Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tutor/Mentor On-Line Network - Social Problem Solving

We're holding the next tutor/mentor conference next week in the South Suburbs of Chicago. The map shows that within a 12 mile radius of the Olympia Fields Conference site there are many areas of high poverty where tutor/mentor programs are needed.

We hope leaders of programs that already operate in this region, and in other parts of the Chicago region, will attend. But we also want other leaders to attend.

Our goal is to create a convergence, of business, health care, universities, faith groups, k-12 educators, social workers, lawyers, etc., ... all focused on expanding the learning and mentoring network for k-12 kids living in poverty, with the idea that volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can be a more important strategy to business, hospitals, faith and university leaders.

While we expect leaders of some tutor/mentor programs to attend (see the attendee list), we're not yet getting leaders of business and health care organizations to participate. We know some CEOs understand how volunteerism can be a valuable form of workforce development, and how some health care leaders understand mentoring as a workforce development strategy, however, getting these people into an on-going conversation that turns them into leaders of the Tutor/Mentor Connection's strategy, is not yet happening.

Part of the problem is that most business people don't even know the Tutor/Mentor Connection exists. Those that do are too busy to attend our conferences, or to far from Chicago to attend. This is true for tutor/mentor program leaders, too.

Thus, we've been working to move this networking to the Internet. In the past year more and more social network spaces have become available, which enable people who care about a cause, to connect with others who care about the same cause. We've created discussion forums on the T/MC site. But we also have space on Linked In and Facebook. In addition I participate in forums hosted by others, such as the Learning to Finish Wiki, and the Classroom 2.0 community. At we've started a new outreach with health care professionals.

Each of these communities connects the T/MC to a growing network of others who care about kids just as much as we do. If we can turn this network into a network of purpose, we can solve problems facing non profits, and do more to help kids.

Building collaborations and partnerships and focusing them on long-term goals is a difficult process, in the best of circumstances. I've been building this network for the past 30 years, informally at first, with limited support from foundations, or government. Yet over time we've helped many people build tutor/mentor programs, and many volunteers connect with kids. Here's a timeline that illustrates this growth.

Some where in America, today's papers will report stories of kids being killed, schools that perform poorly, poverty, and other social injustices. If you read one of these, I encourage you to join us in one of the forums I've listed, so you can learn ways you can be part of the solution, or that you can connect your network so they can be part of a solution.

We can become angry about a problem, and hope someone else solves it. Or we can begin to learn more about the problem and become a catalyst who helps make it go away.

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