Sunday, May 08, 2011
Clarence Page wrote a column in Sunday’s Tribune, talking about the strength of decentralized organizations, using the book titled “The Starfish and the Spider” by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, as a reference.
"What do they have in common?" asked Page. “Loosely defined organizational structure, widely shared power and a leadership that acts as a motivational catalyst, not a top-down command structure”.
I was given this book as a gift a few years ago by Rebecca Parrish, a volunteer who led our video program for a year.
I’ve referred to it often, here, and here, because it describes the organizational strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection.
I wrote this Network for Purpose article on May 8, 2007.
In a big city like Chicago there are too many “silos” and power brokers to expect many to follow the lead of a single tops-down leader, even if that leader is the Mayor, or a local billionaire. Expecting all of these people to follow the T/MC in a tops down structure would be more than crazy.
However, building shared ownership of a vision, such as helping poor kids to careers, is possible. In the Starfish and the Spider the authors write of blended strategies, like eBey, have created internet platforms that millions of users can use.
The T/MC has created a knowledge-based platform that anyone in Chicago can use. At its core is a database of organizations that provide various forms of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring in non-school settings.
Over years I've heard many leaders talk about "pipelines" to careers. In my opinion, “the plumbing is clogged” by the bureaucracy of big city public school systems and the lack of non-school learning and mentoring programs in high poverty neighborhoods. We can either try to fix the clog, or we can open a new channel to reach kids.
If we provide links showing how some people are already reaching kids in new ways, and how others are providing the dollars and the leadership, any leader who shares the same vision and mission can use this information to innovate ways they can reach kids, and choose places on the map of Chicago where they want to anchor one end of their pipeline.
The type of knowledge base the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been building since 1993 is intended to aggregate links and information showing “what others are already doing some place in the world” that could be duplicated in many other places if the talent and money were available. We use maps to inspire thinking and actions that make high-quality learning programs available in all of the poverty areas of the Chicago region, not just a few locations in a few neighborhoods.
Because we host this others don’t need to do the as much work to find these ideas. They are all in one place, and a network of links to other sites. With this information leaders can build teams of learners and innovators who use this information to constantly improve their own efforts. If we can capture what is being done each year, through research, or awards, it can be shared so that every year innovators in many places can improve their own efforts by building from the work being done elsewhere.
The T/MC platform is not well funded. In fact it is broke and at risk of going extinct. Yet it is available and it is a model that is already visited by people from all parts of the world. It is the heart of what we hope is a growing network of leaders who share a deep commitment to closing the gaps between rich and poor in the world.
Our challenge is innovating ways to increase the number of people who look at this information every day. This is the challenge every leader has had since the beginning of time. Innovating new ways to solve this problem involved applying ideas pf decentralized ownership as describe in books like The Starfish and the Spider.
If we can enlist more people to share this information daily, we might get the attention of the billionaires meeting in Arizona last weekend. Support from just one of you would suffice.
Or we can get the attention of big-city leaders like Mayor Emmanuel who has linked his tenure in office to educating all of Chicago's youth. "Sunday, 5/8/2011 Chicago Tribune Editorial!"
The Mayor needs to think like the leader of a decentralized organization. He help from individuals and organizations throughout the Chicago region. If enough leaders adopt some of the ideas we share, and help build a system of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring and learning programs that reach kids in non-school channels, maybe we can help him keep his campaign promise.
If you agree with these ideas please attend the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference on May 19 and 20, or encourage people you know to attend. If you can provide dollars to help pay for the conference and the T/MC, that would help also.
Like the Mayor, we also need help from many owners throughout the Chicago region and the world.