Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mentor meets youth 11 years ago. A life changed.

Here's a great story from DNAInfo Chicago about a volunteer who met a Cabrini-Green youth 11 years ago, when he was a 6-year-old living in the Cabrini-Green housing projects and how both lives have been transformed in the years since then.

Here's another story about mentoring, from Yahoo News.

As you read these stories, think of ways you can form a group in your business, faith group, college or social circle where you read stories showing the potential of mentoring programs to transform lives and you brainstorm ways your group can help make resources available so programs are available in more places.

Without a program connecting the youth and volunteer these stories would not happen. Here's a list of Chicago youth organizations that offer various forms of tutoring/mentoring. Pick one and give it your time, talent and dollars as we move through 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Connecting a Million Minds around Complex Problems

As we head into 2014 I'm constantly reminded of how many thousands of people are already involved in some way in helping disadvantaged youth succeed in school, stay safe in non-school hours, connect with a caring adult mentor or tutor, and continue their movement toward adult roles and responsibilities.

I'm also reminded of the overwhelming amount of information that is available via the internet to support our understanding of problems and inspire us with potential solutions.

Last week I reviewed this Standford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) article on collective impact, titled "Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity".

In an introductory paragraph the authors write "Under conditions of complexity, predetermined solutions can neither be reliably ascertained nor implemented. Instead, the rules of interaction that govern collective impact lead to changes in individual and organizational behavior that create an ongoing progression of alignment, discovery, learning, and emergence."

In past articles I've focused on the challenges of bringing large groups together for on-going learning so that their could become a shared understanding, trust-filled relationships, and a convergence on shared goals.

This process takes time. It requires the work of network-builders.

Some may be high profile community leaders. Some could be self-appointed organizers. I guess I fit that role. I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to fill a void. No one had a master database of Chicago non-school tutor/mentor programs, and thus, no one was leading a year-round marketing/advertising campaign intended to create shared understanding, or a distribution of needed operating resources, talent and dollars. Thus, with the support of six other volunteers the T/MC was created to fill the void.

I created this PDF to illustrate the goal of "building a network of purpose". It shows four strategies that I've attempted to support on an on-going basis with the limited resources I've had available every year.

I created the essay below to illustrate the process of network building, which is a role many people need to take if we're to reach the thousands of people who need to be connected to each other, and learning from a common body of information.



I've created an extensive web library, with links to more than 2000 other web sites. Each represents a star in a universe of knowledge and stakeholders. Each has it's own network of followers and supporters.

In addition, I've created a list of nearly 200 youth serving organizations, each with its own gravity and sphere of influence. I've also created this concept map showing intermediaries in Chicago and Illinois who focus on the well-being of young people.

As we head into 2014 my goal is to help these organizations connect with each other and to the ideas and library of information that I've been developing for more than 20 years. This Enough is Enough article that I first wrote almost six years ago describes a learning process that could be taking place in thousands of locations. A measure of success would be to find blog articles like this, and links to web libraries, on a growing number of the web sites I point to, reflecting a shared effort at creating a collective understanding of problems, process and solutions.

I also hope to rebuild my own organizational capacity to support this effort, while finding younger leaders who will share this work, and carry it forward into future years. Most of the collective impact efforts that SSIR points to are only a few years old. I think people have been building libraries and trying to bring people together to solve problems for many years longer than these efforts. They just have been named differently, and have had different champions and supporters.

The real test will be if in 30 or 40 years any of these organizations can show an ongoing history similar to what I show on this concept map, showing my start with a tutor/mentor program back in 1973 and its formation in 1965.

If you'd like to connect and begin a conversation around these ideas, or follow up from a meeting or contact made in 2013 or before, just reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, or the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum. I can join you in your space and hopefully you'll join me in my space.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Coaching Athletes to be Social Sector Leaders

Today's Chicago Tribune sports section included a feature showing how nearly half of 79 charities started by Chicago athletes in the past decade "were dissolved, no longer are operating, or have shown no signs of recent activity."

Between 2008 and 2011 the lead coordinator of the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program was a former Northwestern University football player. I encouraged him to write blog articles comparing the tutor/mentor program and support infrastructure to the organizational structure of successful football teams. Here's one of those articles.

I've posted a series of articles on this blog, showing how athletes and other celebrities could use their visibility to educate others on ways to make high quality tutor/mentor programs available in more places. Below is an article created a few years ago to illustrate how athletes can go beyond supporting a single program, to supporting the growth of many high quality programs in an entire city.

Tips for Athletes Using Visibility to Support Youth Mentoring by Daniel F. Bassill



This process needs to be coached, starting when future stars are in middle school and high school. It can be part of formal service learning, or part of the sports team structure itself. Here are some concepts that need to be taught:

How can you transfer knowledge of the work and discipline needed to become great at any profession? Sports stars know how hard they worked to achieve their dreams. How can they support organizations that pass on these habits to youth, who will be stars in many professions, not just sports.

How can you transfer knowledge of what it takes to build and sustain a successful sports franchise to what it takes to build and sustain a successful social benefit organization? What are all the things that need to be happening if non-school youth serving organization are to be available in all places where kids need extra help moving from birth to work?

What are the roles and responsibilities of successful people? It does not matter if they are athletes, or hedge fund managers. How can they learn to use their visibility, and their wealth, to engage fans in this conversation and to build a system that provides a consistent flow of talent, dollars and other needed resources (including ideas) to all of the places in a geographic region where such help is needed?

As you celebrate the holidays and begin to make your New Year's Resolutions, I encourage you to think of how you could take a role in coaching this process so that in a few years a story by the Tribune might talk about the impact athletes have been making, rather the bad results that have come from good intentions.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Engaging Board Members, Business Leaders in "Deeper Learning"

When someone asks, "Who is my audience?" I respond, "Everyone." That's true, but it's a challenge, too. I've created a web library with links to more than 2000 resources and to hundreds of articles with my own ideas, but it is so large it overwhelms most potential users. I was reminded this in a discussion with a volunteer this week, when he said we need a separate marketing plan for each major audience. I agree. I've been looking for a way to create navigation paths that would tailor to the interest of different visitors. Thus, I updated this village map, with links in each node to articles that might be of interest to people in that group.

I've led a non-school volunteer-based tutor/mentor program for more than 35 years and I've come to the belief that any of these programs can look at the research showing how kids might learn better and develop programs and activities that implement those ideas....as long as they have access to talent and dollars to do that work.

They can take a "buck stops with me" responsibility for the future of the kids they work with.

Thus, I was really excited to attend the Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) Annual Meeting last night and see this in practice. CYC has 40 business and civic leaders on its Board of Directors and most were at last night's meeting. The Board President described how many of the board members were more active in the past year, personally and as donors, and how many had participated in a two day November 2013 retreat to build a new strategic plan.

The guest speaker was Scott Brody, owner of a camp for boys in Wilmot, NH. He talked of how camp, and out of school time programs, like CYC, offer the potential to help youth build learning and life skills that don't get taught consistently in public schools. Among the resources he referred to were The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the American Camp Association and the Hewitt Foundation's work around the concept of "Deeper Learning". I already had a link to the first organization in my web library and I looked up the other two and added them to the web library today.

I point to more than 200 youth serving Chicago area organizations in this link on my web site. I wonder how many board members of these organizations are spending time listening to people like Scott talk about concepts like "Deeper Learning". I wonder how many are going to websites where they can read more about this concept and incorporate it into the ideas they apply in the organizations they lead?

One of my interns created this animation to illustrate the idea of volunteer-based tutor/mentoring as a form of service learning. Every time a volunteer connects with a youth in a tutor/mentor program they learn more about the challenges that youth faces. If a program encourages volunteers to build empathy and dig deeper into online materials, such as in my web library, they are doing what CYC and its board have been doing. They are expanding the understanding and involvement of people who are not part of the traditional education system, and who can make innovative learning experiences available in non-school hours and via well-organized non-school tutoring and/or mentoring programs.

Here's another graphic that illustrates this concept. If volunteers and board members dig deeper into all of the articles that are available showing ways to help young people learn 21st Century Skills, improve the US workforce, reduce violence, etc, by improving the skills and habits of young people, they will have more ideas, and a deeper commitment to implementing those ideas. They will become advocates who reach out to expand the support youth programs require to build and sustain constantly improving programs that help youth from birth to work and beyond.

I also encourage leaders to involved youth in their programs, and in high school or colleges, who create strategy visualizations that help adults understand this material. This page shows work interns have done with me since 2006 which could be done by youth from many different places.

If CYC and other youth serving non profits were to create a network analysis map, showing the business interests of their board and volunteer base, it would look something like this. In my networking last night with several CYC board members, and in ongoing discussions with others, I encourage leaders to support the growth of company teams who dig deeper into this information, then take on a role, similar to the corporate office of a big company, in helping mentor-rich youth programs grow in all parts of a city, not just the single program they are part of.

This ROLE OF LEADERS PDF and this VIRTUAL CORPORATE OFFICE PDF provide ideas that these leaders could use to launch their company teams.

Engaging busy volunteers and board members in this form of "deeper learning" is not easy. In the requirements to be a member of the Board and Advisory Council at the tutor/mentor program I led from 1993-2011 was a requirement to spend 4 to 6 hours a month reading the material on the organization web site and in our blogs. In our weekly email newsletters to volunteers and youth in the program I regularly pointed to links that would provide more ideas for the volunteers to use in work with their teens, and for volunteers to use in expanding the network of support for the organization.

I wish I could say that many took this role on a regular basis, but I have no evidence of this becoming an ingrained habit of my organization, or of any other volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago or any other city.

Thus, while we seek ways to engage youth in neighborhoods across the country in "deeper learning" we need to also innovate more ways to engage adults and decision makers in this learning. It can help solve many social and economic problems, not just the education and workforce readiness problem.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Secret of Success: Mentors who don't give up on us.

I encourage you to read Dawn Turner Trice's story in today's Chicago Tribune. It features a young man, Antwan Turpeau, who had a troubled youth, but who now is leading a non profit called Struggling Youth Equal Successful Adults, SYESA, program.

The feature photo in the story shows Antwan and his long-term mentor, Cliff Bregstone. I met Cliff more than 10 years ago and he has been a supporter of the Tutor/Mentor Connection while using the ideas I share to help him form a program he leads called College Bound Opportunities.

In the Tribune story, Turpeau is quoted as asking "How did we avoid a lot of the pitfalls that former wards fall into?" He answered, "We had mentors who didn't give up on us."

I created this graphic to show that for mentors like Cliff to connect to youth like Antwan, a structured program was needed to create the introduction and support the relationship development until there was a bond that might last for many years into the future.


I use maps to emphasize that structured programs need to be located in every high poverty neighborhoods (and perhaps in non poverty areas, too). I maintain a list of nearly 200 youth serving organizations in the Chicago region who are each connecting youth to adult mentors and tutors (in dramatically different ways). They all need volunteers. They all need people to help them build and maintain effective web sites and training programs. They all need a constant flow of operating dollars to fund this work.

If you've been inspired by the story of Cliff and Antwan, look at this list and choose one, or several programs, and send them a year-end donation.

There's much more that needs to be done to enable mentor-rich programs to reach youth in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago, and similar cities. I hope you'll form a learning group in your company, faith group, college and/or family, and spend time every week for the next year or two browsing the articles on this blog, the links I point to. Build an involvement strategy based on what you learn, supporting the growth of programs, and the growth of long-term mentoring relationships that lead more young people from troubled youth to adult lives where they can become a contributor to society instead of a cost.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Social Service Samurai: Dan Bassill

It's great to be recognized by people I've helped and to see them using their own media to help me and others. Kelly Fair of Polished Pebbles interviewed me for a story she posted on her blog today, under the title "Our Social Service Samurai: Dan Bassill". Since I first met Kelly several years ago she's launched the Polished Pebbles program, and she has volunteers to share her experiences in the May and November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences that I host every six months.

I'll be celebrating my 67th Birthday on December 19 and for the past two years I've invited people who support my work to gift me with a contribution to help me pay the bills. I've not operated under a non profit tax structure since mid 2011 and have yet to find a way to earn revenue from sharing all the ideas I share in my blogs, web sites and social media efforts. Thus, finding people who value my work, who will make contributions to help is really important right now.

Click this link to read more about my 67th Birthday Wish.





Sunday, December 01, 2013

A Message from the Vatican. What’s the Follow up?

Last week Pope Francis released his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium - “The Joy of the Gospel”. It’s a long document. This web site pulled 21 of the “most important” quotes from it.

The headline of one news report reads: "Pope Francis calls unfettered capitalism 'tyranny' and urges rich to share wealth" The sub head was "Pontiff's first major publication calls on global leaders to guarantee work, education and healthcare"

One of the blogs I follow, People-Centered Economic Development blog, offered a commentary under the headline "Pope Francis challenges trickle-down economics"

The blogger, Jeff Mowatt, posted some quots from the Pope's message such as:

"Drawing attention to exclusion, he (the Pope) writes:

'Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.'

I hope that the Pope's message will become a topic of discussion in every Catholic Church in the Chicago region and that it will expand to become a topic of discussion in every faith group with the result that a growing number of leaders will devote much more time, talent and dollars, in more strategic and ongoing efforts to help youth in high poverty areas move through school and into jobs and careers out of poverty.

As that happens I offer the web library and ideas of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and Tutor/Mentor Connection as a free resource.

I’ve been aggregating links to research and articles that focus on income inequity and poverty. A short list of some of these articles can be found at this link.

A larger collection of articles can be found at http://tinyurl.com/TMI-Poverty-research

As we head through the year end religious holidays and into 2014 my goal is to seek out groups within faith communities who are discussing the Pope’s message and reflecting on ways to apply the ideas in their own efforts to close the wealth gap in American cities and rural areas.

The links I point to provide a “recommended reading” that can expand people’s understanding of the problems of income inequity and how it affects everyone, not just the poor. As people gather to talk about what they can do beyond what they already do to solve social and environmental problems I hope that sub groups will form that focus on income gaps in the US and ways to build systems of support that reach youth in more places with age appropriate learning, mentoring, jobs programs, etc. that stay in place for dozens of years and that t his would lead many to adopt commitment on this strategy map.

The articles I’ve posted on this blog, and in the Library on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site can be used to stimulate thinking. For instance, maps like this one, showing Catholic Churches in the Chicago region could be used to plan outreach to a growing number of neighborhoods with high poverty. They could also be used to show distribution of current involvement, just by putting icons on the map near churches that implement a strategy such as described in this PDF.

If faith communities begin to implement this strategy and rally more people around the challenges outlined by Pope Francis, more leaders in business, politics, media, etc. will adopt the strategies described in this Role of Leaders essay.
When leaders in every industry are forming volunteer teams within their company or industry to guide the involvement of employee volunteers and a distribution of resources, we can begin to see the growth of mentor rich programs in more places, where there is a diversity of volunteer talent as well as a diversity of the funding stream needed to provide year-to-year operating dollars.

Perhaps more teams will become part of a “virtual corporate office” with different people taking on roles that help mentor-rich programs grow in more places. This PDF describes that concept.

In his commentary, on the People-Centered Economic Development blog, Jeff Mowatt posts this message:

"Excuses won't work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine's economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine's orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine's death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them.. "

In Matthew 19:24 Jesus said to His disciples, ""Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Many Billionaires are talking of giving their wealth away.
This Giving Pledge web site shows “ a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”

A few weeks ago I heard John Rodgers of Arial Capital Management in Chicago describe the annual wealth accumulated by hedge fund managers and private equity firms, saying “At the top of the financial crisis, John Paulson made $500 billion!”

I’m not advocating a new set of competitive grants set up to fund tutor/mentor programs. I’m calling for leaders to create an on-going public education and marketing program, a business-type strategy, that connects people who can help, with programs in places where birth work help is needed.

In 2009 Phil Shapiro posted an article in PC World titled “Crowdsourcing the MacArthur Awards” listing 12 people he would nominate for the MacArthur Award. I was one of them.

If just one billionaire in Chicagoland were to devote a $50 million a year for the next 10 years to support an area wide network of non-school, volunteer based tutor/mentor programs who were each focused on helping youth move through school and into jobs and careers such programs would be operating in more places, with more of the talent and resources each needs to constantly improve their impact. Such leadership could lead to greater and more consistent public support in the future. I don’t think they would go broke doing this.

And, if thousands of citizens who are not billionaires, but have a deep commitment to put their faith to practice were to adopt these ideas and support them with their own time, talent and dollars, we could have the same impact.

So, who is building a list of faith communities where the Pope’s message is beginning to be discussed, and where the group is drawing from the information I’ve been sharing as part of its learning process?






Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I've heard many volunteers describe their mentoring experience by saying "I think I've gained more than my student has." Because I've been involved for more years (40) and on more levels than most people in the country, I think I have probably more to be thankful for as well. My thanks don't come as a result of wealth or material benefit, but from the richness of many interactions and ideas resulting from my long term involvement.

Thus, as we head into the holiday I say "Thank You" to all who have enriched my life. May you enjoy a safe and happy holiday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How do you tell difference between youth programs?

The work I have been doing for the past 20 years aims to increase the number of volunteers and donors who support volunteer based tutor/mentor programs in different parts of the Chicago region so each can constantly improve in the work they do to engage youth and volunteers in life-changing activities.

One challenge is finding the advertising dollars to tell stories every week in ways that would motivate volunteers and donors to go to the web site library that I host and seek out programs to support. However, an equal challenge is educating and providing capacity at the program level so they can provide information on their web sites that would telegraph the work they do, why they do it, etc. I wrote this article in Dec. 2009 reflecting on this problem.

Last week I created the graphic below. I wrote about it here, with an invitation for technologists to help build a graphic that programs might be willing to put on their web sites. Imagine a common graphic showing what age you serve, what time of day, what part of the birth to work pipeline, etc.

While others head into the holidays hoping to find volunteers and donors I hope to find investors and partners who will brainstorm and innovate new and better ways to connect those who can help with those who need help.

I encourage you to browse the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site and the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator site. You'll see a number of ideas intended to support the growth of non-school tutor/mentor programs in more places. At this link you can see a list of people and organizations who have helped me in the past. In many places you'll see where more help is needed in the future.

I'm thankful to all who have helped in the past and hopeful that more will step forward to help in the future. I hope you have the same optimism and appreciation as you head in to this holiday season.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mobilizing Resources for "Birth to Work"

If you search Google for the words "tutor mentor strategy" my web sites will be on the first page. If you click on the images feature you'll see dozens of graphics that I've created since the mid 1990s to visualize a "birth to work" strategy that would help more kids in high poverty areas have an infrastructure of adult support and learning opportunities helping them move from birth to work without detours in the juvenile justice system, high school drop out system, or other negatives that are more common in high poverty areas than in more affluent communities.

Last spring I posted an article showing that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's anti violence program potentially was taking corporate funding from some neighborhoods and shifting that money to other places.

Recently I've connected with a new initiative from the Mayor's office, called the Chicago Thrive Initiative, which is modeled after the STRIVE Partnership initiative in Cincinnati. Below is the DRAFT visualization of a "roadmap" intended to lead more youth in Chicago from birth to work. I've not yet found a web site where this or other planning documents are posted. I'll provide a link when I do.


I post this because I've wanted leaders to show support for a "birth to work" mentoring strategy since I launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. Here are a few of the visualizations I've created to illustrate this concept.

I created this graphic to show the types of age appropriate support youth require as the move from one grade level to the next. This concept map represents an attempt to aggregate information specific to each grade level that people could use to make programs that work in some places available to youth in more places.

This graphic is intended to illustrate the need to provide age appropriate services in all neighborhoods, not just a few. Otherwise, like plumbing, there is not a smooth flow from one point to the next. Use your imagination to think of what the result might be.


These are just a few of the visualizations you'll find if you do the Google Search I suggested, or if you view some of the graphics I've posted on http://www.pinterest.com/tutormentor/ Many of these have been created by interns, illustrating my belief that youth in high school, college or within existing tutor/mentor programs could be involved in interpreting these ideas and communicating them to the adults in their own neighborhoods and networks.

In my articles I focus on what people in business and who don't live in poverty, need to do, not just what non profits, families, schools and youth in high poverty areas need to do. In fact, people living in concentrated high poverty areas can't do a lot of what everyone wishes because of the poverty surrounding them. Thus, I created this ROLE of LEADERS PDF and this STRATEGY MAP.

I've also used maps to illustrate a need to distribute resources, and programs, into every high poverty neighborhood, and keep them there for many years. I started building a map capacity in 1993. I launched an on-line program locator in 2004. Instead of investing in what I've been building the city and others have been building their own map based program locators, yet not necessarily with the same goal of connecting resource providers to programs, or of making mentor-rich programs available in more places.

It is great that the Thrive Chicago team is visualizing this road map and working get everyone on board, and that this visualization of "birth to work" is now coming from the Mayor's office. However, until more leaders from business, religion, philanthropy, universities, entertainment, media, etc. adopt the strategy and support it consistently with their own actions we'll still reach too few kids, with fragmented strategies, and too little impact.

In April 1997 I was a Chicago delegate to the President's Summit for America's Future. The Tutor/Mentor Connection was one of 50 Teaching Examples selected to host a booth at the summit. Mayor Daley spoke at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in May 1997. However, he never embraced the strategy or became a spokesperson or champion for the ideas. The Summit did not result in reinforcements coming to my organization and others already in the field. Instead it resulted in a new group of people and organizations launching a new planning process, with new ideas and new resources.

We need new ideas and new resources, but we don't need to reinvent the wheel. But I encourage leaders to reach out and support those already in the trenches, at the program level, and the intermediary level. Use the Chicago Programs Links to find existing youth organizations. Use this concept map to identify other intermediaries that you can support.

What level of talent is needed? Read this Deloitte report about "transforming the supply chain". As you do, imagine the talent and costs involved in this process. Poverty costs America billions of dollars every year. American industry faces a huge talent shortage. What will it take to bring the type of talent described in this report into the work of designing a new supply chain supporting birth to work strategies throughout the country?

Ask "How can I help you?" If the Mayor and other leaders demand this of those getting city contracts and getting wealthy doing business from managing money of the poor, or of philanthropic organizations, perhaps we'll build the flow of operating resources and talent needed to sustain and constantly improve the organizations needed in every high poverty neighborhood to help more youth move from birth in poverty to jobs and careers within Chicago industry.

We'll need this fuel on any "road map" that leaders put in place.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How do we reach youth with support systems in all places where youth need extra help?

Since 1993 I've been attempting to motivate leaders in business, politics, philanthropy, etc. to use maps (see examples here and here )to identify all of the zip codes where kids need extra help, because of poverty, poorly performing schools, violence, English as a second language, or other indicators.

In the Tutor/Mentor Connection web library I've aggregated links to dozens of articles that show "place matters". Anyone can assess these and include them in building their own understanding and commitment to becoming involved in providing solutions.

The challenge is mobilizing leaders from every industry who will act as Chief Crusaders (a term used by the United Way for CEOs who enlist other CEOS)in on-going efforts to expand the number of people who are working throughout the year to provide needed resources to all of the schools and non-school organizations that need to be operating in every one of these neighborhoods.

While it may be unrealistic to expect 100% participation or 100% market share, it would be nice to find some leaders who are publicly talking about reach and market share when they talk about volunteer and philanthropic involvement in supporting programs that help kids move through school and into jobs and/or into their customer base.

I've created a library of essays that are available on Scribd.com, Slideshare, and in the archives of this blog that teams from any company, college, high school and/or service organization could use to support their growing leadership in building a distribution of resources that leads to a distribution of needed resources. The graphic below is included in this essay, and shows steps required in making sure youth in all places are reached with needed resources.


Interns from various colleges have been looking at the essays and blog articles I've created, then are creating their own visualizations to interpret these ideas. This page is one of several showing work that has been done. Volunteers and youth working in teams could be creating similar visualizations as part of their own effort to mobilize and sustain the flow of resources needed to make constantly improving youth serving organizations available in more places.

If you're interested in doing this work, or if you're already doing it, join the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum and share your work or create new visualizations.







Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Anyone Can Take this Role. Can You?

We can talk for forever about wanting to help kids have a brighter future. However, if we don't make operating resources consistently available to the organizations working in different neighborhoods to help kids through school and into jobs, our words have little impact.

The next six weeks are the biggest charitable giving period of every year. Thus, I've added this graphic to my blogs and will put it on my other web sites. It has a link to a list of Chicago area youth serving organizations, which I organize by sections of the city and suburbs.

My goal is that others put this graphic, or something like it, on their own web sites, in their social media, and in church bulletins and holiday greeting cards, with an encouragement that people browse through the list of web sites and pick programs they want to help. Then send a non-restricted donation. You could even send it without adding your name. Do it however you want. Just do it.


If enough people take this role, the flow of operating and innovation dollars into programs in different neighborhoods will grow, and we all will be taking real steps toward helping kids connect with resources and mentors who can give them a better chance for a future beyond the threat of daily shootings, poverty and poor schools.

Once you start to look at the list of web sites you'll quickly come to a conclusion that some programs communicate what they do better than others, and some really are better than others. If you want to go beyond sending money, inventory your own skills and those of your friends, and offer to help programs operating in different neighborhoods have web sites that communicate what they do more effectively, or help them build services that make them the best in the world, not just in Chicago, at what they do.

I created this "Shoppers Guide" to suggest things that programs might show on their web site to communicate their history, strategy, successes, etc. A team of volunteers from a company, faith group, college, or even high school, could adopt a program, or all of the programs in a neighborhood, and help them do work they can't do on their own.,

Every year on New Years Eve people make resolutions telling what they plan to do in the coming year. I want you to make your resolution to help tutor/mentor programs in Chicago now, and on New Year's Eve, post a blog article or Twitter message, or Facebook story, telling what you did to help one or more tutor/mentor programs during this holiday season.

If you're not in Chicago, look for leaders who will create a similar list of youth serving organizations, then take the same role of helping these organizations get the on-going resources each needs to constantly improve and become the best in the world at what they do.

The kids deserve it.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Building "Network of Networks"

In the opening comments to Monday's Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, Brandon Bodor, Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Volunteering and Service, talked about the need to build a "network of networks" connecting more of the people and ideas related to the work we are each trying to do.

I've been maintaining a database of non-school tutor/mentor programs operating in the Chicago region since launching the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. I share this information using maps and an on-line directory so anyone can find and connect with any of these organizations, and so leaders can build strategies that support existing programs while helping new programs form where there are voids.

I've also been building a web library with information people can use to better understand where programs are most needed, and ways they can help programs constantly improve. This concept map shows part of that library, which now contains more than 2000 links. When I host a conference my goal is that people from the different organizations and web sites I point to will volunteer to share their own expertise, while using the conference to connect with others doing similar work.


Over the past 18 years I have seen numerous intermediary organizations form in Chicago who had goals of helping kids in poverty. Some still exist. Others ran out of funds and disappeared. I created this concept map to show some of the intermediary organizations and networks I'm aware of. These represent the "networks" that Brandon was referring to who need to be connected to each other in a "network of networks".


I've created dozens of visualizations over the past 20 years, like this one, to illustrate a goal of helping kids from first grade to a first job and steps toward a career.


I include these graphics in blog articles, and in illustrated articles on Scribd.com. At some point in the future, my hope is that you could find a graphic similar to this on the web site of anyone who is working to help every youth in the Chicago region move more successfully through school and into a 21st or 22nd century job.


Network building is a process. It requires building a list, a web library, a database, etc. showing who else is involved in doing similar work. And it involved sharing this information on a regular basis so others can use it. It involved organizing events, like the Tutor/Mentor Conference so people can come together and network and share ideas with each other. This PDF essay shows some of the steps I've taken to build this network. I think others could apply these ideas in their own efforts and at different times each year we might find ways to gather together.

Ideas for Expanding Network of People Working for Social Benefit by Daniel F. Bassill



As you look at this information I encourage you to create your own visualizations showing the information you share, the strategy of your youth organization or your corporate volunteer program. Recruit a team of youth and adult volunteers to create map stories during November and December, showing where tutor/mentor programs are needed, where your program is located, and ways volunteers and donors can help you with year end giving.


I'll be hosting another Tutor/Mentor Conference on May 19, but the next major event is January National Mentoring Month. If we keep repeating these events, and drawing more networks and network supporters together, we can increase attention and resources, and improve the distribution of resources in more neighborhoods.

If you attended Monday's conference, or if you were not able to attend, I hope you'll use the web resources I host in your own efforts and that you'll want to reach out and connect with me on web platforms or at a coffee shop in Chicago. Let's find more ways to give visibility to these ideas and draw more consistent support to the youth-serving organizations working in different neighborhoods.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

40th Conference in 20 Years. Tomorrow.

Back in 1993 and 1994 when we were working with volunteers and partners like Public Communications, Inc, a public relations firm in Chicago, I was encouraged to "host a conference" to connect the programs I was learning about in the Tutor/Mentor Connection Program Survey, which we launched in January 1994.

I had no idea that I'd be doing these for 20 consecutive years.

The idea of an intermediary collecting information about tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region, and using this information to support the growth of every program, was something that began in 1975 when I first began leading the volunteer-based program at the Montgomery Ward Headquarters in Chicago. One of the VPs suggested that I should seek out other programs in the city, invite them to lunch, and see what I could learn from them.

I started doing that and soon realized that no one had a master list of programs, and the one who did have a list was the only one who could be consistently inviting people to gather and share ideas. They also were the only ones who could provide reliable information about the range of programs in Chicago.

During the 1975-1990 period I held full time advertising management jobs, thus my leadership of the tutoring program at Wards, which grew from 100 pairs to 300 pairs of kids and volunteers by 1990, took up most of my volunteer leadership capacity. It was not until I left Wards and began to lead the tutoring program in a non-profit structure that I began to have the time, and resources, to think of formalizing this information gathering/networking process.

We started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 with no money and a huge vision.
One of our first partners was PCI where a VP said "We've worked with organizations like yours before. We'll help you develop a plan and get it launched, then as you raise money, you can pay us part of our costs for helping".

With the help of PCI we built this Case Statement, launched the first program survey, started sharing information through a printed newsletter, and then organized a first tutor/mentor conference, held in May 1994.
With the first conference we distributed the first printed version of the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Directory. We also launched a partnership with the Lend A Hand Program that is now the Lawyers Lend A Hand to Youth Program.

While the first conference attracted 70 people the second held at the Shedd Aquarium, attracted 200.


In 1995 we added an August/September Volunteer Recruitment Campaign to our strategy, working with Chicago Access TV and several partners to promote tutoring/mentoring during August when every program was looking for volunteers.

By 1997 we were recognized well enough to be invited to host a "Teaching Example" booth at the President's Summit for America's Future, held in Philadelphia. I was one of 10 people representing Chicago at the event. We had developed a year-round strategy for supporting tutor/mentor programs throughout the region, which is described in this video.



Unfortunately, this strategy was never embraced by city leaders nor consistently funded.
We have never had more than $150,000 in a single year to support everything the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been doing, which is an insignificant amount of money in the third largest city in the country. The T/MC depended on volunteers and organizational partners doing what they could, when they could.

This list of "helpers" was compiled in late 2000 to show people who helped in the first decade. In 1999 our major sponsor, the Montgomery Ward Corporation, began to down size and we were forced to move from donated space in the corporate headquarters to rented space in the Cabrini Green area. In 2000 when Wards went out of business we also lost their $40-$50,000 per year financial support. The dot-com financial bust in the 1999-2001 period was followed by the 9/11 attack, and a decade of financial challenges that led in 2011 to the Tutor/Mentor Connection separating from the Cabrini Connections program.

Despite these challenges, I've continued to try to provide regular attention to the needs of youth and the potential offered by well-organized non-school tutor/mentor programs. I've continued to invite people to gather in spring and fall conferences, and in on-line forums or face to face conversations.

The chart below shows attendance from 2001-2010. Since then conference attendance has ranged from 75 to 100 per conference, and around 150 total participants each year. At the same time web site traffic has continued to grow, with more than 150,000 visitors to our various web sites each year.

Visit this page on the Tutor/Mentor Conference web site and view videos showing what participants of past conferences had to say about the conference.


If you browse through the articles I've posted on this blog, or the pages of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site, you'll see that I have been consistent to the goals we established when we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 and launched the first conference in May 1994.

The next conference is tomorrow, November 4, at the Metcalfe Federal Building. Pr-registration is close to 100 but we hope a few more will attend.

We'll be focusing on the same question I've been focusing on since 1975. What are all of the things we need to do to make constantly improving tutor/mentor programs available to youth in all high poverty neighborhoods, and to engage more people in figuring out ways to assure that every child born in Chicago today is starting a job/career in 25-30 years.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Covering Violence in Chicago. Covering the Solutions

Yesterday I titled my post "Does this scare you?" and wrote about the financial challenges of non profits. Last night I attended an anti-violence media forum at Columbia College, titled "Covering Violence. Covering the Solutions." It was co-hosted by Community Media Workshop. The moderator was Natalie Moore, a WBEZ reporter. Panel members included Brenda Butler of Columbia College, John Owens, Chicago Tribune, Gaynor Hall Paterson, WGN/CLTV, Chris Rudd, Mikva Challenge Juvenile Justice Council, and Juliana Stratton, Cook County Justice Advisory Council. About 50 people were in the audience. This was recorded and when I find the link I'll add it to this article.

The meeting started with a video showing emotional responses to violence. The panel members affirmed that Chicago has earned a world-wide reputation for violence. They also expressed concern that no one has found a better way to report this. When it came time to offer solutions, one panel member commented, "writers give headaches, not solutions" and "it's not a reporters job to find the solutions".

One of the final words of advice to community organizations was "Rely on yourselves to tell your own story."

This was really scary. Yet it's a fact.

One person in the audience suggested "every non profit should find time to learn how to get their story to the media." A week ago when I met with the leader of a non profit and suggested they create a blog, the response was "where do I find the time".

The panel asked for solutions. The Chicago Tribune, in a series started a couple of weeks ago, is asking for proposals for a "New Plan for Chicago". I've been providing solutions for many years. Finding more ways to get this information to the public, and to community leaders, is what I want to talk about today. I hope reporters will find time and ways to encourage others to take a look at these.

I've used this graphic often in the past to illustrate the role a single tutor/mentor program takes in connecting volunteers with youth in well organized programs. Such programs need to be located throughout the city, in all of the high poverty neighborhoods.

This graphic also shows the role of intermediaries, like the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Well organized non-school tutoring and/or mentoring programs like Cabrini Connections, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cluster Tutoring, Chicago Tutoring, Family Matters, Highsight, and many others shown in the directory of Chicago programs that I've hosted since 1994 connect youth who need extra adult involvement with adults who help provide such support.

In the discussion of how media cover violence Chris Rudd of Mikva Challenge offered that media stories give a message to youth that "You don't matter." In my years of leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program one of the most important lessons is that one person in the life of a youth can say "You do matter."

If Chicago wants more non-school tutoring, mentoring, arts, youth media, technology and job-training programs available to youth in high poverty neighborhoods, the media need to be telling more stories about the challenges programs face in finding money to fund their operations. In the video leading off last night's event, Phil Jackson, CEO of The Black Star Project was a featured speaker. Yesterday Phil emailed me to say he could not bring a team to the Nov. 4 conference because his organizations is facing financial challenges, meaning they are short of cash!"

I'm no longer leading Cabrini Connections because we ran out of cash too often between 2007 and 2011. Other programs and non profits serving people in high poverty no longer exist for the same reasons.

I created this graphic many years ago to illustrate how any of us who are concerned with violence, education, racial discrimination, social justice, etc. can use our own personal or professional media to encourage the people we know to get informed, then get involved with one or more of the different tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region.

In 1993 when we developed the strategy for the Tutor/Mentor Connection (read 1994 case statement)our goal was to increase the number of media stories about tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicago. This 1994 article announced that strategy and is one of many media stories shown on this page.
I come from a retail advertising background so in 1993 when we were developing the strategy for the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I understood that without a regular frequency of stories reaching more and more people, we never would be able to generate the awareness, understanding and motivation of the much larger network of supporters needed to provide talent, time and dollars in all of the different neighborhoods where tutor/mentor programs were operating, and where more are needed. Thus, events like the Tutor/Mentor Conference were created as a strategy to generate public awareness and media stories, as well as bring programs together to share ideas.

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As we went through the 1990s and 2000s I realized that with virtually no money for advertising and/or PR support, my impact would be limited. I also have come to develop an appreciation of the specific needs within every on-going tutor/mentor program. One of my interns created this graphic a few years ago to illustrate the infrastructure needed in each program in order to support on-going tutoring, mentoring and learning

Due to lack of funds most programs simply don't have enough people and talent to focus on all of these functions they way larger corporations or larger non profit organizations do.

Thus, I've looked for other ways to support the growth of these programs.


This graphic represents all of the things that should be part of a well-organized tutor/mentor program. Many of these could be provided by volunteers who offer their talent to support the infrastructure of a program, in addition, or instead of, being a one-on-one tutor/mentor. Thus, accountants could offer pro-bono book keeping and financial services. Journalism students, advertising and public relations professions, including reporters, could take on the story-telling responsibility for one or more organizations. Technologists could take on web site management and tech support responsibilities, adopting all of the programs in a zip code or community area, or just a single program.

Awards could be given each year to recognize who does this well. Blog articles and news stories could tell such stories. This pdf illustrates the potential of influencing constant process improvement by recognizing the good work being done by people supporting non profit organization growth.

I'm not suggesting pro bono projects where a team builds a solution to a problem the non profit proposes, then leaves it up to the non profit to implement the solution. Those things are needed, but I'm suggesting that volunteers, and/or volunteer teams, take on this as an on-going role. Develop the solutions AND implement it!

When Edison and other inventors were creating a working light bulb they experimented thousands of times. Everyone working to reduce inner city violence and keep more kids in school and heading to jobs, rather than out of school and heading to jail, is experimenting. No one has figured out a solution that works all the time.

And one of the biggest problems is that no one has figured out a dependable way to provide "energy" to all of these places on a consistent basis. What I mean by energy is "time, talent and operating/innovation dollars".

While I've been sharing ideas like this for over 18 years, I've found that while the ideas may sound good, and I get many heads nodding approval, most people who work for a living usually can't give away their talent for free, especially on an on-going basis.

And since I've never had a Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, or even one of the leaders of Goldman Sachs, Bain & Co, or other investment bankers in my corner, I've never had the dollars to "ignite the passion" of others who might become intermediaries to provide one, or more, of these solutions.

I'm now in the process of restructuring the Tutor/Mentor Connection, to build a new non profit, with a board of leaders who do have this type of wealth and influence. At the same time, I'm looking for partners and investors to develop the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, so that we could become an incubator of new ideas and solutions that provide the fuel and energy it takes for non profit organizations operating in high poverty, high violence, and high drop out areas, to innovate more effective ways to help kids move through school and into jobs and careers.

I've written a long article and most people won't take time to read it, or pass it on to others who need to be reading it. Last night's meeting ended with a "Rely on yourself to tell your own story" message.

On the We are Not Alone web site are links to videos created by young people, and organizations helping young people become journalists and communicators.

In this link you can find a variety of visualizations created by interns working with me since 2005.

In this PDF I show how maps can be created showing where tutor/mentor programs are needed, what programs exist, and what assets exist in the same zip code who should be supporting the growth of youth mentoring programs in those areas.

If we want to call more attention to solutions, and build a resource flow to make constantly improving youth tutoring, mentoring programs available in more places, teach youth in high schools, colleges and youth programs, in the city, and in the suburbs, to do the following

a) adopt a zip code or community area and create map analysis reports that you post on your own blog;

b) if you are in a high poverty neighborhood, become a reporter of the activities going on every day in the youth organizations you are part of, or write about programs in other neighborhoods, and ask why the leaders in your neighborhood are not making such programs available to you;

c) if you live in an out-of-poverty neighborhood, adopt a city or suburban zip code with high poverty, and do the same analysis. Take on the same role of telling the story.

Not only can youth, with the help of volunteer mentors and tutors, learn to tell this story on a regular basis, they can find ways to amplify the voices of others who are telling the story. The video below was done by a Tutor/Mentor Connection intern in spring 2013 to show case the work other interns had done in previous years.



At some point in the future when we look at a map of Chicago, showing existing youth serving organizations, we should be able to click into the web site of each program and find stories written or created by youth and volunteers telling why the program is needed, where they are, what they do and how others can help them.

We also should see visualizations showing the reduction in violence, drop out rates, poverty zones, and the increase of indicators showing Chicago and its suburbs being the best city in the world for everyone to raise their kids.

Journalist can give attention to these stories when they are covering bad news, or doing solution journalism. By recognizing the good work done to support the growth of youth tutoring/mentoring programs in every neighborhood, we encourage new strategies that support a community of programs working together to solve a problem, rather than individual programs competing with each other to stay alive.

It won't be so scary if this begins to happen.