Friday, April 11, 2008

Answers to Youth Violence - It Won't Be First Time

Today an article on page 12 of the Chicago SunTimes talked about a "new study being commissioned by the Mayor of Chicago to find way to attack roots of crime".

In the article the writer said, "It won't be the first time" such a study was commissioned. She then wrote about the Daily-appointed Youth Development Task Force which released a "Chicago for Youth Blueprints for Change" report 15 years ago.

So, she said, "Why conduct yet another study?"

I have a copy of that first study. It's a powerful call to action, with one statement saying "If we expect young people to meet their needs in a positive manner, we must see to it that positive opportunities are in their lives."

What frustrates me about this is that one of the programs referenced in the index of the 1994 report was the Montgomery Ward Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, hosted at the Montgomery Ward Corporate headquarters in Chicago.

While the researchers thought enough of the Wards program to include it in the report, the did not even bother to interview me, who had been the leader of that program for the previous 17 years!

We were starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection at the same time the 1994 study was being created. We operated in donated space at the Montgomery Ward headquarters, so it would not have been too difficult to invite us to share our ideas of what it takes to build and sustain a comprehensive volunteer-based tutor/mentor program.

However, nobody bothered to ask.

If they had we would have told them what we had learned, and what we believed would be a way for the city to make more and better non school tutoring/mentoring and learning resources available in high poverty neighborhoods. We would have shown them the T/MC strategy, and the way we were building a database of existing programs so that new support from the Mayor, business community and philanthropic partners could support the growth of existing programs instead of creating new ones. We would have shown how we were using maps to illustrate where these programs were needed, so that new programs could have been formed in areas where their are voids.

However, no one asked.

Part of our problem is that we're working in silos, with business people talking to each other, foundation people talking to each other, university people talking to each other, and none of us are crossing these groups to interact and learn from others who are focused on same issues. There are ways to change this, using the Internet as a collaboration portal.

We've met with people from the Mayor's office, the universities, local businesses, the United Way, and shared all of this information freely on the T/MC web site. While more than 100,000 people visited the web sites in 2007, we don't know if any were decision makers who were looking for a strategy that would not only end violence, but would make more and better learning and mentoring networks available to help kids through school and into careers.

Maybe what we write does not make sense. Thus, we've created graphics to try to communicate these ideas. You can see a couple on this blog. Search "maps" and you'll find more. Visit the Tutor/Mentor site at and you'll see more. Read the essays on the Tutor/Mentor Institute page and you'll find more.

While we can't change what happened 15 years ago. My hope is that the next round of researchers will try to learn from the experiences of people who have been in the field working to connect kids, volunteers and learning experiences for many years.

One way to do this is to come to the conference in May. (2015 update: I've taken out old phone number. Connect with me on social media.)

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