Saturday, April 04, 2020

Lessons from the Field - Staying Connected

Below is a post from LinkedIn showing how one Chicago tutor/mentor program, Friends of the Children-Chicago,  offers a unique model of providing first grade through high school support for inner city youth, and how they are continuing that support during #COVID19.

I point to nearly 200 Chicago area youth tutor and/or mentor programs in this section of my web library.  Too few of them share their strategies and theory of change on their web site, or via a blog.  Too few are getting researched by media, thus stories like this are infrequent.

Friends of the Children-Chicago is part of a national organization that started in Oregon more than 20 years ago. It has a long history of success.  Technically, it's not a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program, since it's mentors are paid, full-time staff members who are supported by the program's headquarters staff in each city. 

In programs where volunteers are the mentors and tutors, the depth of contact maintained with youth and families is far less, yet in many programs maintaining two or more hours of contact a week is normal.  Some keep youth and volunteers involved for many years.  In these programs it's usually a small paid staff who coordinate the work of volunteers and work with youth and families to help them overcome challenges.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) was created in 1993 to build a base of information about existing volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, to share this information with the public, and to help attract volunteers, donors, and ideas to each program. Since 2011 the T/MC has been operated by the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, which has the same goals, but a different tax structure.

While we published a printed directory from 1994 to 2002 we launched this on-line directory in 2004. It shows how we attempted to categorize programs by a) type of program; b) age group served; c) time of day service was provided; and d) location (zip code or community area).

View this page at this link
The image above shows the search page of the Program Locator, which you can find at this link.

The T/MC never was well funded, or consistently funded, thus just collecting and updating this information each year for the past 25 years has been difficult. Updating the technology has been even more difficult.  The Program Locator has not been  updated since 2013.

Not having funds meant that many questions that dug deeper to learn what programs were doing, and what impact they were having, ways always beyond our capacity.  At the same time, we never were able to recruit a university or other partner to do needed research, other than in 1997 when the Associated Colleges of Illinois and Human Capital Research Corporation used our list of programs in a comprehensive survey.

During COVID19 that need is even greater.  I really don't know with any degree of accuracy, what the different organizations are doing to stay connected to youth and families during this crisis, nor how their funding has been affected. How many will soon need to lay off staff?  Who has had funding cut?  What programs will close and never re-open their doors?  What will it take for all programs to re-open, whenever that happens? 

It's too early to ask some of those questions.   But it's not too early to be looking for people with market-research skills, and technology skills, who might help plan for the work that needs to be done.

Program Locator - 2008
While the Program Locator has not been  updated, and some features do not work properly, it still is a template and model of the type of platform that is needed in every city. It was designed to provide decision support for community, business and philanthropic leaders while also helping parents, volunteers, educators, etc. find programs located in different parts of the Chicago region. 

Browse articles in this section to learn more about nt vision for using maps.

While the original Program Locator is not up-to-date, I continue to maintain an updated list of programs, plotted on a map, which you can find at this site.

If you'd like to know more or discuss ways to help collect and share information, connect with me on one of these social media sites.

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