Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mapping Philanthropy - BMA Funders Map

If you've followed my articles you'll see that I'm passionate about mapping data that supports the growth of mentor-rich, volunteer based tutoring, mentoring and learning programs in high poverty areas. This graphic shows a the home page of the BMA Funders mapping platform. It's an innovative, interactive map, showing funding of programs that "offer Black men and boys in the U.S. greater access to the structural supports and opportunities needed to thrive. "

I encourage you to get to know this platform and learn to use it. At the same time, read the article I wrote at the Mapping for Justice blog, showing how this compares to the Tutor/Mentor Program locator map platform that I've been developing since the early 2000s.

I have been aggregating links to program locators and mapping platforms for more than a decade, with the goal that anyone building one of these would borrow ideas from others who are doing similar work. Better yet they might collaborate on efforts to secure funding, and technology talent, to help each other build the best platforms possible.

Finally, they might also collaborate on enlisting students from high schools, colleges, faith groups and existing youth tutor/mentor programs, to be story tellers, using the maps and the data to educate policy makers, donors and other volunteers so funding reaches every poverty neighborhood, and supports a wide range of needed youth and family supports.

If you're interested in helping me, or learning from my 20 years of experience, let's connect.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Be Part of the Tradition. Tutor/Mentor Conference First held in 1994

In January 1994 a survey identified 120 organizations in the Chicago area who offers various forms of non-school, volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring. The survey included two questions related to 'how much contact do you have with peers and do you want more' and 'would you come to a conference'. 80% of respondents said there is "some need or a great deal of need" for increased contact. When asked, "How likely is it that you would attend a city-wide conference with other Tutoring/Mentoring providers for minimal or no fee?", 68% said they were were "very likely to attend" and an additional 22% were "somewhat likely to attend" See survey responses.

So a first conference was held in May 1994. 70 people attended and the first printed Tutor/Mentor Chicago Programs Directory was distributed. Feedback was enthusiastic, so a second conference was held in November 1994. 200 people attended and the conference has been held every six months since then.

This video shows what past participants have said about the conference.

Conference Capacity from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

In 2011 a DePaul University graduate created network maps, showing participation of organizations in the 2008 and 2009 conferences. I'm part of a 2015 Information Visualization MOOC (#IVMOOC) being hosted by Indiana University, and a team of students is now looking at all 42 conferences to create similar participation maps. See more here.

I've been writing articles about network building for many years, showing how important this is, and seeking funders/investors who would support my own efforts.

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conferences are part of a 40-year effort at building networks of support for youth via non-school tutor/mentor programs operating in high poverty neighborhoods. The next is Friday, May 8, 2015 and I hope you'll attend, or encourage others to attend.

However, I hope you'll also check back to see the network maps that are created to show the past 42 Tutor/Mentor Conferences. My goal is that others who host events that gather dozens, or hundreds, of people and focus on poverty, inequality, education, violence, health, workforce development and democracy, will begin to build participant mapping into their own events and that they will share their maps in public space, showing who is participating, how participation grows and who still needs to be participating.

Such maps can become a link between people who are now working in separate silos, but toward the same goals. They can be an accountability tool, showing the year-to-year success event organizers have in attracting key participants, and keeping them involved. They can also be an accountability tool motivating those who need to be participating, but currently don't show up, to get more involved.

Here's an example:

Look at more conference maps to expand your understanding of what's possible using maps.

Then look at this Talent Map The conference maps show who attended, by category. You can quickly see that business, political groups, funders, media and many other sectors represented on my maps have not been attending the Tutor/Mentor Conferences. That's a problem for me, and for kids in Chicago.

However, it might not be a problem for Chicago if other organizers, were able to show participation maps for their events, indicating that the people not attending my conferences are attending their events.

So far, I don't know of anyone who is doing this. Thus, how do we know if the "village" is completely represented in efforts to help end poverty, provide greater opportunity, and solve other related, complex problems that we face in Chicago?

If you're interested in talking with me about these ideas, or inviting me to be part of your planning, let's find time to connect.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

America needs central-city and suburban residents to unite in a new coalition to support shared prosperity.

I have been using maps since 1994 to show places in Chicago where people live in concentrated poverty. My efforts have aimed to engage people from beyond poverty in deeper learning that builds their own involvement in solutions to poverty, as solutions that affect the future of their own kids and grand-kids.

This quote "America needs central-city and suburban residents to unite in a new coalition to support shared prosperity." is part of a long article titled "Philanthropy’s Misguided Ideas for Fixing Ghetto Poverty: The Limits of Free Markets and Place-Based Initiatives"

In the past month I've posted several articles focused on closing the opportunity gap, and referring to a new book by Robert Putnam, titled "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis".

I encourage you to read these articles. Share them with the volunteers in your tutor/mentor programs. Share them with family, fiends, church members. Encourage them to form study groups and engage others.

Short term results might be to support existing tutor/mentor programs, so more volunteers get involved and more kids are served. Additional efforts might result in new programs being created where none now exist.

However, the long-term effort aims to create a coalition with a vision for a future America and world where prosperity is shared and opportunity is available for all.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Turning the Pope's message into Action Plan

As Christians and Jews celebrate this religious holiday I add my own hope for peace in the world, at home, and in the hearts of men and women. I'm thrilled by Pope Francis and his emphasis on the poor. This Wall Street Journal article is one of many that you can read to see his impact. Here's an article I wrote in 2013.

A first step in reducing poverty and the opportunity gap is for highly visible leaders to draw attention to the problem, and call on the rich and privileged to be a greater part of the solution. However, the next step is for leaders to map how we get from where we are now (here) to where we want to be in the future (there).

This PDF is one that I hope Christians, Jews and people of other faiths will share in their congregations. Form study groups to understand this. Then implement the strategies so a growing percent of every congregation is growing their involvement in activities that make more and better non-school tutoring, mentoring, learning organizations and safe spaces available to youth in big cities of the US and the world.

Network Building. Role of Faith Community by Daniel F. Bassill

This is one of many strategy and idea articles I've posted in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library and written about on my blogs.

Start a study group. Read these. Discuss them in groups. Come to the May 8 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago and connect with others who already lead tutor/mentor programs, or who are trying to start new programs.

Create your own maps to show what congregations may already be hosting programs and what congregations have study groups, or marketing programs, to engage members, and the places where they work, in efforts that help programs grow throughout the Chicago region, or in any other urban area.

On the next major religious celebration, create your own blog and show your own maps and blueprints for getting from "here to there".

Thursday, April 02, 2015

What if 1% of election spending were focused on problem solving?

Next week Chicago will elect a new mayor (or re-elect the incumbent) and will also elect some new aldermen. One of the issues is violence in Chicago. Shootings are up over the past year. They've been up and down for the past 25 years, as this front page from the 1992 Chicago SunTimes illustrates. In July 2014, the front page of both major newspapers featured “Violence in Chicago” this week. It's been an ongoing theme for a few years. In fact, This problem has been in the news off and on for over 20 years.

However, not much has changed.
Perhaps if elected officials were leading a “systems thinking” approach to draw stakeholders together, more people might become informed, and involved in solutions. We might find ways to keep people involved for many years.

Business and philanthropic leaders might apply the same process. For instance as The Chicago Community Trust celebrates it's 100th year anniversary, and holds its second annual On The Table event in May, they might have teams facilitating a systems thinking approach to reducing poverty in Chicago areas neighborhoods.

Problem solving is a cyclical process. A group of people get together to solve a problem and the solution leads to new programs that need to be solved, or new learning that leads to year-to-year growth in how the problem is being solved.

Here’s a graphic that I’ve borrowed from a video created by Gene Bellinger, who leads a Systems Thinking discussion group on Linked-in.

As I view Gene’s videos, my wish is that someone were doing exactly the same presentation, but focused on bringing people together to solve some of the problems we face in Chicago, which are deeply rooted in poverty, income inequality, political power, etc.

I've hacked Gene's video to copy this graphic, then to create views of each element.

I'm using them to communicate an idea that I launched over seven years ago in a blog post focused on comparing the thinking and planning process that General's use to fight wars to what we need to be doing in Chicago to fight poverty and violence by providing stronger, on-going birth-to-work support systems for youth living in high poverty areas. Click on the graphic to enlarge it. Read this article for a full explanation of each step.

In the systems thinking video, this graphic is used to describe a “situation”, something that motivates people to gather to find ways to change the situation. In this and many articles I've posted on this blog the “situation” is poverty, violence, workforce development, poorly performing schools, and an ineffective funding stream to support organizations working to solve the problem.

In this graphic, Gene is focusing on how groups need to gather and review information that helps them understand the situation, as well as potential solutions.
In my own graphic, I show this as the analysis stage (1). I've created a huge library of information that people can use to understand how where you live influences what your future is. This library includes maps, that show all of the areas of Chicago where poverty is concentrated, so that planners provide support services in all of those areas, not just in high profile areas. Robert Putnam's new book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" calls attention to how this opportunity gap is growing in America. I wrote about it here.

I've used concept maps to outline sections of the library. This map shows research articles in the library. Thus in understanding violence you'd need to look at articles on poverty, drop out issues, social capital, workforce development, crime, etc. You can find this map at

Based on shared understanding a group will propose solutions, and build strategies to implement those solutions. This is the Strategy stage Gene describes. I use this Strategy Map to focus attention on a goal that can be shared by just about everyone, which is to help kids grow up and be starting jobs and careers by their mid-20s. People in different places, and with different resources, will develop different strategies to reach this goal. If they are well supported, and given time, many can be effective.

Steps 2 through 6 of my graphic represent stages of putting a strategy into operation. This includes generating the revenue needed to fund the entire operation, not just parts of it. In the military, the troops in combat are supported by a huge supply chain. We don't have such a system supporting all of the organizations working with youth in Chicago. This is the adoption stage of Gene's video.

As the plan rolls out in its first year data is collected showing what happened, and new information is collected showing how others have been trying to solve the same problem in different places. An analysis of this information leads to improvement in the strategy so it works better the second year.
This graphic illustrates this process of constant improvement as “The Problem Solving Loop”. The “Reality” in this process is that complex problems, such as ending poverty, require many years of effort.

One of the articles from my web library is titled, “The cyclical process of action research – The contribution of Gilles Deleuze” This article is part of a web library hosted by Geno Bertini.

In action research, a situation is identified and a group of people gather to build understanding and propose solutions. An action plan is developed and the ideas are put in to action. When the initial problem is solved, such as getting a business to donate land for a park, a new situation is created, which is “what do we do with the land”. This requires new people, with new expertise.

In numerous reports mentoring is mentioned as a solution. The situation that needs to be addressed is “how do we connect youth and adults and keep them connected long enough for the mentoring to influence the habits and behaviors of the mentee?”

Organized tutor/mentor programs are a solution, but then the “situation” becomes “how do we make these programs available in all of the places where they are needed”.

A variety of mapping platforms are available to support this stage of planning. Maps can include overlays showing indicators, like poverty, violence, poorly performing schools. They can show locations of existing programs. They can even show assets in different parts of the city who should be supporting program growth in different areas. You can find many examples for using maps at

At this stage of the problem solving there are many different “situations” which need to be addressed concurrently. Every organization working to reduce poverty by helping young people move through school and into jobs, or in helping parents earn a wage that enables them to provide more support to their own kids, has the same needs. They all need volunteers, public visibility (advertising), operating dollars, technology, etc.

I've created graphics like this to illustrate the 12 years it takes for a youth to go from first grade through high school. Building funding commitments that sustain this journey in every neighborhood is one of the challenges we need to overcome. One of the PDF essays I've written it titled “tipping points”. It lists some actions that might lead to more and better youth serving organizations in places where they are most needed.

Step 7 of my graphic is one that we struggle with as a country. We fail to keep the issue in front of the public long enough to reach all the people who need to be involved in solving the problem, and we fail to keep them involved for all of the years it takes for great programs to grow in all the places where they are needed, then to grow their impact on youth as they move from first grade to first job, which is a 20 year journey for every youth.

Thus this is another “situation” that requires the involvement of people from many different backgrounds, who innovate ways to communicate ideas and create on-going social purpose advertising, without the same resources that for-profit businesses use to attract customers. Dan Pallotta's TED talk calls attention to this “situation”. Here's a blog article inviting you to be part of that problem solving community.

This is another graphic from my blog. Note how it includes elements from several other graphics that were created earlier. The intent is to show that if we want to solve complex problems we need to influence what resource providers do, not just what social service and education providers do.

As I mentioned above, a major challenge is finding ways to reach more people with these ideas, and doing so with few, or no, advertising dollars. One solution is to engage young people in communicating these ideas.

At this link you can see how an intern from South Korea “hacked” my blog article to create a new video interpretation of the first graphic in this article. Here's a page where you can see a video created by a different intern providing an interpretation of the above graphic.

My hope is that many will do this. The information I've shared here can be used by leaders in business, philanthropy, media, politics, education, etc. to engage people in this on-going systems thinking problem solving process. If just a fraction of the billions of dollars spent on electing people in this country were spent to facilitate this problem solving process in every city, perhaps the leaders could actually shrink the poverty and opportunity gaps in America.

Read the articles about learning and network building on this blog. Every person who shares these ideas helps expand the network of people who get involved and stay involved in providing solutions to poverty in one or more places. As one person learns to hack these ideas in their own efforts, they become a leader who then mobilizes others, rather than a bystander who hoping others “will solve the problem” or who thinks they can build a wall that keeps them and their family safe and not affected.

I do my best with what talent I have to communicate these ideas. I know others can do better. That's why I include links in my articles to other web sites.

Here is the Systems Thinking video which I “hacked” to build this article.

This is one of a series of videos that I hope you'll take time to look at and share with others. Gene does a great job of showing tools to use to create understanding, while also helping us understand how to look at problem solving from a systems thinking perspective.

Here's a section of my web library with links to many other people with great ideas for collaboration, innovation, knowledge management, etc.

Here are more articles with strategy ideas that you can use to build your understanding of the situation and potential strategies to solve the problem.

There are thousands of consultants, writers, educators, etc. who provide tools and ideas that people can use to solve problems. Most of these are “generic”. It's like getting a liberal arts degree but needing to learn what to do when you get a job.

I think students in high schools and colleges could hack work done by people like Gene, and build versions that apply those tools and ideas to solving specific problems.

If you're already doing this, please share. Perhaps future MOOCS will be showcasing such work, and will be helping more people become involved.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Drain the Swamp to Get Rid of Alligators

If you skim through articles I've written since 2005 you'll see a growing use of visualizations to communicate ideas. Many of these start as scratches on a tablet as an idea comes to me, then are converted to power point.  I've been lucky to have interns from IIT and other universities work with me for a few weeks every year who have used their own talent to convert some of my essays into new graphics. This page shows work that has been done.

However, these interns are only with me a few weeks in the winter and spring. I come up with ideas all the time but don't have the talent to communicate these as effectively as I'd like.  Here's an example.

I've used maps to show where poverty is concentrated in Chicago and to show where existing tutor/mentor programs are located. You can see many map stories in this in this blog.  In addition, you can see maps in many of my blog articles I've written about how poverty affects  health, student aspirations, education performance, etc.

In other articles and in this section of my library I show challenges that non profit tutor/mentor programs face in finding the talent and operating resources to build and sustain constantly improving long-term programs.

Since I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 my goal has been to help all of the non-school tutor/mentor programs in the region get the operating resources they need while helping new programs grow in areas where more are needed. While many of my peers have said "I like what you do," most have said, "When I'm able to get my own program stabilized, I'll help you do this".

I've always said to myself, "They will never help me help them, because by themselves they can't solve the funding and resource flow problems facing most smaller non profit organizations."

So a couple of years ago I was thinking about this and I thought of the saying "I can't drain the swamp because I'm up to my neck in alligators".   How could I visualize this?  Well I started scratching out some ideas. I used a free drawing application (here) to create these graphics.

So here's the first image I thought of. I'm in a boat in the middle of a swamp. The boat is leaking water and I'm surrounded by alligators.  

Operating a small non profit feels like this. I'm surrounded by challenges and don't have the manpower to solve all of the problems facing my kids, volunteers and the organization. In this analogy, the swamp represents the high poverty neighborhoods where our kids live and where we operate. Parents, schools, kids and non profits are surrounded by all sorts of problems. Violence is just one of these (see articles)

Through the actions of the Tutor/Mentor Connection I've been trying to "drain the swamp". This graphic illustrates this.

This next graphic shows how many of the 170-plus tutoring and/or mentoring programs in the Chicago region face the same challenges every day.

So what if many non profits were working together to overcome the challenges we each face. What if leaders in business, faith groups, politics, sports, entertainment, etc. were working with us? 

We could be building greater daily attention for ways to help build student aspirations and learning habits while also building support systems that expand the network of adults and learning opportunities available to kids in every high poverty neighborhood.

Through the collective efforts of many people we could be helping more volunteers connect with kids in tutor/mentor programs as school starts each year. We could be encouraging more workplace donors to support these programs during workplace fund raising campaigns in the fall. We could be bringing more people together to share ideas and give recognition to programs in November. And we could be using this November attention to encourage more year-end donors to seek out tutor/mentor programs in different neighborhoods.

What prevents this from happening? A major obstacle is that each organization is promoting its own "brand" identity and each is competing with all others for scarce resources. How can they spend time promoting the big picture of how volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are needed in all high poverty areas of Chicago, when every good marketing consultant tells them how important it is that every message promotes their own brand?

I'd like to offer my own leadership of Cabrini Connections from 1993 to 2011 as an example of what's possible. We started with 7 volunteers and 5 kids and no money in January 1993. We launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection the same year. In this page you can see newspaper stories generated by T/MC events and activities. I've another set of articles, not on a web page, showing media stories where Cabrini Connections was the feature. Between 1993 and 2011 we raised more than $6 million dollars, starting with $114k in 1994, then $225, in 1995, and maxing at nearly $500k in 1999 before the financial, natural and man-made disasters of the 2000s caused revenue to dip to as low as $350k each year from 2001-2011.

I think that by talking about the need for all programs, and organizing events like the May and November Tutor/Mentor Conferences, I was able to draw donor and volunteer attention to our Cabrini Connections program that I might not have attracted by just leading a single program and talking about my own "brand". I think other programs could talk global and support collaborative events, like the conferences, as part of a strategy to draw more attention to their own brand.

So now that I've laid out my thinking. Who is willing to volunteer their talent to turn this into a new graphic, animation, video or some form of communication that will draw thousands of people to read it, reflect on what the meaning is, and find ways to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs this year in Chicago or any other city in the country?  

I've been coaching my interns in the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum. I encourage you to introduce yourself there if you'd like to offer your talent.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Closing Opportunity Gap in America. Building the Network.

Yesterday I posted a long article sharing my thoughts following hearing Robert Putnam talk about his new book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis".

In order to close the opportunity gap we need to dramatically enlarge the number of people taking daily actions to grow the network. We need to increase the number of wealthy benefactors who are making $10 to $100 million commitments to support the growth of the network, as well as individual donors supporting long-term, mentor-rich, tutor/mentor programs with workplace donations and annual contributions. We also need others who support intermediaries who support the on-going learning required to support long-term growth. In this Tipping Points essay I show ideas that, if fully funded, could support the growth of mentoring programs, and the growth in the number of people who take long-term roles in closing the opportunity gap.

The illustration below is from this "network building" essay.

I've attended events hosted by the Chicago Community Trust and many other civic and business leaders in Chicago for nearly 20 years. With the growth of social networks, and network analysis tools I've encouraged people who host events, to create network maps showing who is participating, and what skills/networks they represent. I still don't see this being done.

The statement "It takes a village to raise a child." has been overused, but it fits with Putnam's "Our Kids" advocacy. However, unless you map who is active, using network analysis tools, you really don't know which parts of the village are pulling their fair share of the load. In addition, unless you keep doing these maps from year to year, you don't know if the village is growing, or if the people who took action in past years have continued those actions in future years.

On page 259 in "Our Kids" Putnam wrote this about mentoring: "The last thing that poor kids need is yet another unreliable, "drop-by" adult in their lives." He could have wrote the same about "drop by" donors who make short term grants that fund only a small percent of total costs for operating a mentoring program, or who don't sustain their funding beyond one, two or three years. If many leaders are mobilizing volunteers and donors to support programs in the same urban area, then every program ought to be able to create maps showing funding from multiple sources, and volunteer involvement representing many different career paths that youth might aspire to.

I don't know of anyone in the mentoring movement talking about mentoring as social capital, AND... talking about ways to use social network analysis tools to map participation. I've been trying to do this, but with the help of volunteers since I've not found investors and financial support. View the maps shown here and here to see some of the work I'm trying to do, and that I think others could also be doing.

I've written about this on my blog since 2005 and in printed newsletters, between 1993 and 2001. I've posted a variety of illustrated essays in the library on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site. I encourage others to write their own strategy essays to show how they think we get from "here to there". Share them. Let's compare notes. Let's work together to build the "village".

If you're interested in this, let's connect and talk of what I've been trying to do and ways you can help. What we develop for Chicago can be used in any other city.

If we don't know who is involved, and how the network grows from year-to-year it is unlikely we'll ever mobilize enough continuous involvement to seriously close the opportunity gap.