Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Drawing More Attention to Youth Serving Organizations - Since 1993

When I and six other volunteers created a new direct service tutor/mentor program serving teens in Cabrini-Green in 1993, we also created the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Our goal was to gather and share information that people could use to help mentor-rich programs (like our own) grow in every high poverty area of Chicago.

We launched a four-part strategy in January 1994 with a survey to locate other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and build a master data-base, which I still update on an on-going basis.  This was the heart of what has become a huge web library 24 years later.

Having led a volunteer based tutor/mentor program since 1975 I knew how much work program leaders had to do to attract and retain volunteers. Having started a non-profit in 1990, I was learning how hard it was to attract and retain donations and operating dollars.  However, from 1973 to 1990 I held retail advertising jobs in the corporate headquarters of Montgomery Ward. I knew what people on different functional teams were doing to help all 400 of our stores get the resources and talent each needed to be great (and profitable).

Thus, while step 1 of the 4-part strategy was focused on collecting and organizing information, step two was focused on generating more frequent media stories intended to draw attention to all of the tutor/mentor programs in our data base, and to motivate people from throughout the region to adopt programs and support them on an on-going basis with time, talent and dollars.

Between 1994 and 1996 we developed an event strategy, anchored by conferences in May and November, and  a citywide volunteer-recruitment campaign in August/September. These drew programs together and drew volunteers and donors to programs, while also motivating media to write more frequent stories about the work we were doing.  Visit this page and you can view print stories generated over 24 years.  Below is an example:

Chicago Tribune, May 1995
In 1998 we began putting our library and stories on web sites and as we struggled from 2000 through 2010 to find funds to support our kids program and the T/MC we relied more and more on the Internet, blogs and social media to attract attention to programs, and our web library, since we had far fewer dollars and greater expenses after losing Wards in 2000 as host for our activities and our major donor.  I've had even fewer resources since 2011 when I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to keep the T/MC operating after support the strategy was dropped by the original non-profit.

Chicago SunTimes, 1994
If you browse through articles on this blog, which I started in 2005, or the MappingforJustice blog, which was started in 2008, you'll see a consistent use of maps and visualizations and a consistent invitation for the T/MC strategy to be adopted and led by many leaders, in Chicago, and in other cities with similar problems.

You'll find many stories where I show that students as young as middle school and as advanced at PhD programs, could be duplicating my efforts to build a web library of local youth programs and create an on-going effort to draw needed resources to all of those programs.


I recognized in 1993, and continue to understand, in 2018, that unless we find ways to build and sustain public interest and involvement we'll not make much of a dent in the poverty, segregation, class and race-related issues that are the root causes of many of our problems.  I also recognized that without a map we would provide millions of dollars and still be missing most of the kids needing consistent, on-going help.

Since 2011 I've not not had the money to organize events and host the mapping, or have a team of people working with me on this. I've not drawn a salary. I've cut expenses to site hosting and use my time to continue to maintain the web library and list of programs and to draw people to my blogs, web library and list of  youth serving organizations.

Last week I posted a podcast interview created by Emily Drevets, who I met at the weekly ChiHackNight events.  At this link you can find a few other interviews.   And, if you look at the links that I point to on this concept map,  you'll find many others who have been helping tell the stories I'm telling.


I keep looking for leaders who are thinking and acting the same way I do. They could be in Chicago, or in any other city. You'd recognize them by reading blog articles they write, looking at their web sites, and seeing what they post on social media.  There are many who do part of what I do.  I can't find any who apply the four-part strategy.  If you think you know one, send me the link to their web site and send them the link to my blog.

For 24  years I've gotten out of bed in the morning and spent the day doing whatever I could to draw attention and resources to youth serving organizations in Chicago so more kids could have the support they need. I'm still doing that, just with a lot fewer resources.

You can help change that by creating your own stories, using my blog articles and visualizations as thought-starters.  If you're in a business, university, hospital or faith group, you can form a group and adopt the T/MC strategy. If you're really ambitious you can reach out and form a partnership with me, that will lead to your ownership of these ideas and commitments over the next few years.

Connect with me on one of these social media platforms. I look forward to hearing from you.

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