Sunday, August 20, 2017

Transforming Adults Involved In Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Programs

I wrote this article in 2009 and said, "Now that Chicago won't host the Olympics, can we create "gold medal" thinking about ways to help kids from poverty win their race to futures?

Me & Leo - 1973
I've updated this for 2017.  We still don't have much "gold medal"thinking.  Please read on.

When I first became a volunteer tutor at the Montgomery Ward program almost 35 years ago, I had no idea that I'd someday be writing articles like this to encourage others to become involved. What transformed me over these years? What if hundreds of places where volunteers connect with inner city youth were trying to transform their own volunteers for the same benefit?

I attend many meetings where the problems and tragedies of poverty are discussed. Almost all bring together many people with personal experience and good ideas. However, a time in the meeting comes when we talk about funding, and then we all recognize that this is a problem, then we go on and talk more about the problems, and what we could do IF we had the money.

I focus most of the articles in this blog on what steps we might take to increase the flow of resources to all tutor/mentor programs in a geographic area, on a long-term basis, which includes money, but also includes talent and technology, and ideas.

Yesterday as I sat in another meeting, I scribbled out some concepts, which I later polished up on a concept map. If you've skills in animation, you could do even more with this idea.

This chart shows a cycle that takes place almost every day, in hundreds of locations throughout the country. However, it may be happening with less purpose and impact in most places, than is needed to change the flow of resources to tutor/mentor programs.

Let me try to break this down for you.

The first step in volunteer involvement is creating advertising, or network building, that motivates a volunteer to seek out a place where he/she can get involved. This could be the Cabrini Connections (now Chicago Tutoring Connection) program which I led from 1993 to 2011. It could be one of the programs on the list of Chicago programs maintained by the Tutor/Mentor Connection since 1993. It could be one in any other city, found by searching through any of these volunteer-matching systems.

The next stage of volunteer involvement is on-going. This involves the coaching, training, and peer mentoring that a volunteer receives in the program where she became involved. This also involves the learning which a volunteer does on his own to build his skills as a tutor/mentor. This type of support varies dramatically from place to place, depending on the level and experience of staffing, and the structure of the program. If a volunteer is well supported, and if the student attends regularly and is not what we call a "volunteer killer" (meaning they don't want to work, are disrespectful, or don't attend regularly and the volunteer gets frustrated and quits), then the volunteer will stay longer with the program.

Now comes the important, trans formative stage. As volunteers who don't live in poverty become personally involved with kids who do live in poverty, they begin to learn more about issues and challenges the kids deal with on a daily basis. They begin to become more interested in learning more about these issues. Some will do this on their own. However, some programs make an effort to broaden the volunteer's understanding of the issue by organizing conferences, training sessions, or by providing reading materials, or on-line libraries of information that the volunteer can learn from.

Each week, as the volunteer grows his/her relationship with the youth, they also grow their understanding of the issues. If the program nurtures this, the volunteer takes the next step, to becoming an advocate for the student, the program, and the tutor/mentor industry.

Initially this might be the volunteer making contact with the student's parent, or teacher. It might grow to making a greater effort to find study ideas, and college and career resources. It might lead to creating a part time job at the volunteer's company for the student, or other students in the program, or to recommending speakers and other resources.

As the volunteer shares his weekly experiences through informal story telling, a few friends and co-workers may offer to join her as a volunteer.

If the volunteer is coached, or self-motivated, he might begin to raise money to support the organization. Some volunteers might join fund raising committees, or even become part of a board of directors.

If this is happening in many programs, in the same city, or in multiple cities, and the number of volunteers increases, the impact of their informal networking can result in more volunteers becoming involved, and more people donating money to support their programs.

However, if there are face-to-face events, or on-line platforms, where volunteers from the same program, for from different programs, can connect with each other, then the sharing of information can include more people, and the hosts of these events can become more strategic.

Imagine if we were able to attract two or three thousand volunteers from tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, New York, Detroit, Miami, LA and other cities to the same on-line forum. What if a volunteer said, "I'm from Microsoft. Are there any other volunteers from there?"

This could lead to volunteers who work in the same company, same industry, or attended the same college, forming groups where they share tips and ideas that enable each member to be more effective in how he supports his/her own student.

It could also lead to these volunteers beginning a process of "What could we as a group, or as a company, do to support our programs more consistently? Or, What could we do to improve the quality and experience, and retention, of key staff members who are essential to coaching volunteers and students into long-term involvement? What could we do to lower the costs and frustrations of fund raising?"

Such discussions, happening in many groups, could lead to a more strategic understanding of a tutor/mentor program and how we transform the lives of kids, by transforming the lives of the volunteers who we recruit from areas beyond poverty, and from the many industries who benefit from a well-trained and diverse workforce.

Ultimately, such strategies would increase the number of well-organized, volunteer-based programs, where leaders incorporate this thinking into their own core strategies, which would just lead to a greater on-going growth in the number of volunteers who are involved and transformed.

Created by Intern from Hong Kong in 2007

I call this a Service Learning Loop. You can see an animated version of this here.

Instead of thinking of a shrinking economy and support system, we should be thinking of this as a growth strategy.

I encourage you to borrow the charts I post on this blog for your own articles, brain storming and visioning. Just point a link to us as the source. You can find essays with some of these ideas in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library. I also encourage you to join me on social media where we can meet without the costs of travel to attend face to face conferences.

Since I first created this article in 2009 an intern from the University of Michigan, working with a public interest program fellow from Northwestern, created an animation to share this information. That can be seen in this video.

In addition, the Service Learning Loop animation was updated by an intern from South Korea who was part of a program with IIT in Chicago.

You can see the animation in this video.

If you're a writer, graphic designer, film maker, or student looking for an internship, or for a masters, or PhD project, we offer the Tutor/Mentor Connection as a project that you can study, and where you can apply your talent to enhance and improve what we're doing.  As these videos demonstrate, any of the ideas I share on this blog could be re-done many times, by students and volunteers from many places.

I encourage that to happen.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Get to know resources in Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library

I started reaching our to peers and others in 1973 when I became a volunteer tutor with a program at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago. When I became the volunteer leader of that program I expanded my search for ideas since I had no previous experience leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program serving k-6 elementary school kids in Chicago's Cabrini-Green neighborhood.

When we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993, with a goal of  helping tutor/mentor programs grow in all poverty neighborhoods of Chicago, our first task was to find out who was already doing this work, and to expand our library of research showing where and why they were needed, and ways leaders could build and sustain strong programs in more places.

Over 40 years I've collected quite a bit of information.  Below is a concept map that I use to show the 4-sections of the library. I put it into a Thinglink so I could point to each section and tell why I think the information is important.  Take a look.

You could spend a lifetime digging through this information and still not find all that the library includes. One reason is that while I point to more than 2000 other organizations, they each point to more organizations from their sites, and they each are constantly adding new information.

Thus, think of this as a huge department store or a college library. Get to know the sections and what's included. Then dip into it on an on-going basis to build a deeper understanding of different topics and to see how resources from one section relate to resources in another.  Or just search for terms or topics and see if they are there.

As you look at this, take a look at this 4-part strategy map, described in this article.  The information in the web library is Part 1 of this four part strategy.  Drawing more users to the library and helping them understand and apply the information to help build and sustain systems of support for kids living in high poverty areas are the other three steps.

I've been building this over 40 years and now am looking for partners to help me keep it going and draw more users to it, but also to carry this forward in future years.  If you're interested in helping, connect with me on one of these social media pages or post a comment below.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dig into Idea Library I've Built Since 1994

While I've created more than 1000 blog articles since 2005, I started putting strategy ideas into printed newsletters in 1994 as we were launching the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in Chicago.  I began to turn words into pictures and create strategy visualizations about the same time. Then in 1998 I created a Tutor/Mentor Institute page on one of my web sites to share these ideas.


Visit this page and browse through this collection. Since they are on-line, you can gather a group, project these on a screen, and discuss ways you can apply the ideas in your own neighborhood, city or country.

Then, visit this page and see how interns from universities in the US and Asia have created their own interpretations of my articles and presentations.  This is work students from any place could be doing.  Take a look. Browse the ideas. Engage your students and community.

All of these could be done better, with more creativity and greater impact.  If you'd like to volunteer time, talent and dollars and work directly with me to update these, just introduce yourself on one of these social media sites.

If you want to go ahead and create your own version of any of these, go ahead. Just put in a link to where the ideas originated.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Violence, Racism, Nazis - Don't just voice your anger.

While social media reacted with a mountain of posts about the White Supremacist, Nazi, KKK- led march in Chancellorsville, VA, young men and women continued to be shot and killed in Chicago neighborhoods.   Responses to both are inadequate.

I've been using maps as part of an on-going public education strategy, for 23 years to focus attention on places where people suffer, due to poverty, violence, inadequate schools, etc and have created far too many focused on the Austin neighborhood on the West side of Chicago.  I updated this map today, showing where two men were gunned down on Sunday morning, right in front of the Friendship Baptist Church in the Austin neighborhood.

Since I had created several map views of Austin for past articles, all I did this time was pull up a previously created map and add a circle to show where the church is located and add a small screen shot showing how this story was featured in today's Chicago Tribune.

The name of the church sounded familiar so I looked at a map I had created a few years ago to show some churches that were providing mentoring to youth.  The Friendship Baptist Church is number at the bottom of this map.

I did a presentation at one of these churches a few years ago, sharing the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web resources and inviting each church to set up a study group to dig into the ideas I'm sharing and apply them to build strong tutor, mentor learning strategies at each church, and in other locations, throughout the Austin neighborhood.

One map I've shared often shows transit routes bringing people from affluent suburbs surrounding Chicago to where they work in the downtown area. Every day thousands of people past right by the Friendship Baptist Church, but I doubt that many are stopping to offer time, talent and dollars to help youth in the neighborhood move through school and into jobs.

Here's another graphic from my library. This could be used to show the design of a mentor-rich program, indicating that volunteers and learning experiences come from many different sources.

However, it could also show that at each spoke on the wheel there are groups of people leading others into the information I've been sharing for 24 years, to look for more information about why people are killing each other, and ways to build a system of supports that leads to different outcomes.

Here's another map that the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) created nearly ten years ago, showing the 7th Congressional District, which includes the Austin neighborhood.  We created several versions of this (see pdf) showing businesses, faith groups, hospitals and universities, along with the transit route connecting rich and poor from Chicago's West suburbs to the downtown area.

The goal was that elected leaders pull people together to help build and sustain mentor-rich programs in all poverty neighborhoods of their district.  That's still a goal.

If you're reading this and want to take action, maybe start by pulling up some of the past articles I've written about the Austin neighborhood. Click here.  Then systematically browse through other articles, category by category, and bring together a group of friends, family, co-workers, etc. and begin to talk about ways you might implement some of the ideas.

I'd be happy to act as a friend and consultant to help you set up a learning community and begin to mobilize more consistent flow of resources to support the growth of needed programs and services in these neighborhoods.

At the same time I encourage you to review the 4-part strategy that I've described in articles like these, and see how this applies to other problems we need to better  understand and combat with more consistent flows of time, talent and dollars.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Mentoring Kids Through School and Into Adult Lives

This montage shows youth and adults from a tutor/mentor program I launched in January 1992 and led through mid 2011. Some of those kids were in 7th grade when they joined us, and had been part of the 2nd to 6th grade program I led from 1975-1992 before joining us. Many now are out of college, in jobs and raising their own kids and some of us are connected on social media. Many of the volunteers stayed with the program 3 to 10 years with one serving more than 20. One of those alumni posted this message on Facebook today:
"those times spent at tutoring made me the woman I am today"
So when I talk about "mentoring kids through school and into adult lives" I'm talking about the commitment a few people make to helping kids from the time they join a program until they are out of school and in adult lives.

In leading a single program I was constantly looking for ideas, thinking "what are all the things I need to know and do?"  Those things extended to running an effective organization and raising needed funds every year, not just recruiting kids and volunteers and providing a safe space for them to meet.

As we created the single tutor/mentor program in 1993 we also responded to a larger need. No one had a master data base of non-school tutor/mentor programs serving Chicago, thus, no one was leading a business-type marketing campaign intended to help every program in the city get the resources and ideas each program needs to constantly improve what they do while staying connected to kids and volunteers.

Furthermore, no one was mapping this information to identify neighborhoods with no programs, or without programs serving specific age groups.  Thus, we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection to fill this void. We launched a first Chicago programs survey in January 1994 and started producing maps showing locations of programs at the same time.

As we built a database of programs, we also began to expand the library of research and ideas that I had started collecting in 1975 when I first started leading a tutor/mentor program in Chicago.  That library went on the internet in 1998 and has constantly expanded since then.

It contains answers to "what are all the things we need to know and do" and it's free and available to people from anywhere in the world.

I've been sharing what the Tutor/Mentor Connection is and what it offers, in many ways, for many years, in an effort to recruit leaders, partners and a few benefactors to support this work in Chicago and grow it in other cities.  In 2011 I created a space on Debategraph for this message.  Last week I used Thinglink to highlight the information on the Debategraph site.

Take a look.  Click on each circle and a pop-up opens with information related to that spoke of the wheel, with a link directly to that page on the Debategraph site.

I learned about Thinglink from educators I've met over the past five years on Twitter, Google-Plus and Facebook, who are part of a Connected Learning #clmooc community.  The type of on-going interaction and idea sharing that this group models is something I've tried to create for the non-school community, including donors, researchers, policy makers, volunteers and students.

It's one of many mountains I've tried to climb over the past 24 years with too few resources and too little help.  However, by sharing this information, I hope it inspires others to try to build a support system like the T/MC in their own community.  

Since mid 2011 I've continued to support the T/MC through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.  It's the same mission, just a different tax structure. Still has the same lack of resources to do all that needs to be done.  Click here if you'd like to offer some help.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sharing ideas using Thinglink

Last week I created this blog post, pointing to a new report, by the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at UIC that focuses on the State of Racial Justice in Chicago . Below is the same image, with embedded links,  using Thinglink. I learned about this from my #clmooc educator network.

Click on any of the nodes and you'll find an article related to that graphic. Read the article and more like it.  Share with people in your own network so more people will get involved and we can increase public will and the number who care.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Role of Facilitators - See Blog Talk Radio Interview

In the 4-part strategy that I've shared often on this blog, step  3 focuses on facilitation, or helping other people find, understand and apply the information on my web sites.

I use my articles to help people understand ideas and information they can use to help build and sustain volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs that reach kids in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities.

I point to work interns have done in past years to help people understand ideas I share on this blog and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library.

Today Valerie Leonard, a Chicago community organizer, who I have come to know over the past 15 years, interviewed me for her Blog Talk Radio show.  You can see the interview below.

By hosting this show, and inviting me to be a guest, Valerie is modeling a facilitation role that needs to be duplicated by people in many groups to draw people to articles and ideas that I and other people share and help them build their own understanding and use of the ideas.

This graphic illustrates what I'm saying. There are many different groups who could be taking a deeper, more strategic, and on-going role to help improve the quality of life for people in different parts of Chicago or in other parts of the US and the world.

You don't need to have a deep understanding of any of the stuff I post or write about. You can invite a group of people into a room, project the image or article on a screen, the ask people to share what they are understanding.

You don't even need to be in the same room, at the same time. Connect on the Internet.

This past month the Connected Learning #clmooc group has been encouraging people to "make" visualizations that express their ideas. Take a look at their web site and see the activities they have been doing and the way they share and connect with each other on several social media platforms.

The #clmooc organizers are educators from different parts of the world who meet on-line to plan each year's activities.

Go ahead and get started. Invite some people to come together. Pick any of the articles I've posted over the past 10 years or that you find in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library.

If you're taking this role, send me a link and I'll join in when I can, and share  your videos and Tweets as I receive them.  It's another example of what I mean when I say "It takes a village to raise a child."
One role in the village is information networker, facilitator, trainer, etc.

Thanks Valerie for hosting me today.