Saturday, April 30, 2005

Youth on the Streets: Lost in the Wilderness

nOn Friday, April 29 I attended a forum in Chicago hosted by the Alternative Schools Network, The Chicago Community Trust and the Woods Fund of Chicago. More than 200 guests attended and the panel included many high profile public leaders.

Research was provided that shows that jobs for youth are declining and that African American and Latino youth living in cities like Chicago are further behind. These studies show the link between education and income, and illustrate that for each youth who gets a high school degree there can be a savings over a lifetime, to the public, of more than $300,000.

This is powerful information, and I'm sure the organizers hope that everyone in the room would run out and begin to evangelize this message so that more public and private sector actions would lead to lower high school drop out rates and higher levels of employment for minority youth. I encourage you to read the reports, which are available at

The problem I have with this meeting is the lack of vision, on the part of the organizers, to use collaboration technology and elearning tools to connect the speakers and the participants in on-going elearning and collaboration forums. This meeting was particularly frustrating because it started late and most of the people on the panel had to rush their comments. I had to leave before the final two speakers. I'm sure that out of all of the participants, there might have been only a couple of questions.

What if the speakers had each posted their comments on a blog, like this, and all of those blogs were links on the web sites of ASN, The Chicago Community Trust and the Woods Fund. This would have enabled each of the participants to go in on their own time to read what each speaker had to say, and to read and reflect on the comments of each participant. The participants themselves could have connected with other participants, and anyone with a plan to actually resolve the issues discussed, could have invited others to come to his own web site/blog to talk or work together.

This is the third such meeting I've attended in two weeks where I had the same frustration. The money spend on a fancy breakfast at the Union League Club could have been much better spent on setting up an electronic collaboration forum.

Last week I received an email from Debrah Finn at Harvard telling me about an electronic meeting held in Boston. I encourage you to read Deborah's Wednesday, April 27 blog that is titled What's Next? Can We Foster Civic Engagement and Leadership Development with Online Tools? She describes the same type of meeting and the potential to support such meetings with electronic collaboration.

As I learn of groups who are innovating ways to collaborate on-line, I'll build links to their pages on the T/MC web sites. I'll invite them to participate in T/MC conferences. I'll look for volunteers and donors who will help the T/MC integrate these processes into our own growing networking and collaboration process.

I believe that there are some people in the country who are already moving ahead and fostering real collaboration. Some day when someone says, "We talked to everybody," as one panelist said Friday, they will really mean everybody, not just those in their own circle of decision makers.

We can have this in Chicago. We can have this in the Tutor/Mentor Connection. In the Alternative Schools Network. In the Voices 4 Illinois Network. In the Juvenile Justice Initiative. In the Charter Schools Network. In the Illinois College Access Network.

Will be have it by each of building these tools in competition with each other, creating a redundancy of costs and a duplication of effort? Of can we create an open source platform and a tech support network, that would enable each of us to use the same technology, but in our own organizational strategies.

If we do this, and link our networks to each other, we'll create a path to involvement and collaboration for anyone who wants to get involved.

Is anybody listing? Will you help us pave the way?

1 comment:

General Post said...

Getting internet tools such as blogs and forums to work involves the mobilization of citizen support through commitments. Here is my suggestion for getting something started.

1. Commit one of the many organizations engaged in tutoring/mentoring to select 10 students with the available resources to start their own blog.
2. Have each student decide on a subject/topic that is important to them.
3. Each student will then commit to weekly “blogging” on their subject.
4. Each student will commit 5 or more friends, family or other individuals to check their blog regularly
5. Each blog entry must include a linked resource, a call to action, a call to community input or all of these.
6. After a preset period of time, these students will give a demonstration of their experiences and results at a fundraising/community awareness event geared towards acquiring and deploying more IT resources for connecting youth in tutoring and mentoring programs.

Collaboration and input are requested. Learn more at the workshop that Anne Cox and Ian Bryan will provide at the Tutor/Mentor Conference titled: Using Technology for More Engaging and Productive Tutor/Mentor Programs: A Demonstration and Interactive Forum Workshop, 1:30 – 2:50 PM on May 12th.

Email with any questions.