Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Distroying the Network

I'm going through a really painful process right now. Since 1993 I've been reaching out to build a network connecting all sorts of people who are involved in some way, or should be involved, in helping kids in high poverty neighborhoods have mentor-rich, non-school support systems that well-organized, and well-funded, tutor/mentor programs might provide.

Since the Board of Directors at Cabrini Connections voted in April 2011 to discontinue support for the Tutor/Mentor Connection, effective June 30, I'm not only trying to figure out a new way to generate revenue to keep the T/MC going, I'm moving all of the T/MC history from the 4200 sq ft at our 800 W. Huron Office to much smaller space in my basement, a rented storage locker and donated office space.

I've been keeping files showing every contact I've made over the past 18 years. My goal has been that I would find a researcher/writer who would use these files to show how myself and a few supporters have helped the T/MC network grow from year-to-year. Such information could inspire others who have no particular social standing or wealth to take on a similar role in other cities and other causes.

I have donated network analysis software that could be used to map this network. Here's an article that illustrates how this software can map changes in a network. This article only shows a small group as a result of one event. Imagine mapping the growth of the T/MC network, which formally started in 1992 with seven volunteers and a huge vision.

However, with the impending move, I've had to start going through my files and library to choose between what I keep and put into storage and what I toss into the trash.

I've already gone through the folders that I've aggregated about organizations in Chicago and tossed out about 8 boxes of files that don't directly relate to tutor/mentor programs in the region. Once in the trash I can never re-build that history or show those connections.

Here's an example. I'm looking at a file with correspondence related to arts mentoring and an Art Festival we started at Cabrini Connections in 2000.

One handout shows a program called FluidArts. Board members included Deborah Phelan and Bonnie Bracey. I'm still connected to Bonnie in other email. However the web site on the handouts does not work. This information show a goal of creating a global alliance. It's good stuff. People could still learn from this. Do I toss it?

In another file I have copies of email correspondence from 1998 to 2002

Caroline Kim at i Mentor (June 2001) - she wrote "I've been reading the messages you posted on various listserves, and I'm always impressed by your dedication and energy." Caroline and I are now connecting on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Richard Civille, Center for Civic Networking, June 2001 - he wrote about The Creating Community Connections (C3) System saying "can you imagine how C3 can be further designed for community networks, community technology centers and other community based organizations to help them achieve their mission?"

Robert Goetch, June 2001 - Robert was leading Students in Business, Inc at that time. he wrote "I am impressed with your web site. It seems to be a great resource for those implementing mentor projects." Robert and I are now connected in a LinkedIn group under his current Be A Mentor organization.

Kevin McCann, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation, Kansas State University, June 2001. Kevin wrote "Yes, we should share ideas, perhaps we could collaborate."

Cynthia White, Think Detroit.org, June 2001. Steve Roussos, a volunteer working with the T/MC wrote "I want to share some information with you about a project that Dan Bassill (from the Tutor/Mentor Connection) and I have been working on and may also be of interest to you and ThinkDetroit."

These are just the first few pages of a thick folder!

Over the years as I've met people on the Internet or in face-to-face meetings I've added them to our print newsletter mail list and to our email list. Unfortunately, we've not had money to send the print newsletter since 2004 and the growth of spammers has made it much, much, more difficult to build a connection via email.

Yet, if I toss these records in the trash there will be no way in the future for me, or anyone else, to go back to these people to find out if the ideas we share are still being used or if there are now ways and/or reasons for us to be doing more to help each other.

I have nearly 10 file cabinets of contact information, but need to cut this to half that size within two weeks.

If someone has two-three rooms of office space to donate or if someone wants to move these records to a research institution who could partner with T/MC in building and sustaining this network, please call me at 312-492-9614.

If someone wants to become the sponsor or benefactor of the Tutor/Mentor Connection that would be even better. You don't need to be from Chicago because these ideas apply to every major city in the world.

The network I've been building for 30 years can be your network. Or it can go in the trash and be lost to all of us for ever.

1 comment:

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Just to add on to what I posted on Tuesday. As I was going through old folders to thin out my library I found a small envelop sent to me in around 1997-98 from Rias-ul Haque, an Associate Professor from UIC.

In this was a copy of a letter he wrote to General Colin Powell. The letter introduced a program that "can train teens and young adults to be scientists". One suggested implementation was "to have trained mentors run Science After School, Science On Weekends and Science During Summer Programs for at risk teens and young adults."

My own notes showed that I believed in the potential, but don't indicate what contact I made with Dr. Haque. Normally I would have added him to my newsletter list and made an initial introduction.

What's interesting about this is that just a week ago I connected with Dr. Haque in a Linked In Forum and we launched a new discussion. I'm not sure if he remembered me from 13 years ago.

If I have to toss all of these files I'll never be able to go back through them to re-kindle relationships that did not spark when the first contact was made.

Network-building requires this constant nourishment of relationships. Without a database or some means of managing and sustaining contacts, too many people will be ships sailing in the night, headed for the same port, but not connected to each other.