Friday, October 13, 2006

RED Alert - Celebs' Anti-AIDS Effort. Can it be duplicated?

Today the front page story in my Chicago SunTimes was the story of Bono, Oprah and others launching a campaign to "sell red-colored cell phones in the United States to raise money -- potentially billions -- for Bono's Product Red campaign to help treat African women and children with HIV/Aids."

I heard Bono speak at the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service in 2005 and I'm really impressed with this guy and what he's accomplished.

Here's my problem. The graphic I show on this page illustrates the many different issues that most communities face, to some degree or another. I'm trying to use this wheel as a navigation tool. Imagine that you could click into any slice of this pie, and go to a web page that focused totally on a single broad issue, such as poverty, or health. AIDS would be listed in both categories, as an issue, but might be addressed by different organizations, competing for the same dollars.

Imagine though, if once you're in an issue area, you find another wheel, that breaks down poverty or any of these other categories into sub categories, then provides a map that shows you where in a city, or the world, this was a problem that needed solving, which means it needs money from people like Bono.

Unless someone is maintaining a database to show what organizations are working in each of these issue areas, and in each of these countries, cities and neighborhoods, it's likely that the money being raised by Bono and Bill Gates and others will not distribute to all of the organizations needing help. It's also likely that most of the high poverty places where help is needed, there are few organizations providing help, so there's no place for funds to be distributed, even if that was the intention.

The reality is that all of these slices are inter-related. We just tend to deal with them as silos, with separate organizations and donors providing support to different groups who address the same issue in a different way.

I focus on volunteer based, non-school tutor/mentor programs serving youth in high poverty neighborhoods. The reason I focus on non-school is that in big cities, it's hard to get away from work and drive to a neighborhood school where you can spend your lunch hour each week as a mentor. Yet, you might pass through these neighborhoods as you go from work to home every evening. Why not spend one evening at a neighborhood tutor/mentor program. I've led such a program for more than 30 years and more than three thousands volunteers have made this commitment. Over 10% stayed involved for five or more years, and many became leaders and donors. Kids that I first met in elementary school are now college graduates. These programs enable long-term connections and relationships to be formed between volunteers and youth. When that happens, the volunteers are more personally connected, and likley to do more to help solve the poverty and economic isolation that causes tutor/mentor programs to be needed in the first place.

Thus there's a value for non-school programs like Cabrini Connections. Yet, we struggle to find the money to pay the bills, or to make enough programs available in enough places. A couple of weeks ago a feature story in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday and Monday was about how Chicago Public Schools had raised $25 million in 2005 from corporations and foundations, vis only $2 million five years ago. While it's great that CPS can raise so much money, that's money that only funds school based activities. It's money that might have funded non-school programs that connect kids with mentors and learning activities that the schools can't provide. We need the Mayor, the CEO of Schools, and a few business leaders and celebrities mobilizing donors to distribute funds to schools, and to non-school programs.... if we really want kids to go through school better prepared for jobs and careers.

My goal in showing a chart like this is to encourage leaders to think more holistically about all of the different factors that contribute to AIDs, or to Poverty, or to poorly performing kids coming out of public schools. My hope is to find more people like Bono who will bring business into innovation processes so that we can have yellow TVs, and green shoes, and blue bikes, and pokadot sports tickets, each with some of the profit going to find a stream of charity, or a slice of the pie.

If you're reading this any you've got a great marketing idea, I can show you a whole city of volunteer based tutor/mentor programs who each need donations every day.

Note, I you can see an example of this wheel being used to draw attention to each issue area if you visit the Boston Innovation Hub ( ). That's what inspired me to create this graphic.

No comments: