Tuesday, January 02, 2018

So Many Problems. Building Networks for Solutions

It's a new year, with new hope and opportunities. Yet, the same problems that we faced last year, and in previous years, are still with us.

I created this graphic several years ago to illustrate the many different problems that people face, and the role of people like myself who try to draw people from different sectors into learning, networking, innovation and actions that try to solve one or more of these problems.

For more than 20 years the problem I've been trying to solve is filling high poverty neighborhoods with non-school, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs that help kids move through school and into adult lives.

I've created dozens of visualizations to help communicate this idea, which you can find in this blog and my web site.  Or do a Google search for "tutor mentor" and add one more word, like youth, or strategy, or mapping. My web sites are often on the first page of the search (at least for me) and if you look at the images feature, you'll see many of my visualizations. With each you can link to a story where that graphic was used.

I've created a huge knowledge base that I keep adding to, which includes a list of non-school tutor and mentor programs operating in the Chicago region.  I show these on maps with the goal of helping people find programs to offer help or to get kids involved, and to show where more programs are needed.

The big problem is attracting people to this information and helping them use it in their own efforts to solve the same problems I focus on, or on other problems which they care about.

That would be a problem if I were a wealthy person, or a celebrity.  I'm not. I'm just a person with a vision and a message and a library of other people's research and ideas.

I've never had much money to do this. I and six other volunteers started the Cabrini Connections site-based tutor/mentor program in 1993 and spent that entire year researching and planning the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which we launched in January 1994. We had no money, nor deep pocketed friends, so we had to raise the money to pay salaries, rent, insurance and other expenses at the same time as we did the work. We started from zero every year and never knew for sure where the money was coming from. Since 2011 I've led the Tutor/Mentor Connection via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, and I've had even less money, so have kept this work going by drawing down my own savings. That's a recipe for disaster.

What motivates me is the daily reminders of how much kids living in high poverty areas need an expanded network of support and the understanding that "almost anyone can help".

That means that today, or on any other day, someone who might help me do this work is looking for information and will find my web sites. That someone could be a Bill Gates type, or a Jeff Bezos, or someone I've never heard of. They could take time to learn what I've been trying to do, and reach out to say "I will help you with my time, talent, and my money."

While I need help to continue to do the work I do to connect people to information in my web library and to organizations in Chicago and other cities who work directly with youth, the graphic below illustrates how such help is needed in thousands of places.

I've been writing this blog since 2005, so there are a lot of stories. I invite you to browse through these over the coming year and if what I do is important to you, reach out and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIN, and help me draw attention to the resources in my web library and the youth serving organizations already operating in Chicago and other cities.

Help me draw people into conversations that start with a map, and a "how do we fill all of these areas with needed programs?" question.  Or help me find places where others already are leading that conversation and where I'd be welcome.....even as a paid consultant!

If you want to invest, or take a role and carry this forward into the future, let's connect. Or, visit this page and send me a contribution to help me keep doing this.

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