Friday, December 30, 2005

Creating a Service and Learning Organization that Mentors Kids to Careers: My 2006 Resolution

If you've read some of the messages I've posted to this Blog you'll see that I lead a small non profit that seeks to connect workplace volunteers with children and youth living in neighborhoods of highly concentrated poverty.

Our goal is to create an organized framework that encourages volunteers to serve as tutors, mentors, coaches, advocates, friends, leaders in on-going efforts that make a life-changing difference for these kids. By life-changing, I mean that the kids will not be living in poverty when they are adults because they will have the academic, social/emotional and workplace skills needed for 21st century jobs, plus a network of adults who can and will open doors to jobs and mentor them in careers.

I have spent time almost every day for more than 30 years trying to figure out better, more efficient, and lower cost ways to accomplish this goal.

I have learned to mine the knowledge and experiences of others to innovate strategies for tutoring/mentoring, rather than trying to develop my own solutions to problems. Using T/MC web sites, on-line networking and regular face-to-face training and mentoring, I am trying to share what I know, and the process of learning and service that I apply in my own daily routine, so that there are more people in more places accepting this role and responsibility.

So how do we make this vision a reality? We create a "learning organization", which is also the ideal of many of the best businesses in the world. We also create a "service culture" modeled after the work of heroes like Cesar Chavez, whose core values included sacrifice and perseverance, commitment to the most disadvantaged as well as life-long learning and innovation.

In a learning organization, everyone is engaged. In the world of Cesar Chavez, everyone is willing to make huge commitments, and sacrifices of time, talent and treasure to help disadvantaged people move to greater health, and greater hope and opportunity.

Our goal is to find ways to draw a growing number of our stakeholders into this learning process and to build an on-going commitment to service (as opposed to random acts of kindness). This process is intended to include our students and volunteers, our staff, donors and leaders, and members of the business, education, faith and media in the communities where our kids live. It also aims to engage leaders and volunteers from other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and in other cities, plus people and organizations in the communities that don't have high poverty, but benefit from a world envisioned by Dr. M. L. King, Jr. as well as a 21st Century America where there are enough skilled workers to meet the future workforce needs of American industry.


The Internet is our meeting place. It's a virtual library of constantly growing knowledge. On T/MC web sites we collect and hosting information that shows why kids in poverty need extra help, where such help is needed, who is providing help, and what volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can do to connect adults, kids and learning in an on-going, constantly improving process of mentoring kids to careers.

If we can find ways to increase the percent of our kids, our volunteers, and our leaders and donors who are drawing information on a weekly basis, and reflecting on this information in small and large groups, the way people in churches reflect on passages from the Bible each week, we can grow the amount of understanding we all have about the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. We can innovate new and better ways to succeed in our efforts.

This process has already started. We need to nurture and grow it in 2006.

Can you help?

Visit the various web sites at the left and start your own learning. I encourage you to read the Power Point Essay titled, Theory of Change . This illustrates our goal and the community that we seek to engage.

This and other PPT essays in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library illustrate the T/MC vision and the community of organizations that we seek to engage. Then share your own knowledge, time, talent and dollars to help us build this service and learning organization.

Thank you all for reading my messages. I hope you share them with others. May God Bless you all with peace, good health and happiness in 2006.

Daniel F. Bassill
President
Tutor/Mentor Connection
Cabrini Connections

1 comment:

amy drozdowska-mcguire said...

Chicago Public Radio’s Chicago Matters: Valuing Education series is seeking personal stories from individuals struggling with the inequities and confusions related to school funding issues; the emotional dimensions, the personal aspect of educational funding and the quest of a quality education. These stories will be specifically about “those who can.... do;” they”ll be first-person narratives from articulate individuals taking matters into their own hands where education is concerned.



Some of the stories we may pursue for this series of first-person-told narratives include a politician whose choice to base her campaign on educational funding reform ended her political career; a parent who lied about where she lived in order to get her child the education she felt he deserved; a parent volunteering in a community tutoring program who found that the demands of mentoring were starting to overshadow his ability to meet his own family’s needs.



We’re hoping those engaging in tutoring and mentoring may have some such stories to share, relating the personal journey of acting for a cause (in this case education). These personal stories will explore whether that person succeeded or failed, what they learned, and whether anything changed. We’re looking for small, particular stories that explore why sometimes people have to take measures – maybe even desperate measures – to act in spite of opposition and little hope for success, and what happens when they do. Rather than feel-good stories that make everything look easy, we want surprising stories that explore the risks people take to act for change, why they take those risks, and why sometimes they have to walk away. What were the emotional struggles, the costs, the concerns? What did you learn? What was surprising?



If you have a personal story you’d like to share, or know of someone who does, please contact producer Amy Drozdowska-McGuire, email: adorn@chicagopublicradio.org , phone: 312.948.4626