Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Closing Opportunity Gap in America. Building the Network.

Yesterday I posted a long article sharing my thoughts following hearing Robert Putnam talk about his new book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis".

In order to close the opportunity gap we need to dramatically enlarge the number of people taking daily actions to grow the network. We need to increase the number of wealthy benefactors who are making $10 to $100 million commitments to support the growth of the network, as well as individual donors supporting long-term, mentor-rich, tutor/mentor programs with workplace donations and annual contributions. We also need others who support intermediaries who support the on-going learning required to support long-term growth. In this Tipping Points essay I show ideas that, if fully funded, could support the growth of mentoring programs, and the growth in the number of people who take long-term roles in closing the opportunity gap.

The illustration below is from this "network building" essay.

I've attended events hosted by the Chicago Community Trust and many other civic and business leaders in Chicago for nearly 20 years. With the growth of social networks, and network analysis tools I've encouraged people who host events, to create network maps showing who is participating, and what skills/networks they represent. I still don't see this being done.

The statement "It takes a village to raise a child." has been overused, but it fits with Putnam's "Our Kids" advocacy. However, unless you map who is active, using network analysis tools, you really don't know which parts of the village are pulling their fair share of the load. In addition, unless you keep doing these maps from year to year, you don't know if the village is growing, or if the people who took action in past years have continued those actions in future years.

On page 259 in "Our Kids" Putnam wrote this about mentoring: "The last thing that poor kids need is yet another unreliable, "drop-by" adult in their lives." He could have wrote the same about "drop by" donors who make short term grants that fund only a small percent of total costs for operating a mentoring program, or who don't sustain their funding beyond one, two or three years. If many leaders are mobilizing volunteers and donors to support programs in the same urban area, then every program ought to be able to create maps showing funding from multiple sources, and volunteer involvement representing many different career paths that youth might aspire to.

I don't know of anyone in the mentoring movement talking about mentoring as social capital, AND... talking about ways to use social network analysis tools to map participation. I've been trying to do this, but with the help of volunteers since I've not found investors and financial support. View the maps shown here and here to see some of the work I'm trying to do, and that I think others could also be doing.

I've written about this on my blog since 2005 and in printed newsletters, between 1993 and 2001. I've posted a variety of illustrated essays in the library on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site. I encourage others to write their own strategy essays to show how they think we get from "here to there". Share them. Let's compare notes. Let's work together to build the "village".

If you're interested in this, let's connect and talk of what I've been trying to do and ways you can help. What we develop for Chicago can be used in any other city.

If we don't know who is involved, and how the network grows from year-to-year it is unlikely we'll ever mobilize enough continuous involvement to seriously close the opportunity gap.

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