Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chicago Mayor says "Enough is Enough".

In response to another wave of violence in Chicago, I heard Mayor Emmanuel use the term "Enough is Enough" to show his frustration. At the left is a 1994 Chicago Tribune article where the same quote is made after a conference on violence in Washington, DC.

At the right is a 2007 Chicago SunTimes story following the killing of a Chicago youth, Blair Holt. View this news360 article, Chicago Police Commander Ronald Holt, whose son, Blair, was murdered while riding a CTA bus, says a root cause of violence is “Hopelessness. People living in poverty who have developed a ‘I don’t care’ attitude. So the slightest of things will set them off and heaven forbid they’re in possession of an illegal firearm.”.

If you search this blog, for the word ENOUGH, you'll find articles I've posted since 2007, like this one, that offers the same strategy intended to mobilize more, and more people from the entire Chicago region, in efforts that build a better understanding and deeper commitment, to the many on-going actions needed to help re-build hope in areas where this is one of the root causes of so much violence.

I've invited Mayors, media, leaders in business, religion, hospital, law firms and the entire VILLAGE to take ownership of this strategy, with limited success.

I repeat that invitation again today, with a reminder, there is no quick fix.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Internet Strategy - Who's Listening - Part 2?

When I started using the Internet in the late 1990s there was great optimism of how I could connect with people from throughout Chicago and the world to share ideas, learn, give support and gain support that would help me and others solve really difficult problems.

In August I wrote an article titled Sharing Ideas. Who's Listening and reflected on the reality that many who I was hoping would find and read my blog articles or browse my web sites are not even on the Internet, or using it for this purpose.

I've been further dismayed today after reading this article, by Robert Scoble, comparing Twitter, Facebook and Medium. I've had a growing concern that the amount of time I spend on Twitter (now have over 2,000 followers) is not connecting me with people involved in Chicago tutor/mentor programs (volunteers, leaders, donors, etc.) because few are actively using Twitter to engage. At the same time, the filtering Facebook has done over the past half-decade has also reduced the ability of the grassroots organizer to build a conversation and engage a crowd. I just started posting articles from my blogs on Medium, to try to expand my reach, but so far don't see much evidence of viewers finding them. I've also been posting articles on LinkedIn, which have gained some traction, but this platform was not included in Scoble's review.

I continue to believe that a great idea, even if created by a grade school youth in a rural community, can change the world, if it is shared on the Internet, and if others find it. However, I'm finding that this is more and more a game of chance where those who come from wealth and power, or have been lucky enough to generate their own celebrity following, are monopolizing Internet attention, making it more and more difficult for those creative ideas to gain the sunlight they need to breath and grow.

I have always been aware of the difficulty of mobilizing support for the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategies without a significant advertising budget or celebrity/business support. That's why the two graphics shown above are important. The graphic on the left shows a diagram that any program could create to show the different work-experience background of the volunteers it recruits to connect and influence the youth the program serves. The programs I've led always had volunteers from many different business backgrounds. Some helped me build the internet strategies I use today.

The graphic on the right shows the potential that volunteers who participate in well-organized, on-going programs, will begin to reach out to their own peers and network on a regular basis to build additional support for their own program, and for similar programs in their own city.

View this animation and see how a volunteer who stays involved multiple years begins to advocate and draw others to support the organization.

Here is another animation that shows volunteer involvement in a well-organized tutor/mentor program is a form of service learning. As with the first animation, this shows how volunteers begin to recruit others as they tell the story of their on-going involvement.

If enough programs were encouraging volunteers to talk about the need for their type of program to be consistently supported, AND, duplicated in other neighborhoods, we'd have the many voices needed to draw attention to our ideas via social media and traditional communications outlets.

Of course if too few read this, and too few re-post it to their own networks, this idea will never get the sunlight it needs to grow and expand.

You can help change that if you share this article with your own friends, family and co-worker network.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Pope, Poverty & Tutor/Mentor Programs

While the big news this weekend was the Pope's visit to the US, the news in many, many, poverty neighborhoods around the country is that a wide range of organized, non-school, volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs are launching their first weeks with volunteers and youth meeting with each other. So far the month of September has been full of volunteer and student recruitment, screening, orientations and matching. I know with the programs that I led that our first week of tutoring was toward the end of September.

So while everyone is focused on the work that goes with stating a new school year, I'd like to focus on the planning that will enable programs to start a new school year in 12 months, or next September. This graphic is from a PDF focused on annual planning. I hope you'll take a look. It shows the data collection, evaluation, team-building, visioning, etc. that needs to be on-going throughout the year in order to move successfully from one year to the next.

Part of this planning is laying out a week-to-week, and month-to-month, schedule of activities. This (click here) is a sample, which I used with the tutoring programs I led in Chicago. The September through May calendar offers tutoring and mentoring programs a sequence of holidays and events upon which they can build writing and enrichment activities that foster learning and creativity and help build participation and relationships.

Does your program have a planning calendar like this? Is it on your web site so volunteers can plan ahead and students can look forward to upcoming events? Having a written plan and calendar can help programs with year-to-year planning. You don't need to start from scratch once you have this in writing. You just need to update it each year, perhaps adding, or deleting activities.

You don't have the manpower to do this? Many smaller programs are over-whealmed with the work of operating a program and finding the money to keep it running. I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 with the goal of helping existing programs get the ideas, attention and resources they need to constantly improve, while helping identify under-served neighborhoods where new programs are needed.

I've used print newsletters, and my blogs, to communicate a vision that intermediaries, business and philanthropists could support the growth of tutor/mentor programs in all high poverty neighborhoods of a city, not just a few high profile programs, in a few places. The graphic below shows page 2 and page 4 of the Fall 1999 Tutor/Mentor Report newsletter.

What does the Pope have to do with this? When I started the T/MC in 1993 I visited many people asking for support, with limited success. I knew they program-support strategy of the T/MC was needed in Chicago, so with the help of volunteers who helped start Cabrini Connections in late 1992, we launched the T/MC. This timeline shows 25 years of work done since then. This 2010 PDF compared the T/MC to mentoring partnerships in different cities. This page shows media stories.

Yet, it has never gained (or retained) the commitment of leaders in business, religion, media, politics or philanthropy, that is essential for a strategy like this to succeed in filling a city with high quality, tutoring, mentoring, learning and jobs programs in all high poverty neighborhoods.

I've read comments from many saying "lives have been changed" or "will change" as a result of the Pope's visit. I hope that one or two of those lives are inspired to dig through the articles on this blog and on my other web sites and then reach out to say "How can I help you? How can I help this grow over the next 25 years and in cities across the world?"

If a T/MC strategy were in place in Chicago volunteers from different companies would be offering time and talent to help programs with planning, and with communicating their vision, strategies and weekly operations to all of their stakeholders. I'm sure this is taking place in support of a few programs. I want to see a map showing a distribution of this type of support to programs in every high poverty neighborhood. That means someone needs to be trying to collect information that would show if this is happening, and where it is happening. That's one of the goals of a T/MC strategy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Chicago Poverty - Little Change in 30 years

If you are a subscriber to the Chicago Tribune you can read today's editorial, with a headline of "30 Years Later - So Much Endures". You can also read a commentary by Father Michael Pfleger, under the headline "Still Forgotten, Still Abandoned"

I'm a subscriber to the printed version and on-line, so I'm able to read these articles, and create an archive of stories like this. But for thousands who might want to join the Tribune's crusade, but who don't want to subscribe, this information is missing it's target. You can't read it. Too bad.

If you've followed my blog, you know I've offered this message for many years. On April 27, 2015 I included this image from a 1993 Chicago SunTimes story, which started out saying "Chicago neighborhoods that were poor 20 years ago are even more entrenched in poverty today because the city lacks a comprehensive battle plan".

In October 2013 I posted this article, offering suggestions for leaders who were reading the Tribune's Plan Chicago editorials.

Over the weekend I-Open, a network of change-thinkers based in Cleveland, Ohio, posted this article on their blog. It's intended to prompt leaders to determine if a Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy is needed in Ohio cities.

On my Facebook page someone asked "who should should be looking at this?" I'm hoping that "anyone who has an itch to get involved, and may have some serious money to bring to the table" will read this. I'm hoping people "who do not want to launch a new initiative and reinvent the wheel, but want to research what is already happening, and add reinforcements to those efforts as a starting point to innovating additional needed solutions, will read the article, along with people who are already advocates in this arena, like the writers at the Chicago Tribune, or Father Pfleger, or business leaders who might be planning to make multi-million dollar gifts to universities.

My focus is on collecting the information needed to build a network connecting silos, programs networks and focusing resources on all high poverty areas, using maps and similar tools. Such a resource is needed in every city, and needs to be constantly updated. Such a resource is needed for combating poverty, and for addressing other issues that related to the well-being and economic vitality of a community. It's a resource that can be used by anyone in the region to build, and sustain, greater involvement, of more people in supporting long-term solutions in more places.

I hope the Chicago Tribune makes it's A New Plan of Chicago articles freely available to any reader interested in the future of Chicago, not just subscribers. I hope leaders and philanthropists from many cities will look at this and other stories on my blog, and want to help bring this strategy and resource to their own city.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Working with urban youth? It takes more than a mentor.

I encourage you to view the two graphics below:

Race-Poverty Map (see actual)

Birth to Work Mentoring Map (see actual)

Each map shows a range of challenges facing youth and families living in high poverty big city neighborhoods. Most of the time, a volunteer by him/herself can't over come these challenges. Organized tutoring/mentoring programs can address some of these issues, but even most organized programs don't focus on many of these issues.

I support involvement of business and college volunteers in organized, long-term, tutor/mentor programs because their involvement creates a bridge that connects youth with ideas, aspirations and experiences beyond what he/she is surrounded with. Such programs are a form of "bridging social capital". In the programs I led some volunteers even helped kids get jobs. In other cases, volunteers took on leadership roles and recruited co-workers to volunteer or donate money.

I encourage you to view this animation, showing how a volunteer connecting with a youth in a tutor/mentor program often recruits others to support the same organization.

There are more than 200 volunteer-supported youth serving organizations in Chicago. Imagine what might happen if volunteers from every program were visiting web sites of Bernie Sanders, Robert Reich, Tavis Smiley and Hedrick Smith and learning about issues that affect people in poverty more than most. Would this lead to greater effort to support the programs where they volunteer, or to help similar programs grow in more places? Would it lead to greater civic engagement in creating public policy that helps create greater opportunity?

Neither Smith, Reich, Smiley or Sanders use concept maps like above to organize the issue topics on their web sites, but if they did, they might look like mine. The Race-Poverty map shows some (but not all) issues that affect both rich and poor, but have a greater negative impact on the poor because they don't have the assets and networks that help them overcome their challenges. That's what Robert Putnam was talking about in his book: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. That's what volunteers in well-organized, long-term programs can potentially offer.

The second map illustrates that this conversation needs to be on-going, for many years, as kids grow from one age level to another and then are seeking jobs and trying to start careers (hopefully without huge mounds of college debt!)

In one section of my web library, I point to challenges facing non-profits and social purpose organizations. As we engage more people in discussion of issues, we must find a way to involve more in discussing and innovating ways to provide flexible, on-going operating dollars to all of the neighborhoods where tutor/mentor programs are most needed.

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to try to help mentor-rich non-school programs grow in more places. I created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to keep the T/MC operating in Chicago and to help it grow in other cities. I'm not having much luck in finding financial support or partners, but I think these ideas are important and I'll continue to share them as long as I can.

Last night Valerie Leonard sent me a message saying "Take a look at this article. It made me think of you." It's titled "Becoming a Big Thinker". A lot of the article does remind me of my own efforts. A lot reminds me of my weaknesses and failures. I write these articles looking for others who share the same goal and who might help me overcome my weaknesses or share these ideas in more places.

If you're "thinking big" about these issues and want to connect, post a comment or send me a Tweet @tutormentorteam. You can also look me up on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Follow the Leader(s): Connecting the Dots.

I attended an event on Saturday at the James Jordan Boys & Girls Club, which was led by Tavis Smiley, a well known Black entertainer. This was one of many visits to different cities, where he's drawing attention to poverty and inequality, not just focusing on Black Americans, but on all who live in poverty in America (read more). Much of his focus is on inequality for Black Americans, which is a huge issue for Chicago and other major cities. His closing message was that we need to get this into the 2016 presidential campaign debates, and that will happen on January 17, 2016. He encouraged all of us to use #2016povertydebate often in our social media to build attention for the debates, and to draw viewers to his web sites.

Over the past year I've found a few other highly visible people focusing on inequality. Robert Putnam wrote a book titled Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis which he promotes with his Facebook page. Robert Reich has a website and Facebook page, and is releasing a new book this week, titled “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few,” Hedrick Smith is now on Facebook and has a web site titled Reclaim the American Dream.

Are these guys talking to each other? I can't find links on their web sites pointing to each other.

When I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I could have created a web site with just my ideas, based on 20 years of leading a tutor/mentor program in Chicago. Instead, I said "let's build a library full of ideas from anyone who is working in this arena". The map below shows the many different sections in my library. In this link, I've posted links to the men mentioned above so that anyone who visits my library, can find their ideas, too.

This link points to a map of the four sections of the graphic above. Open each, and you'll see sub sections. Each has links pointing to dozens of web sites.  (note: in January 2016 I created this blog article, with links to individual sections of my web library and to articles I refer to often.

This has two purposes.

One, it enlarges the pool of ideas anyone draws from to fight inequality in America, or the world.

Second, it is an attempt to connect all of these people and organizations to each other, in on-line, on-going, conversations that might actually generate enough support to change the public will and generate the resources needed to help close the opportunity and inequality gaps we face.

There were nearly 200 people in the audience Saturday. During the 30 minutes question and answer session a few had the opportunity to ask questions. Most used the time to offer their own self-promotion and/or opinion. Out of 200, perhaps 15 had one chance to talk. Even the panel members only had a few opportunities to offer their own ideas.

I'd love to go to Tavis Smiley's web site and find links to the web sites and blogs of each panel member, just so I could reach out and learn from them and try to connect where it fits. I do encourage you to visit his site and many others in my web library, then organize a discussion group at your faith group, school, business, etc,. and start a real discussion around the ideas you're going to find.

I created this graphic many years ago to show how any one of us can invite people we know to talk about ideas that help improve equality and opportunity in America. One of the panel members on Saturday, a young man named Jamal Cole, said "Every one of us has agency. There is something we can do."

I agree. Everyone can pass on information to others about ideas and web sites where we can learn, gather, share and innovate solutions to complex problems. Furthermore, we can build upon what we're learning, and create new ways of understanding.

This graphic was created a few years ago by an intern who first looked at the graphic I posted above, then created her own interpretation. This is in two parts. Below is the second. Student in schools, non-school programs, universities and/or faith groups, aided by adult mentors, could be creating their own interpretations of these ideas, in a collective effort aimed at building the public will needed to turn ideas into solutions that reach into every high poverty area of the country.

I hope that the people who I point to will apply some of these ideas on their own web sites. I'd like to become an important resource and part of their own conversations, not just someone who follows their lead.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering 9/11

I was on the Kennedy Expressway, driving to my office at the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters in Chicago, and listening to morning news radio, when the first report came in of an airplane crashing into a building in New York City. This was unbelievable. Hard to comprehend. As I continued my drive to work, the second airplane hit the second building. No one knew what this was, or what to expect.

When I got to my office I turned on my radio and computer to get more news and throughout the morning and the rest of the day I, and millions of others, watched this tragedy unfold.

In August this year I spent a weekend in New York City and visited the 9/11 Memorial The reflecting pools, surrounded by granite with the names of 9/11 victims, is a sobering reminder of that day of infamy.

Today. I looked back through this blog, which I started writing in 2005, to see how I'd remembered 9/11 in the years since 2005. Unsurprising to me, was that most of my articles written between the first and second weeks of September each year focused on school opening and tutor/mentor programs looking for volunteers and donors. None focused specifically on 9/11. Many focused on incidents of violence reported in Chicago papers, with commentary that showed that kids living in urban war zones live under levels of stress that negatively affects their performance in school.

Even as I listened and watched the 9/11 tragedy unfold in 2001, I was doing the work needed to help tutor/mentor programs in Chicago be available to kids in more of the city's high poverty neighborhoods, and to find the volunteers and dollars my own organization, like so many others, needed to continue its work for another year.

Like many, 9/11 has had a cascading flow of negative impact on myself, and the work I've been doing, in the years since 2001. Today as we remember how nearly 3,000 American's were killed, we're also remembering how thousands of American men and women have died or suffered life changing injuries and mental illness resulting in the wars that were launched after 9/11 to fight terrorism around the world. Millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan have also died as a result of American response to 9/11.

As we remember America's disaster, we're seeing another unfold, with nearly 4 million people who have lost homes, loved ones, and almost all personal belongings, struggle to find a home in Europe, America or somewhere out of the war zones of the Middle East.

Much of what's happening now can be traced back to America's attack on Iraq, which in turn, can be traced back to terrorist attacks on 9/11 and earlier..which can be traced back to ....

This is still an unfolding story with no certain ending in sight.

I think the best way to honor the past is to give huge amounts of time, talent, wealth and other resources to help shape a better future. That can be by supporting youth and volunteers in organized tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and other urban areas, or by focusing similar amounts of time, talent and wealth on other issues that challenge world peace, environmental security and quality of life. The ENOUGH graphic was created by an intern several years ago, to show a learning process that anyone can adopt, to become part of a solution to one or more of the complex problems we face.

Start each day by looking at a checklist of things you might do, and end the day by looking at the same list, and making a mental check showing what you did.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Poverty Among Whites Deserves Attention, Too

For the past 40 years my work has focused on engaging more people in fighting urban poverty, through the creation and support of well organized, mentor-rich, non school tutoring, mentoring and learning organizations. I've also been using maps to focus attention on places where poverty levels are highest. You can find many of these maps on the blog site. The one I show here is from a GatewaytoCollege site.

I've hosted Tutor/Mentor Conferences since 1994 and often participants would come from rural areas and comment that most of the ideas and links in my library focus on urban poverty. When I've had that conversation I've said, "Duplicate what I've been doing. Build a rural-focused Tutor/Mentor Connection."

Today I read an article in the Huffington Post, titled "Poverty Among Whites Demands Philanthropy's Attention". This report says, "According to recent census data, 42 percent of the poor -- some 18.9 million people -- are non-Hispanic whites."

The article below shows the four-part strategy I've developed since 1994, which focuses on urban poverty and ways people can connect, learn, innovate and work collectively so solve complex problems. This could be duplicated by anyone, or more than one organization, to focus on rural poverty, or other social/environmental issues.

Problem-Solving Strategy-Explanation and Overview by Daniel F. Bassill

I'd be happy to help groups understand this strategy and apply it to other sectors and other places than Chicago.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Who is in your social media network?

Hashtags, like #blacklivesmatter, are used in social media to connect people and conversations. I posted this article yesterday to show how NodeXL can be used to understand who is taking part in these discussions. I'd like to find volunteers, partners and/or sponsors who'd like to investigate this further and apply this tool as part of the network building I've been doing for many years.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Non-school youth orgs. A jobs-creating strategy?

It's Labor Day 2015 and working people throughout the US and the world are facing huge challenges to find full employment at living wage levels. I've been following several writers who are more eloquent than I on this topic. Robert Reich is one. Hedrick Smith is another.

I've been using visualizations to show my vision of comprehensive, volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning programs that help kids through school and expand the network of adults who also help kids into jobs and careers. I feel that this form of mentoring can create future workers.

However, how many of you have thought of how well-organized non-school programs can be a jobs-creation strategy for current workers? I created the presentation below a few years ago. The idea needs many leaders to become a reality.

Citywide Youth Supports Infrastructure - a Jobs Creation Strategy? by Daniel F. Bassill

This is one of many illustrated essays that I've created since the mid-1990s. I host a list on this page of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site. I've posted some of these on and on Slideshare so I can get a better count on how many are being viewed. The collection on has recorded over 30,000 reads. This means that it's possible that one or more of these has been seen by someone who could become a benefactor/investor or partner to help me upgrade the quality of these presentations or circulate them to a larger audience. It also means that some of these ideas may be already influencing actions in places around the world, but that I don't know this is happening.

I've been communicating ideas about building stronger, longer, tutor/mentor programs in high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities since the early 1990s. This link points to printed newsletters which were my form of message-dissemination in the 1990s. This page points to archives of email newsletters.

I'm off to a family picnic soon. I hope each reader enjoys his own celebration today and that we find ways to connect in the coming weeks and months.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Building Public Will - Essential

I scratched out the outline for this story a couple of days ago as I was riding the train and thinking about the challenges we face in solving complex problems like poverty. I hope you'll follow along with my thinking.

This graphic is part of a strategy graphic that shows the planning steps needed to solve complex problems or role out a new business strategy. See the full graphic and explanation here.

Every year, millions of dollars are spent by social benefit organizations trying to attract resource to support their work. The money is spent directly on fund raising, marketing and public education. It's spent indirectly on training programs and consultants.

Regardless of where an organization operates or what cause it focuses on, we're all competing for a slice of the same donor pie. That pie seems to be shrinking, either because of economic circumstances, or because of the rise in organizations competing for a share of the pie. Natural disasters that occur randomly around the world exert a huge pull on discretionary donor dollars every time they happen.

Thus, it's unlikely that great programs, doing similar work, but in different places, will be available in a large percent of the places where such programs are needed. Since 1993 I've piloted uses of maps to show where non-school tutor/mentor programs are most needed, then using the maps to influence donor support of programs in every place where the map shows programs are needed. In recent years there is a growing application of mapping and data visualization (see blog). However, I still don't see many who are trying to create maps of all service providers doing similar work in areas where that work is needed. Such maps would show a poor distribution of needed programs. Over time it would show change as new programs launch and some go out of business.

It's also unlikely that many organizations will attract on-going dollars to enable them to provide long-term support. In youth development, this is a serious issue. Kids take 12 years to move from first grade to first job. If they are living in high poverty areas, the support system needs to reach them early and stay with them through school and even into work. Such support systems are needed in many, many places.

What's the solution?

Building public will is step 7 on this map. Each step is important in solving complex problems. However, until more people from different places, with different talents, and different levels of influence get involved in brainstorming ways to build public support and keep it growing, I don't see many long-term solutions emerging.

I created this graphic (see article) to illustrate that while we want to help social benefit organizations and clients use the resources available to achieve their missions and/or overcome challenges they face, we also need to influence what people who don't live in poverty do to help them. This can include direct support such as funding, or public policy. It can also include indirect support, such as removing barriers and obstacles.

Some (but certainly not all) of the actions we need to be focusing on include:

a) constant education of the public so they have deeper understanding of the problems and places where strong, constantly improving, social benefit organizations are needed

b) innovation of on-going advertising-type campaigns to influence what resource providers do

c) build growing understanding of how current systems of philanthropic and government support are not working.

Just a small growth of the resource pie every year could make a huge impact on the availability of needed social benefit organizations (including tutoring/mentoring organizations) in more of the places where they are most needed.

Building public will requires champions and leaders from every sector, in every city of the world. I'm certain that this discussion is taking place. I'm just not sure where this is an on-line forum, a cMOOC, or part of a web library that points to a wide range of places where this is being discussed.

Use the comment section to provide links to open, on-line forums, Google groups, or cMOOCs that you're aware of, where "building public will" is the focus of the group. Or introduce yourself to me on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.