Sunday, November 29, 2015

Injustices in Urban America - How Do We Make this Important to More People?

Yesterday a message on my Twitter feed pointed me to an article titled "Anita's Army: Rank and File Racism in the Power to Prosecute". Reading this illustrates how deeply rooted racism and injustice is in Chicago.  

I might not be reading this, or caring, if I had not become a volunteer tutor in 1973 and stayed involved in tutoring/mentoring for the 42 years since then.  I did not grow up in Chicago, but in small towns of Illinois and Indiana. Like so many others, the problems of urban America were not problems affecting me and my least not that I realized.

Yet, as I've led a tutor/mentor program, and built a personal relationship with so many youth and families, this has become personal to me.  Over the years I've built a library of articles describing inequality in America, and describing reasons a tutor/mentor program are needed. Open this map, and click into the nodes on each box, and you can find numerous articles that will expand your own understanding of these issues. 

The links in my library point to nearly 2000 other web sites, and each of these have multiple publications, and links to other sites. It's a vast library of information, that could be a source of on-going learning for volunteers who get involved with any tutoring/mentoring program in America.  The only way we'll reduce injustice is to dramatically increase the number of people involved. When Bernie Sanders talks about a 'revolution' in America, he's talking about getting millions of people deeply involved in the political process. I think he's also talking about getting millions of people personally involved, in their communities, in building solutions that don't need government involvement, such as volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning organizations.

As the weekly flow of bad news comes across our daily news feed, think of what this graphic is suggesting.  The "circle" to the left of the map of Chicago, represents a community, an organized program, where people make a commitment to help young people move through school and into jobs. The map shows that the community supports the growth of mentor-rich programs in all poverty neighborhoods of a city, not just a few good programs in a few places.

To the left of the grey circle is a box representing leaders and organizers, including youth. Every time there is a bad news story, or new report, such as the one I shared at the start of this article, these people reach out to volunteers in their programs (represented by the next box to the left). These people not only read the articles, and reflect on ways they might respond, but share the invitation to learn and be involved with others in their own networks.

As this repeats, week after week, more people get involved.  As volunteers build personal connections with young people they meet in organized programs, some begin to look at these kids as part of their own family, not strangers. Some become willing to do much more to help end the root causes of inequality and injustice. 

I've tried to communicate this idea of a tutor/mentor program as a form of "adult service-learning" via many visualizations.

This one was created by one of my interns in 2006, then updated in 2010. I encourage you to listen to it. Click here.

If you think that the problems we face are mountains far to high to be climbed, think of how you and others might become involved with the problem via the articles I share on this blog, and by your own involvement with youth via a volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring program in your community.

If you're part of an existing program, or a donor, encourage that program to form a "learning" strategy, where staff, donors, volunteers, youth and all stakeholders are reading articles like the one posted at the top on a weekly basis, then gathering in big and small groups to discuss the meaning, and look for ways to respond.

This is not a short term strategy. It can bring solutions as more people adopt it and the army of the "involved" become a revolution in America. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Planning needed to fight war on poverty in big cities

I created this presentation a couple of  years ago to show planning needed to build and sustain needed services in all high poverty areas of a big city.  Take a look.

Below is a concept map that shows this in a different way: See link.

The graphic below, showing a news article from 1993, illustrates that this has been a long-term problem with many, many distractions preventing the type of strategic planning and acting that I describe in my blog articles.

I included this graphic in this story.  After the riots; after Thanksgiving; after Christmas and year-end holidays:  Do The Planning.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Help Youth Orgs Gobble Up Donations This Holiday Season

Once again we're heading toward the biggest period of charitable giving of the calendar year.  While many have much to be thankful for, many others are suffering from a world full of man-made and environmental pain.   
I hope all of the youth-serving organizations in the Chicago region, and in other cities have strategies in place that attract new and repeat donors.

When I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993 it's goal was to gather information about existing non-school, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in the Chicago region and help every one of those organizations get a more consistent flow of ideas, talent, volunteers and operating dollars, so each could constantly increase their impact on youth.

Since 2011 I've operated the T/MC  under the umbrella of Tutor/Mentor  Institute, LLC, but the goals and strategies are the same. 

Since Thanksgiving is this week, most of the work that should have been done over the past year of educating donors via your web site and social media activity, is already in the rear-view mirror. Now let the giving begin!

The first big giving event is  #ILGive.  On December 1, nonprofits, families, businesses, and students around the world will be encouraged to come together to celebrate generosity and to give. In Illinois, a bold goal is to raise $6 million by Illinois social impact organizations — in one day.  Visit this list of participating organizations to shop for one to support. 

Right now this is a long list that includes all types of 501-c-3 charitable organizations. I'm sure a number of Chicago area tutor/mentor programs are on the list.

However, to help donors find programs in different parts of the Chicago region, I encourage you to browse these two lists of programs.

Chicago area Tutor/Mentor Program Links - click here - organized by sections of city and suburbs

Chicago area Tutor/Mentor Programs with Facebook Pages - click here. Also organized by sections of the city and suburbs.

I've been using maps since 1993 to illustrate a need for great tutor/mentor programs to be available in all high poverty neighborhoods of the Chicago region, thus if donors are shopping for programs to support this holiday season, not just on December 1, my lists enable you to search for programs operating in different sections of the city.  There's also a list for programs that do not map to a specific location, such as the BigBrothersBigSisters of Metropolitan Chicago.

There are over 200 links in my library which means few volunteers and donors will view every web site between now and December 1, or the end of December.

That's why I encourage programs to develop a year-round campaign to engage potential donors and teach them to shop web lists like mine to learn what programs are operating, compare what they offer, and decide which they will support, and how.

My hope is that over time more program web sites will show something like the graphic below, on their own web site. 

This illustrates three time frames when service might be offered. It shows a need to reach kids as early as pre-school and provide continuous support through high school, college and until the youth is working....if that youth lives in one of Chicago's high poverty neighborhoods.   It also suggests that programs that have been operating five to ten years or longer, should begin to show photos of kids when they entered a program, and when they are out of high school and in the work place.

To the donor, and the policy maker, this graphic, and the map, emphasize the need for continuous, year-to-year support of programs in many locations, if those programs are to stay in operation, and connected to youth and volunteers, for such a long period of time.

I've been posting articles on this blog since 2005 and in printed newsletters and web pages since 1994.  All focus on the challenges of building the type of program I'm describing, as well as the ongoing infrastructure and leadership needed to support such programs.

My own holiday goal is that a few people will go beyond saying "thanks Dan" and will provide contributions or investment to help me continue this work in 2016 and beyond.  I'm no longer operating under a 501-c-3 tax designation, so you don't get a tax deduction for helping me. You do get to be part of building something that has been missing from Chicago and other cities for decades.  Visit this page and use PayPal to make a contribution.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Will It Look Like in 10 years

I'm attending a brainstorming session tonight aimed at generating ideas for where the organization will be in 10 years. Since groups of more than 2 people often don't allow everyone to express their ideas fully, I'm sharing my list here.

I'm 68 now so don't know if I'll even be alive in 10 years. Thus, I don't have a self-interest in what happens, just a life mission that some of these ideas do come into reality.

Here's my list:

1) I hope that a map of cities like Chicago will show that every poverty neighborhood has several organizations offering volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring and learning in the non-school hours.

2) I hope that more than 75% of the leaders, volunteers, donors, alumni and current students in organized non-school tutor/mentor programs are connected to each other in on-line, on-going learning and collaboration portals. I've pointed to the potential of cMOOCs. Who knows what this will look like in 10 years.

3) I hope that concept maps will be commonly used, like blueprints, to show all of the different supports kids and families in high poverty areas need over a 20-25 year period so kids have the opportunities to succeed in school and move into adult jobs and careers free of poverty.

4) A minimum of 5-10% of funding for tutor/mentor programs and intermediaries will be coming annually from unsolicited donors who have visited a program web site to shop and choose who to support, and how much they will give.

5) Funding of youth serving organizations, and other social benefit organizations, will be based on what the organization does, not on their tax status.

6) A minimum of 50-60% of all funding will be for general operations and for building and sustaining strong organizatons and leadership teams.

7) Data maps will be consistently used by programs, donors, policy makers, etc. to a) understand where programs are most needed; b) understand the various types of programs needed in each zip code; c) understand the availability of needed programs in each high poverty zip code, sorted by age group served and type of program; and d) understand the distribution of Federal, state, city and private funds into each high poverty zip code.

8)Concept maps, like this, will be used to show involvement and commitment of leaders from every sector of a community, including business, professional, religious, educational, entertainment, political, etc.

9) Students in middle school, high school and colleges all over the country will be part of on-going groups who are learning to use data to understand problems and potential solutions, and are learning habits of leadership,visual communications, collaboration, innovation, volunteering and giving that support the flexible operations of constantly improving social benefit organizations in all places where data-maps show they are most needed.

10) One or more universities will host a Tutor/Mentor Institute, archiving the ideas I've collected and shared for past 25 years, and teaching students to be leaders and/or proactive supporters and leaders who take responsibility for making the first nine ideas on this list a reality in the cites where the university is located, or in the cities where their students come from.

In 15 or 20 years I hope the maps of Chicago and other cities show fewer high poverty neighborhoods as a result of the strategies and long-term vision adopted by leaders who read my articles and who I meet with on a regular basis.

I think that it will take leadership from many organizations to bring this list to reality. But that leadership should be evident by reading blog articles and reviewing web sites of those who are taking leadership roles.

What do you think? What would your list look like?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Keeping focus amid a world on fire

Over the past 22 years I've used maps and visualizations frequently in my newsletters and blog articles to communicate ideas that mobilize more people, around a wider based of information, on a more consistent basis. Yet, the goal remains to help inner-city kids connect with a network of extra adults who are concerned about their well-being and their futures.

I continue to maintain a list of non-school youth serving organizations operating in the Chicago region. This year I also started to host a Facebook list, showing Chicago youth serving orgs with Facebook pages. Browse the list. Offer your help to one, or many.

Keeping focus on this mission has been challenged frequently, and unexpectedly, starting with the 9/11 attack on America, and continuing through this past weekend with the terror attacks on Paris, a Russian airliner, a college in Kenya, and in Beirut, Lebanon, along with many lesser known places. Since 2001 world events, environmental tragedies, and cyclical political campaigns have consistently disrupted the day-to-day work I and others do to help make the world a safer, better place for everyone to live and raise families.

This graphic illustrates that while I focus on helping kids living in urban poverty have support systems of mentors, tutors and extra learning in non-school hours be available in more places where they are needed, I realize there are other issues that also require day-to-day attention, which are also disrupted with every natural and man-made disaster that interrupts our daily activities.

My heart bleeds and I shed tears when I read of the carnage of terror attacks. It also bleeds when I see refugees drowning at sea or dying in the American Southwest as they seek entry into the US. I am angry every day when I open my paper and read about shootings taking lives in Chicago neighborhoods and every time I read about local, national and corporate corruption and greed that causes these problems or lets them exist.

I wrote about this in 2005 and again in 2011. Here are some other related articles.

Let's honor the victims by giving extra effort to the work that needs to be done.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Creating a new learning game

Last summer I took part in a Making Learning Connected cMOOC and one of the activities involved creating a game visualization. Someone showed an old Monopoly game board and that inspired me to create this graphic, as a learning game people would play, that would result in greater understanding of all the ideas in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library, which I've been building for nearly 40 years. I created this using cMAP software. Here's the link.

I've a friend, Charles Cameron, who I met in the early 2000s via the Social Edge discussion forum. We're still connected on Twitter and he writes articles on the Zenpundit blog. In addition to writing thought-provoking articles for Zenpundit, Charles is a developer of a "game of connections" called Sembl.

As I was creating my own game board I created this graphic to show what I was trying to do and some different names I was considering.


I'm not able to take my game any further than this concept stage, but would love to find some teenager or young entrepreneur and game developer who'd like to take it further. If just a small percent of the people who play fantasy sports or watch live sports each week were to play this game, we'd have more people working to end urban violence, and maybe more working to end world violence.

As I write this I'm following the shootings in Paris on my Twitter feed. It's a tragedy.

However, one person wrote, "Would the media be covering this as much if it were happening in the middle east?" Or in the South Side of Chicago?

Too much tragedy in the world. Too little attention paid to solutions and ways to solve these problems.

That's a tragedy too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Calling all Veterans. Be part of War on Poverty

I spent three years in the Army in the late 1960s, serving in Military Intelligence. I'd studied history in college prior to joining the Army, so I understood the role of collecting best available information for leaders to use in making decisions. Over the past 40 years I've amassed a large web library, that anyone can use to build and sustain volunteer-based programs reaching k-12 youth living in high-poverty areas of big cities.

It's Veteran's Day, so I'm calling on Veterans and active duty service men and women to use the skills they have learned to support an "intelligence-based" effort that fills high poverty areas with needed programs, and helps each program get the on-going flow of resources each needs to constantly improve their ability to help youth overcome the challenges of poverty as they move through school and into adult lives.

This map visualizes this process. You can find an explanation of the graphic here, and here.

On the right hand side of this graphic I emphasize the use of maps. Unless leaders use maps to show all of the places within an urban area where poverty is concentrated, and where other indicators show a need for extra support, it's likely that strategies will only reach a few places, not every place where help is needed.

Step 7, on the far left, is equally important. Unless we focus on ways to build and sustain public support for this strategy, the flow of resources to all of the programs that need to be involved will be too small and or discontinued too soon. I wrote an article about building public will recently. I hope you'll look at it.

Steps 2 through 6 are on-going, but they involved building a deeper understanding of the complex challenges of reaching youth in all parts of a geographic region with a wide range of supports that help them move through school and into adult lives. This deeper learning extends far beyond understanding how to be a tutor or mentor, or how to organize and lead a youth serving organization.

I encourage you to look at this graphic which shows that affluent people face many of the same challenges as people living in high poverty.

In this book titled "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis", Robert Putnam, see my article, shows that kids living in affluent communities have many more resources available to help them and their families overcome their challenges. Youth living in high poverty communities not only have extra challenges, but have far fewer resources to help them and their families overcome those challenges.

When I describe a Total Quality Nentoring program, I'm thinking of programs where some volunteers take on many roles beyond acting as a tutor or mentor. This PDF focuses on the extra roles volunteers might take to help youth and families overcome more of the challenges shown on the graphic above. There is no limit to what things a team of planners might look at.

TQM programs are learning organizations where youth, volunteers, staff and leaders are constantly reading research and looking at work being done in other programs, with a goal of constantly innovating ways to help youth stay in school and move toward jobs, which means they also are looking for ways to engage a wider range of volunteers who can model different types of careers, and who can open doors to part time jobs, internships, vocational training and college as youth grow up. A TQM program offers a network of support, via the Internet, that can last a lifetime. A TQM program also shares its own ideas, strategies and challenges on its own web site so others can learn from them while they are learning from others.

I don't know how many programs in Chicago, or around the country, actually fit this TQM Program description, and have never had the manpower to do the on-going searching to find out which programs already operating in Chicago have the vision and strategy that heads them in this direction. It's the type of program I led between 1993 and 2011.

Understanding where services are needed, and what types of services need to be available within a geographic area is one challenge that planners and "intelligence gatherers" need to focus on. However, another challenge is to understand the infrastructure that is needed to support effective on-going learning and mentoring within every organized tutor/mentor program. Understanding the different functional roles that need to be filled enables intermediaries, donors and third party supporters help provide this talent, and keep it in place for many years.

Since this is Veteran's Day I want to end with a though that addresses the talent and manpower needs within the youth serving world. I encourage you to view this presentation and think of how veterans could fill many slots, in many different tutor/mentor programs, and how other veterans working in various industries and professions could support them on an on-going basis.

Citywide Youth Supports Infrastructure - a Jobs Creation Strategy? by Daniel F. Bassill

As planners look for ideas the articles I've posted on this blog since 2005 and the ideas I share in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site and library offer an extensive source for deeper learning and inspiration. Building a network of mentor-rich, Total Quality, youth serving organizations that reach youth in all poverty areas of big urban areas like the Chicago region, offers job and career opportunities for thousands of veterans, while also providing a support system that helps more youth move from poverty neighborhoods into a wide range of jobs and careers, including careers in the military.

As you celebrate Veteran's Day I hope you'll spend time looking at this and other ideas for ways veterans can continue to serve and make a difference in the world.