Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Archiving discussions as part of knowledge-building process

Over the past few years I've written posts following the annual #onthetable event hosted by The Chicago Community Trust, in which people get together in small groups to discuss issues important to them. Last night a friend asked me if I knew of David Gurteen, while we were talking about the knowledge base I've been building since the mid 1970s. He sent me the link today and I took a look at the Knowledge Cafe's which David has been supporting.

As I've looked at these I have felt that something was missing.  Below are a few graphics that show my thinking.  The first is a planning cycle graphic which you can see in this blog article.

The #onthetable events and Knowledge Cafes would be part of the middle steps on  this graphic. At the left would be a knowledge base, including maps, that people draw from to be better informed about problems, and potential solutions, when they get together to talk.

If people come together without any specific issue in mind, the talk could be random and cover a wide range of topics. I use graphics like the one below to focus on one issue: How do we assure that kids born in high poverty areas today move safely through k-12 and post  high school learning and into jobs and careers and adult responsibilities?

I posted an article earlier this year showing the different components of this pyramid.  In the  middle of this the steps are "creating a better understanding" and "creating actions that support the operations of needed programs in all places on the map where they are needed".  These two steps would be well supported by #onthetable and Knowledge Cafe processes, if they were focused on single issues.

At the bottom of this pyramid I focus on the knowledge base, or library of information and ideas, that people need to use to expand their understanding of the problem and solutions.

I have been building a knowledge base to support this process since I started leading a tutor/mentor program in 1975. It's been growing on the Internet since 1998. This map shows the four sections.

I'd like to find concept maps and visualizations like this on web sites of people who are facilitating conversations and looking for solutions to complex problems.  In one section of my library I point to blogs written by many others, and to places like G+ communities, cMOOCs, etc. where people are archiving what they learn in events they are part of.

This archiving of information should be a regular part of the process, so that each future gathering and conversation builds upon what has already been discussed and learned by others.  The graphic at the right, showing a carrot, represents the ideas in a knowledge library. View this presentation to see my interpretation of this.

What do you think about this? Do you find many web sites where event organizers and discussion leaders are mapping their process and pointing to knowledge bases where people can learn more about problems they are interested in solving? 

Connect with me on one of these social media places or share your ideas in the comments to this blog.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Helping Youth Through College - Solving Other Problems

I attended the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute's To&Through Project's briefing this week and shared some ideas on the MappingforJustice blog site. I hope you'll take a look, and take time to get to know the information on the To&Through web site.

In my comments I emphasize the use of maps to show where schools are located, with overlays showing demographics of the neighborhood as well as non-school support organizations and assets, such as business, colleges, hospitals and/or faith groups.

There's a strong emphasis on collaboration on the To&Through Project site, engaging members of the community not just people within each Chicago Public School. That commitment is visualized with this graphic.

To&Through goals are visualized using a time line starting in 9th grade and continuing through high school graduation. The data on the web site for each school shows eight to 10 years of history, showing changes in student success and progression through school from year-to-year.

I use a different set of graphics to show the long-term support kids need, starting as they enter school and continuing past college and/or vocational school, and leading to jobs and adult lives free of poverty.  I use geographic maps and concept maps to emphasize the need for great support systems in every neighborhood. 

I created the graphic below today to illustrate that the commitment, and actions, leaders need to make and take to help youth move through school to adult lives is the same commitment needed if they were focusing on other issues.

Let me break this down for you.  Below is the strategy map shown in the upper left of this graphic. In this blog article I describe this vision and the information shown on this map. 

If you open the links under the yellow box at the top left on this map you'll find a village map, which emphasizes the need for leaders in business, religion, higher education, hospitals, media and other sectors to adopt this commitment and help Chicago's kids grow up safely and thrive as adults.

However, there are other causes people care about, and similar commitments are needed in each issue area.  On the graphic I show above I've enlarged the left part of the Race-Poverty map shown below.

Race-Poverty Cmap - 
Every node on the map represents a complex problem affecting how kids perform in school and affecting people in many parts of Chicago, the US, and the world.  Someone could create a "my goal is" strategy map similar to mine, to show their own vision of steps to reduce these programs and they could share that map on blogs, the same way I do.

In every one of these areas, the "what do I know" and "where can I find more information" and "who else is working on this?" questions are being asked.  In the graphic I started with I show another concept map in the lower left, pointing to a four-part strategy. You can see the map below and find a description in this article.
I have a link to the To&Through project in the research section of the web library I've been building for more than 20 years.  Tha's all part of step 1 of this strategy map. I constantly add new links to the library because new information is being generated all the time. Navigating this is a huge challenge.

To help more Chicago students move through school, college and into jobs and careers many more people will need to dig deep into this information and find ways they can offer time, talent and dollars in many places.  That's step 2 and step 3 on this 4-part strategy.  Too few focus on these steps.  

Step 4 uses maps showing where help is needed, where schools and non-school organizations are located and seeks to motivate on-going actions that draw talent, attention, ideas and dollars to each area of the map where indicators show more help is needed. 

So that leads to one final graphic for this article.  Daily media stories and social media posts remind us of tragedies affecting lives of Chicago youth and families. When people read these stories there are steps they can take to be part of solutions. the ENOUGH graphic is described in this article

Would be great if someone would create a data entry form where people could document good deeds and actions they take, and code them by one of the steps shown on my graphic, as well as what address or neighborhood on the map was intended to benefit. Such maps could be on many web sites documenting who's involved and what they are doing and helping people who are involved find and collaborate with each other. 

Thanks for reading.  If you are interested in these ideas I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Solving one Problem Leads to New Problems to Solve - Visualize This

I've been trying to visualize an idea and hope others will help. In a problem solving cycle people get together to solve a small problem, but find there are other things they need to do to solve that problem, so they reach out for more people and ideas. As they continue to solve the problem, they find more and more challenges. Soon they are thinking of things they never thought about when they first got together to solve what they thought was a simple problem. 

If you want to dig a little deeper into this idea, read this article titled, "The Cyclical Process of Action Research".

Image from Pinterest
In my mind I see a pebble thrown into water, which creates a ripple around it. As the problem gets bigger, the circle of ripples reaches further.  I did a Google search for words "pebble in water ripples" then looked at the images. There are many, each associated with web sites where other people are thinking of this idea and writing about it on their own pages.  Plenty to look at.

I created a concept map which is shown below. You can see it at

That did not feel right to me, so I use PPT to create the visualization shown below. We start with wanting to connect a youth with a volunteer and over time we're looking at how these programs are inconsistently supported by current philanthropy and government funding processes. Thus programs have trouble becoming great, then staying great over many years. Cities have trouble making needed programs available in all places where the maps show they are needed.

Note that at the far lower left, I focus on "public commitment".  One of the problems I and others have is attracting viewers to places where we share our ideas, like this blog, and places where we can get to know others who are concerned with the same issues.

If you're a visual thinker I encourage you to create your own interpretation of this process. Or if you know someone who already has done this, please share the link or visual as a comment.  While I found many articles in my "pebble in water ripples" search, I'm not sure how many, if any, focus on the same problem I'm trying to visualize. 

How can we do this better? Today's article, and others written since 2005, like this one, all seek to engage more people in creative thinking based on on-going learning, aimed at building and sustaining school and non-school systems of support that help kids living in urban, and rural, poverty move safely and successfully through school into adult lives 

I hope you will pass this on and that you're part of a team of people who are exploring these ideas. 

Connect with me on one of these social media spaces, and if you're able and willing, add your financial support to help me do this work.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Don't drive by poverty. Get Involved!

From 2008 to 2010 the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) was able to employ a part time GIS specialist, Mike Trakan, who created maps for me, and wrote blog articles showing the content of the maps and how they could be used. 

In 2009 Mike created two maps that he showed on the MappingforJustice blog. One shows Metra Commuter Rail Lines leading through the city and the other shows CTA lines.

On Mike's blog he emphasized how people who work in the city and live in the suburbs, or who work in the suburbs but live in the city, pass through high poverty neighborhoods every day. His message was that volunteers can use the maps to determine locations of tutor/mentor programs where they can spend a couple of hours a week enriching the life of a child, and themselves, instead of fighting traffic.

His message is "without volunteers, there are no programs."

I want to encourage a deeper level of thinking. The people taking a commuter train or a CTA train or bus through these neighborhoods are often people who lead companies, write news articles, or have been blessed with a great social network that enables them to have a house in the suburbs, or on the Gold Cost, and maybe another in Wisconsin or Michigan. These people are still working. They have jobs. They have the ability to point dollars to programs in high poverty neighborhoods. They have the ability to encourage others to be thinking of ways to help tutor/mentor programs grow in Chicago.

As you're reading your paper the next time and following a story like the one I keep pointing to from the 1992 Chicago SunTimes about the shooting of 7 year old Dantrel Davis, I want these people to be looking at Mike's maps, and thinking, "without operating dollars" there are no programs. Or "without advertising to attract volunteers or donors" there are no programs.  Or "why aren't there more programs in the South part of Chicago, or the suburban areas with growing poverty?"

As people who can offer leadership, philanthropy, and jobs programs begin thinking of ways they might help tutor/mentor programs grow, they can use the business mapshospital maps, or the faith group maps  that Mike created between 2008 and 2010, to determine what neighborhoods they want to support, and what programs in those neighborhoods they want to support with annual donations that start now, and repeat each year for the next 10 years.

The financial melt-down that started in 2008 had a huge  negative impact on the Tutor/Mentor Connection. We started developing the interactive map-based Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator in mid 2009, using the same $50,000 gift that we used to hire Mike, but when this gift did not repeat, and other funding dried up, we were not able to finish the work we were doing.  We could no longer pay Mike by late 2010 and he left our staff. Then in 2011 the Board of Directors voted to cease support for the Tutor/Mentor Connection completely, and in a staffing agreement with the Board,  I resigned and created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, to try to continue the work of the T/MC under a different financial structure. 

Since 2011 I've continued to add articles to the MappingforJustice blog, using the Interactive Program Locator to create map stories, and pointing to mapping platforms being created by others in the US and around the world, which can also be used to create map stories.

So far, I've not succeeded and the Program Locator census, schools and boundary data has not been updated since 2010 and the info on programs has not been updated since 2013.  While I keep looking for partners, investors and volunteers to help me with this work, I also look for others who agree with the vision and information-based strategies I've developed since 1994 and want to partner and help re-do the T/MC with new technology, ideas, resources and energy.

The problems of 1993 are still with us in 2017.  If you'd like to connect with me, find me on one of these social media sites.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Planting Seeds. Nurturing Growth

Last week my #clmooc friend Simon Ensor, a professor in France, posted article with title of  "Seeds for Change".  Then, Terry Elliot, another #clmooc friend, who teaches in Kentucky, took time to re-mix Simon's poem, using Lumen5.  See it here.

This kind of reading and remixing is what I encouraged interns to do between 2005 and 2015. On this site you can see five pages of their work.   This is something I encourage anyone who reads this blog to do.

Simon's article prompted me to search this blog to find any articles with the "planting seeds" theme. I found one from December 2012 that had many broken links. So I decided to rewrite it. 

Above I show one of the graphics that was the first frame of an animation done in 2011 by In Hee Cho, an intern from South Korea. It shows how a volunteer grows into a leader as they stay involved in a tutor/mentor program over many years. You can view the video at this link.

My own growth illustrates this. I started tutoring in 1973 when I joined the Montgomery Ward Corporation as an advertising copywriter. I became the volunteer leader of the company program in 1975 and for the next 42 years I've spent time every day trying to figure out ways to attract youth and volunteers and keep them engaged. When I left Wards in 1990 I also had to figure out ways to attract donors and keep them engaged, too, to pay my salary and to pay others who became part of our staff. The original program did not need to worry about this because I and other leaders had full time jobs. We could afford to lead the program as volunteers. This map shows my journey over the past 42 years.

To do this I've tried to educate volunteers, youth, donors, and every other stakeholder by pointing them to information showing where and why tutor/mentor programs are needed and to stories showing the impact of these programs on the lives of kids and adults. This video from the program I led between 1992 and 2011 that tells this story.

For those who read the Bible, I would like to compare my work to the Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13 in the Bible.

Over 42 years I've spread many seeds inviting current students, volunteers and others to spread the word, inviting others to become involved as tutors, students, leaders, donors, advocates, and have tried to nourish them weekly so that some take root and grow.

I met a young man at the Chicago Police Department a few years ago who told me he had used the  Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator Maps in a college research project, to demonstrate the need for more youth programs in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. That's an example of the seeds beginning to take root. A few years ago I received a $2,500 donation from the Women's ProGolf Association. By tracing the donor in my database I found it was a person who I had first started sending newsletters to in 1994. He had changed jobs but it was not until many years later that he could provide financial support.

On this page I've posted a few messages I've received from former students, telling of how the tutor/mentor program has impacted their lives.  In this article I show "thank you" messages posted by students and volunteers on a 22x28" card given to me in 1990.

Thousands of seeds have been planted. Every time I send a newsletter, such as this one, I'm asking people from my past, and who I meet every day, to become active in supporting the work that needs to be done in Chicago and other cities. Every time someone has visited this blog or one of my web sites since 1998 a seed is planted.

I created this concept map a year ago to show how friends in the #clmooc network and others have been passing on ideas from this blog to others.  That's another example of how the seeds I plant are spread, and how I try to nurture and encourage this. 

You've heard the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child".  My vision is that people in every sector would be adopting ideas I share on this blog and would be re-mixing them, and sharing through their own media, with people in their own network of influence.

View village map
As some of these seeds take root we should be able to show links in every node on this map, pointing to blogs and web sites of others who are working to support the growth of volunteer-based, non-school and school-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in every high poverty of Chicago and other cities.

We should be able to point to businesses and foundations who are providing talent and financial support to help these programs grow, and, to help me continue to spread seeds and nourish their growth.

I'm not a non-profit, so you cannot get a tax deduction for helping me. If you want to help me continue to plant and nurture these ideas and spread them to more places,  click here to add your support to Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, which has kept the Tutor/Mentor Connection resources available since mid 2011.

While I need your help, so do many of the tutor and mentor programs operating in Chicago. Click here to find a list of tutor/mentor programs in Chicago that you can choose to support even if you cannot support my own efforts.

Thanks for reading. Now, go forth and multiply.

If you're creating re-mixes of my articles or presentations just include a link to my site and send me a link so I know what you're doing and can share your work with others.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

#TakeAKnee - Apply to "Rest of the Story" strategy

In 1993 I and a few others launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) with a goal of helping well-organized volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs reach youth in every high poverty neighborhood of the Chicago region.

During 1993 a local public relations firm, PCI, Inc. helped me develop a 10-point strategy that we narrowed down to four steps over the next few years.

Step 2 in that strategy focused on creating a greater frequency of news stories about tutoring and mentoring and why programs are needed so that more volunteers and donors would reach out and support existing programs.  This page shows print media stories resulting from that strategy. There were many other Radio/TV interviews and much has been done using the Internet since 1998. Most of these interviews were generated from events we organized each year, such as the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference and Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment campaign.

However, we also developed another strategy, which I called "The Rest of The Story".

When the major Chicago newspapers gave full or half page attention to violence, poorly performing schools, gangs and/or poverty, we recognized that more than a half million readers might be looking at that story. So we created maps showing where the incident happened, and added poverty overlays and schools-on-probation overlays to show why it was happening. 

We also added icons to show existing non-school tutor and mentor programs in the map area, and icons to show assets, such as banks, colleges, hospitals, faith groups, etc. who were in the area and who should be helping tutor/mentor programs grow.  We than put these in our print newsletters and shared them at conferences and other events.

The goal was to capture reader attention and desire to help within a few days of when the story took place. Over the past 20 years many map-stories have been created with this goal in mind. You can find some here, and others here.

My goal has always been that the articles I write serve as inspiration and models for articles that would be written by others. Students in public and private schools, colleges and or working in faith groups, libraries and/or non-school programs could be writing stories following violence in their neighborhoods.

Here's an article from 2014 that outlines how this could happen.

If I'm the only one writing these stories too few will ever see them and even fewer will be influenced to reach out and support tutor/mentor programs throughout the city.  If hundreds of youth from different schools are doing this, stories would appear every day, just as often as we're seeing stories about athletes and others who #takeaknee to protest poverty, injustice and inequality.

Here's a presentation describing the Rest of the Story strategy.

There are dozens of other articles on this blog that focus on the challenge of building attention and a flow of resources to tutor/mentor programs throughout the city, and keeping that attention and those resources flowing for many years.

Students could read these articles and rewrite them using their own talent and skills, reaching more people and creating a future they want for themselves and for others.  Visit this page to see work interns have done in past years. 

If you're interested in doing this work go ahead. If you'd like my help just reach out to me here or on Twitter or Facebook.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Helping Youth Through School - Requires Long Term Thinking

This is a graphic that I've used often over the past 20 years to show that the outcomes we all want for kids requires work done at the bottom of this pyramid.  You can find this graphic in this PDF.

Below I've created some images that focus in on different elements of this graphic.  The ideas apply in building systems of support for inner city youth, and for solving any other complex problem.

At the bottom of the pyramid is the knowledge that we draw upon to propose solutions to problems.   While we each have our own personal experiences, and some have studied an issue for their entire lives, most don't have a broad reference base that they draw upon to support where and how they get involved.  Building a knowledge base that supports the decisions of others who need to be involved in solutions to problems is an essential first step. Keeping this up-to-date is an on-going challenge.

I've been building a web library and directory of non-school tutor and mentor programs since the early 1990s. Initially I did this to support youth, volunteers and leaders in the tutor/mentor programs I was leading in Chicago. As I formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I began to share this information more consistently with others throughout Chicago.  The knowledge collection role is Step 1 of the 4-part strategy I've led since 1993.  Read more about what I've been trying to do in this Tutor/Mentor Learning Network article.

Competing for attention.  Drawing users to library.  Building and sustaining a library of information and ideas is one thing.  Creating daily advertising and public education that draws a growing number of learners and users to the information is a very different challenge.

Most youth serving organizations don't have powerful marketing teams working to draw attention and resources to them on an on-going basis. Innovating ways that more people take roles in building public awareness and draw viewers to information in the library has been a priority of the T/MC since it was formed. This is Step 2 of the 4-part strategy.

I find too few conversations that focus on this step.  With the Internet we have a growing "Crisis of Attention", which is described in  this article.

I keep looking for conversations where people are thinking about challenges of competing for people's attention in an environment where so many others have far more resources.  I've written many articles focused on "creating attention". Take time to read through them.

Building the network. Part of my web library focuses on "who needs to be involved" which includes a directory of non-school tutor and mentor programs in Chicago and around the country and a data base and collection of more than 2000 links that point to others who are involved in some way in efforts to help kids move through school and into jobs and careers.

Getting representatives of these organizations and resource providers together to learn, share, build relationships and innovate shared solutions to problems is what I focus on in this stage of the pyramid.  Unless people in business, philanthropy, faith groups, media, politics, etc. are coming together on an on-going basis, for face-to-face and on-line learning it will be difficult to create and sustain collaborations that help build and sustain high quality youth supports.

In this blog article I show that a "village" of people with different talents and networks needs to be involved helping every tutor/mentor program grow, as well as helping many programs grow in specific neighborhoods and entire cities.    This is part of Step 3 in the four-part strategy.

These first three steps need to be happening on an on-going basis, reaching people throughout Chicago, Illinois and the world. However, they are just the start.

Better information, read and understood by more people, creates a better understanding of what types of youth support programs have the best chance of having a positive impact on youth and volunteers. Better information also helps people understand the challenges involved, which are many.

This needs to lead to actions that support programs in more places. If more of the stakeholders, including resource providers, are looking at this information, they can develop a set of actions that generate a flow of on-going resources (talent, dollars, ideas, technology, etc) into every high poverty neighborhood, to every tutor and mentor program operating in those neighborhoods.

I think this is the weakest link in this process. Most programs compete with others for scarce resources. Most foundations use requests-for-proposals and competitive grants and competitions to decide who gets funded. There are only a few winners and many losers. Often prizes and grants are one-time gifts, not repeated from year-to-year.  No business could grow to be great on this type of funding stream. Yet, I see few leaders using maps to show a need to draw resources to all poverty neighborhoods, and to all of the organizations working in these areas.

However, if we could solve this problem....

A better flow of needed resources to youth serving organizations (Step 4 in 4-part strategy) leads to more and better programs serving k-12 youth in more of the places where they are needed.  I can't tell you how often people ask about "outcomes" without talking about the work needed to build well-organized, mentor-rich non-school programs.

This leads to the final graphic.

It can take several years for a business to become profitable, or for a youth-serving organization to build the team of staff, leaders, volunteers, parents and youth that makes it a "great" program.  However, that's only the start. If a youth enters a great program in first grade, or 7th grade, it will still take 12 years for the first grader and six years for the 7th grader, just to finish high school!  It will take four to six more years for that young person to move on into adult lives and roles, and to jobs and careers that enable him/her to raise their own kids outside of the negative influences of high poverty.

I used this birth-to-work arrow in many other articles, such as this one, which is a discussion of the costs involved in a program intended to create jobs for 32,000 young men in a few Chicago neighborhoods.

I created this 'race-poverty' concept map to illustrate the many other factors that influence life outcomes for kids born or living in high poverty areas.  A few days ago I read an article titled "Why do we keep insisting that education can solve poverty?"

Here's the challenge. As a nation we're not very good at keeping the focus (and flow of resources) on problems and solutions to the time it takes to actually begin to solve the problem.  While this 1993 Chicago SunTimes article includes a map, very few leaders in 2017 are using maps to emphasize all of the places where kids, families and schools need help to aid youth as the move through school and into adult lives. Read more about this.   Read this article about "building public will".
I started this article with this graphic, and pointing to this presentation on Slideshare.

Poverty is a complex problem, requiring many different types of resources in the same place at the same time.  If we want more youth to stay in school, be safe in non-school hours, graduate from high school and move on to jobs, careers and adult responsibilities, we need to do the work shown at the bottom of this pyramid.

In my own work I've never been able to get enough people together for an on-going basis, just to talk about ways we create and share the knowledge I've been collecting with more potential users.    If you're interested in taking a role please reach out to me.