Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Back To School - Aready?

I posted a blog article on the Cabrini Connections blog today, inviting our volunteers to join in the planning that results in a 2011-12 school-year program that builds upon what we've learned in the past year and what we've learned from others who also lead tutor/mentor programs.

As more people become involved in the research and planning that leads to program improvement from year to year, the Tutor/Mentor Connection hosts a wealth of information that anyone can use to expand their thinking based on what they can learn from others. The graphic below shows that our information divides into four categories.

Service Providers - this section of the library points to web sites of various types of tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. It can be used by volunteers, parents and donors to find programs to join. It can also be used by planners to learn what others are doing and to borrow ideas that they feel can enhance their own program.

Research articles/links - this section of the library points to dozens of other web sites with information that shows where tutor/mentor programs are most needed and why they are needed, based on poverty, education issues, social justice, etc.

Resource building articles - every non profit needs to be good at many different types of work in order to be able to recruit and retain volunteers, find consistent funding, evaluate the work they are doing, communicate effectively, etc. The links in this section point to a wide range of information that can be used by any non profit, not just tutor/mentor programs.

Process improvement, collaboration, knowledge management, innovation - if I were starting a school, or teaching a college class on non-profit management, I would point my students to the links in this section of the T/MC library and encourage them to learn and master the various concepts. These are the core skills, or building blocks, needed by effective people and effective organizations.

Because the Tutor/Mentor Connection is so small we don't have the manpower to teach these subjects, or to do as much as we'd like to help others learn what's in the library and how to use it. We are constantly reaching out to other groups who might help facilitate an understanding of this information. This blog by DePaul University students is an example of what is possible.

We host a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in the Chicago region every six months. When we organize these we send invitations to people who we have linked on our web site. The conference, as well as the articles section of the T/MC web site, offer an opportunity for all of these organizations to connect and network with each other.

We're hosting the next conference on May 19 and 20 in Matteson, Il. While one goal of this conference is to celebrate the work that has been done by tutor/mentor programs over the past year, another is to have people share what they do to build effective programs. Another goal is to encourage program leaders and supporters to think of ways they can work together in August 2011 so that more advertising and public outreach is created, drawing more volunteers to all of the different tutor/mentor programs operating in the region.

If we are thinking of what it takes to make a good tutor/mentor program available in the 2011-12 school year, one of the things we all need to be thinking of is how to attract volunteers and donors. If we wait to start working on this in July or August it will be too late to innovate new ways to create bigger impact and have a greater influence on volunteer response.

If we talk about topics like this now and during the May conference, we may be able to do new things to help tutor/mentor programs grow in the fall. That can help Cabrini Connections. It can help all other tutor/mentor programs, too.

I hope some of those who read this will volunteer to host workshops and share what they know, while others will attend and learn from each other.

No comments: