Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reading "Our Kids" book by Robert Putnam? Join discussion

I posted articles about Robert Putnam's new book, "Our Kids" the American Dream in Crisis" in three March 2015 articles, starting here.

Bryan Alexander is leading a discussion of this book, chapter by chapter, starting here. I encourage you to join in. As you do, refer back to my own articles that focus on actions individuals, corporations, faith groups and political leaders need to take to help close the opportunity gaps.

For instance "mentoring" is mentioned as a solution, and faith communities are encouraged to take a lead. I focus on volunteer based tutoring and mentoring as part of organized programs operating in high poverty neighborhoods. It's the programs that make one-on-one connections possible, and make connections to other forms of learning and experience also possible.

I started following Putnam several years ago after reading his book, titled "Bowling Alone". I see mentoring as a form of "bridging social capital". The positive impact grows over time and is enhanced with organized programs make a wide range of mentors available to youth, and keep the youth and volunteers connected for multiple years.

Building the flow of talent and resources to make good programs available in more places should be part of the discussion when reading "Our Kids" and similar books.


Bryan Alexander said...

Thank you for the link and contact.

Question: how does one fund and support a major mentoring program?

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Hi Brian,

Finding funds to build and sustain a small, or big, mentoring program is a major challenge. However, the process is the same. Start with who you know, and who is already helping you, then begin to reach out through their networks to people their know. Tell your story and why what you do is important and ask for help. It requires constant effort. For smaller organizations this means the leader and a few other people are doing this network building while also working to operate a constantly improving program...which is a huge task. In larger organizations money becomes available to compartmentalize responsibility, with paid staff doing much of the marketing and development work. Only the largest have this luxury. Because of my corporate advertising background, I've been trying to change the process, in an ongoing effort to motivate people who benefit from less violence, better prepared workforce, etc. to spend their own time, talent and communications dollars to help mobilize resources for tutor/mentor programs in their communities. That's what articles in this subsection of my web site focus on. So far there's not much traction on this. While companies do a lot to promote individual youth organizations, and support them with employee talent and company dollars, I don't see many recruiting teams who are innovating ways to build and sustain mentor-rich programs around all of their business locations, or where customers and/or employee families are living.

Bryan Alexander said...

Hm. That's too bad. Maybe there's room here for social entrepreneurship.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

There might be opportunities to earn income, but since our clients are people who don't have much money due to high poverty, it's unlikely that any organization could generate enough revenue needed to hire quality staff, pay for rent and technology and operate a world class program.

Bryan Alexander said...

Hm. Any interest from religious groups or NGOs?

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's idea I've been sharing in faith communities since 1998. Not much traction. I've hosted a Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago since 1994 to bring NPOs together and to encourage collaboration. I also hosted an Aug/Sept Chicagowide Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign from 1995-2002. When I had money to pay staff to help organize these, we were able to get large participation. In addition, when I had a foundation partner who gave out grants at the May conference, we had large turnout. Donors stopped giving money for this in 2002 and the partnership with the foundation declined from 1999 and ended in 2008. Changes of people and economic issues were main issues.

Bryan Alexander said...

Too bad. Seems like a logical alliance.