Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Connecting Networks, Reducing Silos

I read a blog article by David Wilcox today, written following his participation in the 2013 the Council on Foundations in Chicago, the World Healthcare Congress in Washington, D.C. and the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford. The title was "Changing Business As Usual: 3 Questions for Non-profit & For-profit Innovation Leaders". The overall theme of the article was "how can we come together, connecting for profit, non profit, policy makers, innovators,etc. to share ideas and bring needed social change to more places where help is needed?"

I've written about this often, in articles like this April 2012 Connecting Networks-Opening Silos article.

I've used versions of this graphic in many articles, showing the role of intermediaries who collect and share information, such as the Tutor/Mentor Connection Library and Tutor/Mentor Program Locator database. This article illustrates a four-part strategy based on collecting and sharing information with growing groups of stakeholders.

Collecting this information is one challenge. Getting people to look at it is another. As you can see from this December 1994 Chicago Tribune article, I've focused on building public awareness as one of the core strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection since the beginning.

However, I've never had money for advertising. Much of the media attention I was able to generate in the 1990s was due to pro bono support from 1993 to 2001 from Public Communications, INC, a PR firm in Chicago. Without money for advertising and/or professional support, I've used the Internet and social media, including this blog, to try to share ideas with more people. Yet, there are many who do not support this strategy because their promote their own message and self interests more than the collective good.

When we write about "reducing silos", advertising, public awareness and network-building needs to be part of the conversation. With the Internet, and with a few friends who have a little, or a lot, of money, anyone can set up a web site and say the want to promote "a better Chicago" or a better way to help Black Youth, or stop violence in the city. Depending on the resources they can bring to bear, daily and weekly e-mail newsletters can be generated, providing powerful stories about why people should be involved. Media attention can result in feature articles in business publications showing the good work being done.

Yet, if these times in the spotlight only point to one organization, not to the library of information collected by others, there are too few working to overcome the challenges Wilcox writes about in his blog article. Too few are working to reach people in different sectors, with different starting points for their own efforts at social change, and with their own needs for funding, volunteers and public attention.

Just pointing to web sites of others is only a starting point. I've written articles about how we need to stimulate learning and how MOOCs can be organized to connect people from different networks in facilitated, on-going learning and relationship building. The Jan-March 2013 Education, Technology and Media MOOC #ETMOOC was one example.

I created this library of Chicago tutor/mentor programs to help volunteers and donors and media find programs in every part of the city who need to be consistently supported for many years if they are to become "great programs" doing "great work" to help kids through school and into careers. I created this concept map to show many of the organizations who also focus on youth well-being.

I point to these organizations daily because of the links on my web site and the articles I write. A few of them have links pointing back to me. Fewer use their media to point to events like the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, where people from different "silos" can connect with each other.

While I have tried to organize quarterly events to draw people together and draw attention to volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs, these events only cover a few time frames each year. If during these time frames your focus is the same as mine, let's try to connect, even if is only through web links and on-line networking. If you organize events at different times, but focused on the same issues, point to the library of information I make available to YOUR audience, and I can talk about your event in my media.

It takes each person going 100% of the way to make a marriage work. I think that's equally true in trying to break down the silos that separate us in our collective efforts.

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