Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CPS Anti Violence Program Not Enough

The front page of today's Chicago Tribune featured a photo and story under the headline: Anti-violence program fails to save young Markham man. The story talked about the highly visible and very expensive Chicago Public Schools anti-violence mentoring program designed to target a small group of youth with high potential for being involved in gang violence.

For one youth, that was not enough to keep him from being gunned down in Chicago this week. The final line in the story is "He died with bullets in his head, chest and arm, and a mentor who keeps wondering what else he could have done."

In another section of today's Tribune, columnist Mary Schmich writes about Life in 2 Chicagos showing how most of Chicago area residents are safe from the violence that is a daily part of the lives of others in Chicago.

I've written about violence in Chicago in many past blog articles. I've included maps in my stories to try to focus attention on the need for a wide range of youth supports in these neighborhoods. I've created an interactive map/program locator that anyone can use to see the connection between poverty and poorly performing schools and to learn about volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs operating in different parts of the city.

This is not a new problem. However, we have never found a way to

a) bring enough people from all sectors into a learning and service process where we build empathy through our direct involvement and we build growing understanding through the on-going reading we do from libraries of research like the one I've been hosting for the last 15 years.

b)we've never found a way to keep this story in the media and in business publications on a daily basis the way fast food stores, banks and other retailers keep their products and services in front of potential customers. Without consistent advertising we can never get enough people and resources involved in all the places where concentrated, segregated poverty is the root-cause of the violence.

c) we've not found a way to make this issue important enough to business so that they would have teams of people working regularly to find ways to reach kids with volunteers, ideas, technology and jobs training programs that expand the social capital connecting youth in islands of poverty with the rest of Chicago and the opportunities these young people have in the future.

I said this is not a new problem.

This 1994 report titled Children, Families and Communities: A New Approach to Social Services, called for the creation of a system of primary supports that would reach kids before problems occur. It also called for a system of intermediaries to support the knowledge sharing and network building required.

I wrote about the CPS anti violence program in this 2009 article.

I wonder how many people who have been mentors with Big Brothers or any other tutor/mentor program in Chicago over the last 18 years have been encouraged to read this or to think of ways they could do more to help the kids they mentor than just raise money for their own non profit, or than just spend time with a kids for a few hours a week and a couple of years?

However, there's a second problem.

In his book Uncharitable, Dan Pallota talks about philanthropy as an unworkable system.

He's not the only one.

Michael Porter, a Professor at Harvard University understands that the philanthropy model does not have enough money to fund all social problem solving. Instead, he feels that "Companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together." He describes the "principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges."

How many volunteers who come from the business community are reading articles like this or visiting forums like this and starting conversations in their companies aimed at creating new business models that "re-imagine and re-engineer" the support systems that reach kids in high poverty with programs, services and mentoring that helps young people learn to become CEOs of their own futures even before they enter middle school?

When the Chicago Tribune puts a story on the front page and devotes another full page to the story it is investing nearly a half million dollars in printed space and message distribution. It is potentially reaching more than a half million volunteers, innovators, investors, etc.

Few non profits have millions of dollars for advertising and few public service campaigns have this type of daily impact. We need to innovate new ways to bring people together and create the advertising, team building and communications systems that support this.

If we want to solve the problems we face we need to invest in long-term learning, innovation, complex thinking and problem solving. We need to create platforms that bring thousands of people together on a regular basis and that distribute the time, talent and resources of these people to many places where help is needed.

I'm hosting a conference tomorrow at First Unitarian Church in Hyde Park and welcome your attendance. I doubt that many who attend are thinking of Shared Value or have read the 1994 report, but through this my on-going efforts I keep trying to bring more people to this information.

Few of us can meet face to face. Many of us can meet on-line. Let's connect.

Read more of my articles in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site and in this library of articles.

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