Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Building Strong Programs in ALL High Poverty Areas. Why is this so Hard?

From my 40 year involvement in volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs I've come to believe that well organized, non-school programs that connect workplace volunteers with inner city youth in ongoing, supported tutoring, mentoring and learning, is a good thing to do.

I've been using maps since 1994 to focus attention on all of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago where well organized programs are most needed. I use these in visualizations that illustrate that to have well-organized programs we need to help them get a constant flow of talent, ideas, technology, volunteers and operating dollars.

In the 1990s and through 2002 I communicated these ideas, and strategies via printed newsletters. Then I ran short of money. Since then I've communicated largely via social media, blogs and email newsletters to a small list.

Since I never have had advertising or significant Public Relations dollars, I've developed a "Rest of the Story" strategy that follows negative news, with map-stories, intended to show the level of poverty in the neighborhood where a shooting or school story took place, and the location of existing tutor/mentor programs in that neighborhood. My message was "support existing programs" and "help new programs form where needed".

Interns from Chicago universities have helped me communicate these ideas, via visualizations, videos and their own blog articles. This graphic was created by an intern (see more) and shows that anyone reading this can invite the people they know to support tutor/mentor programs all over the city.

This is all part of a 4-part information based problem solving strategy. This graphic is one that shows the four parts of the strategy. All four parts need to be consistently supported, and can be duplicated in any city.

I've created graphics like the one below to show four key times each year when we all might be "singing the same song" and uniting our voices in a mobilization of attention and resources for youth serving organizations in an entire city, state or the whole country. In between these four times there are numerous other opportunities where individual organizations and networks can be contributing to the "noise making" that is needed to get more people involved in this effort.

This only works if a) someone in a city is creating maps that show where people need help; and b) someone also is creating, and mapping, a directory of organizations that provide specific types of help (e.g. tutoring, mentoring, tutor/mentor, arts, STEM, etc.), and also showing what age group those programs focus on. While each individual program has their own marketing and fund raising (some much more than others), not every program is as good at attracting needed resources. Not every neighborhood can attract workplace volunteers and donors as easily as some are able to. These are problems to discuss and overcome, but first we need to be coming together to talk about them.

So why don't I see other people writing about strategies that mobilize resources for all programs in all neighborhoods? (Do a Google search for "tutor mentor" then look at the images. Do the same for others who are "visible" leaders in this movement. See if they are using maps and visualizations that focus on entire city support systems.) Everyone in Chicagoland has a stake in the future of our city, and addressing poverty and inequality of opportunity is an activity we all need to be involved in.

We need to start doing this now, and with urgency, before some radical says "instead of burning your own neighborhood, why not burn their neighborhood".

I keep inviting people who care about what I'm writing to gather at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences I host in Chicago. The next is this Friday, May 8 and seats are still available.

However, I know that there are many other events that compete for "rear-ends in the seats" so I also focus on how we can connect and share ideas and talk strategy on the Internet. I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN and host a Tutor/Mentor Forum. I'm also available for one-on-one conversations with any one interested.

No comments: