Thursday, February 11, 2016

Catch an Idea. Pass it On. Build the Network.

My friend Terry Elliott, a professor at Western Kentucky University, saw one of my Twitter posts, in which I shared a link to the concept map at the left. 

If you've followed my blog, you'll recall that Terry and I met through a Making Learning Connected cMOOC, and exchanged some visualization ideas last July in this article. We've continued to exchange ideas since then and Terry has repeatedly taken time to go through my stories then share them on his blog. I hope more people take this role.

Based on the map I shared via Twitter, Terry created a new version, which you can see below, and in this page on his blog. 

If you click on the image it will open in another screen, large enough for you to read what Terry wrote.  If you open Terry's blog you'll see that he imported the image from his Google drive, which enables you to zoom in and out, without needing to open a new window. I've not figured that out yet, but part of this idea exchange is a constant exposure to new ways of communicating an idea.

Toward the end of his article, Terry says "I hope Daniel revisits those fields".  I did. My response is the graphic shown below.

I said, "Me Too!" to Terry's hope that more people would do new versions of my map.  I also added a graphic from this page, showing work interns have been doing since 2007 to create new interpretations of the ideas I've launched.  I also included a graphic that illustrates the potential that any of us can have a powerful affect on many other people as we go through our lives, if only we will make the effort.  That graphic is from an article I titled "How Can One Person Change the Future?"

In the article I posted yesterday, I included a map of the world, illustrating the goal of having youth in schools, universities, faith groups and tutor/mentor programs located in many different places, creating their own versions of these graphics and articles, with much greater talent and energy than I've every been able to put into this. I outlined an idea for this on my planning wiki. It just needs a sponsor and partners to make it happen.

I'm attending a reception tonight in Chicago to meet the new President of Illinois Wesleyan University, which is from where I graduated with a history degree in 1968. In 2001 IWU, then led by Minor Myers, Jr., awarded me with an honorary PhD for the work I had done up to that point.  My hope is that a group of students and facility from IWU will join in on this exchange of ideas and purpose. 

Thank you to Terry Elliott and others who are already amplifying the ideas I share. You're providing a road map that makes it easier for others to follow.

I hope Daniel revisits those fields and replants them and husbands them in different ways.   - See more at:
I hope Daniel revisits those fields and replants them and husbands them in different ways.   - See more at:
I hope Daniel revisits those fields and replants them and husbands them in different ways.   - See more at:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Focus on the WHY and draw more people into your youth development efforts

Last April I included this 1993 Chicago SunTimes story in this blog article, pointing out that we were trying to reduce poverty 20 years ago and we're still trying today.

In the late 1990s I attended an event hosted by the Great Cities Institute at UIC, where the focus was on poverty.  At the end of the event, one student asked "If this has been a problem for so long, and we've spent millions of dollars to solve it, why is it still with us?"  The speaker responded "Too few people really care."

I started leading a tutor/mentor program in 1975 and every August I began a new school year by recruiting volunteers to become tutors/mentors, including some who had been volunteers the previous year or more. As I recruited volunteers, and student participants, I also had to figure out how to keep them involved from September through May of the next year.

I started inviting tutor/mentor program leaders to gather and share ideas in 1976 and formalized this process when creating the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. I'm still leading that effort, but through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. This was extra work for me, but I did it from self interest. I was learning from others who had ideas and experiences that could help me build my own tutor/mentor program. I was also gaining social/emotional support from people who were facing the same challenges as I was.  That's still true today.

I've created a huge body of information that anyone can read and use, and I've created illustrated presentations (and more than 1000 blog articles since 2005) with the question "What are all the things we need to be doing to help youth born or living in high poverty be starting jobs/careers by age 25?"

I've also piloted an on-going network building strategy intended to engage a growing number of people from all sectors of business, civic, religious and philanthropy (the village) in discussions that aim to generate answers to this question, along with new questions that come from what we learn from each cycle of questions and answers.  I'm constantly looking for new ideas to add to the library and share with others.

Today Simon Ensor, a professor from France, shared a video with me, that I want to share with you.

I identify with this quote from Mike's lecture "I'm a co-knower among students and other learners who are asking the same "Why".   

For myself, and everyone else who is concerned with poverty, inequality, social justice and the future well-being of our own kids, as well as other people's kids, focusing on the "WHY" question as a form of motivation for learning and engagement may be fuel for getting more people involved, and finding ways to make solutions available to youth and families in more of the places where they live.

This graphic is the four-part information-based problem solving strategy that I've developed over the past 20 years. I describe it here and in many other places on my blogs.  

The video Simon Ensor shared with me is part of the information I share, (like through this article). It is archived with all the other information I've been collecting, which is STEP 1.   

By sharing this video on my blog, then on social media, I'm trying to make it available to more people who might view the video, and my own strategies, and then share them with others. That's part of STEP 2.

In the video Mike Wesch, an associate professor at Kansas State  University, is facilitating understanding of the ideas in the video, with his students, and with anyone else who looks at the video, or my own blog article.  That is part of STEP 3.

This week I created a new concept map, to illustrate an effort to "know" who was also sharing my ideas with others, and to connect those people with each other.  This is part of the first three steps in the four-part strategy.

However, it also demonstrates a part of Step 4, which is that maps can show where poverty is most concentrated, along with other indicators that show negative impacts of poverty.  Maps can also show what organizations are working in those areas, and serve as a resource that volunteers, parents, social workers, donors and business partners can use, to reach out and help each of those organizations become the very best at helping youth move through school and into jobs.

If we have better information (step 1) and more people looking at it daily (step 2) with greater understanding of where, why and how to get involved (step 3) then more people will proactively visit lists showing the different youth serving organizations operating in a city, and volunteering time, talent, ideas and/or dollars to help each organization become the very best in helping kids grow up....without waiting to receive a formal request, or proposal, for help.

That's what I've been trying to do with the maps I've been sharing for nearly 20 years.  

For a dramatically greater number of people to be engaged in this conversation they need to be motivated by their own interest in asking "Why?" does poverty still exist in America after so many years of trying to find ways to reduce it."

I think that if more of the volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities were engaging their volunteers and students in the WHY questions, we'd have many more people helping us find solutions to the big challenges that face us. 

If more colleges, high schools, civic, social and religious groups had teams engaging others in the "Why?" discussion, even more people would be looking for "where" to get involved.  

For me, engaging volunteers in the "How can we make this work better, and why is it important?" questions was one of the strategies that helped the programs I led grow volunteer participation to 550 a year in one program, and 100 a year in the second. 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Is this your Tutor/Mentor Org Planning Process? Does it Involve Youth?

I included the graphic below in an article I posted on January 22

Most of my blog articles include maps and visualizations that focus attention on strategies that make comprehensive programs available in more places.  Do a Google search for "tutor mentor" then look at the images. You'll see a wide range of graphics included in articles written since 2005.

Many of these ideas are communicated using a free cMap tool, or concept map.   You can see this map here.  From left to right what the map is showing is a place-based planning process that starts with creating maps that define the area a group is focusing on, which could be as small as a few blocks. Then add indicators to the map, such as poverty, crime, health disparities, violence, etc. which are all indicators showing a need for a wide range of school, and non-school tutoring, mentoring, learning and jobs programs.  Next, engage youth, volunteers, staff and other stakeholders, including local business, hospital and university people, in a "learning process"

By this I mean that the group begins to look at web sites of other youth serving organizations, in Chicago, and around the world. Look at what types of activities they offer and what impact those have. Look at how they communicate their ideas on web sites, blogs and social media. As your group sees ideas that might be good additions to your own program, build a list, which could be a web library like mine.  In doing so, you archive your list of ideas, or "aspirations" so that you can refer to them in the future, and you can point others to those saying "this is what we need to be doing here".

Then begin to prioritize what you want to do in the coming year, and look for the talent and resources to implement the idea. Once it is launched measure participation and gather feedback so that at the end of the year your team can decide if it wants to continue the idea, how they might improve it, and what other ideas they want to add into the coming year.

This is a continuous cycle of process improvement. It's one that  has greater success if your resources providers, and local assets, are involved in the process with you. When you see a great idea you should not need to write a proposal. The resource provider should be looking at the same idea and saying "how much can I  help?"

See this process described in blog articles like this and this and in presentations like this.  

Encourage your youth and volunteers to create similar articles and presentations describing your own planning process.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Involve Youth in Meaningful Ways

For many years I've heard activist say "involve youth in decision making" since they are the ones you're trying to influence.  Today during the Strengthening Chicago Youth (SCY-Chicago) quarterly meeting, the topic was "Holding Systems Accountable for Violence Prevention".  I offered some reflection on this blog.

Many of the participants at the SCY-Chicago event were passionate about having youth voice involved in meaningful ways.

I agree. But. Making change happen requires many years, and the involvement of many people.

This graphic is a collection of three different graphics, related to the same idea. If we want to help young people grow to become healthy, thriving, employed adults, we need to reach them early and stay connected to them, with a variety of different, age-appropriate supports, for many years.  If the youth was born, or is living in medium income or higher level income brackets, there are many supports naturally available to him and his family, to overcome the challenges he/she will face in growing up and finding a job/career. (see map)

If the young person is born or living in areas of low income and/or extreme poverty, she faces many of the same problems as other kids, but without the same type of naturally occurring supports to help him/her overcome those challenges. In addition, he/she has influences in his/her life that other kids don't grow up with, like hunger, high levels of stress related to violence, many adults without college education, with prison records, with low wage jobs. 

For kids who live in high poverty the support systems that would help them overcome these challenges needs to be built and be available to them close to where they live. Such supports don't just appear. They require a group of dedicated people to launch a program, build it to the point where it is effective at what it offers, then keep it great for many years as young people move from first grade to first job.

Assuming every youth age 14-21 were actively involved today in designing this system, they will be adults between the age of 30-40 before the first kids entering first grade today will be entering jobs and careers in their mid 20's. That's assuming great programs in every neighborhood were made available by next year. Not likely.

Thus, while youth need to have their voices involved, the system they help create needs to be one that will keep them continuously involved, engaged and contributing time, talent, dollars and votes, to solutions, for the rest of their lives.

 The Internet offers a platform for such "stickiness" but I've not yet seen any magic pill that builds the type of learning habits and personal accountability that will get people from both sides of the poverty gap consistently connected for a lifetime of learning and involvement.

Which leads me to this. During 2016 youth will be invited to write letters to the next President, via a program led by the National Writing Project and the Bay-Area PBS station KQED. Read this blog article to learn about this opportunity for young people to voice their ideas about what the next President (and local elected officials) need to do to end violence and create greater opportunities for youth in America.  

I will post notes from today's SCY-Chicago meeting once they make them public. If you've written a blog article, with your own theory of change, or strategy maps, then please share your link in the comment section, or share it with me on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Use NodeXL data to build network focused on common goals

Last September I saw a post on Twitter and followed it to a NodeXL map, that created a visual history of conversation around specific Twitter hashtags, over a defined period of time. I created a map, then wrote a tutorial on how to  use NodeXL in this blog article

Last week the National Mentoring Summit was held in Washington, DC, with nearly 1000 people from around the country participating. While I've attended these in the past (see articles here and here), I didn't have the money to attend this year. So I participated by following some of the sessions via a live feed, and by interacting using the #mentoringsummit2016 hash tag.

If you've read any of the articles on this blog you'll know that my goal is to connect the entire "village" of people who need to be involved making needed tutoring, mentoring and learning organizations available in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities.  To do that, thousands of people need to be connected to each other, to information the can use, and to individual locations where youth and volunteers connect in organized programs.

Intermediaries, such as the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, can help establish these connections. That's why I'm writing this article. It's what I do every day.

While conferences that gather a thousand people are great, and offer dozens of workshops to learn from, the reality is that you can only attend one workshop in each time frame, and in a big group, you only meet a few people, and get to ask one the most.

Thus, I'm committed to online learning and network building as a way to connect with more people, and dig deeper into information that's available.  See articles I'ved tagged as MOOC and Learning

Thus, my work last week intended to build my own list of Twitter followers, and visitors to my own web sites, but to help others build their own networks at the same time.

Last week I asked Marc Smith, of NodeXL if he'd create a map using #mentoringsummit2016, which he did. Here's the link to the graphic shown below.

I encourage you to read the tutorial article I referred to above.  However, if you open the link, you can enlarge the graphic to the point where you can run your mouse over the nodes and see the Twitter name of each node. On this map you see four major clusters and several minor. The lines represent ties connecting people on the map with each other.  If you scroll down below the map you can find the top 10 influences, you can find web sites referred to most often, and as you scroll further down you can find more people who were most active in Tweeting, reTweeting and commenting.  

If you're trying to build your Twitter network, you would want to follow the people who were most active. If you want to build your influence network, you'd want to reach out and connect to these people throughout the year, while following the links they point to in their own Twitter posts, and reTweeting these to your own network.

When I started using the Internet in 1998 there was great optimism that this was a low-cost way for people without big advertising dollars to reach out and build a network of people who shared a common purpose, and who might help each other.  As we head into 2016 the optimism is somewhat reduced as Facebook, Google and others install controls on their platforms that make each message you post visible to only a small fraction of your followers and people who care about the same issues. 

Finding ways to use network analysis tools like NodeXL to help you find and connect with others who share your own goals is a strategy any of us could deploy on a regular basis to help build our network and our own visibility and influence.

I hope to hear stories from some of the tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities of how they might be doing this, and how they may be engaging their own students, volunteers, staff and supporters in on-line learning, network building and program support efforts.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Building Community Wealth: Role of Cities

I wrote an article about the Role of Anchor Organizations in 2013 after hearing the Democracy Collaboration talk about this.  An anchor organization is a hospital, university, or other institution that is a long-term part of a neighborhood, and often the major employer.

Today I've been listening to a panel discussion titled: Cities Building Community Wealth: A Gathering at the CUNY Law School.  Here's a link to the video.  

When I focus on volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs I'm thinking of them as a form of bridging social capital, that connects people from high poverty, mostly segregated neighborhoods, with people, ideas and resources from beyond the neighborhood. Such programs can have a transformative affect on the lives of young people, if they are available in the neighborhoods where young people live.

To me, anchor institutions should be the lead convener trying to make such organizations available in the areas where they operate.

Since we're in the middle of a Presidential campaign, and inequality, wealth gaps, Black Lives Matter, and so many issues are at stake, the comment made by the Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin is really important.

"We've elected progressive Mayors. They just have been too ineffective in governing."

Nearly 1000 people attended this weeks Mentoring Summit in Washington. I followed the even via live stream and Tweeted using #mentoringsummit2016.  I hope that this results in a growing number of tutor/mentor leaders from around the country, and Chicago, looking at this blog, and then looking for ways to motivate their volunteers and students to spend time looking at my articles, and the links I point to, like today's panel discussion.

There's lots that needs to be learned. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Innovative use of concept maps to support collective effort

Below is a concept map that I created many years ago to show the commitment many leaders need to take over many years so that more youth born in poverty in one year might be starting jobs and careers out of poverty 20 to 30 years later.  A person/company could demonstrate this commitment by putting a version of this on their web site, with their name/logo in the blue box. 

Yesterday I found an article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) site, under the title of 

The Tactics of Trust

The subhead reads: "Participants in a large, complex collaboration can build a capacity for finding common ground—and it doesn’t have to take years."

I read the article, then I asked,  "What this might cost per year?" and was told that "the most effective networks involving multiple organizations typically require an operating budget of $150,000 to $300,000 per year for maximum impact"

Then I asked if anyone was using concept maps to show their process, and included this timeline showing my work since 1990 as an example. 

I received this comment:

"Wow Daniel.This is a spectacular map. I’ve never seen one like it before and don’t know of anyone doing this. We’ve used in-person graphic facilitation at times, but this is different. Amazing how much you’ve accomplished without funding and only volunteers. Impressive."

Then I posted a link to a page with my library of concept maps, and said, "By sharing this I’m inviting others to use the maps, and create their own versions."

That generated this response:

"Very impressive Daniel. I’ve never seen concept maps like this. I wish you well in your important work." 

I've received similar comments about my uses of GIS maps, which you can see in articles on this blog, and on the Mappingforjustice blog.

However, I've never found a way to turn this into consistent funding at a $150-$300,000 a year level. Since 2011 I've not been able to find more than a few thousand dollars a  year to support my work as Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC

This graphic illustrates what I'm trying to do, and what I've been trying to teach others to do.  This page provides a PayPal button and a mailing address that others could use to send financial support to help me continue to do this work.

However, I'm not posting this with a goal of finding a few small donations. I'm posting it so that someone who has the civic and business reach, and the talent to develop business plans and secure investment funding, will reach out and offer to become a partner in helping me find the funding and do the work, and in sustaining and growing it in future years when I'm no longer around.

When someone says "Very impressive Daniel. I’ve never seen concept maps like this. I wish you well in your important work," .... hope is they will go beyond "wishing me well" to helping me find the resources and partners needed to do this work as well as it needs to be done, and in every urban area in the world.

Career Opportunity for Urban Youth - Data Story Tellers

Since 1994 I've been using maps to tell stories and encourage more people to be involved in helping build and sustain mentor-rich tutor/mentor programs in high poverty neighborhoods.  In many articles on this and other blogs I've suggested that this is a skill that youth living in high poverty neighborhoods could learn, supported by teachers and/or volunteer tutors and mentors.  We know that youth possess  unlimited pools of creative talent. This just has not been focused in this direction.

Last week I saw an article on my @tutormentorteam Twitter feed titled "Data Storytelling: Big Data's Next Frontier", written by James Kerr.  It emphasizes the talent needed to make sense of the big data that is becoming more and more available.   Over the past decade, I've connected to organizations like WEAVEa new web-based visualization platform, to encourage them to enlist volunteers and youth to use their data visualizations in stories that make sense of the data, and point readers to actions they can take to build solutions to problems indicated by the data. This is an emerging field, thus, it's something  urban youth could enter on the ground floor.

If you're a parent, volunteer tutor or mentor, teacher or policy maker, I encourage you to look at a map of Chicago, or any other major urban area, and envision icons showing up in all the high poverty areas of the map, indicating that part of the mentoring and learning strategy of such programs is to teach youth leadership and communications skills, using data storytelling, to draw attention and resources to support these programs, and to help fill the map with more.

That can happen if more people use blogs, newsletters, web sites, etc. to include maps and other visualizations to educate and motivate others to take roles that lead to such results.

For a small fee you can purchase this PDF, showing a variety of map stories I've created since 1994.  If you're a business, or philanthropist, I encourage you to become a sponsor of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, so I can update our maps, keep the map platform available, and keep this resource free to all who might be inspired by the stories.