Thursday, June 09, 2011

Equal Opportunity. Let’s Talk about it.

Earlier today I posted an article titled YouthMobs: Let's Talk About it. The headline was borrowed from a column by Richard Roeper from today's Chicago SunTimes. Below is a media map showing other articles in the SunTimes related to this story.

Since 1993 I've been creating map-stories following negative news, with the goal of enlarging the number of people who were doing serious thinking about ways to build a better distribution of non-school tutoring, mentoring, learning, career-development and enrichment activities for k-12 youth living in high poverty areas.

The articles I post are the result of leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program since 1975. That's over 35 years! Few people in the country have had to think of ways to connect youth and volunteers...and find donors and other support resources...for this many years!

During my first 17 years I held retail advertising jobs with the Montgomery Ward Corporation. From 1980-1990 I held different roles responsible for creative development of all print retail ads, or for building the annual advertising calendar that we used to draw customers to over 400 stores in 40 states.

I learned the power of central office planning and mass communications. By 1980 our tutor/mentor program at Wards had 200 pairs of youth and volunteers with no paid staff. I and others were the manpower leading this program. With a demanding job I had to find innovative ways to support our volunteers. Thus I borrowed from the mass communications strategies of Wards and other retailers to send print newsletters to our volunteers each week, pointing to information they could use to help them with their weekly tutoring/mentoring.

While my technology was a typewriter and duplicating machine in 1975-80 it became a Mac and PC in the 1980s along with a copy-machine. By the 1990s it became email and a web site.

The goal has not changed. As people are looking for information to show them what they can do we were collecting and hosting information that any of our volunteers and leaders could use to support their own involvement.

When we started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 we expanded on this. We built a database of more than 200 youth serving organizations in Chicago and thousands of potential supporters in Chicago and around the country. We began hosting this on the internet.

At Wards I had a $250 million budget to draw customers to our stores. In the T/MC I've never had an ad budget. We had a pro bono Public Relations firm help us for several years. However PR and media stories are not advertising. They don't have the reach and frequency to get customer attention and convert them to shoppers.

Thus we begin to follow negative news stories, such as the Youth Mob stories that are getting top media attention this week. When people are reading these stories the media are not pointing them to places where they can learn more about what they can do to build systems of support that might give youth better options.

We are. Browse the articles on this blog and the related links. Form a learning circle in your church, mosque, synagogue, college, business or political circle. Start learning from this information and begin to take on some of the leadership roles describe in this section of our web site.

As you know more, and do more, share your own strategies and work with us to get even more people involved. When the Mayor says "Chicago won’t move forward unless we all work to move forward together." we need to respond by learning where and how we can be involved, then acting every day in one way or another until the problems are solved.

This is not a short term solution, but if it has been supported since 1993 when we first began suggesting this way of working together to help inner city youth have more opportunities, we might be a lot further along now than we are.

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