Friday, October 24, 2014

Countering Pull of Extremists. Street Gangs, Too?

This article, titled "Countering the pull of extremists" was in my Chicago Tribune today. It focuses on the Somali-American community in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Featured is a "local Somali activist" who has been working since 2007 to provide community programs that would offer youth opportunities that help them resists the lure of terrorist recruiters. (Note: I can't find the link to this story on the Tribune web site. If you find it, post in the comment section below.)

Yet, to quote the article "His task isn't easy: The region's 50,000 member Somali community faces high unemployment, with few after-school programs."

Since 2007 this activist has "gone door to door seeking donations for his programs, often without success. He tells his kids "help will come" but they say "people don't care about us. We're just a bunch of poor Somali kids."

He says "few outsiders have paid attention to the growing exodus of young Somalis, leaving the community to tend to its own emotional wounds. "People have been in denial about our crisis"."

I've read articles about youth joining ISIS for a "sense of belonging" that they don't feel where they live.
I've read similar articles about youth joining inner city gangs for that same "sense of belonging" and lack of opportunities in their own neighborhoods. In this section of the Tutor/Mentor Web library you can read more about street gangs.

The same lack of consistent investment in high poverty neighborhoods where gangs are the terrorists seems apparent in the Somali-American neighborhoods where foreign terrorists are the threat.

I did some searching to see what sort of information was available in the Twin Cities and found the following:

This is a map from the Minneapolis Foundation's web site showing areas of high poverty, which are the darker shades on this map.

This map is from Minnesota Compass web site, showing the Cedar-Riverside area which is where high concentrations of Somali-Americans live.

Since I focus on helping non-school tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, I looked for a resource doing similar work in the Twin Cities. This graphic is from the Minnesota Mentoring Partnership web site, shown the map-based program locator they have created. If you compare the poverty map to the mentoring program locator map, you can see that there are a number of youth mentoring programs in high poverty areas. However, if you zoom into the map it does not look like any of these programs are in the Cedar-Riverside area.

I had to use three different web platforms to get this information. The Mentoring Partnership site map does not include demographic overlays showing poverty, or other indicators showing poor schools, violence, etc. which would be indicators that more youth programs are needed in these areas. You need to get that from the other web platforms.

If you look at the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator's interactive map, you'll see this is what I've been trying to build since 1994 to support tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. And if you look at map stories, here, here and here, you'll see how I've been using the maps to draw attention, and resources to all of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago.

I can't find many other web sites or blogs with similar stories, written consistently for so many years, with the same goal of helping youth move through school and into jobs and careers with the support of volunteers in well-organized non-school tutoring, mentoring and learning programs.

I'm terrified of how ISIS and other extremists are recruiting disengaged American youth and how that potentially will grow a new wave of terrorist operating in THIS country.

However, I've also been terrified for the past 30 years of how gang involvement is already breeding a generation of highly armed inner city terrorists and how that could some day change from Black and Hispanic youth shooting each other, and terrifying the people living in their neighborhoods (which is a huge tragedy), to becoming urban terrorists who use the same types of terrorism seen in the Middle East to attack all of those who live beyond poverty and have ignored the conditions many urban youth grow up with.

Unless we have a huge, urgent, consistent and on-going effort to fill poverty maps with a wide range of organizations that provide hope and opportunity and a sense of belonging, I fear what we will face in another 10 or 20 years.

I've hosted this information on my web sites since 1998 and was interviewed in numerous media stories during the 1990s. At this site you can find printed newsletters with this message, which I was publishing from 1993-2001, before I ran out of money to do these.

Since 1993 I've piloted an integrated four-part strategy that includes a map-based directory and web library, as well as a public education strategy that intends to increase the number of people involved in using this information to help youth tutoring, mentoring and learning programs grow in more places.

This is a strategy that requires many leaders, representing every sector. It's one that can be duplicated in many places, using the name Tutor/Mentor Connection, or using any name you want to call it.

I'm available to help you figure this out.

Friday, October 17, 2014

CrowdFunding Tutor/Mentor Orgs in Chicago - Hive Chicago model

Yesterday I attended a Hive Chicago networking meeting, hosted at the offices of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which supports Hive as part of its Digital Learning Initiative, launched in 2005.

I encourage you to browse the Hive Chicago site. There is a lot to like about what they're doing to support digital learning opportunities for teens throughout the Chicago region and in other cities. One obvious benefit is that organizations approved as members are able to compete for funds made available for these projects.

The graphic above is from a crowdfunding platform supported by Mozella, another partner in the initiative.

I like this because it's what I've been trying to build for many years, as part of an effort I launched in 1993 to help constantly improving tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty areas of Chicago. This graphic is from a mock-up I created three years ago to illustrate how a crowd funding platform could work with the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator Interactive Maps, to help draw needed operating dollars to programs in all high poverty neighborhoods, not just to a narrow segment of programs, or to high profile programs.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog article showing how data visualization could be tied to fund raising efforts, pointing to the Boston Indicators Project web site.

In this section of the Tutor/Mentor web library I show challenges non profits face, which primarily relate to finding consistent, flexible operating fund, and the talent to innovate solutions to complex problems.

Crowd funding sites that raise money for non profits AND for profits who are working to help improve the world are a step in the right direction.

I describe what I'm trying to build on this wiki page. By sharing this I realize I'm enabling others to borrow (steal) my ideas and move ahead of me on doing this work. I sure this would not be the first time. However, as the people in the Hive Chicago meeting said, this problem is too big for any one of us to solve. If my ideas inspire others to do work that needs to be done, I'll go to my grave a poor man, but knowing I've helped make the world a better place.

However, if anyone wants to provide talent and/or dollars to help me do this work, I'm looking forward to hearing from you. This link shows social media pages where you can connect with me.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tell Story of ALL Tutor/Mentor Programs in Chicago, Not just one.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article that gave attention to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the tutoring program hosted at 4th Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. In that I told of sitting next to Bob Greene, a former Chicago Tribune writer who had frequently written powerful stories drawing attention to the program at 4th Church. Today in my Wall Street Journal I found a new article by Bob Greene, again celebrating 50 years of tutoring at 4th Church.

I think it's great, and fortunate, that this program has had a champion like Bob Greene for so many years. However, there are many other well organized tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, and few have had such powerful attention focused on their efforts.

I led one of those programs from the corporate headquarters of Montgomery Ward, the retailer who went out of business in 2000. The Tutoring Chicago and Cabrini Connections programs which still operate today, have roots also going back to 1965 when the program started at 4th Presbyterian Church.

Yesterday I was invited to connect on linked in with David Gates who, along with his brothers, was part of the program at Wards in the 1970s. His niece was part of the Cabrini Connections program in the 1990s. Here's a message he sent me:

Montgomery Ward tutoring program was a wonderful life experience that I wish my kids had the opportunity to be a part of. Your program was a positive influence that steal reflects the lives of many Cabrini kids today. Thanks for being a beacon of light in a tough place to grow up.

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection I've been building and sharing a list of Chicago non-school tutoring/mentoring programs since 1993, with the goal that writers like Bob Greene would use their talent, and the power of Chicago media, to draw consistent attention to programs in every part of the city.

Those writers could be alumni who have participated in these programs. Perhaps their stories would provide motivation for donors, business partners and foundations to provide the consistent support every program needs.

As we move through October, November and on toward the year-end holidays, and the year end tax deduction decisions, I hope writers, film makers, bloggers, etc. will get to know some of the programs on my list and make an effort to tell about the work they do, and how they need a wide range of talent and consistent flow of operating dollars to be able to operate for many years.

Below is one of many stories written to show how the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been trying to inspire people to support tutor/mentor programs in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago.

You can see this and many similar stories on this page. I doubt that a web search will find a web site with as many stories like this, generated by one small organization in the third largest city of the US.

However, if you share this story, perhaps you can inspire others to begin creating such stories, so in a few years they will be able to share a web page showing what they've done to help mentor-rich programs have a long history in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Developing talent - Unlocking passion of employees

I created this graphic a few years ago to illustrate the fact that leaders of non-school tutoring and/or mentoring, learning and youth development programs, as well as educators in traditional schools, are constantly experiementing to find ways to build student aspirations and unleash student motivations to learn.

This second graphic is the front page of one of my PDF essays, where I ask "what are all the things we need to do to assure that every youth born in Chicago today is starting a job/adult career by age 25?" This is a question that is not being asked in enough places, yet is at the heart of every thing we need to be doing to help our own kids, and other people's kids, grow up to lead fully productive lives. It's the question that needs to be asked in any conversation about violence prevention, substance abuse, mental health, education, race, diversity, workforce development, and even our democracy.

In this context I encourage you to take 30 minutes to read this report from the Deloitte University Press, titled "Passion at Work: Cultivating Worker Passion as a Cornerstone for Talent Development" This report describes passionate workers as people who "are committed to continually achieving higher levels of performance."

The report describes the concept of worker passion, as the “passion of the Explorer. These are people who focus on a "Domain" or an area of expertise. The report states "The passion of the Explorer is defined by three attributes: commitment to domain, questing, and connecting."

My own Domain, which has developed over the past 40 years, focuses on building and sustaining information bases that support the involvement of others who want to innovate ways to turn on the "light bulb" for every child, and support each child as he/she adopts their own "domain" and moves through school, into the workforce, and through their adult life.

This article is important for two (and many more) primary reasons

a) There are hundreds of youth serving organizations in every big city, and hundreds of schools. Each needs employees and supporters who fit the description of this report.

Since the report says that the US workforce has an acute shortage of workers who fit this description, imagine how much more critical the shortage might be in the different organizations who need to be working collectively, as a village, to help kids move from birth to work.

b) I believe companies can encourage the development of employee passion, or "explorers" by encouraging worker involvement in social causes they care about, and by supporting them with top line company technology, collaboration and learning resources. Such involvement can increase the networking opportunities for employees, support their passion by providing opportunities to innovate solutions to causes they deeply care about, and help build habits that translate back into more traditional profit motivated issues.

This image is related to this PDF, which show roles teams of volunteers might take in helping develop an entire city of youth serving organizations that are constantly improving, and that focus on developing the "passion" within youth. This ROLE OF LEADERS PDF encourages CEOs to engage employees strategically in support of tutor/mentor program growth. Such engagement can unleash the passion and drive within employees and help build skills that return value to the company.

I've been trying to find a way into business talent development and corporate social responsibility conversations for many years. While I host a Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago every six months, I've have limited business participation, especially from people I'd consider "explorers" who were looking for better ways to develop talent within their organizations....or better ways to use limited corporate resources to build and sustain a citywide network of constantly improving, volunteer-based, youth serving organizations.

Yet, as the Deloitte report says, "This is important".

So, if you've read this far, and you think this is important, perhaps you can write an article like Steve Sewall or Mark Carter, and provide your own reasons why companies should make time to connect with the ideas I'm sharing.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

42nd Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference since May 1994

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to begin a formal process of collecting information about Chicago area tutor/mentor programs. In May 1994 I hosted the first Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, inviting programs that I had discovered to come together to network, share ideas, build relationships and work together to increase visibility and the pool of volunteers and operating dollars every program needs. I'm hosting the next conference on Friday, November 7 at the Metcalfe Federal building.

I've always shared maps during these conferences to emphasize that the goal was to help great programs become available in all high poverty neighborhoods, not just a few places.

I've never had significant sponsors dollars for this conference but it's been possible because all speakers have donated their time to do workshops. In 2011 I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue support of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago and to help similar intermediary groups form in other cities. I have a different tax structure than in the past, but the mission is the same. The lack of money is even more severe than between 1993 and 2011.

Before and after the last conference in May 2014, several speakers posted blog articles talking about the Tutor/Mentor Connection, and/or the conference. You can see these on this article.

The agenda for the November 7 conference is posted here and already some of the workshop presenters have created blog articles to show what they will be talking about and to encourage others to attend. I show these below and as others are written I'll add them to this list.

Valerie F. Leonard, Expert in Community and Organizational Development - see article

E. Wilson, Tutoring For Excellence - see article

Mark Carter, One80 Consulting - Mentoring Programs That Answer WHY Before HOW Succeed More - Read article.

JP Paulus, Do-Gooder Consulting - see article

Mitchell Sholar, Executive Director of City Harvest Outreach Ministry uses the home page of his web site to talk about the conference and to invite people to be sponsors

Here's an article by Steve Sewall, of Chicago Civic Media, providing his explanation of what he sees on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web sites. I hope more will look at the side the way Steve has done, then spend time sharing what they are learning with their own network.

Here's one of several videos where leaders talk of why the value the conferences:

Conference Capacity from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

Registration is now open - click here to register

We have room for 125 people. The full registration fee is $80, but group rates are available for groups of 3 or more and $30 scholarship rates are available upon request. If you'd like more information connect with me on Twitter @tutormentorteam or on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC Facebook page.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Can Billionaires Adopt Neighborhoods of Chicago?

I just saw a story in the Chicago Tribune showing that 17 people from Illinois are on the 2014 Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the US. A CBS report lists these people.

Now I understand that I've been tilting at windmills for a long time, but what if these 17 people divided the Chicago region and each pledged $10 million a year to support general operations of youth and family serving organizations in different sections of the Chicago region? This map illustrates the idea.

This money would not go to hospitals, universities, museums, religious groups (unless it is to operate a youth organization), nor would it go to political campaigns. The money would focus on high poverty areas using maps being produced by many different organizations to show health, education, poverty, violence, unemployment and other indicators. The money would not go to schools, either. If we change the support systems around the schools I feel more kids will come ready and motivated to learn. Maybe they will already have learned to learn, with the help of mentors in a non-school program that has a technology lab and volunteers from Google, Microsoft, Bank of America and other companies in the region.

If the richest people anchor such a commitment, those slightly less wealthy, like CEOs who earn more than 330 times low paid workers and more than 774 times what minimum wage workers earn, might also make on-going financial commitments to the same neighborhoods. See CEO Pay articles here and here.

How would donors choose who to support? This Shoppers Guide suggest information that could be on an organization's web site. Many of the youth serving organizations in Chicago neighborhoods may not collect this type of information, or have the ability to put it on web sites and in blog articles. The investments made by financial leaders should be intended to help every existing organization get the ideas, talent and resources to grow to be considered world class at what they do. That includes communicating what they do so volunteers, parents and donors can decide who to support, and so other programs can learn from what the best programs have already figured out how to do.

New organizations should form, using this investment, to fill voids in places where more programs, or certain types of programs, are needed. Maps should show where donor commitments are being made, and should show a growth of needed programs over the next 10-15 years, then a decline in the need for such programs as a result of this consistent investment.

Perhaps after 30 years there will be new problems that need this investment, but providing a support system that helps families and neighborhood schools help kids be better prepared for 21st and 22nd century roles, should not be needed in many places if such consistent, flexible investment is made for so many years.

Esquire Magazine has launched a Mentoring Project, with highly visible people talking about "who mentored them". Maybe they could champion my idea of wealth people adopting poverty neighborhoods with consistent financial support that matches their verbal support.

If ideas like this appeal to you, why not come to the next Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago on Friday, November 4 and introduce yourself. Or connect with me on one of these social media spaces.

Perhaps one of these wealthy leaders would want to put their name on the Tutor/Mentor Institute? If you dream it, maybe it can become a realty.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Celebrating achievements of Chicago tutor/mentor programs

Over this past weekend I had the pleasure to be the guest of two Chicago youth serving organizations who were celebrating milestones.

One was the Youth Service Project (YSP) which operates out of a converted storefront at 3942 West North Avenue. Their Facebook page shows they have been active since 1975.
YSP was celebrating a youth technology/job training program, called "igniTechLab" which it had operated this past summer. About 30 people, including youth, parents and volunteers were treated to an overview of the program, and three presentations by youth, who showed what they had learned from the program. Two teens showed how to build a web page without using formats like DreamWeaver or FrontPage.
Two others talked of the music lab they had set up on the second floor and the documentary of life in Humboldt Park that they were working on. The project leader described how she had built the curriculum from scratch after receiving a government grant. She was not sure how the project would continue since no source of funding has yet been found.

On Saturday, I attended the 50th year celebration of the tutoring program at 4th Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, right across from the Water Tower shopping center. The celebration was held in a elegant new building which must have cost several million dollars to build. When I first connected to this program in 1974 it was not known by its current name of Chicago Lights Tutoring.

From 2 till 3pm myself and 200 to 300 former and current volunteers, friends of the program and current and former students were encouraged to walk through the classrooms devoted to the tutoring program on the 5th floor of the Gratz Center which is the new addition to the church's mission. This program serves more than 400 pairs of youth and volunteers annually, and has had that enrollment for over 40 years at least.

I was delighted to see the timeline posted on the wall of one of the classrooms showing roots going back to the mid 1960s. The program I led at the Montgomery Ward headquarters on Chicago Avenue started at about the same time. This time line shows how I joined it in 1973 as a volunteer and became the leader in 1975. It shows that in 1976 I began inviting leaders of area programs, including 4th Presbyterian Church, to gather monthly for lunch and to share ideas. This networking eventually led to the formation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.

At 3pm all of the guests of the Chicago Lights Celebration gathered in a large chapel where we first heard Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, talk about how important mentoring and the attention of just one caring adult can be in the life of a child growing up. When I sat in my seat at the start of the 3pm session I was surprised to find myself sitting next to Bob Greene, a former Chicago Tribune writer, who wrote some great stories about the tutoring program at 4th Presbyterian Church, like this one.

Two of the veteran volunteers who spoke gave direct credit to Bob's stories for their becoming involved in the program. I'm not sure what percent of total volunteers stay with the program 5, 10 or 15 years, but it seems that they have many long-term veterans, demonstrating a well organized program. I kept hearing from volunteers "I've gained more from this than I think my mentee did."

During the next 90 minutes I heard volunteers and student alumni talk about how important the Chicago Lights Program had been in their lives. This resonated with me because every year since 1973 I've been part of a similar gathering of youth, parents, volunteers. This video is from one of those.

Find more videos like this on Tutor/Mentor Connection
You can see many more Cabrini Connections videos here.

When I sat next to Bob Green I reminded him that I had reached out to him in the 1990s asking him if he'd tell stories of the other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, not just the great one operating on Michigan Avenue. When I've met with leaders and organizers of the 4th Presbyterian Church program over the last 40 years I've encouraged them to build an active outreach to motivate and teach faith groups from the entire Chicago region to partner and support the growth of well funded, mentor rich programs like the one they operate.

This is one of many maps I've made showing the density of faith groups in the Chicago region. Many of those operating in poverty areas don't have the wealth of churches operating on Michigan Avenue or in the North, West and South suburbs of Chicago. However, those who do have such wealth, of talent, not just money, could make a commitment to help at least one high poverty neighborhood build a program that in 50 years would be considered one of the best in the country of helping kids from poverty connect with a wide range of adults who helped them grow up and move into adult roles and careers.

Alex Kotlowitz said of the Chicago Lights program "It's a miracle that uses shared time to turn strangers into families" and "this program changes lives of youth and volunteers".

One of the later speakers said "It's not so important to bring a child into the world as it is to make a difference in the life of a child."

It takes the vision, and commitment, of many people from many sectors to help make this happen. As we move through this school year I hope many will read the ideas I've shared on this blog and look at web sites of different youth tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicago and make a commitment to help at least one.