Friday, August 13, 2010

PhD in Community Problem Solving?

If you're the Mayor, the Governor, the President, or a student living in a neighborhood with high poverty, there are many things you need to understand in order to build a comprehensive, long-term strategy that changes the negative consequences of the high poverty in different places.

Have you ever created a map showing what you need to know? Look at the Tutor/Mentor Connection map below.

You can see the actual map here.

This is just one of four major sections of the Tutor/Mentor Connection on-line library. You can find an animated guide showing the entire library at this link.

This is a huge amount of information. And it is constantly changing as we add new links and articles and as the people we link to add new information and links to their own sites. This is a knowledge network, focused on a goal that many people in the world share.

There is no way the President of the United States will spend much time, if any, browsing the sections of this library. Nor will the Mayor, or the CEO and decision maker at most of the businesses, universities and faith groups in the country.

Yet, without understanding these ideas, and knowing how one problem relates to the other, how can we spend limited dollars wisely, and in all of the places where poverty is the root cause of a growing gap between rich an poor?

There are some ways to overcome this problem.

Faith groups have text that provide the beliefs of their communities. Each week people gather to read and discuss small parts of these texts, led by people who are facilitators, or who have spent more time reading and understanding the material than others. The information on the T/MC web site could be used by reading and learning groups in churches, temples, and synagogues all over the world.

Colleges have even more information in their libraries than we do (although we point to many colleges in our own library in ways that connect silos to each other.) When a student enters a university, they are not expected to know everything on their first day. Some spend up to 10 years getting advanced degrees in their field of study. If an alumnus of a university provided an endowment, focused on using the Tutor/Mentor Connection as a curriculum, the university could be guiding students through this information over a period of many years. More importantly, the university could keep these students connected to this information, and the university, in the lifetime after the student graduates! Here's an example of how a first year class at DePaul University began looking at this information.

High Schools and Colleges have Service Learning Programs - Imagine if a high school were to set up a "tutor/mentor connection" with the same structure as the student newspaper, or the student council, and with faculty support. From first year to senior year, theses students could be learning to use the information in the T/MC library, and building reading, writing, communications and collaboration skills as they find ways to share what they are learning with family, friends, alumni, etc. Students who have had this exposure in high school would be much more likely to take up this path in a college program, if it existed.

In my Twitter feed today, I was encouraged to read a Business Week article titled Creating Collaboration takes more than technology, written by by Evan Rosen. The point was that while business is spending millions of dollars on collaborative technology, and training programs to motivate employees to use it to add value to a business, many people are resisting. Yet, if businesses were encouraging employees to volunteer in social causes that were important to them, and making this collaboration technology available to them, many would learn to use the tools through the work they are passionate about quicker than the work they are paid to do.

Thus, the business community, who has huge workforce challenges, could also be encouraging teams of employees to use the Tutor/Mentor Connection library as a resource for their own learning, reflection and innovation.

There is no entry fee to this library (although we certainly need donations to keep it available to the city of Chicago and the world). Anyone can use it in the ways I've described, or innovate new ways to use it to help them close the gaps between rich and poor.

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