Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Commitment to Chicago area youth. Need more leaders.

This was the editorial from the April 14, 2014 Chicago Tribune, following another weekend of violence. I've been collecting news articles like this for more than 20 years, with a goal that I'd some day have the ability to put these into book form in ways that the aggregated total would show that the way we've tried to solve this problem in the past has not worked, and that new ways need to be innovated.

This was the front page of the October 15, 1992 Chicago SunTimes. I've used this often in this blog to remind myself, and others, of the daily commitment many of us need to make to help youth in areas with high concentrations of poverty, poor schools and youth violence, have a non-school support system, anchored by well-organized, consistently funded volunteer based tutor/mentor programs.

Every December since I started writing this blog in 2005 I've posted articles focusing forward into the next year. I hope you'll read some and share them with others.\

Dec. 9, 2014 - Building Influence. Building Networks

Dec. 26, 2013 - Connecting a Million Minds around Complex Problems

Dec. 21, 2012 - New Year's Resolution for Helping At-Risk Youth

Dec. 26, 2011 - Creating a Service and Learning Organization that Mentors Kids to Careers: 2012 Resolution

Dec. 22, 2010 - Networking, sharing information, collaboration

Dec. 17, 2009 - Network Building for Inner City Youth

Dec. 29, 2008 - SunTimes 'Stop the Killing’ Special Report misses opportunity

Dec. 16, 2007 - Building Networks of Purpose

Dec. 26, 2006 - National Mentoring Month - Who Mentored You?

Dec. 23, 2005 - Spread Holiday Hope and Holiday Cheer

If you look at articles I've written in other months of the year, you'll see a consistency of messages. I firmly believe that until more people are writing similar stories, using common information libraries, and for the same purpose, we won't build the momentum needed to make great tutor/mentor programs available in all poverty areas, or keep them their and constantly improving as they help kids move from first grade to first job.

If you're writing stories like this, and have been doing it for as many years, let's connect.

I've been trying to find a way to fund the work I've been doing since forming Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011. I've not had much success so I'm spending less than $20,000 a year when I really should be spending more than $1 million a year to implement the 4-part strategy shown in this concept map.

If you want to help me do this work, on an incremental basis, become a sponsor for the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, or make a "HOPE and Opportunity" contribution that is an investment in the work I'm doing.

However, if you'd like to make this your legacy, and put your name on the door, please reach out to me at

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Building Influence. Building Networks.

I frequently see this quote from Margaret Mead quote in my Twitter feed: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

However, have you done much thinking about what the membership of this small group looks like? Of how they might help you?

To answer the second question first, a leader is constantly seeking to influence the actions of others. If you have an idea for solving a problem and realize you can't do it all by yourself, the first thing you need to do is begin reaching out to invite others to become involved in the work. I posted this article about "intentional influence" a few weeks ago. I hope you'll read it.

Once you realize you need help from others, a map showing the type of help you need could be helpful.

The map below is one I created many years to to serve as a worksheet in my own efforts to build this "small group of people". I've shared it often because I think others could also use it to show the wide range of talent and skills needed to launch a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program and keep it constantly improving (good to great) for many years.

If you were to do a survey of people helping you now, and categorize them by talent, or by areas of influence, would your map show you have all the skills you need, along with the civic reach needed to get your message to resource providers, media, policy makers, etc? If you're not sure what I'm talking about, read this article titled "Building Philanthropy Capital to Fuel Good to Great". Toward the end of the article is a link to a Stanford Social Innovation Review article titled Increasing Civic Reach.

Most small non profits don't have all the talent they need, not at the beginning, and not as they mature. It's why so many, including the ones I led, struggle so much.

I started Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1992 with six other volunteers. I had been leading a volunteer based tutor/mentor program for the previous 17 years, but was only able to draw a few of the people from that group into support for my new effort, so my initial mail list was about 400 people.

By 1998 that was up to 12,000 people. This was before I began to build an internet community. The graphic below is a worksheet I developed in the mid 1990s. Here's an article I posted on the Cabrini Blog in 2011 with this graphic. Here's the same graphic in an article on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum.

This worksheet is useful because if you ask someone to give you 5 names to add to a mailing list for an event or a newsletter, they struggle to come up with five names. One reason may be that there are so many people to choose from. If you use this worksheet, you can look at each sub category, such as family, neighbor, college, etc. and look for one person who might be interested in knowing more about your ideas. One person from each category represents 8 to 10 people. As I did this in the 1990s I began to add groups of people, like my college fraternity brothers from the years I was at Illinois Wesleyan.

If you use email, or a printed newsletter to tell stories of your work, why it's important, what you accomplish, how people might help you, some from your network may offer their own time, talent and resources. However, if a few pass on this message to their network, you may reach friends of friends who have an even greater potential to help.

Even with the worksheet motivating others to map their network and constantly reach out asking for support is difficult. People don't like asking friends or family for money. That leads to the next steps in this strategy.

Because of my background with the Montgomery Ward corporation in the 1970s and 1980s I often draw analogies from those experiences. For instance, I think of a mentor-rich youth organization as a "retail store for hope and opportunity" which needs to have a variety of age-appropriate learning and mentoring experiences that motivate youth and volunteers to participate weekly, and for multiple years. Here's one article where I explore this idea.

If you think of a single program like a Walgreens, then my web sites serve as a "shopping mall" or a "department store". When you first visit a new store, or mall, you just take a walking tour, visiting the different shops so you know what's there. Later you go back and take more time browsing the stores that were most interesting to you. Thus, if you set up a web site with information related to your mission, or the problem you're trying to solve, your blogs, social media, Twitter and other forms of daily communication serve as "advertising" intended to draw people to your ideas.

The Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and Tutor/Mentor web sites serve this purpose. This PDF essay shows information a youth tutor/mentor program might want to have on their web site to show shoppers what they do and why they should be supported.

This last graphic is one that illustrates your role in facilitating the involvement of a growing number of other people. Over time, this can result in many people, with many different talents and a significant level of civic reach, working to help you make a difference in the world.

If you'd like to have me visit and talk to you about these ideas, or others shared on my blog and web site, let's find a way for me to do that.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

What's on your book shelf? Ferguson? Race? Poverty? Philanthropy?

If you're like me, you have stacks of books, publications and magazines in your home or office that you've collected and set aside for "future reading". While my home library includes books on history and science fiction, my work library includes books on innovation, mentoring, poverty, youth development, leadership, etc.

This image is from a small collection of my library in my office on the North side of Chicago. Between 1993 and 1999 the Tutor/Mentor Connection was hosted at the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headquarters in Chicago and we had lots of space. Thus, we had a huge collection of publications and information files about Chicago area tutor/mentor programs. I also maintained a media clip file, of stories from local media.

However, we all know that once an article is printed, it's out of date. Thus, since 1998 I've been building a much larger library on the Internet than the one in my office. I host on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site and I point to ideas from all over the world. Because I point to the web sites hosting those ideas, people looking at these ideas are also exposed to the web libraries hosted by others. It's a vast network of knowledge available to everyone.

This map is an outline of just one section, where I post research articles and publications related to the challenges facing youth living in high poverty neighborhoods.

The purpose of this library is to support innovation and constant improvement. If program leaders, volunteers and donors can look at what people do in one place that seems to be working, they can expand the range of ideas they have to improve what they do in their own long as they have the talent and resources to apply those ideas.

I created this illustrated essay to show how this information could be used by many to influence actions of others.

Using Ideas to Stimulate Competition and Process Improvement - Concept Paper by Daniel F. Bassill

I was contacted yesterday by a program leader looking for articles mentors could read
that are related to some of the high profile media stories, such racial profiling and police shootings, domestic abuse, child abuse, etc. I was preparing an email response, and thought I'd just share that response here with more of you.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection web library has sub sections, and within these are sub-sub sections. One section titled homework help, has many ideas volunteers might look at for engaging their students. In this section there's also one focused on Black History, with links to some sites that could be used to develop discussion and activities.

Another section has the title of Law, Justice, Housing, Poverty and Prevention. Each of the sub sections have links to web sites that volunteers can visit to expand their thinking on issues affecting the youth they work with.

Another section focuses on research, which is also divided into sub categories focused on education, dropout prevention, social capital, mentoring and tutoring. The links I point to usually point to even more links.

I suggest that one activity any tutor/mentor program could undertake is to encourage a small group of youth and volunteers to go through the site, doing a deeper dive into the information. As they do this, they can create presentations that share sites they find valuable with the other youth, volunteers and staff in the organization...or with the larger community. I've been encouraging interns working with me to do this. This is an animation I made to introduce this concept.

New Assignment. A Quest. by tutormentor1 on GoAnimate

Video Maker - Powered by GoAnimate.

I've had interns from different colleges going through my web sites and library to create guides for users. Here's an animation created in 2009. Some of the links may be broken in this, but it illustrates work that can be done.

My library has been built over 40 years, starting with hard copy information
, then moving to the internet in 1998. It was created primarily as my own "book shelf", providing ideas I could use to innovate better ways to recruit youth and volunteers, keep them connected, and have an impact on both groups. I've constantly borrowed ideas from others, and one complete section of the web library focuses on collaboration, innovation, knowledge management, etc. These are ideas that not only apply to tutoring/mentoring, but can be applied to many work/life situations.

Since I operated as a non profit from 1990-2011, one section is focused on philanthropy, and shows challenges that need to be overcome if high quality, long-term youth programs are to be in more places, reaching more youth.

I'm constantly adding to the library, and links often break. If you identify a broken link, send me a note. If you are building your own web library, with information that relates to my library, send me a link and I'll add it. I don't need to gather all knowledge in my library. I only need to point to knowledge that represents "all we need to know" to help well-organized non-school programs connect with youth in high poverty areas, and stay connected as those youth grow up and become adults.

If you're a university and want to co-host this library, or set up a curriculum to teach students and alumni to navigate the library, and use the information in their own actions, please connect. If you're one of the people featured in the current philanthropy issue of Forbes, and want to put your name on this library and use if for your own purposes, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Involve Youth: Thanksgiving Message

Over the coming week millions of people throughout the USA will gather with family and friends to celebrate and give thanks for the blessings of living in this country. However, a small percent of citizens don't share many of those blessings because they live in high poverty areas of big cities and rural parts of the country.

I've been blessed to be able to lead volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 where inner city youth and volunteers from many different backgroundsconnect on a weekly basis throughout the school year, with a goal of transforming the future for both groups of people involved. I've also been frustrated by how difficult it is to find the consistent operating dollars needed to sustain on-going, constantly improving programs.

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC kin 2011 to help draw needed resources to every non-school tutor/mentor program in the Chicago region, based on the way corporate office teams at big companies like Montgomery Ward (where I worked from 1973-1990) help stores grow all over the country. At Wards I had an annual retail advertising budget of over $250 million to reach out to over 20 million people a week with invitations and motivation to shop at our stores.

As the leader of a single tutor/mentor program, and the leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I had almost no money for advertising, yet the need to attract attention and resources was the same. Thus, as I've created a list of Chicago youth organizations, I've also enlisted volunteers and interns to help build the public awareness of our work.

The Thanksgiving graphic above was created by one of our Cabrini Connections students in 2009. Visit this blog and you can see two graphics created as part of a technology club led by volunteers.

I've had interns from various colleges working with me since 2005, creating visualizations with the same goal. I think youth in many programs could be creating visualizations, videos, blog articles and other forms of "advertising" that could be drawing the attention of potential volunteers and donors on a daily basis, not just during Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays.

If you're doing this kind of work, and showing it on your web site, please send me the link so I can give you attention and help you attract needed resources to your organization, while inspiring others to duplicate your efforts. While you're thinking about this, and counting your blessings, I encourage you to visit this Illinois Gives Big event web site, and browse the list of organizations that you can support on December 2, 2014. Many of these are also listed in my list of Chicago youth orgs. They all can benefit from your help as we move into 2015.

While we don't have traditional advertising we have tremendouse talent within our youth and volunteer networks who could be helping attract support to tutor/mentor programs so that evbery year when we give Thanks, more people have something to be thankful for.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Use of Concept Maps to Show Strategy

Since October 25 I've been posting a series of articles on the Mapping for Justice blog, illustrating my uses of concept maps to show strategies leaders can adopt to build and sustain mentor-rich organizations helping kids living in poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.

These articles, and most on this blog, illustrate the role intermediaries can take to support multiple organizations doing similar work, but in different parts of a large geographic region like Chicago.

Throughout these articles you'll see a constant focus on drawing needed resources (talent, dollars, technology, ideas, etc. directly to each organization already operating and to neighborhoods where more are needed.

Any business leader knows that without a constant flow of operating and innovation resources the business cannot grow, or survive. I continue to seek a few leaders who will add their support, talent and leadership to the ideas I share on these blogs and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site.

If you'd like to help, or learn more, connect with me on one of the social media sites shown in this link.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mentoring: One Size Fits ALL? No.

I've been connected to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership since 1995, before they were THE partnership. I've followed the growth of mentor support networks in many cities, and today received the announcement of the launch of the National Mentoring Resource Center hosted by MENTOR and funded by OJJDP.

I've been trying to use visualizations, like the one below, to show that while every youth needs a mentor, youth living in high poverty areas of big cities need mentors, and a lot more that volunteers can help bring to a youth and his/her neighborhood.

The new Resource Center has a What is Mentoring page. I wish it, along with MENTOR and others who focus on mentoring as part of a strategy to improve the well-being of youth and adults, would create a graphic like the one above, that shows the different types of mentoring, and then shows strategies that focus more narrowly on those types of mentoring.

During the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference last week I encouraged people to do a Google search for the words "tutor mentor" then look at the images. Then do the same for MENTOR, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and any other well known mentoring strategy you know of.

Do the same for the word "tutor".

I'm the only one who seems to be focusing on mentoring as part of a set of actions that help youth move from first grade through school and into jobs, or at least the only one providing visualizations to illustrate how long this takes and how funding and leadership needs to be provided for many years, not just one to three year grant cycles.

I'm also one of the few who consistently uses maps to illustrate that constantly improving, growing, programs need to be reaching youth in every high poverty area of a city. If MENTOR would create it's own set of graphics, perhaps we could begin to build a conversation that focuses on the different needs of kids, based on where they live, and based on what other needs they have.

Instead of saying "Mentoring Works" we should be saying "Mentoring works for specific groups of young people and adults if the right strategy is in place."

This is not intended as a criticism of MENTOR or any other mentoring organization. I wrote this Defining Terms essay almost 15 years ago with the same goal in mind.

I'm sure others could create a better visualization of the different types of mentoring needed, as well as the different strategies that work best for different populations. If someone already has done this, please share.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Value of Intentional Influence - SSIR series

I've been reading, and commenting, on a series of articles on the Stanford Social Innovation Review site, titled The Value of Intentional Influence.

I hope you'll spend some time reading these, then browse back through blog articles I've written on this site, and the Mapping for Justice site, and look at some of the printed newsletters I was sending to 12,000 people in the 1990s.

Here's a graphic that illustrates my goal of influencing what resource providers do, along with what tutor/mentor program leaders do, so every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other cities is filled with great, or constantly improving, non-school programs helping kids move through school and into jobs some day in the future. In this article you can see how I posted this in a blog, then one of my interns from IIT and South Korea, converted it to a video on YouTube.

This is one of many graphics I've created to emphasize the role everyone, or anyone, can take to influence the actions of others.

I've been trying to influence what people do since I became a mentor, then leader of a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in 1973-1975. Actually, I started earlier in college when I was in a fraternity and tried to influence new freshmen every year to join the fraternity. When I came to Chicago in 1973 it was to become a retail advertising copywriter with the Montgomery Ward corporation. For the next 17 years my daily focus was creating advertising that would influence people to shop in one of the 400 retail stores we had in 40 states.

At Wards our annual retail advertising budget in the 1980s was close to $250 million. In the past 20 years my advertising budget has been close to zero. I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 with no money and seven volunteers, and with a primary goal of creating a new youth serving programs to help 7th graders in Cabrini-Green move through high school. I've never had more than $150,000 in a given year for everything the Tutor/Mentor Connection was trying to do, even though my focus was the third largest city in the USA.

Thus, my ability to influence what leaders in industry, philanthropy, media, politics, sports, religion, education, etc. do has been limited, even though writers like John McCarron of the Chicago Tribune recognized the vision I had as early as 1995. See article. In the past three years, as the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC has been my organizational structure, the dollars I have available to influence people has been even less, yet my time has grown since I'm no longer also responsible for leading a non-school tutor/mentor program with 80 pairs of teens/volunteers meeting weekly.

If you want to help youth born in high poverty neighborhoods move from birth to work you need to make a daily effort to influence what others do to provide the talent, operating dollars, technology and ideas to schools and non school organizations working with youth and families in high poverty neighborhoods.

If you want to help me do this work you can go to this page and make an investment in my work. Or you can contact me and explore ways you can become a partner, or even an owner, sharing this influence building effort in your own community.