Sunday, March 29, 2015

Drain the Swamp to Get Rid of Allegators

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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Closing Opportunity Gap in America. Making all kids, "Our Kids"

This morning I had the opportunity to join with other civic leaders in Chicago to hear Robert Putnam talk about his new book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis". I had read the book on my Kindle prior to attending, but was pleased to receive a free copy of the book. I've already highlighted a number of passages that emphasize how important it is that we find ways to provide greater opportunity for kids now living in poverty.

The book, and Dr. Putnam's talk, provided a wide range of statistics and charts to show a growing "opportunity" gap between kids born to affluent parents, and living in affluent communities, and those born to parents living in poverty areas around the country. He said, and I agree, that "everyone should be concerned".

"The destiny of poor kids in America has broad implications for our economy, our democracy, and our values." (page 230 of "Our Kids).

What I want to focus on are "what to do" about it.

Putnam posted several suggestions in the final chapter of his book, and repeated them today. One was "invest in well organized mentoring" programs. However, I'd like to see more of a road map. How do we get to where we are today to a future when this opportunity gap has been significantly diminished.

This graphic was created by an intern, to illustrate the learning steps I have recommended in the past, in response to news stories about violence in Chicago. The same steps apply to closing the opportunity gap, too. Visit this page to see the animation, and the learning steps I recommend.

This is one of several graphics I've created to illustrate a four part strategy that expands the number of people who read and reflect on books like "Our Kids" and then supply time, talent and treasure to support youth mentoring and learning programs in high poverty areas. Read this article to see how a strategy is part of "getting from here to there".

In offering solutions, Putnam said "Surround them (poor kids) with responsible, caring adults that will help them through life." This graphic is a model of what that statement means to me. A well-organized tutor/mentor program has a diversity of volunteers involved over a period of many years. When you begin to investigate mentoring, look at this "shoppers guide" for ideas of what you should look for on an organization's web site. Don't just rely on the "brand name" to assure you that a program is meeting Putnam's goal.

Throughout the book, Putnam emphasized that this is a growing problem, that will only get worse if we don't begin to do something now. It reminded me of this image. Over the 40 years that I've been involved in leading a tutor/mentor program, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I've often been told how impossible the task I've embraced will be. Putnam said something similar today.

When I've been given that response, I tell this story. Imagine a snowball rolling from the top of a mountain, down toward the valley. As it grows it collects more snow, ice and rock, and gets bigger. Unless something stops it, it will eventually demolish every home in the valley.

The snowball is the problem of inequality
, and the challenges of getting millions of people from beyond poverty personally engaged in helping kids born or living in poverty have the opportunities they need to climb the ladder of social mobility. In his book Putnam talks about economic costs of doing nothing. He also talks of a potential cost to our democracy. He writes "Without succumbing to political nightmares, we might ponder whether the bleak, socially estranged future facing poor kids in Americ today could have unanticipated political consequences tomorrow."

As in the case of the snowball rolling down hill, there are really only two choices. We can ignore it, and ultimately be destroyed. Or we can get in front, and try to stop it. If we're the first, or the only ones, to stand up to the snowball, our chances of success are slim. However, if others join us, our chances grow.

Those are the only two choices we have.

What can you do?

Become a network builder.
Tweet this. Re-tweet my @tutormentorteam articles. Like me on Facebook. Do this every day.

Reach out to tutor/mentor programs in your city.
Look at the list of Chicago your organizations that I share in this link. Visit their web sites and get to know what they do and how they differ. Adopt one, or more. Find their social media pages, Twitter feeds, blog articles, etc. and start forwarding them to people you know.

Dedicate time to learning. Start by following the links in this article, to other articles, and spend time learning from the articles I've posted for the past 9 years. In this article I talk about super heroes, West Point, and leadership.

Then, create a version of this strategy map, and put it on your web site, to show your own commitment to helping kids in poverty move up the ladder to jobs and careers. If you know Robert Putnam, maybe you can share this with him, and help put it on his web site, too.


Finally, become a sponsor, benefactor and/or partner of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. I've been doing this work for over 40 years, partly as a volunteer, partly as leader of a non-profit, and how as a one-man crusade. If just one person who reads "Our kids" recognizes that I've been preaching this message for over 20 years and that they have the ability to help me continue for the next 20 years, then my ideas will reach more people and help communities across the country map a plan that gets them "from here to there".



Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rahm and Chuy. Use Maps. Visualizations.

The Chicago elections are two weeks away and the Mayor is spending millions to bash his opponent, while Chuy is painting the Mayor as the "rich man's candidate". I've yet to see either use maps and visualizations to show how he'll mobilize and distribute needed resources and programs into high poverty areas in order to help more youth move through school and into jobs, and in the process create the aspirations and hope that might turn more from violence and self destruction toward a self-improvement path.

Below is a strategy map, that any candidate, or civic leader, can adopt and lead. I'd love to see a candidate point to this illustrating commitment, and strategy.


The presentation below shows a planning process that needs to be led and championed by many leaders. We ought to elect those who demonstrate this in their own efforts.

Planning Cycle - War on Poverty by Daniel F. Bassill



This is one of many visualizations that you can find on this page. These were done by interns working with me in past years. The Mayor, an alderman, business leaders and others can encourage youth to create their own strategy visualizations, in an effort to teach leadership roles, and in an effort to mobilize adults to support strategies that make Chicago the best city in the world to live and raise kids.

If you see any of the candidates showing visualizations like these, take a photo and post it to me on Twitter @tutormentorteam.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chicago Bulls Stars focus on anti violence

Below is a post I wrote a couple of years ago following a Derrik Rose interview. Last night Joakim Noah of the Bu lls was honored by the NBA for his own anti violence efforts. See SunTimes story.

While fans watch college and NBA sports this week, I hope you'll read the post below and pass it on to Noah, Rose, and other celebrities. Maybe one or more will add this into their own game plan.

In today's Chicago Tribune sports section David Haugh writes about Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose speaking about violence in Chicago. Rose is quote as saying "It all starts with poverty."

In the column Haugh writes "As powerful as Rose's words can be, his actions can change -- and perhaps save -- lives more profoundly."

I agree. For many years I've tried to recruit celebrities and high profile sports stars to take on-going roles that would draw more volunteers and donors to the information on the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site, and to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.

I created this animation last February, to demonstrate a simple role athletes and coaches can take on an on-going basis. This is a crude video because I don't have money to hire professionals to do this. Derrick Rose and his corporate sponsors have millions of dollars that could be used to produce videos like this, with Rose and other athletes as featured speakers.

Sports Start Helps Build Tutor/Mentor Teams by tutormentor1 on GoAnimate

Video Maker - Powered by GoAnimate.

This is not asking athletes to spend time at charity events, be mentors, serve on boards or give money. It is asking athletes to use their time in front of microphones and cameras to not only talk about violence, but to point to places where people can get more informed and get involved.

If athletes with access to high quality creative and video production talent could remake this video with themselves as the featured characters they could put it on their own web sites and point to it when a sports reporter asks a tough question that they may not want to answer. They can point to it everytime violence has a personal impact on them, their family and/or the neighborhood where they grew up.

As more athletes and celebrities point to the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and Chicago Program Links Library more people will be motivated to seek out one or more tutor/mentor programs where they can get involved.

Some athletes may choose to go further with this, and begin coaching others to understand how teams of volunteers, donors, leaders, parents and community members need to be working together on an on-going basis to help mentor-rich programs be available in a neighborhood and to keep them available and constantly improving for a generation or longer.

On this page you can see visualizations created by interns working with me for short periods of time. Imagine if rappers, pro athletes, advertising professionals and/or youth in high schools throughout the country were using their own talent, time and resources to create and share presentations like this.

It can happen. Basketball is a sport where just one special athlete, like Derrick Rose, can change a poor team into a winner. All it takes is for one or two high profile athletes to create their own versions of this animation, for others to see roles they could take and to be motivated to do so.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Making all kids "Our Kids" - New Book by Robert Putnam

Over the past 40 years of leading a tutor/mentor program in Chicago, I've come to think of volunteer based tutor/mentor programs as an ideal structure to help connect youth from high poverty areas with volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds beyond poverty. This image is one that illustrates this diversity.

In the past ten to 15 years I've come to understand this as a form of social capital, greatly influenced by Robert Putnam and others. Thus, I was pleased to learn of his new book, titled “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis”. I picked up a copy last week and have read about 30%. Yesterday I shared a link to this New York Times book review with a college fraternity brother who lives in Bend, Oregon, which was profiled in the book. Today he sent me this article from his local newspaper, which has an extensive analysis of the book, and the problems it points out to communities all over the country.

I created the graphic below by combining a map showing poverty in the Chicago region with a concept map showing supports kids need as they move from first grade through school and into a post college or vocational school job and career.

The map can be seen here. The concept map can be seen here.

In the 1990s when I was first launching the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program, I coined the term "Total Quality Mentoring (TQM) to communicate the idea of site based tutor/mentor programs supported by volunteers from many different backgrounds, who were constantly learning from a network of peers, and constantly innovating ways to expand the support they were offering to youth.

The hub of the wheel represents a single child, or a group of kids. The spokes lead to the different careers kids might aspire to. In the Birth to Work chart at the left, you can see that there are a variety of age-appropriate activities that could be introduced to a youth, through school, or non-school programs.

It only takes motivation, talent, resources and some stimulation to recognize ideas that you might not otherwise be aware of.

The concept map above is just a different version of these, and illustrates how I've continuously looked for better ways to communicate this idea. You can see a map of Chicago is embedded in the TQM chart, and in many of my blog articles, illustrating the need for well organized programs in every poverty neighborhood. Since the early 1990s I've been using maps to show the gap between rich and poor, and graphics to show how well organized, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs could offer the mentoring, tutoring, and other supports that rich kids take for granted.

The TQM idea never caught on, but I've continued to share the idea through printed newsletters, up till 2002, and email newsletters, blogs and web sites since 1998.

When I talk about "constantly improving" I mean that people in different programs, as well as resource providers, are digging into a library of information that shows what other people are doing in different places, that could be duplicated in many other places, if the motivation, talent and financial resources were available. Below is a graphic showing the four categories of information I've been aggregating.


One section of the library points to articles about social capital and ideas of how to map the networks youth and volunteers have when they join a program, and how that changes over time as a result of on going participation and consistent support by donors.

I hope the work Robert Putnam and others are doing to make this a focus of the 2016 national election will motivate more people to want to dig into the information and articles I've been writing for many years. Just wanting to make support systems available is not the same as building and sustaining age appropriate programs in cities and neighborhoods all across the country.

Just one last graphic. View this animation to see how volunteer who become involved in TQM programs can grow to be leaders who get other people involved. If this idea is embraced in communities and neighborhoods throughout the country, we have a strategy for engaging a growing number of people from both sides of a community in efforts that close the gaps that Putnam and others fear is irrevocably dividing America.

I look forward to being part of the planning, brainstorming and innovations of others who are focused on this same issue.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

After the March, do the Planning

National and international attention is focused this weekend on the 50th anniversary of the protest at Selma, Alabama. Photos show President Obama and hundreds of others on the bridge where the civil rights movement made one of its biggest statements.

In 2005 I wrote the article below, referring to the Million Man March held in 1995.

On Oct. 14, 2005, I read a column from the Chicago Tribune, written by Dawn Turner Trice, titled, "Only real plans make a march a movement." She was referring to this weekend's Million More March. She said, "I wonder what the legacy of this march will be?"

After the first Million Man March 10 years ago, we had a few new people to come in and volunteer at Cabrini Connections. However, most did not stay for long. Mentoring takes a lot of commitment over many years. In a small program like ours, that commitment needs to extend to fund raising, leadership and other organizational activities, if the organization is to do all it needs to do to help kids move through school and into jobs and careers.

I wrote after the last march that I wished there were one person on each bus coming back from DC with a Directory (like the Program Locator at http://www.tutormentorprogramlocator.net ) listing tutor/mentor programs in the city where that bus was headed. During the ride back that person could be talking about the Theory of Change offered by the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which focuses on getting more people consistently involved in helping kids in poverty neighborhoods grow up and enter jobs/careers.

He could have used maps, like the T/MC creates, see Map Gallery, to show where poverty and poor schools were located in each city, and where existing programs were located. He could have been teaching the marchers about the constant need each program has for operating dollars, tech support, training and business partners who provide vocational learning, and leadership. He also could have been talking of ways churches, businesses, universities and hospitals could be partnering in sections of a city to launch new programs to fill voids.

Then, as each person got off the bus he could have asked for a pledge that each marcher would reach out to become a supporter of one or more programs, in one or more ways. He could have asked for the Independent Sector's pledge of GIVE Five!, which is five hours a week and five percent of income...not to the church, or the Million Man March, or to the campaign of a political candidate, but directly to a charity helping kids go to school and move to careers.

Finally, he'd ask for a commitment that these people would go to an on-line documentation system like the OHATS at http://www.tutormentorprogramlocator.net/ohats/home.aspx where they would document actions that each had taken to build or sustain volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in their community.

The last piece of information would be a web site address, such as http://www.tutormentorexchange.net, where the volunteers could go for more information about poverty, about mentoring and tutoring, and where they could talk to each other in on-line forums. This would also have provided a date and location for a follow up meeting, such as at the Nov. 17 and 18 Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference in Chicago.

This was not the plan in 1995. I don't see any evidence that it's the plan in 2005. However, if you read this, you can pass it on to people who were in Washington this weekend. Maybe some will adopt this as their follow up plan.


This message is relevant today as readers look at images of #Selma and listen to the President saying "Patriotism is active, not passive. Those who love America prove it by working to perfect America. They continue marching."


Since I posted this article I've written more than 1000 more articles focusing on leadership, planning, learning and other activities that need to take place. Below is a video done by a 2015 intern from IIT and South Korea, which guides visitors through information on my web site.



One SELMA follow up activity that could be done in schools, faith groups and businesses across the country would be for volunteers to create their own "learning paths" pointing adults to information they could use to build and sustain the needed programs and policies that would make the next anniversary of Selma an even greater celebration of greater equality of opportunity in America.

If you're in Chicago and interested in what I'm writing about, I encourage you to support my efforts, and share your own work by participating in the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences that I've hosted since May 1994. The next is May 8, 2015. I'm looking for workshop presenters and sponsors now.