Sunday, September 01, 2013

Mentoring. Network Building - Labor Day Reminder

Every week throughout the year I meet personally with three to four people, such as on Friday when I met with Rev. Mitchel Sholar, Executive Director of City Harvest Headstart Outreach Ministry (CHHOM) and Dr. Betty J. Allen-Green, Executive Director of the Chicago Lawndale Amachi Mentoring Program (LAMP).

Friday's meeting, like many, was scheduled by Mitchel, who has been hosting workshops at Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences for the past two years. Mitchel was introduced to me and the conference via Bishop Steven Braxton,Light of Illinois Diocese, who first connected with me almost 6 years ago, also via the conferences.

As we've built our relationship Mitchel has learned more about how intermediary organizations can help bring people together in a community area to support the growth of mentor-rich tutor/mentor programs that support a growing number of youth as the move from birth to work. We met at my offices at HIGHSIGHT in April, prior to the June 2013 conference, and I provided an overview of resources and demonstrated uses of maps.

For example, this is one of a series of maps showing the number of high poverty youth age 6-17 living in community areas on the West Side of Chicago. 4717 youth in this age range are in North Laundale, which represents 55% of the total youth population of that age range. The green stars on this map represent locations of organizations known to provide some form of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring in the non-school hours. I showed Mitchel how this map was created using the interactive Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator.

While at first glance, one might think there are many tutor/mentor programs, when you sort by age group served, or type of program, you see fewer programs in each age group. If we had the resources to survey programs to know how many were enrolled, we'd be able to show that a very small percent of all the youth in North Lawndale are being served by the existing programs.

Next I showed how maps could also be created showing assets in the neighborhood --- banks, faith groups, hospitals, colleges, insurance and pharmacy companies, etc. --- who could be supporting existing programs, and helping new ones form, by engaging their own people, talents, dollars, technology and ideas as part of a community wide collective effort.

All it takes is for a group of people to begin to invite others who are already part of the neighborhood to gather and begin to learn ways they can help make the youth serving programs in the neighborhood the best in the city, and in the country by borrowing ideas from work already being done in non profits and for profits throughout the world! Mitchel is trying to take that role and meeting with leaders of existing community organizations is the first step in building partnership with others already operating in the area.

Since most adults are already deeply involved in what they are already doing and have too little time to spend learning what others are doing, and ways they might innovate ways to make programs serving youth and helping them to jobs, I also showed work youth have done with me that could be duplicated by young people in their own programs, local schools and faith groups. This graphic is one started in 2006 by an intern from Hong Kong and later revised by an intern from Korea, via IIT. You can see both versions here, along with many other visualizations done since then.

Mitchel's goal is to bring a group of people from North Lawndale to the November 4th Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, where they can discuss these ideas, build relationships, and connect with others from different parts of the Chicago region who are focusing on building tutor/mentor programs in their own neighborhoods.

I support this by mentoring Mitchel and others as they take on leadership roles in their own programs and communities. While I'm able to meet with a small number of people each week, I exchange email communications with fifty to 100 people each week. I share ideas in on-line communities with several thousand each week.

Following the meeting Mitchel set up a profile on the Tutor/Mentor Connection, Ning. forum. If you visit the forum you can connect with more than 450 others who have joined since 2007. If you connect with me on Linked in, Facebook or Twitter you can connect with more than 5000 others who I am friends with, and thousands of others who I connect with in on-line communities.

This is labor. It's a strategy of network building that I've engaged in for over 40 years. It's work that I've been blessed to be able to do full time for over 23 years and as a volunteer for 17 years prior to that.

It's work that many are called to share since so many places need mentor-rich youth serving programs, and an infrastructure of volunteers, talent, dollars and technology to support them.

As you celebrate this Labor Day I hope you'll begin looking for ways you can take on a role in this effort.

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