Sunday, August 30, 2015

How to Introduce Myself.

I was invited to connect with a well known writer via email and am in the process of sending an introduction. I'm almost done, and realized that it's a long message, and the introduction could be extended to others, as well. So here it is:

Thanks for inviting me to connect directly to you. Following is a rather long introduction, but not nearly as long as your books. I hope you'll skim through it and browse my web sites after that.

My work extends back almost 40 years when I started a retail advertising career with the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago. Over 17 years I learned much about how big companies support multiple stores in many places, and how they use massive advertising budgets to draw customers to each of their stores. This is relative to what you and I and others are doing because few of us have the massive advertising, or celebrity appeal, that draws attention to our ideas on a regular basis.

Shortly after I joined Wards in 1973 I was recruited to be a volunteer in an employee led, company sponsored, tutor/mentor program which connected volunteers with 2nd to 6th grade kids living in the Cabrini-Green public housing complex, across the street from the Ward Hq complex.

I've a background in history and served a short time in army intelligence, so I've a habit of looking for information to help me when I'm trying to learn to do something new.

As a volunteer in the tutor/mentor program I did not know much, so I began to search out ideas for what to do each week. In 1975 I was recruited to be the leader of the program, which already had 100 pairs of kids/volunteers involved, and again, I had to begin to reach out to find other people who I could learn from, in order to be effective in leading my own program.

In doing so, I began to build a network of peers, and a library of information. Over the 1975-1990 period my corporate jobs grew in responsibility and the tutoring program grew to where it included 300 pairs of kids/volunteers meeting weekly by 1990.

My network of peers began to meet regularly, and we began to organize joint volunteer training efforts. As we did this I tried to find other programs in Chicago to invite, but no one had a master database.

At the same time occasional news stories about violence, poverty, school performance, etc. would raise to a level of indignation that would result in front page stories and editorials with people saying "it's all of our responsibilities; we must do something.'

However, this indignation only lasted a few days. In addition, unlike our efforts at Wards, where we knew the location of all of our stores, without a master database of youth organizations, or much knowledge about what they do, media stories only pointed to a few high profile programs, or to a few of the many neighborhoods where such programs are needed.

In 1990 I left my Wards job, converted the tutoring program to a non profit, and began to raise money to pay my own salary, and program expenses. At that time, the idea of trying to help programs grow throughout the city began to take shape. That's when I began to learn how difficult it is to raise and retain philanthropic and government dollars to do work that is complex, and requires a long-term process of innovation and constant improvement. I've devoted an entire section of my library to showing challenges non profits face, which we much learn to overcome.

In late 1992 I left the first organization, due to conflict with the board of directors that I had recruited, and created a second version of the first program, focusing on helping 7th grade kids move through high school and beyond.

At the same time, a little boy named Dantrell Davis was killed in Cabrini Green, and the newspapers went crazy with "do something" stories.

Knowing that the city had no master database of programs, thus the media attention would not serve like a corporate maketing strategy intended to support all tutor/mentor programs in the city, and would soon move to another story, I and the volunteers who were creating the new kids program decided to create a second strategy, which became the Tutor/Mentor Connection. It was at this time that I began to innovate uses of maps to show all poverty areas in the city of Chicago.

The T/MC's goal was to collect information that anyone could use to support the growth of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in all high poverty neighborhoods of the city.....and to increase the frequency and consistency of media stories drawing volunteers and donors and program leaders to this library of information.

I've been leading that effort ever since.

When we first started the T/MC in 1993 Montgomery Ward gave us a huge amount of office space for the kids program we were also launching and I began to use the wall space to lay out the strategy for both programs.

When the Internet came into play, i began moving this strategy to the Internet.

There are two PDFs in my library I hope you'll look at.

1) 4-part problem solving strategy, which shows the value of the library of information, including your books, that people need to draw from. -

2) Planning strategy, which shows all the things leaders need to think about, including how to build and sustain public will for many years.

At the heart of the information I collect is a list of Chicago tutor/mentor organizations. However, this is only a small percent of the 2000+ links in my web library which is represented by the map below.

Instead of launching a web library with only my ideas, I've been trying to aggregate ideas of others, so visitors have a wider range of influences. Every link in my library is a potential collaborator in efforts to build and sustain public involvement in the movement you're leading. Bringing them together on a consistent basis is almost impossible, especially when has no money for advertising and outreach. This library represents a potential support of support for the efforts of yourself, Robert Reich, Robert Putnam, Bernie Sanders and others who focus on the same and related issues.

Every city in the country has the same problems of concentrated poverty (as illustrated by this map), fragmented leadership, and no marketing based strategies to mobilize people and resources to solve the problem in all places where it exists.

I think the only place where this information can be shared and where a large enough community of people can connect with the information, and each other, and stay connected for many years, is the Internet. However, as I said in my Facebook post, I think my ideas for using the Internet are still 10-15 years ahead of their time. Too many leaders and decision makers are still not using the Internet in the ways I envision and too many of the poor don't have access at all.

When I say "what are all the things we need to be thinking about?" this is one of them.

I've never had much money to do what I'm doing, nor have I had support from highly visible people, yet the ideas keep getting looked at and shared via social media, just as I'm sharing them with you.

I created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 after the Board at the organization I created in 1992 and led since then decided to no longer support the T/MC strategy. I did not have a team of volunteers to create a new non profit, so created the LLC to continue to support the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago and to help similar intermediaries grow in other places.

Thus, I'm focusing on two strategies now

a) find people/resources/partners to help me do this work

b) find universities and/or other institutions who will move what I've been doing into institutes on their own campus where they take leadership and ownership

In many ways I've been trying for 25 years to find a champion, or benefactor who'd support me the way the Medici family supported Lonardo DaVinci (like finding a needle in a world wide haystack) so I could explore ideas and express unpopular opinions. If I were running for public office, perhaps I could find one of the wealthy donors who give so much to PACs!

If you browse my web site you'll find numerous examples of what I've just described being put into actions. Also you'll see countless opportunities where other people could do this better than I have done it.

That's the goal. We want to enlist and empower others who take ownership and use their own time, talent and money to help pursue the same goals we've out lined in our own publications.

If you share this goal, let's connect on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin and find ways to connect via email, or in person.

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