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?