Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thanks + Giving: Plan Ahead

On November 30 the Tutor/Mentor Connection will be hosting a one-day conference in Chicago. It's aim is to share information that helps more and better volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs be available for inner-city youth.

While I lead one of these programs and know from personal experience how these programs transform youth and adults, I also know how hard it is to find dollars to operate consistently from year to year. Thus, at this conference my goal is to draw programs leaders together to share ideas, build visibility, and to find ways to work together to draw needed dollars to all tutor/mentor programs, not just Cabrini Connections.

One strategy for this is to share some of the research that shows the need for learning supports, and for non-school programs. Here are three reports I encourage you to read and share with others:

The Essential Supports for School Improvement, published by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago.

Policy Brief: Promoting a Systematic Focus on Learning Supports to Address Barriers to Learning and Teaching, found at the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools . Open the What's New section and follow the links to the Student Support Initiative.

The Big Lie: Reframing Expectations of Afterschool Programs, by Dr. Robert Halpern of the Erickson Institute.

If life were a game of 'tag' then my purpose in writing this blog is to 'tag' others who will then carry this message into their own network of friends, family and co-workers. If these people 'tag' others, we can reach millions of potential volunteers and donors, who will be willing to share some of the blessings they celebrate during Thanksgiving and the year end holidays with one or more tutor/mentor programs operating in Chicago or other cities.

I hope that Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection are among the organizations that you support with your donations.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nobel Prize, Giraffes and Tutor/Mentor. What's the Link?

I received the following email yesterday from the Giraffe Foundation:

A Second Giraffe Wins Nobel Peace Prize
There was much jubilation here at the news last week that Muhammad Yunus
( ) had won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006. Yunus was commended as a Giraffe way back in 1987. He follows Giraffe Wangari Maathai ( , who was commended as a Giraffe in 1990 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. We happily suggest that the Nobel Committee check our files now for potential future winners.

What's the connection? Daniel F. Bassill, president of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, was commended as a Giraffe in 1997. I've been proud to wear the Giraffe pin on my coat for almost a decade.

I keep telling people that we can earn awards like this, if they will join me in the efforts of the T/MC. Over the past couple of days, I've been talking to Phil Cubeta at GIFT HUB and Sean Stannard-Stockton at about ways generous acts of kindness can add up as strategic, long-term support of non profits working to help kids grow from first grade to first job, or working to help solve other long-term challenges.

My goal is to use maps, databases, the Internet, and social networking/collaboration tools to draw donors and volunteers to maps where they see where the need for charity dollars, or volunteers is, and choose among many agencies to decide who to help, and how much to help. By using information as a middle man in this process, we can improve the distribution of support to all places where help is needed, and sustain it for the many years it takes for organizations to grow from good to great.

If we can make this work, I think it deserves a Nobel Prize.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Creating Network of Purpose - Nov. 30 gathering

On a variety of web sites and blogs I find people with great ideas about networking. I have a link to the Non profit Blog Exchange, at the left. Network Weaving is another site where you can learn. In the Tutor/Mentor Connection Links, I list a variety of blogs and forums where people can connect.

I am now organizing a one-day conference for Chicago and am looking for one or two blog/networking experts to participate on a panel that focuses on collaboration. In addition, I'm looking for others to blog this topic in December. Please read about the Conference Strategy and email if you'd like to help.

Monday, October 16, 2006

K-12 On-line Conference - Join in!!

For those who are involved or concerned about education outcomes in the US or in other countries, a unique on-line event is beginning On Oct. 16 and continuing through the end of October. You can find details and read the Keynote blog at

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.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Learning about poverty, and how mentoring can help youth reach careers

The LINKS library at is now fully operational again, after a month of rebuilding that was done after hackers caused us to move to a new hosting site. I hope you'll take a look.

The aim of this library is to help leaders, volunteers, donors, youth and parents find information that they want, when they want it.

For students, this can help them with homework, help them explore career goals, or connect with peers around the world.

For program leaders and donors, the links can be used to benchmark what one program is doing against what others do to solve the same problem. If the donor and the non profit are looking at the same information, and the donor is committed to helping kids in the zip code where they program is located. this shared understanding of what ideas would help improve a program should result in the donor providing the funds for the program to do the work of adding this new idea.

The LINKS also provide in-depth information that helps everyone understand the challenges of poverty, and see the opportunities to help youth reach their full potential.

There is a lot of information on this web site. However, poverty is a very complex issue, and affects millions of people in the US and around the world. Solutions cannot be achieved by a few minutes of learning. It takes many years of learning, just like getting a college degree and a PdD takes four to 8 years of work.

Thus, we hope you not only return to this site often, but that you add new links, rate the links, and discuss the information you find in this discussion forum.

In this way we share the work of helping people find and use information that can lead youth out of poverty and to careers.