Monday, May 27, 2013

Mapping Strategies to Help Youth in Poverty

I'm working on a presentation that I plan to deliver at the June 7 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference which will be held at the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago. Since this is Memorial Day and we're honoring those who gave their lives for their country, perhaps my use of maps will resonate with those who understand how important maps are to fighting enemy forces in many locations, along with how important logistics and supply systems are to making sure our forces are well supported in all of these different places.

Perhaps you can help me.

The map above is one of 13 I've created using the Interactive Tutor/Mentor Program Locator showing different parts of Chicago, and the community areas within each map area. Using data provided by Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance, I've shown the number of youth, age 6 to 17 in each community area who are living below the poverty level. I've also shown what percent of the total youth in the age group this represents. Thus, there are 5,023 high poverty youth in Humboldt Park, and this represents 47.8% of the total youth age 6 to 17 in that community area.

It would seem to me that if donors, policy makers and business leaders were looking at this they would say "We need a lot of tutor/mentor programs in that area, just to serve a majority of those youth." I've been trying to maintain a directory of non-school tutor/mentor programs since 1993. Thus, on the map, the green stars represent any organization that I know of that offers some form of volunteer based tutoring and/or mentoring during the non school hours. If you go to the interactive Program Locator map, you can zoom into this area, click on the green stars to see who the organization is, and even go to their web site if they have one. You can also sort by age group served and type of program to build a better understanding of how many youth in each age group have access to tutoring/mentoring in this community area.

You can build your own map, showing poverty overlays and poorly performing schools (from 2007 and 2008 information.

Furthermore, you can build a map showing "assets", which are businesses, colleges, hospitals, faith groups, expressways, etc. within that community area. They are assets because they could be working with tutor/mentor program organizers to help each program borrow ideas from others in Chicago and around the world, so they are constantly improving their ability to transform the lives of youth and adult volunteers who join these programs. More than half a million people travel through poverty neighborhoods every day as the transit from their homes in the suburbs to their work in the LOOP. Imagine getting more of those people involved in helping tutor/mentor programs grow in neighborhoods with large numbers of youth in poverty. This PDF provides some instructions on building your own map.

In the presentation I'm working on I'm trying to show how the organizations, youth, families and assets in the neighborhood might learn to use these maps. Most tutor/mentor programs serve fewer than 100 youth on a regular basis. Most don't have a sophisticated marketing team or high profile board members, thus they struggle to get the basic operating resources essential to building strong organizations. Thus, if a neighborhood has 1100 youth, it would take 11 programs to serve 100% of those youth. If you look at the maps for each community area, you can see that many neighborhoods have only a few programs. If you look at the web sites of the existing programs, you will see that some are well organized, and some are loosely structured.

If you were a business team at a big company, you'd be looking for ways to help each of your stores become the best in its area. Thus, if communities can build teams of volunteers from their tutor/mentor programs and their asset base, these teams could be working to find better ways to build a supply system that ensures that each program has the resources it needs to support the youth and volunteers it serves.

Here's what I wrote in the presentation:

If each organization offering tutoring/mentoring will show on its web site how many youth and volunteers are on its active roster, and what type of tutor/mentor service they offer, as well as what age group they serve, this information can be aggregated to show how many youth in a community area are being served.

Thus, if you look at the map showing West Ridge, on the far North side of Chicago, you’d find one organization, yet but 3,191 youth between the age of 6 and 17 living below poverty level. Using the interactive tutor/mentor program locator you can add layers, showing poorly performing schools, and you can refine the list of programs to show specific age groups.

This information shows a clear need for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in the area, based on poverty levels. Donors should be willing to support the existing organizations and provide funds to help them constantly learn from others and improve what they do so each might be considered “best” in what it does to help youth and volunteers connect and stay connected.

This information even shows more programs are needed, especially close to the two schools shown to be on the State of Illinois Poorly Performing list.

Leaders, volunteers, youth and parents in the neighborhood can use this information and the Tutor/Mentor Connection schedule of events, to reach out to potential resource providers and leaders who have facilities in the community area to educate them a) why tutor/mentor programs are needed and, b) ways they can be consistently engaged in supporting the growth of mentor-rich programs in each community area.

While such groups can meet at the neighborhood level and in on-line, they can also meet at events that connect stakeholders from different parts of the Chicago region, and with others from other cities, creating a greater public awareness that supports the on-going effort of each program in each neighborhood.

Through this process we educate leaders who use their visibility to help increase the flow and distribution of resources needed for ALL tutor/mentor programs in a region to operate.

If leaders are seeking tutor/mentor programs based on where they are needed, based on number of youth living in poverty, the choices of who they support are limited by who operates a program serving youth in that neighborhood. Can we educate more donors to look at your web site, see where you are, who you serve, and what you do, then decide how much and in what ways they want to help you?

Does this make sense to you? Could you write this in a different way that would describe the use of these maps to support a growing number of youth tutor/mentor programs in neighborhoods with a large number of youth age 6 to 17 living in poverty? If you want to try, just send me your revised text at tutormentor2 at earthlink dot net.

If you'd like to see all of the maps I've created for this presentation, register to attend the June 7 conference, and keep watching this blog post for updates.

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