Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's War on Poverty Continues

This is me, in the fall of 1968 during basic training at Ft. Polk, LA which was the home of infantry being trained to go to Viet Nam.

Lucky for me, I joined the Army in the summer of 1968 after getting a degree in history from Illinois Wesleyan University. I enlisted with a guarantee to be trained to be a SPY! Instead of the infantry I went into Army Intelligence.

I spent a year in Baltimore and Washington, DC and then a year in Korea. It expanded my vision of the world and set the groundwork for what I've been doing in the 40 years since then. I was one of the fortunate ones who did not get wounded or killed by the conflict in Viet Nam.

In 2001 I was given an honorary PhD from Illinois Wesleyan, in recognition of the work I had been doing to help inner-city youth connect with tutors/mentors and experiences beyond the high poverty neighborhoods they were living in.

This work has continued to develop over the past 10 years even as the resources to do it has continued to shrink. I've combined my passion for history and my experiences in Army Intelligence and 17 years of Retail Advertising with the Montgomery Ward Corporation into a market-based strategy aimed at helping mentor-rich non-school organizations reach youth in all high poverty areas of Chicago.

This is one of the graphics I've created to illustrate the ideas I'm sharing. In the military every General knows that the troops in the field are only as strong as the supply chain that makes sure they are well trained, well armed and well fed...and in the right location. See the story I wrote about this in June 2008.

In business leaders use this thinking all the time to put stores in places where customers can easily reach them. They make sure stores have well-trained staff, merchandise that people want, and they use massive advertising to prompt people to shop on a regular basis.

No such system exists in the tutor/mentor world or in most of the social sector. The "intelligence" needed to gather and analyze data about what programs exist and where they are needed is not funded in any consistent way. The work needed to train young people to be leaders of tutor/mentor programs is not being done at any major college (that I know of). The millions of dollars of advertising needed to draw volunteers and donors to individual programs on a regular basis does not exist.

Thus, the battle-plan needed to win the "war on poverty" is still needed in cities throughout the world.

I would like to encourage Veterans and those who support our men and women in service to spend time today reflecting on what I've just written.
Do you have a "battle plan" to reach youth in your community with long-term, mentor-rich programs that assure that more of them will be in jobs and careers and capable of adult responsibilities by the time they are in their mid to late 20s?

Who is doing the "intelligence" gathering for you? Who is doing the advertising? Who is paying for this?

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