Friday, January 16, 2015

Who Shares the Passion for Building the Infrastructure needed to help social organizations have greater impact?

I attended the Chicago Hive five year celebration last night and heard CEO Sam Dyson say something like, "If you're serious about helping kids you need to be serious about mobilizing the resources needed."

Earlier in the day Dan Pallotta sent me an email asking me to look at a Boston Globe article showing his efforts to revolutionize how philanthropic organizations are funded. I've written about Dan's work before and adopted this to my own vision. See article.

The day before I attended a Generation ALL Chicago event, where leaders talked about mobilizing stakeholders from all parts of Chicago to focus on building great public high schools in every neighborhood of Chicago.

Then this morning I responded to a consultant who coaches businesses on volunteer engagement, with an email showing my own "dream". I finished by saying since this is the day everyone's honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it's appropriate that I share my own vision and dream: Here's what I wrote:

---------------------------------------- The recent outrage about unequal coverage of the tragedy in Nigeria vs the tragedy in Paris show how difficult it it to attract people (and donor) attention and keep it focused for any length of time on places where help must be consistently provided.

I've maintained a newspaper clip file going back into the 1970s with articles on education, poverty, race and violence in Chicago. I'm digitizing those articles over the coming year and as I do I'm finding article calling for action from the 1990s to solve problems we still have not solved 20 years later.

In my blog articles and on-line networking I'm looking for people who express a passion for solving this problem, and who are willing to work with me to find others, and to innovate actions, that can create a reach and daily frequency of messages that draw support to non profits and social entrepreneurs the same way business draws customers to their stories, on-line market place and products and services.

I reach out to you because you express some of the same ideas, and in the "food chain" you're closer to the business leaders who need to use their own communications tools to carry this message to the public.

I think I'm older than you, but I think we both have grey hair. I want to leave something in place when I die that I think builds a better future for my grand kids and other people's grand kids. It take money to do this, but even more it takes a shared effort of people who have talents and networks that I don't have.

In another email conversation I shared my vision of having "Tutor/Mentor Connection student-led teams form on college and high school campuses throughout Chicago and in other cities. Here's what I wrote:

I encourage you to browse the articles by interns, at this page.

Each of these interns has spent time learning what the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy is, then communicating it via blog articles, visualizations and videos. If formal "tutor/mentor connection" teams formed on campuses and schools, their first role would be to learn what I'm trying to do, so they can see their role of duplicating everything I do, but focused on a smaller geographic region (around a college or high school) or focused on a specific network of people, such as students, faculty, alumni of a college.

In short, they learn to connect people they know to information those people can use to support places in their neighborhood which are trying to help kids move through school and into careers, via tutoring, mentoring, social/emotional support, jobs training, and a wide range of other activities.

As student teams form, and learn to do this work, they become organizers of networking events on their campus, and at citywide and national events, that connect groups from one campus with groups from other campuses. The Tutor/Mentor Conferences, are just two events out of a 365 day calendar when people could be gathering to share ideas and inspire actions.


I also shared an idea with one of the other organizations building networks of people to focus on violence in Chicago. I wrote:

Your organization is already using its blog to share ideas and spotlight people it works with, and you're using your events to bring people together. I encourage you to read this article, and dozens like it that I've posted since 2005.

These talk about what it takes to build and sustain great programs in all high poverty neighborhoods. They call on readers to be volunteers, donors, leaders, etc. and to reach out and get more people programs all over the city, which are represented in databases like the one I maintain at

I think your organization and others, such as Chicago Hive, and Generation All, etc., could write similar stories, even better than I do, and with the ability to reach people who I don't reach.

This is not something you or I need to have an agreement to do, but it is something I'd be happy to talk with you and brainstorm ways others might take on the same role so more voices are out there every day calling on resource providers, volunteers and other needed talent to become strategically involved in supporting programs all over the region.

As I learn about intermediary organizations in Chicago I've been adding them to this concept map. Click here to see the live version, where you can click on nodes to find web sites for each group.

One role that Tutor/Mentor Teams on campuses would have is to create a map showing organizations and assets in their neighborhood who should know each other and be working together to support youth as they move SAFELY from birth to work. Such maps could be shared on web sites just the way I do, to help each group connect with each other, and to draw donor support to all of the intermediaries on an on-going basis. Generation ALL's leader talked of a 10+ year vision. For that to be achieved, consistent funding needs to be secured.

However, just funding the backbone is not enough. Each of the organizations these intermediaries support also require consistent flows of talent, dollars, ideas, etc. If someone hosts a map of participating organizations, I want to see consistent messages calling on visitors to their web site to go through the map, find an organization, and become a supporter. I point to this list of Chicago non-school tutoring/mentoring organizations all the time and from most of my web sites.

So much for today's soap box. I guess on MLKing's anniversary it's fair for me to share my own "dream".

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