Monday, December 01, 2008

Creating Networks of Purpose

In January 1994 we launched our first survey to determine who was operating volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs in Chicago. 120 programs responded and 54% said they had little or no contact with peers. 70% wanted more contact and 90% said they would come to a conference if it were at low/no cost and fit their schedule.

So in May 1994 we hosted the first Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. It was attended by 70 people and the speakers and display table hosts were leaders of tutor/mentor programs who we had discovered from our survey. There was enough positive response that we hosted a 2nd conference in November 1994 and 200 people attended. We've been doing this every six months since then and the most recent conference was on November 21 at the Chicago Field Museum.

The map to the right shows the addresses of organizations participating in the Nov. 2008 conference. Some organizations sent multiple participants. Not all of these are tutor/mentor programs. Some are people interested in starting programs. Others are people with skills or knowledge they wanted to share. The map shows participants from all parts of the city, but much fewer from the South part of the city and the suburbs.

This map shows organizations that participated in the May 2008 conference. If you compare the two maps you'll see that some of the same organizations attended both conference, but we had quite a few more organizations from the North part of the city at the November conference, and more from the downtown, Near North area, at the May conference.

Participation from the South part of Chicago and the suburbs was low at both. Below we show a third map, this time with locations of poorly performing schools, and locations of about 140 organizations who offer combination tutor/mentor services. This map shows that there are less tutor/mentor programs in the South part of the city, which may account for lower participation at the conferences.

However, our aim is to attract people who want to start programs, not just those who already operate them. In the Mapping for Justice blog, we post maps showing the distribution of pure mentor, and pure tutor programs, in addition to combined tutor/mentor. We also show maps of businesses, hospitals, colleges, and faith groups, who could be working together in different neighborhoods to help programs start, and grow to becoming world class operations.

On the conference web site we've posted these maps, along with insets that show the participating organizations from the Chicago central city area.

I've invited staff at Cabrini Connections to write blog articles that describe the conference and I've also invited others to write about their participation. You can find links to Nicole's blog, Chris's blog, Vjeko's Blog and others, on the Tutor/Mentor Connection page.

On the conference web site there is an attendee list which you can scroll to see who attended the conference, and to make contact with these people. Our aim is that the conferences energize the tutor/mentor movement and draw new resources to all of the programs in the city. This strategy is described in a pdf titled "Creating a Network of Purpose", which is one of several strategy essays you can find in the Tutor/Mentor Institute section of our web site.

As we head toward the year-end holidays, I hope that readers will encourage friends to look at the list of participants and chose one or more to send a donation so they have fuel to do their work in 2009 and beyond.

If you'd like to learn more about how to create a Tutor/Mentor Connection in your own city, or how to connect your strategies with the T/MC in Chicago, please contact us.

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