Friday, November 13, 2009

Building Networks of Support for Inner City Youth

I encourage you to read this article on network building. It's titled "You may find yourself... living in a large network, and you may ask yourself... well, how did I get here?

Come to the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference next Thursday and Friday, and you can meet Valdis Krebs, Jean Russell and myself, and more than 100 other people who are involved in some way or another with helping at-risk kids stay in school and move to jobs and careers. You can view the speaker list and attendee list on the conference web site.

Connecting youth and volunteers in a tutor/mentor program is all about building networks. These two photos show me with Leo Hall, who was the first student I was introduced to, back in 1973. The second photo is of me with Tangela Smith Marlow, who graduated from Cabrini Connections in 1998. Both are connected to me on Facebook, along with more than 100 other former students and volunteers. We're still trying to help each other.

I've led a tutor/mentor program since 1975, where my role has been to enlist people from different companies, colleges, faith networks, to be tutors/mentors so that more people would connect with more kids. I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to help programs like Cabrini Connections grow and operate in all parts of the Chicago region, not just at our single location near Cabrini Green.

The graphic below shows how I reach out to people I know, point them to Cabrini Connections, and information that I've collected, and then to maps where they can choose what part of the Chicago area they want to help, what zip code, and then what tutor/mentor program in that area.

Teaching people to use this information, or just getting more people to find it and think about it, is a huge challenge. The chart below illustrates how I reach out to other people who then can reach out to people they know. These people can use information created by the T/MC, or hosted on our sites, to choose where, why, and how to get involved.

However, I need more people helping me at the front end, to get people involved, and mentor them so their involvement grows, and has a greater impact. And I need people at the back end, helping maintain data, organize conference, publish maps, raise money, and all sorts of other activities.

I've been doing this work for more than 30 years and the number of people I've touched is extensive. However, I've had no simple ways to communicate these ideas.

That's why I'm so excited to have Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell do a workshop at the November 19 and 20 conference. Valdis understands social network analysis, and tools to map networks, much better than I do. Valdis wrote this article to show how he, Jean and I connected as a result of work started by Pierre Omidyar, The Omidyar Network, several years ago.

If we can apply this thinking to map the Tutor/Mentor Connection's network, and share our network, and this process, with others in Chicago, and other cities, we can teach more people to take the "network building" role that I have taken.

This will result in more and better tutor/mentor programs helping more youth born in poverty move through school and into jobs, using their own networks of friends, family and mentors.

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