These prompted me to create the graphic shown below, which I'll explain in the following paragraphs.
Since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993 my goal has been to help mentor-rich, non-school tutoring and learning centers be available in a growing number of high poverty neighborhoods. Rather than start new programs, the strategy has been to identify existing organizations who already do some form of tutoring and/or mentoring and help them get a consistent flow of ideas, talent, operating dollars and other resources needed to build constantly improving programs.
Since no program starts out as "the best" the flow of resources needs to help programs launch, then grow, then build and sustain multiple year connections with youth.
It takes a lot of different talents and skills to make this happen. I use the "it takes a village" graphic to visualize this. In addition, I've created some concept maps that show the range of talent and community networks who need to be involved in supporting each program operating in each neighborhood.
The concept map below visualizes a process that should be taking place in hundreds of locations, in the Chicago region, and in other cities, to help programs grow in places where they are most needed, and to help them become great at what they do to transform the lives of kids, families, volunteers and anyone who is involved.
|See map at http://tinyurl.com/TMI-PlanningCycle-cmap|
|Do a Google search for "tutor mentor" then look at the images. You'll find many graphics like this.|
|Chicago SunTimes, Oct. 1992|
The media were once again putting the "it's everyone's responsibility" message on the front page and in editorial stories. However, there was no master database of Chicago tutor/mentor programs so no leader could offer a strategy to fill neighborhoods with great programs.
So we decided to also create the Tutor/Mentor Connection to fill the void.
In the years since then we have created a huge library of information, including a list of Chicago area tutoring and/or mentoring programs, that anyone can draw from to understand where kids need extra help, who is already trying to offer that help, and what volunteers, donors and businesses could do to help programs grow.
Between 1994 and 2015 I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences to bring people together to share ideas for starting or building effective programs. I also developed a public awareness strategy to try to draw more attention to the web library and the list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs that I had been developing.
However, I was only reaching a few of the people who needed to be reached, and the system was not effective in connecting people (the village) from different programs with others within a single program, or with volunteers, donors, leaders, parents and students from other programs in Chicago......or with similar people from other cities who were doing the same work.
In the early 2000s I connected with a group of ESL educators (Webheads) who were located in different countries, and who were meeting weekly via the Internet, to share ideas and build relationships.
Over the past few years I've connected with another network of educators via Connected Learning MOOC formats, where people from many different places are sharing ideas and building relationships with each other.
I point to these in various blog articles because they are examples of how people can connect and learn from each other in virtual communities.
Most of my ideas for leading a single tutor/mentor program, or for helping build a city of great programs, have come from others who I've met over the past 40 years. One entire section of the Tutor/Mentor web library is focused on "innovation, process improvement, mapping, knowledge management, etc" which are ideas anyone can use to build strong non-profits, or build strong businesses.
Look at the graphic at the top of the page once more.
The lines on this graphic illustrate how programs within a city need to be connecting with each other using on-line libraries, communities, blogs, annotation, Twitter, Facebook and other learning tools to constantly innovate ways to increase their impact on the lives of program participants. The small map in the lower left corner illustrates that people in big cities all over the country need to be talking to each other in the same way.
When you look at web sites of youth serving organizations in the future, hopefully you'll see evidence that shows a program is bringing together a "village" of support for it's participants, and that the community surrounding each program is proactive in offering the time, talent and dollars each program needs to be great at what it does.
At some point in the future you should find maps of Chicago and other cities, with icons on the map showing places where "the village" or "networks of people" are working to help kids grow up, or help communities solve complex problems. The Tutor/Mentor Program Locator interactive map can serve as a model for others to develop such maps.
The November election shows that we need to find ways to bring people from rural communities and Indian reservations into these same discussions.
We don't need government permission or support or funding to do this. We just need a commitment at the local level to build mentor-rich programs (villages) that build a culture of learning into their fundamental operating principles and then nurture this on an on-going basis.
We don't need to solve the world's problems every day. Just make a contribution to help solve a local problem.
Take a step every day and these add up to mountains of impact over a lifetime.