Tuesday, July 05, 2016

War on Poverty. A Role Anyone Can Take

The first half of 2016 is behind us and the rest of the year, and our lives, is in front of us. What will we do with that time to help America and the world overcome the complex challenges we face?

In this article I'm going to describe a role anyone, from middle school student to senior citizen, can take on a daily basis. I hope you'll read it and share with your network.

First, my work focuses on helping volunteers from different business and life backgrounds connect with economically disadvantaged young people, in well-organized, volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning programs. While these can operate at schools, I point to the non-school hours as  a time frame where volunteers might make longer commitments.

This article is part of a 4-part strategy, described here. This can be applied to any cause, not just youth tutoring/mentoring.

The graphic below illustrates the need for year-round planning, and the long-term work required to help a youth grow from first grade, to first job.

In my role as a leader of a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program, from 1975-2011, I saw myself as an intermediary. I recruited youth and volunteers, provided training and learning materials, and helped them stay connected for one or more years. Some stated connected for many years. I'm still connected to the boy I started tutoring in 1973, when he was in 4th grade.

In my role as leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which I formed in 1993, and continue to lead via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, I'm still a facilitator, but trying to help volunteers and donors connect with more 200 Chicago area youth serving organizations (see list and map).

At the same time I'm trying to motivate leaders, volunteers and donors to connect with each other, share ideas, borrow best practices, and constantly improve their impact on youth and volunteers.  This graphic illustrates that facilitation role and motivation to influence both sides of the solution.

I held retail advertising roles with the Montgomery Ward company from 1973-1990 and understood the power of advertising to educate and attract customers to the 400 different stores we operated in 40 states.  While I was developing my skills as a program leader I saw how inconsistent media, business or government was in maintaining consistent attention and a flow of talent and operating dollars to the different tutor/mentor programs operating in Chicago.

Thus, when I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection, a key part of the strategy was to increase the number of stories that drew attention to tutoring/mentoring programs throughout the region.  This 1994 Chicago Tribune article shows a commitment that I've sustained for over 20 years.

This is one of many news articles generated from the T/MC strategy.  They all aim to draw people to information they can use to support their own learning about where and why volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are needed, and actions they and groups they are part of can take to support the growth of programs in different parts of the city, or throughout the city.

This graphic illustrates the goal of forming reading circles/study groups in business, universities, faith groups, schools, etc.  It includes maps, to emphasize the need to focus attention on all high poverty neighborhoods of the city and suburbs, not just a few.

From 1993 to 2000 T/MC built a year-round calendar of events, that could be supported by anyone, in an effort to draw on-going resources to existing youth serving organizations.  

If such a strategy enlists enough leaders, both high profile, and low profile, and continues for multiple years, more people will become involved, drawing and increasing flow of operating resources into every high poverty neighborhood....as long as someone is maintaining a master-list of organizations operating in the region.

This year-round strategy is described in this pdf and in many others. Leadership strategies are shown here.  Since 2011 I've not had resources or partners to organize these events, and never had much support, even in the 1990s.  However, they remain a template, and strategy that needs to be adopted in Chicago and in other cities.

We're just entering July.
 Over the next six weeks if you share this article and others in this blog and from the Tutor/Mentor Institute web site, you have time to develop a communications strategy from your church, business, political office, sports team, or recording company, that talks about how youth in high poverty neighborhoods need more non-school tutoring, mentoring and learning programs to help them stay focused on school and on college and careers.  You can point to sections of my Chicago youth programs list, or create your own list.

I've been participating in an on-line "Designing Community Engaged Research" MOOC for the past few weeks. Participants are encouraged to write blog articles, which are aggregated here.  They are also encouraged to participate in Twitter chats and interactions using #curiouscolab hashtag, which is mapped here.

A version of this could be in place in Chicago by September, or by November, engaging people from the entire region in conversation about what tutor/mentor programs are available and what they do and where they are most needed, or where more are needed. They could be talking about innovative ways businesses are supporting programs with employee time, talent and dollars or ways faith groups are engaging their congregations in study groups.

By next July we could begin to see a citywide strategy moving into its second year, if just a few people read and apply these ideas over the next six weeks.

Read more about ways you can make a difference:

* Unleash your personal power - click here.
* Rest of the Story strategy - click here
* Community Information Collection - click here

If you'd like to sponsor such a web site and forum, or support this strategy in any other way, let's connect. Here's a page showing some of my social media locations.

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