Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Follow up to On The Table2014 – 5 years, 10 years, 15 years.

I attended an OnTheTable2014 networking dinner on Monday hosted by the Illinois Mentoring Partnership. This was one of several hundred small gatherings in the Chicago region where several thousand people talked about what Chicago might look like in 5, 10 and 15 years. Feedback is being gathered by the host Chicago Community Trust and I’ll be interested to see how all of this data leads to greater engagement in solving some of the complex problems facing the Chicago region, and/or developing some of the opportunities.

Of the 10 people who gathered at IMP on Monday, I already knew Barbara Cole of Maywood Youth Mentoring Program. We first met in the late 1990s. A volunteer working with her is Michael Romaine, who made this comparison of the T/MC to Google. While I had never met Gary Fox, a volunteer and new board member at Cluster Tutoring Program, I’ve known Kathy McCabe, the Executive Director since the late 1970s. Dr. Shelby T,. Wyatt of the Brotherhood of Kenwood Academy hosted a workshop at the Tutor/Mentor Conference in Nov. 2009. One of the exciting parts of this dinner was meeting Troy Smith, an alumni of the Kenwood Brotherhood, who is now volunteering leadership to the organization. We need more alumni involved in sustaining these programs. Rhonda Howard, of Bounce for Joy Project, registered last week to attend the next conference, on May 19. Paul Venerable from Fyre Track Club showed the importance of sports, arts and other forms of mentoring youth. I had not met Mable Taplin who founded Joanie Girls Heart program to prepare minority teen girls for college and expose them to health care careers, but she knew of me through Kelly Fair, founder of Polished Pebbles, and another speaker at the Tutor/Mentor Conference. I've not met Kathleen St. Louis Caliento, PhD of the SPARK Chicago program, but members of SPARK have attended the T/MC Conference in the past.
Ashley Richardson, who is involved with the CPS Mentoring The Next Generation of Chicago Children program was also part of our group. We've not met, but in the 1990s CPS and CEO Paul Vallas (second from right) was very involved in supporting the Tutor/Mentor Connection. We've not had that support since early 2000 and maybe this dinner will help rebuild that involvement. Finally, I've known Cheryl Howard of IMP since the 1990s, and she also will be a speaker at the next Tutor/Mentor Conference.

Just from this introduction I hope readers will see that the conference I've hosted can be a follow up for those at the table around the Chicago region who want to build support for volunteer based tutoring and/or mentoring programs.

As each participant was given time to introduce themselves and talk about their own work with youth, there was a common theme of wanting to collaborate, and finding it difficult to connect with others. Unless someone took the time to organize an event and invite people to attend, most people stay disconnected.

I know the value of this type of gathering because I started hosting this type of networking event in the mid 1970s while I was at the Montgomery Ward Corporation in Chicago. As I meet new programs, I add them to the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Programs web library I've hosted since 1998. I started building this list in 1976. These networking events led to the formation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 and the launch of the conferences in 1994 and the citywide August/September Volunteer Recruitment Campaign in 1995. Because I've been maintaining a list of programs, I'm able to invite them to connect and learn from each other. I'm also able to write articles like this with a goal that donors, volunteers and other resource providers will reach out to support them on a more consistent basis.

Since starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 many more people are doing network-building and the Internet has made it possible for people to connect with each other more frequently without leaving home or office. More people are organizing network building events.

On Tuesday the Chicago Community Trust, Chicago SunTimes, Chicago Tribune and other media were each encouraging people to connect on-line to continue the discussions started in small groups.

I used a Twitter mapping tool to create the following graphics showing who was connecting with #onthetable2014 at around 10am on Tuesday.

With this mention map you can click on an icon, and create a new map showing who is connecting with that person. So by clicking on @tutormentorteam I created the map below:

On both of these maps I circled people who are participating in next Monday’s Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, and who have been helping mobilize others using Twitter and other social media.

I’ve wrote an article over the weekend showing uses of mapping and social network analysis.

And another on May 5 showing a map of who else is acting as an intermediary helping youth in the Chicago region.

As people who organize events that focus on the well-being of youth and families in Chicago organize events, I hope they not only collect data about who attends, and organize on-line forums to encourage continued discussion, but that some also begin mapping participants in order to understand how well they are connecting people from different silos who focus on the same issue, and are funded from different sources.

At the same time I encourage the use of GIS maps to show indicators of where extra help is needed, and to show data on what programs are available in each neighborhood, as well as who is providing funding and support to needed programs in different areas. This is a map showing youth organization donors, created using the Philanthropy in/Sight map.

This is a map showing high poverty areas in the Chicago region, along with commuter lines and main highways. Using this information anyone from the suburbs who was part of #onthetable2014 or is reading A New Plan for Chicago could identify neighborhoods they pass as the go to their job in the LOOP every day. Formal and informal media could provide a daily encouragement for people to provide time, talent and dollars to help youth serving organizations in these areas, instead of just "riding by poverty". Social media, informal dinners, conferences and other networking events could encourage people to share “how they are helping, who they are helping and why they are helping” in ways that share best practices and encourage others to become involved.

Using this data on an on-going basis may result in many more people coming together to focus on the same problems and solutions, and may result in many more resource providers sharing the role of providing operating resources and talent to the different organizations who need to be involved.

In five years, the map of the Chicago region should show a growing density of needed youth and family services in areas where they are needed. These programs should have web sites that show what they are trying to do, and what they are accomplishing, using this Shoppers Guide as a checklist.

In ten years, the map should show an even greater density of programs in areas of need. Web sites of programs operating in 2014 and started over the next five years, should begin to show participation history, and stories of youth and volunteers who have been part of these programs and who now are further toward graduation and jobs. Programs started between 2019 and 2025 would show the same start up information as programs starting in the first five years.

In 15 years the density of programs should reach all areas of need, and web sites of programs in place now should show a number of stories about alumni who have gone through the program and who are now adults who are working, raising families, and in some cases, providing support for the growth of the programs that were part of their lives as young people.

If this strategy is supported consistently for the next 15 years, by donors, volunteers, media, business, etc. we should begin to see significant changes of where poverty is concentrated because there should be less in places where well organized programs are helping youth grow up, move through school, and find jobs.

We also should see indicators of people moving into the Chicago region rather than out of it, because of how the community works together to provide opportunities for all youth who grow up in the region and provides more work-ready employees for the companies who do business here.

I created this graphic many years ago because the ideas in this article are not new. We all want the outcomes at the top of this chart, but unless there is consistent investment in the work at the bottom, which includes collecting and mapping data, and using the information to build growing involvement that supports needed services in all parts of the region, we’ll never get to the results we want in 5, 10 or 15 years.

I know how difficult it is to find and keep this funding. The Tutor/Mentor Connection received small grants from The Chicago Community Trust between 1998 and 2002, but not after that. Other donors such at Montgomery Ward went out of business, or like HSBC North America, were forced to cease funding due to the financial meltdown. Most donors want to fund programs, not infrastructure or intermediary roles, and few fund more than a small percent of program operations, or for multiple years. These are some of the challenges facing those who want to create a better Chicago.

Frankly, it is difficult for most people to understand the strategy I've been building, because it uses the Internet, and it was not created by a high profile leader or foundation. This difficulty was shown in a 1998 Case Study by the Chapin Hall Center for Children.

These challenges led to the Tutor/Mentor Connection being dropped as a strategy of Cabrini Connections in 2011 and to my creating Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue maintaining and sharing this information.

Unless more people come together and innovate solutions to the funding challenges facing programs, and intermediaries, most of what we wish for will never be achieved. Let's talk about this. Let's find long-term solutions.

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