Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Poverty Map Not Changed Much in 15 years. Why?

I've been clipping newspaper stories from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago SunTimes for about 15 years. I keep a file on these, and use them to remind me of why I created Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

This was the front page of the Chicago Tribune in 1994, telling us that "Chicago can be a cruel place in which to grow up." According to this article, 240,000 kids were living in poverty's grip in Chicago.

This is a map the Tutor/Mentor Connection created in 2009. It shows that poverty is still concentrated in pretty much the same neighborhoods. You can see more maps like this in the T/MC map gallery and you can build your own neighborhood analysis using the Tutor/Mentor Interactive Program Locator.

So why has there been so little change in 16 years. Has there been consistent leadership from business, faith groups, politicians and media? There certainly has been a ton of money spent, but has it landed consistently, from year to year, in the same neighborhoods, and the same organizations? High turnover in schools and social service agencies means there's a limited accumulation of "human capital" or experiences, which are essential to building better schools, and better tutor/mentor programs.

El Da'Sheon Nix leads our Cabrini Connections program. He's a former football player so he uses sports apologies to talk about the team on the field (tutors, mentors staff) and the fans in the stands, and investors, who provide the money so a top quality team is on the field. This article is a recent post, where he and other Northwestern University alumni talk about "motivation".

We're in the 2nd week of August. What are leaders doing to motivate people in their networks to become volunteers and donors in tutor/mentor programs?

Anyone can take this leader role, using social networks and face-to-face networking to encourage others to read this article, or to use the Program Locator to search for a place in Chicago to be a volunteer or a donor.

Until thousands of people say "If it is to be, it is up to me" we'll continue to be a "cruel place in which kids grow up."

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