Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#InternationalMentoringDay - Connect Cities, Volunteers Throughout World

My Twitter feed is full of #internationalmentoringday motivational messages. So is my Facebook feed. This is an annual day of celebration that recognizes people involved in mentoring and (hopefully) encourages others to give a donation, their time, their talent, or even a hug to support people involved in local and global youth serving organizations.

Since I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor organization for 35 years that has depended on the contributions of time, talent and dollars from many people, I’m delighted to write about this.

In fact, I’ve been writing about the challenges of making mentor-rich non-school tutor/mentor programs available in hundreds of locations for the past 23 years in my role as leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (T/MI).

I hope you’ll take some time to read some of the past articles.

The challenge of a non-profit leader is the same challenge I had when I worked as a retail advertising manager of the Montgomery Ward Corporation between 1973 and 1990, yet larger.

At Wards during the 1980s we had a $250 million advertising budget to reach out to 20 million people three times each week with advertising intended to draw customers to our 400 stores located in 40 states. In these ads we provided a range of merchandise and services that we knew some people were looking for each week. We also provide incentives to motivate people to come to our store instead of someone else's store. These included HALF PRICE, NO MONEY DOWN, LIMITED TIME ONLY and many similar messages.

In the non-profit sector each organization competes with each other on a daily basis for dollars and volunteers and public attention and few have the advertising budgets that are available in for profit corporations. At the same time as they are searching for dollars to pay the expenses they also are innovating ways to use the dollars effectively to provide public benefit.

Few non-profits have the ability to say HALF PRICE SALE, or THIS WEEK ONLY.
Thus most don’t have the consistent involvement of volunteers and donors that are essential to build and sustain the work each program is trying to do.

That’s why events like International Mentoring Day are important. Someone is taking the lead on January 17 to motivate people all over the world to seek out and support mentoring-based organizations, locally, or globally. The many messages on social media fill an important role by encouraging bloggers, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook people to write about mentoring, thus expanding the “advertising reach and frequency” that is needed to attract the attention of millions of people who might make small donations of time, talent or dollars to fuel the work of non-profit tutoring and/or mentoring programs.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection supports the involvement of volunteers and donors by maintaining a map-based Directory of Chicago organizations that offer various forms of tutoring/mentoring in different neighborhoods of Chicago. T/MC also hosts a library of links to web sites of these organizations and to information that people can use to understand why and where tutor/mentor programs are most needed.

Since 2011 I've led this effort through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. I've not had much financial or volunteer support to maintain the on-line resources as well as they need to be updated and so forth, and still don’t yet have a giving feature tied to the maps that works like crowdfunding platforms, but we’d like to add this if we can find the money, or a technology partner.

If #InternationalMentoringDay and the weight of many on social media can draw a few more donors and volunteers to tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities, this is a good thing.

However, it will be even better if the following happens.

a) Groups of people who support the goal of tutor/mentor programs will begin to innovate ways to duplicate Wards Sears, McDonalds and other businesses, to create events 365 days of the year that draw the attention of the world to small charities doing needed work

b) Some of these groups will see the value of map directories and portals like the T/MC and will add their own time, talent and dollars to help innovate more ways that we can draw volunteers and donors directly to programs, the way mass merchants draw shoppers to stores. Help us build this capacity and help us share this with people in other cities.

c) People focused on other social benefit causes will see that the T/MC concept can duplicate in other sectors and will reach out to partner with us for their own self-interest

d) Some people will begin to use visualizations, such as concept maps, to show program design, planning processes, and the need to build public will and long-term support for mentor-rich programs in thousands of locations, and these will be shared in future events like #InternationalMentoringDay.

Margaret Mead talked about how a “few people can change the world”. Events like #InternationalMentoringDay can reach millions of people and inspire them to spread their time, talent and dollars to all corners of the earth where they can become part of the few, the proud, the difference makers.

I hope the resources I share can  help that happen.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Still far to go to achieve Dr. ML King Jr's Dream

I'm looking at my Twitter feed and seeing a flow of inspirational Tweets related to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and service to those in need.

I've been writing articles to encourage people to become involved in  helping kids living in high poverty neighborhoods move through school and into adult lives free of poverty since starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. I started writing this blog in 2005 and if you look at January articles every year since then, you'll find articles that mirror these same thoughts, over, and over, again. Here's my January 2006 article.

Here's me at an event where I am showing a 1994 Chicago Tribune article, where the map shows poverty neighborhoods in the city, and the headline says "240,000 city kids at risk".

While we've made many gains, this nation and the world still have too many youth and families living lives with too much "inequality and lack of opportunity".  View maps shown here and in the MappingforJustice blog that point to where these places are.

I've used maps over and over to repeat this message and to motivate people to become involved in building and sustaining mentor-rich non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs for k-12 kids in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, its suburbs, and other cities and states.

In many articles I use visualizations like the one above, which was created by a student intern, and the one below, to illustrate a program design, with volunteers from many work backgrounds connecting in an on-going effort.  In the 1990s I tried branding this type of program as "Total Quality Mentoring (TQM)" since it borrows from business practices of constant learning and constant improvement.

I have created a variety of power point presentations to communicate these ideas. This presentation illustrates the idea of Total Quality Mentoring.  I keep looking for other youth serving organizations to show their program design and theory of change using maps and visualizations like this.  If you know of any who do this well, please share a link in the comment section below.

As you do  your service today, or on January 20th, when one organization is encouraging another day of service, look for ways you can use your time, talent and dollars to help others get involved in deeper learning, on-going actions and many places.

In 50 years let's show even more progress in the US and around the world than we have achieved in the past 50 years.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Tutor or Mentor Programs are in your zip code?

This is a map of the West Side of Chicago, created using the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator that was developed for the Tutor/Mentor Connection between 2004 and 2009.  Here's a presentation showing how to make map views like this.

The green stars on the map are sites of organized, non-school tutor and/or mentor programs that I located via an on-going survey process started in 1994.  Double click on a star and you go to the organization's web site, where hopefully, they provide information showing why they are important, what they do, their history, and how you can help them.  Not all do this very well, so a role of volunteers from communications and technology fields might be to help programs tell their stories more effectively.

I've not been able to update the Program Locator since 2012 due to my lack of funds to hire tech support and do the on-going survey.  I have been able to maintain a list of Chicago area youth serving organizations that include various forms of tutoring and or mentoring, which you can see here (on another web site that needs an upgrade in design).

In 2011 I created a presentation with maps that showed Chicago community areas, and the number of kids, age 6-17 in each area who were living in homes below the poverty line. The maps were made using the Program Locator. Here's the presentation.

Every area with one thousand or more youth in poverty would benefit with several age appropriate, mentor rich programs located near where kids can easily, and safely, participate. 

President Obama gave his farewell address last night and ended with a call for citizen involvement. I wrote this article in 2009 where the President called on citizens to volunteer.

One way to do that is to help collect and  update information about known non-school tutoring, mentoring, learning organizations operating in different parts of the city and suburbs.  I've written dozens of articles since 2009 showing how youth programs, schools, faith groups, etc. could take on the role of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, focusing on a zip code, community area, or a small section of geography surrounding their own location.

Here's a presentation showing community information collection to be a shared effort:

If you want to create greater opportunity for youth in disadvantaged areas, you can be a direct service volunteer, or a donor, and help a few kids. However, if you take on the role I've modeled in Chicago for the past 20 years, you can influence the growth of an entire community of needed youth serving organizations, and help each become the best in the world at helping kids through school and into adult lives,  while also helping to bring together people from different backgrounds, professions, races, in a common cause where everyone, including our democracy, is a winner.

While I've piloted this strategy in Chicago, it applies to any city, and any region of the country. It applies to big cities throughout the world. 

Thus, many people from many places can take on this role.  I'd be happy to be your mentor or coach.

Hopefully a few of you might also want to offer your talent and technology skills to helping update and rebuild the Program Locator and other Tutor/Mentor web sites. 

Friday, January 06, 2017

Dig Deeper into Tutor/Mentor Ideas and Articles

I've been writing this blog since 2005 and began putting ideas on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site in 1998 via embedded PowerPoint presentations. Earlier than that I was putting these graphics in printed newsletters.

This represents a lot of information, and few people are willing to make the time to read, digest and share the ideas. Thus, one strategy I've used is to engage interns from various colleges in short, or long, periods of study which results in presentations that they create to interpret what they read.  You can see the image shown above with a collection of other presentations on this page.

The inspiration for my articles and graphics has come from my own experiences in leading a tutor/mentor program in Chicago, as well as from how I'm continually connecting and learning from others. The web library that I've aggregated over the past 30 years is really a collection of links to people and ideas that I've found valuable, and that I feel others would also find useful.

Finding ways to motivate others to dig into this information and then share what they are learning with others has always been the big challenge. When I can, I try to point to others who are already doing this, as an example of what I feel many others can do.

Below is a screen shot of a video created last week by Terry Elliott, a college professor from Western Kentucky, who I first met in 2013 via an on-line Connected Learning, #clmooc.

Over the past couple of weeks Terry introduced me to an RSS feed aggregation called Inoreader. He first mentioned this on a Twitter message and when I asked for help understanding it, he created a video, which he then posted on Vialogues so I could ask questions and he could respond. Then he created this blog article to show several different uses of Inoreader.

A year ago I did not know anything about on-line annotation and Terry was the one who introduced me to this at that time.  In this Jan. 2016 article I share this introduction to annotation.  And in this Feb 2016 article I show many ways that Terry and others who I've met online are expanding my range of ideas.

What's even more important is that Terry has been expanding his own understanding of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC over the past four years and he is sharing this understanding with members of his own network via the blog articles he writes and our interactions on Twitter, Facebook and similar spaces.

Here's another example. When Terry introduced me to annotation last January I suggested that this would be a way for myself and others to share thinking from books and PDF articles we had read in the past.  I suggested that we look at a 1992 report from The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, titled Redefining Child and Family Services: Directions for the Future.  

This was one of the primary resources that I used to show why the Tutor/Mentor Connection was needed and what it was going to do.

We were not able to do that then, but in the past month we were able to load a 1995 update and use Hypothes.is to add comments in the margins. Here's the link. Take a look.

Had more people adopted and supported the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategies from 1993-2016 I feel that there would be more supports in places helping kids in high poverty Chicago neighborhoods move safely from pre-school to jobs and careers and the strategy might have spread to other cities.

Part of the reason I did not get that support is that too few people actually knew the Tutor/Mentor Connection existed or what it was trying to do...because I did not have the tools now available to share my ideas, and did not have people like Terry Elliott, helping me build understanding and awareness in more places.

Poverty and inequality are still entrenched in Chicago and America. Thus, it's not too late for people to dig into these ideas and look for ways to apply them locally and globally.

Since I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I've encouraged colleges and high schools to adopt the T/MC strategy, with students doing the same work I do, but focused on the geography around their university.  This article from June 2015 shows that vision.

Over the past twenty years many people have done what Terry Elliott is doing, but few have done it consistently.  I created the concept map shown below as one way to aggregate links to people like Terry, so others could see what they are writing about, and connect with them, not just with me.

Anyone can take this role. The more who do, the greater will be the visibility and application of these ideas.  If you do start using your blog, videos or web site to share and interpret the ideas on my blog and web sites, send me a link and I'll add you to the map.

If you want to set up a student involvement project modeled after the T/MC I'd love to help you do that. 

Thanks to all who inspire my work on a daily basis by how you spend time networking and sharing your own ideas.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

'Too many walls and not enough bridges"

I just read a fascinating article about how bridges enhanced the growth of major cities around the world. In it's conclusion the author wrote "We build too many walls and not enough bridges".

I created the graphic at the left in 2008 for this blog article which is one of many that focus on mentoring as a form of "bridging social capital". The divides I seek to bridge are social, economic, age and racial, not rivers and canyons.

I've used it often, along with other graphics, such as this one, to show how people can take on intermediary roles of connecting people and places where help is needed, with people, ideas and resources in places where help is available.

Volunteers who serve as mentors to young people who live in concentrated, segregated, high poverty neighborhoods, are filling that role, even if they don't recognize that they do it.

As we head into 2017 and a new Presidential administration I feel it's more important than ever to find ways to build bridges instead of walls.

Let me know how you're doing that.  Dig into past articles on this blog to find more ideas that you can apply in your own community.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Violence Prevention as Public Health Strategy

Yesterday I posted an article with the titled "Reducing Violence, Poverty in Chicago. What's the Plan?" in response to articles on the front page of major Chicago media.  Today in it's editorial page the Chicago Tribune writes "Chicago's Crime Epidemic: How can  you help?" and highlights mentoring as a solution.

That's not enough.

In past articles I've shown roles of hospitals and universities as anchor organizations who could influence the availability of youth and family support systems in the areas surrounding each institution.

Today my Twitter friend Valdis Krebs pointed me to an article titled "Modeling Contagion Through Social Networks to Explain and Predict Gunshot Violence in Chicago, 2006 to 2014" which I've added to my web library and recommend as "deeper learning" for anyone concerned with this problem.

Toward the end of the article the authors added this statement:

"A fully realized public health approach centered on subjects of gun violence includes focused violence reduction efforts that work in concert with efforts aimed at addressing the aggregate risk factors of gun violence, namely, the conditions that create such networks in the first place or otherwise determine which individuals are in such networks (eg, neighborhood disadvantage and failing schools)."

As readers look at the charts in research papers like this, and look for solutions to violence in Chicago and other cities, I encourage you to look at the two concept maps shown below.

The first shows supports kids need as they move from pre-school to jobs, over a 20 to 30 year period.
See the map here.

This second map shows that people raising kids in affluent areas have some of the same challenges as people in poor areas, however, as Robert Putnam says in his "Our Kids" book, they have more resources to help kids overcome those challenges.

These concept maps should serve as visual aids for leaders, volunteers, donors, policy makers, etc.

Throughout my articles I also use geographic maps, showing all of the high poverty areas of Chicago.

At each age level, pre-school through high school, kids in high poverty neighborhoods need a full range of supports, as illustrated by the two concept maps.

Mentoring by itself, can't help kids overcome the lack of these supports on a consistent basis as they grow up.  In many cases, without organized programs operating in different neighborhoods, volunteers representing different career options than what is most often modeled in high poverty neighborhoods, won't even be able to find ways to connect with youth.

My articles have been freely available on this blog since 2005 and on web sites since 1998. I'd love to see more leaders including visualizations and  maps in articles that show strategies and invite others to become involved....and that draw direct and on-going operating and innovation dollars to all of the organizations needed in every one of these high poverty areas.

If you're aware of people who do this, please share the link  in the comments section below.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Reducing Violence, Poverty in Chicago. What's the Plan?

Both of Chicago's major newspapers ended the year with front page stories about violence in Chicago on their front pages.

This image is from an article I posted in November 2015.  If you browse this blog for past articles tagged "planning", "leadership", "media", etc. you'll find ideas I've been sharing for over 20 years.

Had leaders in Chicago embraced and supported those ideas since 1994 I wonder what the level of violence and inequality would be in the city today?

The ENOUGH graphic at the right is from a June 2012 article titled "Stopping Violence. Do the Planning", which focuses on the learning that is essential for development and commitment to a comprehensive, regional wide strategy supported by people in business, faith groups, politics, media, etc.

At the core of my strategies is the use of maps to focus attention on all of the high poverty neighborhoods in Chicago and the suburbs, and on existing non-school, tutoring, mentoring and learning programs already operating.  With an on-line map platform such as the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator which I have been developing since 2008, people can zoom into sections of the city, and use maps as part of a community building effort, enlisting all of the businesses, faith groups, colleges, hospitals, etc. within the map area as supporters of programs that help youth through school and into careers.

Below is a map I created in early 2016 showing non-school tutor, mentor and/or learning programs in the Chicago region. View the map here

I don't give endorsements of one program or another as the best. Instead, I say, “look at the map to see where these programs are needed, based on poverty, violence, poorly performing schools, etc.”

Then pick a neighborhood to make a long-term commitment to help. Once you've done that look at the programs that operate in that neighborhood, using their web site to help you understand who they are, what they do and how you can help them.

Some programs have great web sites and show great work. Other programs don't have great web sites, or don't show comprehensive plans for what they do to help kids.  I created this PDF shoppers guide presentation to show some of the things I would like to see on program web sites to help volunteers, donors and parents choose which programs to support, or to find ideas for helping neighborhood programs constantly improve. 

If you've adopted that neighborhood, your job is to 

a) help good programs get better; 
b) help not-so-good programs become good programs; and 
c) help new programs form in places where no programs are located, or where specialized types of service are still needed.

If enough people take this role, adopting each of the high poverty Chicago and suburban zip codes where kids and families need extra help, there soon will be great programs in more places doing more to help kids have networks of support, safe places in the non-school hours, places for enrichment and extra learning, and places that offer hope and help more kids move safely through school and into careers.

This will not happen over night, or in one year, or even three or four years. However, in 20 years will we still see the same year end news reports showing violence in Chicago and calling for a "master plan"?  Or will we see 20 years of growth in how the city and the region help those who need help the most?

Make this your New Year's Commitment. This  year. Next year. The following year. In 10 years.