Thursday, August 08, 2019

New Perspective on "Can't Drain the Swamp"

Can't drain swamp?
A few years ago I wrote this article talking about "I can't drain the swamp because I'm up to my neck in alligators".  I was talking about how leaders of other tutor/mentor programs were not able to join me in trying to solve problems we all face, such as consistent funding, when we were struggling to solve each of those problems in our own programs every day.

Today I saw a graphic on Facebook that made me think of this.  I've posted that graphic below, with some additions that expand on the original.

Climate change and nuclear war represent threats and challenges above all others.

In the original graphic issues like healthcare, immigration, guns, justice, etc. were shown as concerns of people living in different places. While these are important, they are overwhelmed by the looming threat of climate change disasters.   In the blue call-outs I've added some other issues, and at the top right I've inserted a graphic showing the threat of nuclear war, or nuclear terrorism.

What are all the things
that we need to do?
For the past 25 years I've spent time almost every day calling attention to the challenges kids living in high poverty face and the roles that organized volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs can play in helping them overcome those challenges as they move through school and into adult lives.

I point to a list of Chicago programs where people can volunteer time, talent and dollars and to a web library where anyone can learn more about the issues and ways to get involved.

Chicago Sun Times 1996
I have done this while there has been a constant flow of stories like the one at the left, showing the agony of violence in Chicago, and asking "When will this end?"  The story at the right was from the 1990s, so we still have not found an answer to that question.

I don't believe any single, short-term, action of a tutor/mentor program can make street violence stop, or make poverty suddenly disappear.  However, I do believe that the continuous on-going support of volunteers and staff in well organized programs can help kids who are part of those programs move more safely through school and into lives beyond the immediate grasps of violence that primarily affects high poverty neighborhoods.

12-20 years of support

I've used graphics like the one at the right to emphasize the need for providing long-term, birth-to-work support to kids in every high poverty neighborhood.  While this is not easy it's work that needs to be done.

However, it's not the only work that needs to be done.

Below are two concept maps from my collection showing this same graphic, but including also showing the many different issues kids and families living in high poverty areas face every day. Some of these are the same as those shown in the Facebook graphic at the top of this article.

Many are problems people who don't live in poverty also are facing. 

Here's one version

Reasons to engage - local global - click here

Here's another version

Open map at this link  View in this article

Each of these issues are important and need passionate people focusing on them every day. Yet we need to budget our time to also focus on the bigger threats of climate change and nuclear war/terrorism which by themselves can cause extinction of the human race and make all of the other issues irrelevant.

George C. Marshall

What I've been describing is a wicked, complex problem.  We need leaders who can visualize the entire problem and mobilize people and resources to work on the individual pieces, in step with everyone else, and for many years.

One of my heroes is George C. Marshall, who led US forces in World War II.  Without the power of today's computers he created a multi-year strategy that fought opponents in almost every part of the world.

Today I see some of this comprehensive thinking among those leading the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals

Follow the links in this article and you'll see some ways they are drawing attention to all of the work that needs to be done to achieve the SDG goals.

follow links - cmap
So how do you get involved?

I've created a "civic engagement" cmap with links to parts of my web library with information readers can use to dig deeper into all of these issues.  In addition, at the top of the map I have links to web sites aggregating information about 2020 Presidential candidates.  I encourage you to look through their web sites to see if you can find any who think like George C Marshall and who visualize their thinking in ways the rest of us can understand.

Then, pick a cause, and get more informed and personally involved.

8-11-2020 update - since I wrote this post the world has become an even more dangerous place. We now face a world wide pandemic, with a much greater level of illness in the United States. We are reeling from an epidemic of police violence.  The climate crisis continues to grow. We also face a growing threat of how "big data" in the wrong hands can further concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few.   I've updated my graphic to reflect this. 

If you find sites where people are doing a good job of visualizing the problems we face along with solution paths, please share the links in the comment section or on Twitter where you can find me @tutormentorteam

I've been ending my articles with a request for financial support of Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. Click here if you'd like to help.

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