed, then by looking at work already being done in Chicago and other cities, innovate ways to start new programs and services in those areas.

Many could help.

It takes a lot of talent and a dollars just to build an information base to support this process. I've been trying to do this in Chicago since 1993, using money raised each year through a small non-profit (1993-2011) then using my own funds and a few contributions from supporters every year since 2011.

As you head into 2017 I encourage you to build teams that begin to look at what you have available in your own community who may be doing part of this work. Reach out and support them. Don't reinvent the wheel....unless you must.

If you'd like a one-hour tour of the Tutor/Mentor web library, via Skype, or in person, if you're in the Chicago region, just email me at tutormentor 2 at earthlink dot net or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Steps for Starting a Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Program

I saw a Tweet this morning from MentoringUSA, saying, "9 million children in the US do not have a #mentor"

This graphic is part of a logic model pdf.  If we believe connecting a youth to extra adults and a wide range of learning an enrichment activities is important, then we need to build and sustain youth serving organizations in all places where kids need extra help, so that volunteers can more readily connect with these young people. This requires leadership from business, universities, religion, media, politics, entertainment, etc.

I led volunteer based, non-school tutor/mentor programs in Chicago from 1975 to 2011. The first program was already started when I joined as a tutor in 1973, then became its volunteer leader in 1975. At that time about 100 pairs of 2nd-6th grade youth and volunteers, mostly employees at the Montgomery Ward Corporate Office in Chicago, were starting the year, but only about half were staying the entire year. By 1990 the number was up to 300 pairs, with the number growing from the start of the school  year till the end.

In November 1992 I and six other volunteers formed Cabrini Connections, to help kids who aged out of the first program have a support system helping them from 7th grade through high school and beyond. The program started with 7 volunteers and five 7th and 8th graders in Jan 1993 and reached about 90 pairs by 1998. It stayed at that level through 2011 due to limits of space.  Many alumni are now college graduates, working, and raising their own families.

While the program at Montgomery Ward was not a non profit and primarily led by volunteers, the Cabrini Connection program was a non profit, and each year we had to raise money to fund our operations. By 2011 we had raised over $6 million dollars, funding both the direct service tutor/mentor program, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), which we launched at the same time (1993). This is a 1965-1990 timeline that shows some milestones in that growth.

Based on this long experience of operating a program, I've created three presentations that show steps to starting and sustaining a program.

I'm writing about Steps to Start a Program today.

In this I emphasize some of the reasons programs fail, and listed some points made by Mark Freedman in a 1991 book titled, "The Kindness of Strangers: Reflections on the Mentoring Movement.". These include - missing infrastructure; -  poor program models; -  missing follow-up; - emphasis on marketing and recruitment instead of program support; - poor or no coordination

Then I provide a set of visualizations and ideas that can overcome these obstacles, such as the one below.

4-color graphic created by Wayne Berg, artist at WANYiMATION 

Over my 35 years of leading a tutor/mentor program, I've developed a commitment to comprehensive, mentor-rich programs, which build connections early in a youth's education timeline and try to sustain them as the youth moves through school, toward college and a career.

This idea is communicated by the small graphic in the lower left and by the two larger 4-color graphics. As you look at these, I want to emphasize another point. While I created the smaller graphic, Wayne Berg, artist at WANYiMATION, working with Sara Caldwell, a former tutor and long-term supporter, created the four-color interpretation. You'll see several of these in the presentation. What this means is that students from many places could be creating their own versions of these presentations.  Interns from IIT in Chicago have been doing such work with me since 2005.

When I say "mentor-rich" I mean volunteers should be recruited from a wide range of business and work occupations and experiences, so youth have many role models they can aspire to achieve, and so the organization has many talents to draw upon to help it grow, as well as many sources of potential funding and support.  I illustrate this in another presentation that I titled "Total Quality Mentoring".

In Steps to Start a Program I use a version of this same graphic to describe the "team" of volunteers (some may become members of your Board of Directors) who need to be recruited to support the work of starting a program, then sustaining and growing it. This Talent Map is a worksheet anyone can use to see that they fill all of the needed functional roles. You'll see an updated version of that talent map in the PDF presentation.

While I was  a volunteer, leading a tutor/mentor programs with 100 pairs of kids/volunteers in 1975, that grew to 300 pairs by 1990, I also held full time retail advertising management roles with Montgomery Ward. I did not have a lot of time to reach out and "teach" every volunteer everything they needed to know.

So I began to create a "resource library" that I encouraged volunteers to draw from to support their own learning and innovations.  That library has grown extensively over 40 years and now is available at this link.

In Steps to Start a Program I emphasize the need to draw your volunteers and co-organizers into this learning process. Look at research showing where and why programs are needed. Look at web sites of other programs, in Chicago, and around the world, to see what ideas they include in their programs that you want to include in your own. This learning, comparison and constant improvement should be an on-going part of your operating philosophy.

The result of this learning should be a definition of mission, goals and a theory of change, which will guide your program development and future operations.

Throughout my blog articles and in Steps to Start a Program I use graphics to illustrate program design principles. In this one I talk about the role of programs, volunteers, parents, peers, etc. as one of "pushing" kids to make the right choices, practice the right habits, etc. to  enable them to stay safe and have the lives and careers they aspire to. Don't we all wish kids would listen to everything we tell them?  

In this graphic I also show the role of businesses, and their volunteers, dollars, technology and jobs in "pulling" kids through school and into careers. In the research section of the web library are countless articles showing how poverty, and the need for income to support a family, lead kids off the path to college and careers. Program designs that include business as full partners can "influence" choices and aspirations and provide experience, income, jobs, apprenticeships and much more.

In Steps to Start a Program program design then leads to program location.  Finding a place to operate, that is easily and safely accessible to kids and available to volunteers when they are heading home from work is essential in creating a program that will attract and retain a growing number of participants.

Once  you have a space to operate then you decide dates and times when the site is going to be open and when kids and volunteers will meet.  If you have a facility that you can keep open during non-school hours, the staff become mentors and glue that attracts kids and volunteers. While a volunteer might only meet with a youth two hours a week on one day, the youth might visit the site on other days to  use the computers, meet in group learning activities with other volunteers and/or just "hang out" with peers.

Next you need to determine strategies for recruiting volunteers and students.  These are two different challenges.  If your planning process resulted in a team of volunteers from local businesses, faith groups and/or colleges, you have people to help you recruit volunteers. If your facility is easy to get to, and hours of operation fit time frames when volunteers are available on an on-going basis, and you design an on-going communications program that encourage volunteers to participate, you should be able to build a corps of volunteers, who as they build loyalty to your organization, will then encourage other volunteers to join you.  This is a process. It can take several years for a program to grow. 

Having a reliable source of student participants is essential to attracting and keeping volunteers. If kids don't show up regularly volunteers will become discouraged and not continue to participate. Thus, your planning needs to develop partners in schools, public housing, and faith groups who will help you with your initial recruitment.  Once students start to participate you should build a direct connection to parents and care-givers, support on-going  participation.

So you want to start a program. Are you including all of these steps in your planning? 

We're in December now. If you use Steps to Start A Program and have success building a team and doing your research, hopefully you're ready by mid June to set a start up schedule and launch your program by recruiting kids and volunteers.

Wait! What about funding?  Have you found some donors who will provide the money needed to pay rent, insurance, staff, supplies, office equipment, etc?  If you've recruited a team from different businesses, they can help open doors for funding opportunities. If you're really lucky, you have a wealthy patron. You may be seeking a government grant, but those come with restrictions and don't cover all your costs.  In the Tutor/Mentor web library are many articles to read about fund raising.  Do your homework. Know what challenges you face and what resources are available.

Hopefully, next August you're starting to recruit kids and volunteers and by mid September you've done the screening, orientations and matching and kids and volunteers are starting to meet.

Do you have a plan to track participation, provide feedback, coaching and follow up on a regular basis?  How will you evaluate what you're doing so  you can learn what works, what is not working and find ways to keep improving?  That needs to be part of your planning process.  This Shoppers Guide PDF shows some things you should be thinking about before you start your program, and focusing on as you move through the first year toward your 50th  year some time in the future.

Every child who is helped by a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program to become a tax-paying adult represents a savings and an investment.  We are offered with the choice of a 12 to 16-year investment as a child becomes and adult and becomes a taxpayer, vs the potential lifetime costs of public services associated with children who live adult lives that are a drain on social resources, and who raise future children who re-enter the cycle of poverty.

Volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can not-only help individual inner-city children have a wider range of possibilities for long-term personal fulfillment, but they can also engage adults who don’t live in poverty, and educate them to become more personally involved as they build their bonds with the kids they connect with in tutor/mentor programs.

These programs enrich the lives of the volunteers, as much as they support the growth of  youth skills and aspirations.

Building strong programs and making them available in more places is a huge challenge. Do your planning. Do it right.

I've only highlighted some of the information in the Steps to Start a Program guide.  If you want to view the entire pdf, it's available on for a very, very small fee of $2.99.

If you'd like my help in understanding and applying these ideas, I'm available for monthly conversations for a small consulting fee. Of course I'm sharing these ideas regularly on my blogs, and most of the pdf presentations I point to are available at no cost.

If you value this information, visit this page and consider making a contribution to support the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Did ALL Chicago Youth Organizations Fill Funding Tanks on #GivingTuesday?

Yesterday a large number of youth serving organizations in Chicago, and other cities, reached out for donations via the #GivingTuesday campaign.  Today I'm seen posts from some saying "we raised $xxx thousand dollars".  That's fantastic and I offer thanks to donors who provided support.

However, if you're flying an airplane and they only put 5% of the gas needed in your tank before taking off, you probably should be concerned.

That's what the article below is about.  I wrote this in mid 2015, but want to repeat it as we head into 2017.

If you read the local Chicago papers, the financial mess in Chicago and Illinois means there's not going to be enough money available to fund Chicago Public Schools, resulting in staff cuts and class sizes increasing. There's also going to be a cut in state funding of non-profit youth serving organizations, meaning staff cuts and lost of services. With all of this weighing us down, I'd like to try to stimulate some future thinking.

I've used this graphic often to illustrate the three time frames when youth need support from caring adults (school day, right after school, evening, weekend, summer). This also emphasizes the responsibility we have of helping kids move through school and into jobs and careers, not just high school graduation.

I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago for more than 35 years. Our sessions were held from 5:15 till 8pm, when workplace volunteers were available. In the Cabrini Connections program (1993-2011) we tried to recruit kids in 7th and 8th grade and keep them coming back until they finished high school.

This means we needed to find money every year to pay the bills. That was always a challenge. The graphics below illustrate this challenge.

There's a tremendous amount of wealth in Chicago, and the US, but much of it is not yet being focused on helping build and sustain great learning and mentoring opportunities in high poverty neighborhoods, reach kids at school, and in the non-school hours.

If these graphics resonate with you then let's find places on the Internet, and in Chicago, where we can begin to connect and look for solutions.

The money raised on one day only provides a small part of the fuel a well-organized tutor/mentor program needs for a full year.  Read more articles on this blog to see ways you, your company or faith group, fraternity or social group, can help fuel the growth and operation of needed non-school tutoring, mentoring and learning programs reaching k-12 youth in poverty neighborhoods throughout the Chicago region.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Give support to youth throughout the year.

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, and #ILGive, where thousands of big and small non profits will compete for on-line donations. As with everything else, I suspect the highly visible programs with great marketing will do better than the less known, smaller programs.

In my Nov-Dec newsletter I pointed to the lists on the #ILGive page where donors could search for youth serving organizations in Illinois. I also pointed to the map-directory I've been trying to host since 1994, in an effort to draw volunteers and donors to tutor/mentor programs in every poverty neighborhood of Chicago.

During the remainder of the month and in January, I'm going to post some articles that focus on building mentor-rich programs in more places. These will include:

Logic model graphic - if we believe connecting a youth to extra adults and a wide range of learning an enrichment activities, then we need to build and sustain youth serving organizations in all places where kids need extra help. This requires leadership from business, universities, religion, media, politics, entertainment, etc.

Steps for Starting and Sustaining a non-school tutor, mentor and learning program.  I led three programs between 1975 and 2011, and the ideas I share in this and other presentations are drawn from those experiences.  (see 12/2/16 article)

If you'd like to get a head start on these articles, visit this section of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site and read the four pdf presentations.

Throughout these presentations I'll focus on building a common vision, using a variety of "mentoring kids to careers" graphics. 

I'll also focus on "building teams" to support program growth.  While part of this will focus on internal organizational teams, much will focus on external teams of community leaders, businesses, faith groups, etc. who should be active in helping mentor-rich programs grow in more places.

We're in December now, focusing on year-end fund raising, and January to June activities. However, now is when your planning should also begin to look at "what can we do when school starts again next fall?" If you're thinking of starting a new program, you'd want to be ready to recruit students and volunteers by next August.  Year-to-year improvement, that involves your students, volunteers, and other stakeholders, can be plotted on a planning calendar. 

I'll also share some "operating procedures and philosophy" that has guided my own efforts.   And I'll conclude with articles focusing on "collaboration goals" and "learning strategies" that expand the number of people working to help kids in high poverty areas have a wider range of supports helping them through school and into jobs and careers.

As I write these future articles I'll come back to this post and edit it to put in links to these articles. Thus, I hope you'll bookmark this as an on-going resource. 

I started creating these illustrated essays in the 1990s and have updated them at different times. I started posting them on in 2011 and they have recorded more than 87,000 reads since then.   I think they can all be improved, and converted into podcasts. short videos, and/or animations. However, I don't have the talent or dollars to do this. Thus, as I share this I'm looking for partners and/or sponsors who'd like to help update these, distribute them in more places, and share credit for the ideas they include.  Introduce yourself in the comment box, or on Twitter if you'd  like to help.

If you'd like to make a year-end contribution visit this page

Friday, November 25, 2016

Connecting Urban and Rural America

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection(T/MC)* in Chicago in 1993, to create a master library of information related to building and sustaining volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in high poverty areas of Chicago. Over the past 23 years that has led to creating an extensive library of links to research, networks, organizations, etc. that people could draw from to help support system be available to help urban youth move through school and into jobs. I've piloted uses of GIS maps and concept maps to show where poverty is concentrated and to show strategies as well as sections of my web library.

I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership andNetworking Conferences every six months from May 1994-2015 and many were attended by people from smaller communities and rural America. On those occasions, I was often asked if there was a resource similar to the T/MC that focused on rural issues and I answered that a) I did not know; and b) I wished someone would duplicate what I'm doing, but focused on rural issues. I've offered the same suggestions to people in Africa, Asia and South America.

During the past six months as the US Election campaign took place, I began to see articles that talked about rural America and it's challenges and started to collect links. This past week I added a sub section in the T/MC web library that points to these links.

If you're asking, what does a Tutor/Mentor Connection do, here's one link that shows the how I've been building an information network, and learning library. 

Here's another pdf introducing the work I've been doing: 

Here's a link to a page of concept maps that I've created: 

Here's a page with four “how to starta tutor/mentor program” pdf essays. 

All of these, and a mountain of other information is freely available to anyone who wants to duplicate a Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy in a different city, or focusing on rural issues, rather than urban poverty.

Challenges of reaching youth with organized tutor, mentor and learning programs. Comparing rural and urban America

I see the challenges to be largely based on geographic size, with rural America covering over 80% of the land space (see map above) of the country with countless numbers of small and mid size communities where kids need extra help. Further more it's an issue of population density. Big city poverty is surrounded by big city affluence. Rural communities have far fewer people and resources available to help in each of the places where help is needed.

My web library focuses on collecting links to web sites showing problems of big cities, but also showing solutions being applied in some places which could be borrowed and applied in other places. You can see the map at the left, along with many others, on the MappingforJustice blog. 

I think many of the concept maps I've created could be used by organizations focused on youth in rural communities, along with many of the links I've collected in the T/MC web library. The primary challenge I've faced, which I suspect others also face, is finding ways to attract people to this information, and keep them digging into it for many years.

Finding donors who would provide on-going operating dollars to build, sustain and share information in the library is another huge barrier to doing this work. 

I hope to connect with organizations that I point to in my web library, and to other network leaders, to talk about some of those challenges and show you around the various sections of the T/MC web library.    Just leave a comment to introduce yourself or connect with me on one of these social media sites

*I created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to continue the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago after support for the strategy was discontinued by the founding non-profit. My aim has been to build a new non profit team to support this work in Chicago, while helping groups in other cities build their own intermediary groups, using the strategies I've developed over the past 25 years.

Monday, November 21, 2016

In #Trump dominated media world how do we keep focused on youth?

I was hoping that the November 8th election would lessen the daily bombardment of political messaging. With the election of #DonaldTrump that has risen to a new level, and does not seem likely to lessen anytime soon.

There are too many reasons for this to continue, for me to list here.

However, I want to share this image to remind you that the work of raising kids won't take a four-year holiday while we work to offset the negative impact of Trump in the White House.

This was the front page of the Chicago SunTimes in October 1992 after the shooting of a 7-year old boy in Chicago's Cabrini-Green neighborhood.  I've used this image over and over since then to remind myself, and others, of our on-going responsibility to help build support systems for youth that help more kids move safely through school and into jobs and careers.

You can read one of those articles at this link.

Like many, I'm concerned about how Donald Trump and those surrounding him might move this country toward something that resembles Nazi era Germany.  That cannot be allowed. Those organizations on the front lines of protecting civil liberties need to be supported.

However, let's not drop the ball on other important causes.

I created the graphic at the right in the 1990s, recognizing that there are many important issues that require attention, volunteer talent and dollars.  My hope is that people will devote a small percent of their attention and resources to support on-going operations of youth serving organizations in their neighborhood and in other under-served areas of the country and the world.

Which brings me to a final thought as we start this Thanksgiving week and holiday season.  I created the graphic below in the 1990s to illustrate the need to surround youth with a diverse mix of adults from many work, age and faith backgrounds, from the time they are born until a time when they are in work and raising their own kids.  You can see a version of this in this pdf essay.  I added the red and blue boxes, and the political map of the US over the weekend.

I think of on-going, volunteer-based non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs as a "melting pot" where youth and adults from different backgrounds connect and over many weeks and years of interaction, begin to know each other on a personal level, not as labels and stereotypes, such as "red state" or "blue state".

I think raising kids to become contributing adults is everyone's responsibility. Teaching them to read, reflect, think and become future leaders is a goal I hope many share, regardless of political affiliation.

While I've focused on building and sustaining tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other big cities, I hope to connect with people who focus on rural areas and foriegn countries, using web libraries, maps and visualizations for the same purpose as I do.

While I fear the growth of programs where adults mentor youth to hate and promote one race and class over all others, I believe that programs with a mix of adults and perspectives have the potential to offset this bias.

I use maps because such programs need to be in many places and only with maps can we clearly see their availability and distribution.  The map creation and update is an on-going process, so this too needs to be supported, ideally by universities, company teams and even high school service learning organizations.

As you head into the holidays I hope you'll read this and other articles on my blogs and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site.  Create your own blog and use maps and visualizations to share your own ideas. Share your link with me via the comment section, or on Twitter or Facebook.

As a nation, we've not come close to accepting the responsibilities requested in that October 1992 Chicago SunTimes article. Let's try to do better in the future....regardless of how traditional and social media try to pull our attention in different directions.

If you value these articles and the information I share, please make a year end contribution to help me do this work. Learn more here.