Friday, November 20, 2020

Thinking local. Fearing global.

Every day my daily newspapers and social media call attention to challenges to our democracy, to our health, and to the planet's health. Our next president has a huge set of challenges.  At the left is a cMap where I point to many of those.

Thinking local. Fearing global.
It's in the context of thinking of  these challenges that I re-examine my own long term efforts to help well-organized, volunteer-based, non-school tutor and/or mentor programs grow in high poverty areas of Chicago, where adults connect with youth when they are as young as elementary school, then stay connected through high school, and into adult lives.

Birth to Work goal
That's what the graphic at the right visualizes.

The kids in the upper left were in 7th and 8th grade when this photo was taken  in the mid 1990s. I'm pictured at the right in late 2000s photo when one of these kids came back to talk at the annual year end dinner. It's 2018. We're still connected on Facebook. That's what I mean by "long-term".

Below is a page from the February-March 2000 issue of the printed newsletter that I was able to mail to about 10,000 people three to four times a  year from 1994-2002.  After 2000 email newsletters, blogs, social media and web sites took the place of printed newsletters as I ran out of money to continue these.

Feb-March 2000 T/MC Report 

This article includes a map of Chicago, showing high poverty areas where organized tutor/mentor programs are most needed, as a way to expand the social capital, or network of people and experiences, for kids who have a limited based of work and career models, and people opening doors to opportunity, in their lives.

Connect your network to information
At the left is a graphic that communicates the same idea. On both graphics the large circle represents the information library that I have been building since I started leading a single tutor/mentor program in Chicago in 1975.

The circle also represents a meeting place, or community of people, who gather on a regular basis, like people in faith groups do, and people in classrooms do, to learn from a central library of information and ideas, and to innovate ways they could help tutor/mentor programs grow in different parts of the city and suburbs.

Here's another version of the same graphic, created by an intern from South Korea who worked with me in 2011.  I show more of these on this Pinterest page.  Anyone can do this. Just look at one of my blog articles, concept maps and/or other visualizations then create and share your own version. 

You can see more visualizations done by interns on this page

Anyone can take this role

I took this network-building and information collection to another level when starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. In my 1973-1990 retail advertising career at Montgomery Ward's corporate headquarters in Chicago we supported 400 stores in 40 US states, through the work of various central office teams.  They could do that because they knew where existing stores were located, and where there were potential customers for new stores.

By building a library of information, and a directory of existing tutor/mentor programs, my goal was that people in these learning and planning groups would begin to think of ways they could help all youth tutor/mentor programs within a geographic area get the ideas, dollars, talent, technology and other things each program needs to be great at what they do.

Instead of every program constantly reaching into a small pool of resources for what they need to operate, my vision has that others who care about what these programs were trying to do, would use their own time and talent to help mobilize these resources and push them to programs in every part of the city...based on the list of programs I was hosting (and still do),

Below is another graphic created by an intern to communicate this idea.

My success over the past 27 years has been hindered by disasters like Montgomery Ward, our main sponsor, going out of business in 2000, and by the 9/11 terror attack, the following wars, natural disasters, then the financial melt-down of 2008.  The Covid19 pandemic is just the latest crisis. 

Mayor Daley at 1997 T/MC Conference
However, I also was never able to get consistent, in-depth, support from Mayor Daley, major foundations, or other civic leaders. I had one business person visit my office in the 1990s and after I walked him through the strategy he said "I love what you're doing, but I'll never support you....because I want to start my own thing."

Since 2011 I've not had an organizational structure to help me continue the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC with the hope that I could generate revenue through consulting or by finding partners to invest in this strategy. That has not happened.  As I write this I'm wondering where the money will come from to keep my bills paid for the rest of this year...and into 2021.

Yet the need for non-school youth serving organizations reaching k-12 youth in high poverty areas is as great today as it was in 1993.

Enough is Enough - link
That brings me back to the start of this article. Kids entering school today will take 12 years to finish high school and another four to eight years to be starting stable jobs and careers.

That's 20 years.

What will the world look like in 20 years? Will people of color, people of different faiths or different gender identities, or who are fleeing conflict in their own countries, be seeking a refuge from the terror in America by then?

Or will we have gone through a third World War, fueled by nationalist leaders in different countries? Will there have been civil wars within the US and other countries, pitting extremist ideologies against each other?

Knowledge base needed - link

Local-Global Strategy.
While my local focus has been to help youth tutor/mentor programs grow in Chicago neighborhoods, the process I've piloted is knowledge-based problem solving. If someone aggregates information about a problem others can use that information to innovate solutions.

With this in mind, a few years ago I began to expand the knowledge base I host, pointing to articles about social justice, inequality, poverty, etc. I also point to articles about the climate crisis and about some of the political issues that I feel need to be better understood by more people.

To help people navigate the information I've been collecting, I created this article, which has a list of links to various sections of my web library.

Using this, anyone can start to do their own learning, and can begin to form a circle of friends, family, co-workers and faith group, who dig deeper into this information and try to create a different future than the one we seem to speeding into.

Is it enough? I feel that I'm pushing a huge rock up a steep mountain, with too little help, and too many other issues competing for attention. With the growth of right wing governments I fear the mountain itself will collapse, and what we do to build systems of support for disadvantaged youth will have no benefit.

I pointed to this graphic in a recent Facebook article and received this comment: "You deserve some hurrahs and applause for your good works💕! It does feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill when you’re working on it. And it’s hard to get sustained community support for these efforts "

Will this be the only thing that matters? Even if the entire world is in flames, our will to survive will continue to burn brightly, and our need to provide systems of support for our kids, and each other, will still be with us.

If you can help me keep this information resource available, visit my FundMe page

While I seek help, I also seek partners or a way to make the resources and ideas I've aggregated since 1993 a part of the work others are doing.  Read about the "do-over" ideas I've shared, and ways universities might  adopt the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC as one of its focus areas.

This has been a long article. Thank you for reading.  I look forward to connecting with you on Twitter @tutormentorteam or one of these other social media platforms

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