Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Connecting the Dots - Interview on BlogTalkRadio

Over the past 40 years I've aggregated a huge library of personal experiences and information that I've used to build and lead volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, and that is freely available for others to used to build and sustain similar programs in Chicago, or any other city in the world.

The big challenge is that I never have had advertising dollars, or celebrity spokespeople, to help draw attention to this information. Thus, I'm really pleased when people like Valerie Leonard spend time looking through the information, then create opportunities to help me share what I'm doing with others.

Visit this link and listen to my interview with Valerie on yesterday's BlogTalkRadio show.

Browse stories I've posted on this blog since 2005 and you'll see graphics similar to this in many articles. They suggest that if people like me are aggregating information about a problem and potential solutions, then other people, like Valerie, can take roles that share this information with people in their network, and point those people to sections of Chicago, or other cities, where they can offer time, talent and dollars to implement what they learn.

Thank you Valerie. I hope others will duplicate your own efforts.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Visualizing New Ways to Solve Social Problems

The graphic below is from this animation, created by interns from IIT in Chicago during 2008-09 internships. The goal was to share the vision and four-part strategy piloted by the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) since it was launched in 1993.


Since 2005 a number of interns have worked with T/MC. They've all been challenged to find new way to visualize and communicate ideas originated in Tutor/Mentor Connection blogs, aiming to increase the number of people working to help programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods that expanded the network of adults helping kids move through school and into jobs and careers. This page shows projects that have been done.

Yesterday I was encouraged by people I'd met via the Making Learning Connected MOOC (#CLMOOC), to view a TED talk by Bret Victor, a technology visionary who has helped develop some of the tools we use today. I was awed by the work he has done and his vision of the future. Below is a video from his bio page, that shows creative ways to represent ideas.



My goal is that youth in k-12 schools, colleges and non-school programs look at the work interns have done with me in the past, and the ideas I keep adding the MappingforJustice blog and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC* blog, then challenge themselves to find new ways to communicate these ideas to the people in their own family/community network. The result will do the following:

a) increase the number of people looking at these ideas;

b) increase the range and number of people giving time, talent and dollars to help high quality, mentor-rich, programs reach youth in under-served areas with supports that help those youth move through school and into 22nd century careers;

c) increase understanding of youth who work on these projects of the infrastructure needed to build and sustain long-term programs, and the ways volunteers, donors, youth and others can proactively support such programs in all parts of a geographic area;

d) expand youth understanding of spatial mapping and dynamic communications tools;

e) expand growth of information-based intermediaries like T/MC in other cities of the world, and apply this problem solving strategy to other social/environmental issues;

f) create a future generation of leaders who use information and networked-learning consistently to innovate solutions to problems and use dynamic communications to share solutions in ways that build and sustain support from a wide sector of people for these solutions.

On this wiki page I describe how this might become a competition that involves a growing number of young people and volunteers.

As more youth become involved in this work, and learn from people like Bret Vector, we'll create a future generation of leaders who apply these tools to visualizing and shaping a brighter future for the world they will inherit.

*The Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC was created in 2011 to continue the work of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago, while helping similar intermediaries grow in other cities.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Does your Tutor/Mentor Program Have a Written Plan?

School starts in a few weeks and every volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago and the country is beginning to send out appeals for volunteers. I've created this list of Chicago program links and this list of Facebook pages for Chicago area programs so that prospective volunteers, students, and even donors, can shop and choose programs to support.

I created this image many years ago to illustrate that we all have a common goal, but that there are few building libraries like I do, with a goal of leading marketing and public education programs that draw more volunteers and donors to all of the different programs in Chicago and help each use these resources to constantly improve.

Today I don't want to write about volunteer recruitment. I want to ask if each program has a written plan, or calendar of weekly activities, showing what the volunteer will do from September through next June and how they will support students and volunteers so more stay connected throughout this year and into next year.

I started writing an annual plan in 1977 and updated it every year from then till 2011 when I stopped leading a single program. With a written plan you don't start from scratch each year, you just repeat activities that worked in the past, with little improvements that you hope make them work better. You add new ideas that make sense (when you have the funding and talent to add them). You delete things that don't seem to work.


Here's the 1989-90 written plan for the program I had led from 1975-1992. This program had a nearly 175 active volunteers by 1980 and 300 by 1989 so there were many veteran volunteers who could be recruited to take leadership roles. This program had only 3 part time college students as paid staff. All leaders were volunteers with full time jobs at Montgomery Ward and in other businesses in the Chicago region.

Here's the calendar of activities from a program I led from 1993-2011. This program started with 7 volunteers and grew to have 80-100 active volunteers each year from 1998 to 2011. While a few became long term, this was too small a base for many to take on the type of committee roles in the earlier program, thus, a small paid staff took on more of the organizational roles.

Planning should be a year-round process. By August, most 2015-16 plans should be in place and the work is now focused on recruiting students and volunteers and doing the screening, training, matching and orientations that enable students and volunteers to be meeting weekly by late September. However, if you think of year-to-year growth, the planning calendar shown below may be useful to you.

Planning Calendar for Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Programs by Daniel F. Bassill



This calendar is one that could be adopted by any tutor/mentor program in the country. I hope many do and that they create written plans and share them on their own web sites so that others can learn from them and so that volunteers, parents and donors can have a deeper understanding of the work you do to help their kids.

This is long-term work. The program at Montgomery Ward started in 1965 with just a few volunteers. It took 15 years to reach a point where an extensive volunteer-based committee structure could be put in place. It took another 10 years for that to mature. The second program I led started with 7 volunteers in 1993 and grew to average 80-100 a year. Since we were a non-profit we were able to raise money and pay a small staff to take on roles our volunteers did in the earlier program. Due to space limits it was never able to grow beyond 80-100 volunteers thus did not reach the size which enabled the first program to build such an extensive volunteer involvement structure.

However, both of these programs have been working for decades. The graphic showing Thomas Edison illustrates that it's really hard to build and sustain an well-organized tutor/mentor program and keep it going for 20 to 50 years. However, it's even more difficult for a city to build and sustain such programs in all high poverty neighborhoods.

This is the challenge I and the Tutor/Mentor Connection began focusing on in 1993 and that I now continue to focus on via the Tutor/Mentor Institute,LLC. Browse other articles on this blog, the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site and other blogs, to see ideas for helping well-organized, volunteer based tutor/mentor programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods of urban areas like the Chicago region.

I think every major city in the world has areas of high poverty, just like Chicago. Thus a T/MC strategy would work in these cities, too. That means the people who help build and sustain the ideas I share could be located in different parts of the country or the world and the work done in each city from year to year could be inspiration motivating what happens in every other city.

Let's connect if you agree with this.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Monthly newsletter - please share

I've been using print and email newsletters for more than 20 years to share information and ideas that others can use to help build and sustain constantly improving, volunteer-based, tutor, mentor and learning programs in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities. Here's the link to the current newsletter, which I sent today.

This graphic illustrates the goal of this blog, my newsletters, and my web sites. Each reader has the ability to share these ideas with people in their own networks. Each reader can lead a discussion within their church, business, synagogue, college and family network, building greater understanding of poverty, inequality, and ways volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs increase support for kids living in high poverty while also growing the empathy and involvement of people who don't live in poverty, but become personally engaged through their involvement in an on-going tutor/mentor program.

In the newsletter I point to the Making Learning Connected MOOC, which is a model that could be duplicated to engage thousands of people with the information and ideas shared in my newsletters. I don't have the resources to organize this myself, but seek to be a partner and content resource for those who might organize a MOOC like this.

Happy reading! I look forward to connecting and providing a valuable service to you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Build With Me - Continuous Process

Tuesday I posted this article, filled with graphics inspired by fiends I've met in the Making Learning Connected MOOC. This morning I was encouraged to see this post, by Terry Elliott.

Terry added a range of comments to my first graphic.


He also added comments to my concept map showing knowledge flow.


I commented on Terry's post, and suggested reading this article on the I-Open blog, showing some of the influences that led me to where I am today.

Then I used Terry's graphic to add some additional comment to the knowledge flow map.


My additions emphasize that the roles of building and maintaining this knowledge base, increasing the number of people who view it, and facilitating understanding, is a role many people in many places need to take. Terry and CLMOOC participants who are re-mixing these, or Tweeting them to others, are taking that role.

Watch how this continues to unfold by browsing articles on the CLMOOC home page, or search for #CLMOOC on Twitter. There's even a Facebook page.



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Visual Tilt-a-Whirl, a Carny Ride of Systems Thinking - Ride With Me

Terry Elliot, who I first met during the 2014 Making Learning Connected MOOC, posted this "Visual Tilt-a-Whirl" statement as an introduction to a July 19th Faceblook post. He included the graphic below, and a link to his blog, where he describes the graphic.


Terry's graphic was remixed in a blog article by Kevin Kodgson, which included a series of graphics created first by one writer, then the other. Then another #CLMOOC participant, Tania Sheko, used her blog to write a review of the interactions between Kevin and Terry, and showing how these were part of a series of visualizations presented this past week as part of the systems thinking discussion hosted by the CLMOOC.

One of the graphics Kevin produced during the week focused on race and poverty. I wrote about it last Saturday.

There have been so many articles and versions of graphics that I decided to create a few slides to share some of these and to show how my own participation is intended to connect my network, and people who are working on issues of poverty, education, workforce development, inequality, etc. to the CLMOOC and similar MOOCs that I've been part of.

So here's the first slide..


And here's the second...


And a third...


And a fourth...


And a fifth...note that in this slide I point to an article by Jeffrey Keefer, which took me on a deep dive into ACTOR NETWORK THEORY


In the sixth slide I express my hope that writers like Terry, Kevin, Tania and many others who are part of the CLMOOC, along with students in their classrooms, will look at the graphics I've created, and why I've created them, and that they'll use their own creativity to give new meaning, or attract new viewers, to these articles.


In a seventh slide I show that interns have been doing this type of work for the past 10 years.


I put these images on my Ning.com page, and added a collection of graphics from my collection, that I hope people will look at, think about, and try to re-mix in ways that the people in their own networks will look at the ideas and become personally engaged.


Find more photos like this on Tutor/Mentor Connection


I'm not as skilled a writer as many of the people I meet in these MOOCS, or who I point to in this list of blogs in the Tutor/Mentor Connection web library. I'm not a graphic artists, or a technology expert. Thus, the articles I've posted here and in other spaces since the early 2000s are like pebbles in the pond, intending to create ripples that attract others who will cast their own, heavier pebbles, into the same pond.

The graphic below was created more than a decade ago by someone I met in an on-line community, well before Facebook came into being. I'm still using it, in presentations like this, to illustrate how our collective efforts can cause greater ripples, and waves or response, than anything we can do on our own.


In the second slide above I point to this CLMOOC map. If you zoom into any of the major US cities, like Chicago where I'm from, you'll only see a few others on the map. This does not mean that people from these cities are not following or participating, but it does indicate that there are far more people who could be connecting and learning from each other than are now participating.

The MOOCs that I've been part of for the past three years focus on learning, looking for ways to more effectively engage k-12 learners. I focus on adult-learning, looking for ways to more effectively engage adults who don't live in poverty and who do live in poverty in deeper learning, reflection, and innovation, that creates and sustains strategies that reach youth in all high poverty neighborhoods with long-term programs that help more reach adult-hood safely, and with the skills, habits and networks that enable them to live their adult lives beyond the grasps of deep poverty.

These MOOCs are a model for such connectivity, and people like Terry, Kevin and many others who are spending time creating stories and visualizations, are examples of what others could also be doing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mapping Race-Poverty-Inequality Discussion

This week in the Making Learning Connected MOOC (#CLMOOC) the topic has been 'systems thinking'. I encourage you to browse the discussion for yourself.

Yesterday Kevin Hodgson posted this graphic on his blog to show how a discussion of racism might be visualized. This prompted me to write this post, because I've followed this conversation about race, poverty and inequality for more than 20 years through my leadership of a tutor/mentor program serving inner city, primarily Black, k-12 youth.

Recently I created the map below (see actual map) to visualize my understanding of this issue:


What this shows is that people in affluent communities face many of the same issues and challenges in life as do people in poverty areas. As Robert Putnam pointed out in his book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" (see my article), kids and families in affluent areas have a lot more resources to help them overcome their problems. In addition, kids and families in poverty areas, have many negative influences and challenges that are not present in high poverty areas.

Here's what I am struggling with. I've used this graphic for many years to illustrate a goal of helping kids in poverty areas move through school and into jobs, careers and adult lives free of poverty. To me this is the vision Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was envisioning. This is something that mentor-rich, long-term, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs can influence.

However, when I follow the #blacklivesmatter, #ferguson, #baltimoreriots discussion on social media, and review reports such as the 2014 “Building a Beloved Community: Strengthening the Field of Black Male Achievement”, (see my article), I don't see a clear picture of what the future would look like if we did achieve all of the goals people are talking about.

That's why I'm excited about the systems thinking going on in the CLMOOC and the article Kevin posted. I think one of the huge challenges we need to overcome is getting people who don't live in poverty, but who face huge challenges in their own personal and work lives, to spend quality, on-going time, thinking and reflecting on the problem and potential solutions, as well as what "victory" would look like.

In Kevin's blog I posted a comment encouraging him and other educators, faith leaders, business leaders, etc. to create their own concept maps, showing their understanding of this problem, and their path to a solution. I hope in the future we'll see thousands of these, and that each year they will become more and more sophisticated, and closer and closer to something that unites people from every sector and every part of the country (world) in this discussion.

I do not have an answer to this problem. What I do have is a library of other people's ideas, my ideas, and research, that anyone looking for an answer can use to expand their own thinking. As groups of people are looking for solutions I think that MOOCs and on-line libraries can encourage deeper learning, more reflection, and the opportunity to exchange and compare ideas. We can learn from each other. We can build greater support for solutions that seem to be working, in all the places where they are needed.

If educators begin to engage youth in this type of problem solving when they are in elementary school or middle school, and keep them engaged as they move through formal schooling, they will have more time, and more ways, to dig deeper into the vast libraries of information that is available to them. I think the way I do because I've spent 40 years working with inner city kids and leading a tutor/mentor program. Unless others spend years, even decades, involved in this learning, it's not likely the solutions will be as broad and complex, or as well supported, as they will need to be.

If we can do this focused on race, poverty and inequality, perhaps we can do the same addressing other complex problems, like the environment, religious differences, political differences, etc.