Sunday, October 21, 2012

What is Your Network Doing to Help?

Almost all of the articles I've written have been intended to expand the number of people in business, religion, politics, etc. who are becoming strategically involved, meaning on a daily and weekly basis, in helping volunteer-based, non-school, tutoring, mentoring and learning programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other urban areas.

In many articles I point to newspaper stories or new research which shows where and why these programs are needed. In other articles I point to maps and an Interactive Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator that anyone can use to connect with over 170 existing organizations offering various forms of tutoring and/or mentoring in the Chicago region. The same maps can also be used to understand what neighborhoods are under served. They can also be used to identify businesses, hospitals, colleges and faith groups who share the same geography and could be working collectively to support the growth and constant improvement of programs.

In the past couple of years I've been focusing on Social Network Analysis concepts. How do we know who is in our network? How do we assure that we're reaching people who have time, talent and resources needed to assure success?  Last spring one of my interns created a map showing the growth of the Tutor/Mentor Connection network. This graphic is from this report which shows how the forum has grown from 3 people in 2007 to over 400 in 2012.

Recently I was able to use the same software used in this analysis to look at my network on Facebook.  This image is from that analysis.

Using the software I was able to zoom into each of the major groupings on this map to take a closer look at who was part of each cluster and how they are connected to each other.  One thing I was looking for was evidence that people in my college, family or tutor/mentor program networks were connecting with people in my other networks who share ideas on social innovation and problem solving through regular on-line interaction.  I created a PDF with some of the maps from this analysis. You can see it here

Over the past weekend I was introduced to another SNA tool that enabled me to map my Facebook network.  This graphic shows the major groupings of my friends. It's similar to what my analysis shows.  As with this Network Graph allows me to zoom into each cluster and learn more about who is connecting to others and who is connecting from one major grouping to another.   What's exciting is that anyone using Facebook can create their own map just by going to

In both sets of maps one feature I've been looking for is evidence that youth, volunteers and staff who were connected to each other in past years because of the efforts of an organized tutor/mentor program are still connected to each other.  By clicking on a node in the network I can highlight an individual and see their connections.  This shows a student who was part of Cabrini Connections from 2001-2007 and has now graduated from college is connected to former volunteers and staff.

If tutor/mentor programs were doing network mapping like this and can demonstrate that many youth and volunteers are still connected, long after the donor money was spent to build the initial connection, can we demonstrate a longer-term impact of that donation, and can we provide different ways for donors to value the impact of long-term tutor/mentor programs?

All of these maps and the articles I write have little value if too few people are looking at them.  I've created other maps showing the talent needed in my own efforts, as well as in the operations of most volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.  See this graphic at

This shows that many talents are needed.  My Facebook network has more than 860 friends. My Linked in network has over 1000 friends. This network includes people with all of these skills.  Furthermore, the people who my friends are connected to may be people who have influence, power, wealth and additional talents that can influence the growth of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities.

This graphic illustrates how I'm constantly communicating ideas and information to people I know, with the goal that they are passing the information on to people they know.  If this happens continually we eventually reach people who have the talent, wealth, civic reach and commitment needed to build and sustain a long-term system of extra supports for kids living in high poverty areas.

How do we know if this is happening? How do we know what members of our networks are doing to help?

In 2000 Steve Roussos, a volunteer and friend of the Tutor/Mentor Connection,  created an on-line documentation system that would enable people to document actions they took to support the mission and strategy I've outlined in these blog articles and in this 4-part strategy pdf.

In 2007 this was rebuilt in its current format by a volunteer from Baltimore working with a team in India.  Over 1600 actions have been documented, mostly by myself.

Imagine how much more could be accomplished if just 10% of the people I connect with in social media, or through the Tutor/Mentor Conferences I hold in Chicago every six months,  were documenting what they were doing each week to support the growth and quality of non-school tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other cities.

We represent an army of untapped potential. 

I've created a page on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site which points to research and other information about Social Network Analysis. I hope some of you will help recruit talent and dollars to help us expand on this work. 

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