Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Asking the Right Question. Using Map Stories

I've been creating map stories since 1994 to focus attention and resources on areas of high poverty where extra help is needed to overcome challenges.

Today in my feed I received this article from the Community Commons organization, which shows how to use map stories in neighborhood collaborations.  This article describes a workshop the Community Commons team was leading, which diverted from the planned script to one where the group was asking:

"what kinds of data could help them."

The responses were categorized into two areas:
  • data that already existed
  • data they would need to collect"
These two questions are questions that have driven my work for 20 years.  If you look at this PDF it describes a 4-part strategy intended to involved people from all parts of the Chicago region in efforts that help youth in high poverty neighborhoods connect with extra adults who help them move through school and into jobs and careers.

Collecting this data is part of Step 1.  Creating year-round communications strategies that draw more people to the information is Step 2.  Helping people understand and apply the information is step 3.  Map stories are part of Step 2 and Step 3.

Building a team of people and resources to do the work required in Step 2 and 3 has been a continuous challenge.

This leads to a second article I want to share with you.

I attend weekly Chicago Hack Night meetings at the Merchandise Mart where I hear speakers share interesting ideas about using technology to do good things in communities and where I expand my network of technologists.  On this week's agenda I was encouraged to read this article, by Ethan Zuckerman.

In t he middle of the article is this sub-head:

"Make sure you're solving the right problem."

This is a long, and thoughtful article. I hope you'll read it.  I've included a link in my web library to Ethan Zukerman's blog since the middle 2000s.  It's one of many articles that I would include in the category of "data that already exists" which I encourage people focusing on the well-being of youth or reductions in poverty and inequality to read.

On June 14 I included this graphic in a blog article that I titled:

"Some focus on the act of mentoring. I focus on the infrastructure that makes it possible."

Data maps, and map stories, can show all the places in Chicago where kids and families and schools need a lot of extra help, for many years, if the result is kids in jobs and careers when they are in their 20's and 30's.  I hope more leaders will use these tools and focus on what type of infrastructure and support systems are needed to make that a reality.

Monday, June 27, 2016

I'm Pointing to the Past So We Can Change the Future

I have been spending time over the past year going through my archives and scanning photos and reports to my PC, then saving them to my Drive and web sites.  At the left is a photo of Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education, and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, speaking at a 2001 Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign press conference mobilizing volunteers to be tutors/mentors in Chicago area youth serving organizations.  If you visit this link, you can see PDF reports from 1995-2003. Scan through these to see who all was involved, the media attention, etc. 

I started building a list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs in 1993 and published the first printed Directory in 1994, then launched the volunteer recruitment campaign during August/September, in 1995. I began piloting uses of GIS maps in 1993 and have continued to focus on maps and visualizations through 2016.  

This was all part of a master plan intended to help great k-12 youth serving programs be available in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago...and to help each get a more consistent flow of volunteers, dollars, ideas, technology, etc., that each needs to sustain their efforts and constantly improve their impact.

The campaign was supported by the pro bono efforts of a Chicago PR firm from 1995-2001, and grew in 1999-2003 because a single foundation provided $25,000 a year to pay for a part time professional to work year-round on the campaign.  That funding ended in 2002 and no foundation filled the void.  This was part of a 2000-2003 financial meltdown when we lost many donors, including our major sponsor, the Montgomery Ward Corporation.  This page shows print media stories generated as a result.  This PDF shows a 1998 version of the "master plan". 

So why am I sharing this information in 2016?

Because the conditions that motivated us to create the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 are still present in Chicago and other cities as we head through 2016.  

Because there still is no master plan that works like the "corporate office" to help great  youth serving organizations and schools be available in every high poverty neighborhood.

This newspaper story is from 1993.  I wrote about it last April and I've been posting stories like this on this blog since 2005. 

I think leaders in Chicago, or any other city, could dig into my archives, and web library, and find a wealth of ideas they might apply to create a new Tutor/Mentor Connection-type commitment and strategy, with the involvement of leaders and volunteers from every segment of business, education, religion,  politics, entertainment, media represented.

For that to happen one or two universities will need to form programs, where students dig into my on-line archives to understand 40 years of thinking, just as these interns have been doing for short periods of time since 2005.  They will also need to dig through my file cabinets and binders and catalog and share the rest of this archive so that what I did every day to build and sustain a Tutor/Mentor Connection is shared as a lesson and motivation for others.. 

We need to learn from the past in order to not repeat mistakes made by past leaders.  We also need to learn from the experiences of the past in efforts to innovate better solutions for the future.

Since 2011 I've continued to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.  I'm available to help anyone who wants to dig into this least for a short while longer.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Role of Intermediaries in Building Solutions to Poverty, Violence

I just posted a new article on the Tutor/Mentor Exchange blog using this graphic to illustrate the role of intermediaries in in building and sustaining groups of people and organizations that focus on complex problems like poverty, violence, health disparities, etc.  I hope you'll take some time to read it.

Than, I encourage you to view this presentation, showing the role "talent volunteers" and consultants can take, either as volunteers, or in paid roles (if funding can be found).

Teams of of volunteers and/or students could be forming in colleges, high schools, faith groups, businesses and neighborhoods to take on this role. 

They could be meeting in on-line communities to share what works, what does not work, what challenges they face, and what ways they might work together to overcome those challenges.

I hope I can be a resource to those conversations.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Need More Leaders Using Maps

Last week I watched seven hours of panel discussions, where experts talked about the Future of Chicago. It was an event hosted by Crain's Chicago Business. I wrote this follow up article on the Tutor/Mentor blog right after the event. Then I wrote this article on LinkedIn the next day.

I was an active Tweeter during the #futurechicago event, sharing posts like this:

My goal was to motivate more people to use maps in their planning, and marketing, so more neighborhoods would have the resources needed to overcome challenges of poverty.

I'm a subscriber to Crain's Chicago Business, but don't get my printed copy until a week after the circulation date, since it goes to my PO Box.  I picked up my June 13 issue yesterday and on page two, (see below) saw this article written by Greg Hinz.

The article focuses on education as a leading indicator of how well people are doing and includes maps showing changes in medium home value, college degrees, and medium household income.  I encourage you to visit the link and look at the full article. The maps are animated, showing changes over 34 years.  

The analysis is professionally written and hopefully motivates readers to dig deeper into strategies that I and others have posted which drive solutions to areas with high poverty so that the maps in 10 or 20 years show a different trend.

Unfortunately, I did not see any use of maps by any of the panel discussion experts during the #futurechicago event.  To me that's a missed opportunity. 

I was one of 10 people to represent Chicago at the 1997 President's Summit for America's Future, held in Philadelphia. The Tutor/Mentor Connection was one of 50 organizations from around the country invited to have a "teaching example" display at the Summit.

The lead organizer for the event, and the founding leader of America's Promise, created to follow up on the goals set at the event, was General Colin Powel, who gained fame in the First Gulf War, for his nightly briefings on TV, where he used maps to show  enemy placement and allied troop movements.

In the nearly 20 years since then, I've not seen any consistent example of General Powell or any other leader using maps to mobilize troops and supplies to fight the war on poverty in every neighborhood where poverty is deeply entrenched in America.

In the year following the 1997 Summit I created this presentation, showing actions leaders might take to reach America's most at-risk youth....those living in areas of isolated, concentrated, poverty.

This was created before I started using the Internet, or had a web site (I made some edits when I updated and published this last year). The ideas and strategies still Chicago, or in any other major city in the US.  Many can  now take on leadership roles, or support roles to implement this strategy. More writers like Greg Hinz can include maps in their stories and more media outlines, like Crain's Chicago Business, can feature such stories on a regular basis.

I've been posting map stories on this blog, and in the Mappingforjustice blog for nearly a decade.  I created this "No General Goes to War Without a Map" pdf in the early 2000s.

Someone would need to be "actively not looking" to not have found one of my articles over the past 10 years.  Yet I don't see many using maps to show where help is needed. More importantly, I don't see them using maps to mobilize resources, or build a supply chain, of talent, ideas, technology, etc. that is needed to support solutions in EVERY poverty neighborhood.

More to the point, I've had very few contact me asking for lessons I've learned, challenges I've faced, or opportunities I see. And, due to the financial meltdowns of the early 2000s and late 2000s, have had terrible luck in finding and keeping volunteers and donors involved to support my own efforts. 

Maybe the next time the Mayor speaks at an event focused on the future of Chicago, he will use his time on stage to start out with a map saying "this is my city". Perhaps he'll quote Greg Hinz and say "It is a divided city." Then, perhaps, he'll go on to show how his leadership will provide ideas that people can use to support the growth of needed programs, services and opportunities in all of the high poverty neighborhoods.

It's only by our example that we can expect these ideas to be adopted.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Show How You're Using Maps

Below is a map story created almost 20 years ago by the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which I formed in 1993 to help non-school tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty areas of Chicago.  In 2011 I formed the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue this work and to help similar intermediaries grow in other cities.

I keep sharing these stories in an effort to motivate others to duplicate my efforts.  In this map I show major hospitals in the central part of Chicago. I show that these are surrounded by areas of high poverty. I include a list of youth serving organizations from the database I started building in 1993.

The goal is that these hospitals, as the major employer in the area, take on a leadership role that duplicates my own efforts, but focuses on the area surrounding these hospitals (read more).  Rather than operate their own tutor/mentor program, which many hospitals do, become a convener of non profits, businesses, faith groups and others from their trade area. In this role the hospital could lead an on-going planning discussion that asks "What are all the things we should be doing to assure that every child born in this neighborhood, in this year, is starting a job/career in 25-30 years?"

I created this four part strategy, starting in 1993, that organizes "all we need to do" into four steps that take place on an on-going basis.  I've offered myself as a resource to help them build an understanding of these actions.

I've also provided resources, such as the PDF below, that shows every community area in Chicago, and the number of kids, age 6-17 who live in poverty in each area.  In each community area, hospitals, universities, banks, insurance companies, and/or faith groups, could be taking a lead role of bringing people together to ask and answer the "What do we need to do" question.

If this is happening, we should begin to see maps similar to mine (or even adaptations of mine) appear on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and We ought to begin to find multiple blogs and web sites with maps embedded into stories, as I've done on this site for nearly 10 years.

For example, this is a map of Chicago's West side. The small blue boxes are locations of churches that host mentoring programs.  I did not have these in my database, so saved the JPG to a power point, then added the blue boxes as an overlay. I saved this to Photoshop, cropped it, then saved it as a JPG, 

I'm able to share that in this blog and in other stories.  This took about 30 minutes.

Students, volunteers, senior citizens and anyone who understands the need to fill map areas with needed programs and services could be creating maps of different parts of Chicago, and embedding these into stories that intend to educate, mobilize and motivate people to provide time, talent and dollars to help make needed programs available.

If you're doing this, share your maps. Create a board on Pinterest, like mine.  Creating the story and publishing it is only the first step. It's an on-going challenge to get more people to look at the stories, understand what they are saying, then become involved in one or more ways.

However, it's a strategy that can help fill map areas with needed programs and services.  That's a step toward creating social justice, greater opportunity and less inequality.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Follow up to today's #FutureChicago event

Today Crain's Chicago News hosted an event in downtown Chicago, where 700 people listened to panels of experts talk about issues important to the future of Chicago.  You can look at the archives and engage by clicking here, You can also look at some of the ideas that were exchanged by searching Twitter for #FutureChicago and then scrolling through the Tweets.  

I was one of those who participated on-line, using Twitter and Facebook.

I created the graphic below in the 1990s, illustrating one role anyone who cares about the future of Chicago, or their own city, can take.  Share this blog, and the Crain's site, with people in your own network, not just today, but at least once a week, and you become part of the solution.

That's what this graphic is showing. From right to left, you see a map showing all of Chicago, with high poverty areas highlighted.  Then you see a big circle, with a birth-to-work timeline running through the middle. Above the line is the public or private school system you attend from pre-school through high school and/or college. Below the line is your family, work, faith group and other networks that you're part of.  The circles below represent discussion groups, where people with something in common, gather to talk about the ideas of #FutureChicago, and ways they can have an impact, using their time, talent or dollars.

Organize a discussion group at your church, business, college, etc, and you become a bigger part of the solution.

This graphic is communicating the same idea, in a different way. It was created by an intern from South Korea who came to my organization a few years ago, via Illinois Institute of Technology.

This is one of dozens of visualizations created by interns since 2005, which you can see here

In the chart above there are two boxes (with images of people) to the left of the big circle. The first might represent a student, volunteer or intern, who creates their own version of one of my articles, and then passes it on to people in their own networks.

Each of these people have a network of their own.  

If they pass the article on, they reach and engage even more people.

That's what needs to happen if the ideas shared today in the #FutureChicago event, or shared by many others in past events, are to actually gather enough sustained participation to result in a Chicago that has solved these problems in the future.

While you're looking at follow up ideas, here's one shared by Steve Sewall. I hope you'll take a look. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Some focus on act of Mentoring. I focus on infrastructure that makes it possible.

The ideas and visualizations shown on this blog and my web site result from my having led site-based, non-school, volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning programs in Chicago since 1975. As a program leader you know the work it takes to enable youth and volunteers to meet weekly, and to continue participation for multiple years..and to find money to pay the bills. Few others in your organization know these challenges, which makes your life frustrating and your role difficult.

A few  years ago one of the NU Public Interest Program Fellows who was working with me at the time, created a graphic, that looks like an iceberg. You can see it here. Today I updated that graphic (crudely). You can see it at the left.

In my new version, I included photos of teens and volunteers who were part of the Cabrini Connections program that I led between 1993 and 2011. Many joined us while in 7th or 8th grade and stayed involved through high school. I'm still connected to some via Facebook and LinkedIn.

I also added a tagcloud I created last week, that shows the many different areas of knowledge program leaders should be thinking about as they look for ways to build and sustain long-term, mentor-rich programs. These tags can be seen on the left side of this page. However, there are many other places on the Internet where I've been sharing these ideas.

In  the graphic at the right I've created "oil well" graphics, and put them on a map of Chicago, where the red color represents areas of high poverty.  The "oil well" and the "iceberg" are two related ideas. Strong programs don't start out great. They become great over a period of years, as a result of constant reinvestment of ideas, dollars, time and lessons learned. They are needed in every poverty neighborhood.

Below is a third graphic, where I compare raising a child to building a house or a tall building. You start with a plan, with financing, and with blueprints. Then you do the work shown on page one before you go to page 2. You work your way from the bottom to the top.  Kids grow from birth to work. They need many different types of learning support as they grow up, and they need help from many different people as they move from school and into work.

Actually, as a parent, with children aged 19 and 26, you don't usually have a plan. You learn as you go. You hope you can find the money. That could be the topic of an entirely different blog.

I'd like to see more people involved in mentoring, from the national level down to the city level, integrating maps and visualizations like these and the strategy map below, showing the infrastructure needed in many different programs, while showing that great programs are needed in many different places. And, showing that the long-term goal is that kids who come through our programs are entering the workforce in their mid-twenties, thus able to earn a living that allows them to raise their own kids free from the challenges of concentrated, segregated, urban or rural poverty.

This map also shows the commitment needed by leaders from business, faith groups, colleges, hospitals, celebrities, media, politicians, etc., who must become more proactive and on-going in their commitments, if great programs are going to be available in more of the places where they are needed.

This graphic is from this article, and illustrates the need to use ideas to influence resource providers as well as non-profit leaders.  

I've just shown you a few of hundreds of visualizations I've created over the past 20 years, all with a goal of enlisting more people in efforts that make programs available which help kids born or living in high poverty neighborhoods today, be in jobs/careers in 25-30 years.

For that to happen, many more people need to be talking about the same ideas that I am communicating through my blog articles.  If that is happening, you should be able to do a Google search for the organization or business and then see many similar visualizations when you look at the images feature on Google. Try it.

If you're using graphics to communicate similar ideas, please post a link to your web site in the comments section below and let's connect. If you'd like to know more about how you might get involved with this work, just introduce yourself to me in an email to or a post on Twitter or Facebook.