Friday, August 19, 2022

Visual Thinking. Are You Asking?

Below are some images that I've created over the past decade to focus attention on the planning needed to make mentor-rich youth supports available to K-16 youth in every high poverty area of Chicago and other places.  Click on each image to enlarge and read what is shown.  

Three elements in this graphic. The "mentoring kids to careers" shows need for 12 years of continuous support. The "challenges" map in the middle shows barriers that need to be removed.  The map of Chicago emphasizes the need to use maps to show where kids need extra help, the availability of existing programs, and the flow of resources, etc.


This further emphasizes "mentoring kids to careers" is a long-term goal. It's not enough to have a great program serving kids at one grade level, or in one neighborhood. 



Think through the entire process.  Stories about violence or poverty lead us to want to connect kids with tutors and/or mentors. However, to reach kids in high poverty areas of big cities for many years we need organized programs.  Many are needed. Maps can show this. So  how do we generate the flow of resources to build and sustain great programs in more places? 


Tipping points. Are you thinking of how many talented, dedicated, informed people are needed to staff the many tutor/mentor programs needed in big cities like Chicago. Or in rural areas and reservations? Are you also thinking of ways to educate people in business, philanthropy and/or politics so they become more proactive in providing the operating resources each program needs?   This needs to be a degree program at one or more universities.  


Visualize the planning process.  At the right is the goal of helping kids in all high poverty areas get the support they need to move from birth-to-work. At the left is a reminder that we need to influence leaders and build public will to provide operating resources to support needed programs for many years.


YOU can make a difference.  Be the YOU in this graphic. As you look at my articles and visuals find ways to share these with your family, co-workers, friends and wider network. 


These images have been used in past blog articles along with hundreds of others.  You can find some collections of images on my Pinterest page.   

Maybe the easiest way to find specific images is to do a search on Google using "tutor/mentor" plus any word on this Tag cloud.

Then look at the images page.  Many will be ones that I have created ( or interns working with me have created) and used in blog articles or PPT essays.  

Below is a presentation showing some of the graphics I've created. 


As you look at my visuals I encourage you to copy those you like into Power Point, then share them with others. Or create your own versions. Share them with me and others on one of these social media platforms. 

If you know of other websites and/or blogs where people are sharing visualizations like I do, especially focused on helping kids in poverty areas, please share them with me.  Ideally there will be at least one person or group in every city doing exactly what I've been doing.

Want to help?  Visit my "fund T/MI" page and send a small contribution.  

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Past week on Twitter

While I use LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram I feel that I find the best ideas and engage the most on Twitter.  Below are some threads from the past week.

I've pinned this Tweet to my profile so it is viewed often (I hope). 

Here's another where I emphasize the planning process.
In this Tweet I focus on the funding every tutor/mentor programs needs. People share information with me. I reTweet so others see it.   Here's another. I wish I had Twitter in the 1990s when I started creating these visualizations. I don't just focus on posts I've made. This is from an education who I met via the #clmooc network. A few people post long threads (a series of Tweets) on important topics.  I urge you to follow these people and subscribe to their accounts if you can.  Here's another example of a Tread on Twitter.  This is another long thread that covers a very important topic. There's much, much more for you to find on Twitter. Join me and follow Tweets and reTweets I post from @tutormentorteam.

Thank you for reading today.  

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Mapping Social Capital

Today I watched a panel of social capital researchers, featuring Robert D. Putnam, Richard Reeves, Raj Petty and others who were sharing their thoughts on new research exploring the relationship between social capital & economic mobility.   Here's a Tweet with a clip from the discussion.


I'll post the link to the full video as soon as it's available. If you visit #SocialCapital on Twitter, and look at Tweets posted today, you'll understand more about what was discussed than what I am sharing in this article. 

During the presentation this Social Capital Atlas was described.  I've posted a few screenshots below.

This dashboard shows information about economic connectedness, cohesiveness and civic engagement for every county, every zip code, every high school and every college in the nation.  Just choose the category you want to view from the menu bar at the top left.


It's an interactive platform, so you can zoom into areas as small as a zip code and get data related to that specific zip code.


When you choose high schools, or colleges, you get a  map view like below, which shows high school in Chicago.  The different colors represent high or low levels of connectedness, cohesiveness or civic engagement. Click on an icon to get information for a specific school.  


This information is not new to me.  I've followed Robert D. Putnam since the early 2000s and wrote this article in 2015 and this article on this blog in 2018.  And, in 2019 I pointed to Raj Chetty in this article.
 
In 2018 I posted this article on the MappingforJustice blog, pointing to an Opportunity Atlas website, which is also a product of Opportunity Insights. However, the Social Capital Atlas is brand new. 

My goal is that people use these websites to create stories for blogs, Tweets, Instagram, videos, etc. that draw more attention to the inequalities in America, and more motivation to provide the time, talent and dollars to close these gaps, in EVERY zip code. 

Here's an article where I demonstrate using multiple platforms in one story. 

Here's an article where I combine maps from two platforms. One is based on my own database of Chicago youth tutor and/or mentor programs. 

Last week I posted this article showing my 30 years of using maps to try to draw attention and resources to high poverty areas of Chicago, to help youth tutor/mentor programs grow and have a greater impact on the lives of young people. 

Here's an article from last April, titled "Maps, Time, Social Capital" which uses the graphic shown below.


Click the social capital tag at the left and scroll through the articles. Visit this section of the Tutor/Mentor library to find more articles about social capital. Use this concept map to locate other data platforms that you can use in  your stories. 

Share these articles and help mobilizer more people who will work to close the opportunity and racial gaps that divide Americans from each other. Learn to use maps in stories, the way I've demonstrated, as part of a call-to-action that draws resources directly to the zip codes and community areas where help is most needed.

Thanks for reading. Please use these resources and connect with me on one of these platforms

Finally, please consider a small contribution to help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and my ability to keep aggregating information and sharing these ideas. 

8-17-2022 update - here's a blog article from Brookings.edu that summarizes the information in the webinar. It's titled: "Seven Key Takeaways from Chetty's New Research on Friendship and Economic Mobility".  click here to read. 


 

Friday, July 29, 2022

30 Year History of Mapping

On this blog and the MappingforJustice blog you will see numerous articles showing the use of maps.  In some articles, like this, I've tried to show what our vision was and how far we got in achieving that vision. 

About a  month ago I decided to try to create a concept map to visualize this journey. It's shown below. You can view it at this link


Since this map has so much information I'm using this article to walk you through it, starting from the top row, far left, and moving to the far right, then, starting again on the second row, far left. Follow the links  under each node to learn more.  Let's go!

I became a volunteer tutor in 1973 while starting a retail advertising career at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago. I began leading the volunteer program in 1975.  Much of what I learned over the next 17 years led to forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in late 1992 as we were forming a new teen program that we called Cabrini Connections.  We spent all of 1993 planning the T/MC 10-point strategy, then launched in January 1994, with our first Tutor/Mentor Programs Survey.

120 programs responded to the first survey and more than half said they wanted more contact with peers. More than 70% said they'd come to a conference if it were free, or low cost.  So we organized the first Tutor/Mentor Conference in May 1994 and at the same time, published our list of programs in a printed Directory.  


Response was so positive that we held a second conference and published an updated Directory in November 1994. We held conferences every six months after that, until May 2015. We published an annual printed directory until 2003.

Since we had a list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs we were not only able to organize conferences, we were also able to organize an annual August/September Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign. This grew every year through 2003 when we began to focus primarily on the Internet as a way to recruit volunteers for programs throughout the region.


We began to try to build a website around 1997, hosted by a Chicago area company.  Then in 1998 one of our Cabrini Connections volunteers built the first tutormentorconnection.org website (now an archive), using the hub/spoke graphic on the home page to show information available on the site and our vision for bringing people from different sectors together. 

The tutormentorexchange.net site was built in 1999 by Steve Roussos, a PhD student from the University of Kansas. This was built as an emergency replacement to host our list of tutor/mentor programs when the T/MC site suddenly went off line, right before the annual recruitment campaign. 

I started putting PDF strategy essays on this site around 2000 and it's now the primary site of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. 

We continued to do the annual program survey each year and update our database of programs, but this was very time consuming. In 2004 an intern from India created an on-line platform that programs could use to update their own information and that made it easier for us to also keep information updated.

The public facing version of the 2004 program locator was a searchable directory, which is described in this PDF.   Then, in 2008 a team from India created a new version of the Program Locator, which is shown at the left.

The new version was revolutionary. 

In our 2004 Program Locator, you could find available programs by searching a zip code, and by entering conditions, such as type of program and age group served. This worked like Google, meaning if you knew something about what you were looking for, you could find it.

The 2008 version started with the question of "where are programs most needed?" then "what programs are available in those places?"  It started with a map of the entire Chicago region.  Thus, it was a better tool for leaders to use to assure that well-organized programs were available in all high poverty areas, not just a few. Leaders could look at the whole city, or just a few neighborhoods. 

Unfortunately, just as we were building the interactive platform in 2008 the US and world economy began to enter a recession that lasted for the next 3 years. This affected many of our donors and we lost funding.  Ultimately this led the board of Directors to discontinue the Tutor/Mentor Connection part of the organization.  I was asked to "retire" at this time, but was given full ownership of the T/MC. I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to try to keep the T/MC available to Chicago and help it expand to other cities.  

I have not been successful at building a new organization or a new funding base so over the past 10 years the mapping websites have ceased to work and we're no longer hosting a conference. I do still maintain the web library and list of programs, which are now plotted on a platform hosted by map-a-list.com.  And I use this blog, an email newsletter and active networking on social media to encourage the networking and idea sharing that were features of the Tutor/Mentor Conferences.  I reach far more people than ever before. 

So, what were we trying to accomplish with the maps?


From 1993 on our goal was to make maps that leaders would use to build on-going support for youth tutor/mentor programs in different high poverty areas of Chicago.  While we received donated GIS software from ESRI in 1994, we never had money to hire more than a few hours of part time help to make maps using this software.   

I remember sitting in a meeting in 1993 or early 1994 where a company was using an interactive GIS platform to show where work needed to be done in Chicago. That was always my goal for using GIS maps.  In early 2022 I met a company called RS21 who is demonstrating this capability through videos such as this one. 

While we did not reach this ability to do interactive presentations, we did make a lot of maps.


Since we had almost no money for advertising, but did have pro-bono help from a public relations company from (1993 to 2002), we developed a "Rest of the Story" strategy to build maps that showed areas featured in Chicago Tribune and SunTimes stories about violence, gangs, poverty and poorly performing schools.  Our maps showed location of any tutor/mentor programs in the map area, and showed assets (business, colleges, hospitals, faith groups, etc) who were in the same area and who could be helping programs grow. 


In late 2007 we received an anonymous donation of $50,000 to rebuild our mapping capacity.  We used half of this to hire Mike Trakin, a GIS map maker, on a part time basis. Mike started the MappingforJustice blog in 2008 to show the maps he was making. He also build a map gallery (now an archive).  Mike stayed on staff until early 2011 when funding ran out.  

As shown above we also used the funds from the anonymous donation to build the interactive Tutor/Mentor Program Locator.  That has been used to create many of the map stories shown on our blogs since 2008.

What's the future? 

The last section of the concept map at the far right shows that I continue to share our overall mapping goals on this page of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC website. 


However, rather than seek investment to rebuild the Tutor/Mentor Connection under my leadership, my goal is to motivate donors to provide funding at universities in Chicago and other places, to build Tutor/Mentor Connection strategies, with mapping, on their campuses.  

While I plan to continue to advocate and share strategies for helping tutor/mentor programs grow for the rest of my life, I'm now 75 and don't know how many years I have left.

Funding a Tutor/Mentor Connection on a college campus can unleash a flow of talent that comes to the campus, learns what the Tutor/Mentor Connection is (from our archives); how to lead a individual tutor/mentor program and/or a neighborhood or citywide strategy aimed at filling a geographic area with a full range of needed programs that do more to help kids move through school and into jobs and career; then goes into alumni life either working in the social sector applying these ideas, or working in the business sector, generating funds and resources to support the growth of constantly improving programs in all places where they are needed.


Thank for reading this far.  Open the concept map now and view it with these descriptions in mind. Follow the links to dig deeper.   If you're interested in knowing more please connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and/or Facebook (see links  here).  

If you want to help me keep paying the bills, use the PayPal on this page to send a contribution. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

"Good to Great" Philosophy - updated

In December 2011, a few months after leaving the non profit that I had formed in 1993, and forming the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, I posted an article sharing my "Good to Great" philosophy. Here's an update.  


"Good to Great" & the development of Great Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Programs

How many of you have read the Jim Collins book titled "Good to Great and the Social Sectors"? If not, you get a copy from your local library or Amazon.com and read it.

Here are some links to blog articles where the writers summarize this book


"Good-to-great-and-social-sector"

"Good-Great: Social Sector"

Read this Tactical Philanthropy series of articles and reflect on the resources needed to grow from good to great, and to stay great for many years.

I’ve applied Good to Great concepts in the leadership of the Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Program (1993-2011) and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present) (and before that in my leadership of the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program) since 1977 when I learned about Total Quality Management (TQM) while working as an Advertising Manager at Wards.

I've continued to apply that thinking in my leadership of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. 


I was lucky to have many mentors and supporters during the early years and one said “If you don’t write you plan on paper, you don’t have a plan.” Thus, every year since then I’ve written the plan, and made an effort to share it with others in the organization who needed to be the people who embraced the plan and made it a reality.

I now share that plan via our web sites and this wiki with people from around the world.

Good to Great was a relatively new way to understand process improvement when I first learned about it in the mid 2000s. I have embraced it since then, and think this can really help us focus the leadership and all of their other volunteers on the mission of any single tutor/mentor program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection type citywide strategy rather than just the fund raising.

Below I’ve listed what I felt our our Hedgehog values were in 2011. I still embrace them. Do you agree with these? Are there others that you might add to the list, or that you feel are more important than these?

Do these ignite your passions and make you want to sacrifice as much as our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, or other foreign wars, to end poverty through mentoring kids to careers? Maybe that’s an extreme example of commitment, but what would it take you to make a sacrifice that is even 10 or 20% of what’s represented by the “ultimate sacrifice”?

Hedgehog Roles

a) Getting a youth and volunteers is only the start of the tutor/mentor process. A program needs to keep youth involved and connected from when they first connect at least through 12th grade. We tried to do this since 1993 for youth living in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago, giving more than 580 youth the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive, long-term tutor/mentor program (Cabrini Connections), which connected them with a diverse base of adult mentors and learning experiences. From 1975 to 1992 we applied the same concepts in a program serving younger 2nd to 8th grade youth (that program is now Tutoring Chicago and serves youth throughout Chicago). 

There were too few programs providing long-term tutor/mentor support to youth in poverty areas of Chicago in 2011 and that's still the case in 2022.   

Just keeping a non-profit organization like Cabrini Connections funded and operating from year to year, is a tremendous accomplishment.  While I was able to do this from 1993-2011, while also creating and developing the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy, I was not able to control outside factors, such as the financial sector meltdown, starting in 2008. Ultimately this caused our small nonprofit's funding to decline to the point that the Board of Directors decided they could no longer support the Tutor/Mentor Connection part of the strategy (even though it had generated the largest grants in the previous 5 years!).  

I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue to operate the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago and try to help it grow in other cities. 

b)I continue to maintain a database of Chicago area non-school tutor/mentor programs and an understanding of where they are located, vs where they are most needed in the Chicago region.

No one else in the Chicago region is providing this type of information, at this level of detail.

While there are many map based directories (I point to some here) no one else (in Chicago or in any other big city) is using maps or internet-based databases the way I have been to draw resources directly to existing tutor/mentor programs. 

If I were not still doing this, no one else would be.

c) I continue to use the database to invite program leaders and stakeholders to gather on a regular basis for networking/learning and capacity-building activities that benefit ALL programs, not just a few highly visible programs. I continued to offer the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences every six months until May 2015.  I began using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in the late 2000s and since 2015 this has been my primary platform for connecting people and ideas. 

If I were not providing this service, no one else would be. (No one else can without building and maintaining the type of database that the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC owns). What I have been doing is providing a form of community information, which was described in this June 2011 white paper by Peter Levine of Tufts University.


d) I continue to focus on building strategic involvement and long-term commitment from the business community, which uses company resources (people, dollars, jobs, etc.) to build great programs that PULL kids to careers. See this article about "Influence" which is visualized in the graphic at the right. 

Most others focus on what government, teachers, parents and students need to do. I focus on what business and private sector needs to do because I recognize that there is not enough government money to fuel the operations of programs like Cabrini Connections in all the places they need to be, and for all of the years they need to grow to be good, then to be great.

e) I use the Internet to connect people and ideas from around the world, and to stimulate the flow of resources directly to tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago. I've done this since the late 1990s. 

In the volunteer section of the Cabrini Connections web site we hosted a "resources to help you" sub-section. This included links to the volunteer handbook, homework help, and other materials that we hoped all volunteers would read and use as a constant resource. Another sub section pointed to the Tutor/Mentor Connection library and on additional web resources volunteers could learn from and incorporate in their tutoring, mentoring and advocacy for Cabrini Connections.


This information is what unites us as a community of purpose. As more of our members understand this information we create many owners and many leaders. We can withstand any changes in leadership. We can constantly get better at what we do.

The visual at the left describes the "volunteer growth cycle" which powered the tutor/mentor programs I led for 35 years. 

One of the articles I point to from the Tutor/Mentor library is a pdf from the UCLA Center on Mental Health in Schools. The title is School Engagement, Disengagement, Learning Supports, & School Climate. This focuses on motivation, which is the fuel that drives student learning and aspirations. I encourage volunteers in any tutor/mentor program to read this, think about this, discuss it with others, and try to find ways to help tutor/mentor programs motivate students, volunteers and leaders to do more each year to help us achieve our mission of helping kids to high school graduation, college, then careers.

f) The Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, and the youth programs I led, are learning organizations. The information I share on these wikis and our web sites is available to any member or supporter. We need to find time to read, reflect and use this information on an on-going basis. This is a lesson I tried to teach staff, volunteers and partners of Cabrini Connections since we formed in 1993. It's also the core idea I share through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site which was formed in July 2011 after the Board at Cabrini Connections decided to downsize and no-longer support the T/MC strategy.

Leaders, volunteers, students, donors and supporters of programs like Cabrini Connections need to become active network weavers, people who use search engines like Google to find places where other people are offering tutoring/mentoring, or discussing issues related to effective tutoring/mentoring. In these groups members need to participate, sharing information from what they do at their own programs, and providing invitations for people in these groups to use each other's web sites, or join in the activities that connect people and ideas.

I do this every day, and if you search Google for 'Bassill', or ‘tutor mentor’ you will find numerous places where I am actively networking. Each person in a tutor/mentor program and a tutor/mentor community should set a personal goal to be active in 5-10 places each month, over the course of a year. If 50 people are doing what Dan does, we can dramatically increase the influence of the ideas we all share, and the number of people who are helping us achieve our mission.

Here's a Tweet I posted recently, pointing to an observation by a student who was learning about the Tutor/Mentor Connection. 
Informed people dig into my library and blog articles to learn what's there, then share what they learn to inform other people, who then do the same. This "informing" process is on-going. 

If I were not constantly pointing to Chicago tutor and/or mentor programs, no one else would be (and no one else can unless they maintain a database, and lead a resource building effort).

g) While I have not led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program since 2011, I have more than 35 years of knowledge about how to involve volunteers in a non-school tutor/mentor program, along with the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of other people and organizations, and I use this to

1. help parents, teachers, social workers, volunteers, donors, etc. find existing tutor/mentor programs near where they live/work

2. help individual programs grow from Good to Great, while helping new programs fill voids

3. help networks like T/MC grow in other cities and in other social service sectors (which network with the Chicago T/MC in a shared effort of helping programs grow from good to great)

h) I have created a knowledge-based innovation, networking and problem-solving process that can be applied by people in other cities, or in any other social benefit sector.

i) I (and volunteers, staff and interns working with me) have piloted innovative network-building tools using maps, graphics, video, animation and interactive on-line databases. These can be applied in other cities for the same purpose as I use them in Chicago, or in other social benefit sectors.

View this 1992-present timeline

Few other people or organizations in the country can claim this many years of continuous learning and application of knowledge to build and sustain a volunteer based tutor/mentor program. 

However, I have not communicated these ideas effectively to enough people and have not built the leadership team and organizational strength to be able to expand our influence and fully develop and share these ideas.

That was the goal of Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 when I first wrote this article. I've managed to do much, but failed to build a new organization and funding base needed to keep the platforms built in the 2000s, or the Tutor/Mentor Conferences, updated and available.


This "How can we do this better?" graphic is as relevant today as it was in 2011, or in 1993 when I formed Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Except, now leaders in universities, businesses or other youth programs in Chicago and other cities need to step forward to adopt the same "Good to Great" commitment and take ownership of my history and archives.  If that happens the timeline concept map shown above can extend for another 20 years, with much more impact than what I've achieved over the past 10. 

Thank you for reading. And thank you to those who go to this page and continue to send me small contributions.

Reach out to me on social media. Let's connect. Share ideas. And find leaders who will take on this work. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

What if. Looking at past. Looking forward.


A main part of the strategy that I launched in 1993 when we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection was an effort to draw more consistent media attention to places in Chicago where news stories were showing "bad things happening" to kids.  I used maps and my database of youth tutor/mentor programs to create story-maps like the one at the left. Unfortunately, this was before the Internet, and too few people ever saw these.

For today's article I want to jump from 1993 to 2005, and an article that I wrote, titled "A Tutor/Mentor Program is a Place where Idealism meets Reality."  Below is that article. I've highlighted some key passages. 

--------------- start 2005 --------------------

I was only able to attend the O-net conference for half a day Saturday. However, I read through all of the summary reports and blogs this morning. I hosted a conversation on Saturday, focused on creating a group of active o-net members who work to draw people from universities into o-net conversations, with the goal of recruiting resources to support o-net projects.

As I said after Friday's day-long session, I'm really impressed with the talent of the people who are participating in the conference, and who have posted introductions at www.omidyar.net. One person I talked to yesterday was a PhD student at Purdue, who is organizing information intended to be used to help connect people doing good work with resource providers. Another person was a technologist who had great ideas of creating alternative currencies that would encourage people to share talent with each other. A third was a women with an idea of creating visual databases to map assets.

I was really inspired by the Peace Tiles project. I hope we can duplicate this in Chicago tutor/mentor programs and connect our kids with kids in African and on other continents.

When I read one of the blogs, one person was questioning whether or not O-net was just a lot of talk, or if it was stimulating action (providing resources for O-net members to do their various projects). I'm hoping that my participation accelerates the rate at which people help each other, or draw new resources into o-net that end up helping members of the community do their work.

However, until this happens it is idealism within a world where the daily papers remind us of reality. A few weeks ago I did a Mind Map of the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Today I did another. I found a really great story written by Mary Schmich, one of my favorite writers, telling how people had responded to an earlier story about a computer center in Cabrini-Green being flooded, with all computers destroyed. Because of her first story, people provided new computers, and everything else needed to get this site up and running again. That demonstrates the power of the media.

However, in the same section of the Tribune Metro section was a story about a boy being fatally shot at a playground on the far South side of Chicago. There was another story on the same page about a Muslim teen center re opening, after being closed since 2003. These neighborhoods don't have a feature writer of the Chicago Tribune, or SunTimes, writing regular stories about life in these neighborhoods. Most of the times they get in the news is when something bad happens.

My mind map linked these stories. Every time I read a story about Cabrini-Green, written by Mary Schmich, I just wish she'd end with "and this is just one neighborhood of Chicago where kids live in poverty and need extra help with volunteers, donors, technologist, etc." (and provide a link to web sites that people could use to learn about other places where volunteers, donors and technology are needed).

If she and other reporters were doing this regularly, maybe people would have been helping the Muslim teen center get computers, and maybe the boy shot on a playground (or the shooter) would have been inside sitting at a computer rather than out on the street where something terrible happened.

When I sit with my friends at O-net and talk about ideas, it is with an urgency of putting these ideas to work to help more kids in cities like Chicago have safe places where they can gather to learn, be mentored, have access to computers and the world around them. The reality is that while we talk of great ideas, we are losing kids to the streets and to poverty.

Maybe I cannot convince the media to consistently tell the rest of the story when they write their stories about individual tragedies or triumphs, but maybe I can enlist a few technologist at O-Net to help me create a map gallery that would show where negative news happens and where volunteers and donors are needed. If hundreds of friends at communities like o-net were to take on the same goal, we might create a much larger public involvement and flow of resources to every place in the world where good people are trying to do good work to help people who need extra help.

What about you? Can you help?

--------- end 2005 article ---------------

Since 2005 I've created a presentation, and many articles, like these, showing this "Rest of the Story" idea and how students and volunteers from schools throughout Chicago, and other places,  could be creating their own stories, modeled after the ones I've been doing.

Below is a presentation showing this strategy:


This continues to be missing from media thinking.  This week WTTW shared an article showing the effectiveness of Chicago Youth Programs, which I had included among featured programs in this 2019 article

I think it's wonderful that Chicago Youth Program gets this attention.  However, I just wish every story would end with something saying, "This is just one of many youth programs in Chicago who need constant help to do good work.  They all need help.  Look at the list hosted by the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and get to know others".  

I launched this strategy in 1993. I launched this blog in 2005, so the article I pointed to was one of the first that I wrote.  Today, in July 2022, we still have the same problems, plus new ones.  Getting people on social media and traditional media to connect "bad news" to "idea libraries" and then to places where time, talent and dollars are needed to change conditions, still is my purpose for writing these articles.

I thank you for reading and invite you to share this, and your own version.  


Friday, July 15, 2022

Tips for volunteers in tutor/mentor programs

I led two tutor/mentor programs between 1975 and 2011. You can see some of the people we connected to each other in the montage below. If you follow me on Facebook and look at some of my "friends" you'll find many former students and see them celebrating high school and college graduations of their own kids. That's the long-term impact we were hoping to achieve.


The first program is now Tutoring Chicago.  I led it from 1975 to 1992 while it was hosted at the Montgomery Ward Headquarters in Chicago. When I took the lead (as a volunteer) in 1975 we had 100 pairs of elementary school kids and adult volunteers, mostly Montgomery Ward corporate office employees. By 1992 when I left, we had converted the program (in 1990) to a non-profit called Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, Inc, and our number of kids served was 440 2nd to 6th grade kids and 550 volunteers, who came from more than 100 different companies in the Chicago region. 


In October 1992 I left that program and with the help of six volunteers, created a new program, called Cabrini Connections, to help kids who aged out of the first program after 6th grade, have continuous adult tutor/mentor support through high school.

 We started with 7 volunteers and five teens in January 1993 and by 1998 we had nearly 100 volunteers serving 80 teens. Due to space limitations we kept the number of kids served each year at around 80 until I left the program in 2011. The greater number of volunteers was the result of volunteers leading extra learning activities such as our arts, video and technology clubs, as well as serving as substitutes and in other roles.  (The name of the program was changed to Chicago Tutoring Connection after 2011. This is the Facebook page.)


When we launched Cabrini Connections to serve kids in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago, we also launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection to help similar programs grow in all parts of Chicago. I still lead that, via Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. This blog is one of the ways I continue to try to help youth tutor, mentor and learning programs grow in Chicago, and around the world. 

I've often been asked to talk at mentor training events, and while I do that, I don't consider myself an expert. What I focus on is "How leaders build and sustain constantly improving programs over multiple years". Training volunteers to be effective tutors and mentors is certainly part of that process, which is why I organized conferences every six months from 1994 to 2015, to help programs connect and learn from each other.

It's also why the library I host includes "training and learning" materials that can be used by program leaders, volunteers and students.

When I am asked to speak to volunteers I share a strategy that I shared in the programs I led. There are four questions that can provide structure for weekly meetings. These are


 1) What was one good thing that you experienced since we last met, and why was that good?

 2) What was one bad thing that you experienced? The answer to this question could dominate the rest of the tutoring session.

 Note. the volunteer is also expected to answer these questions. It helps build trust and relationships. The questions could be part of writing and journaling activities at the start of every week's tutor/mentor session. 

 3) What's happening in school? Do you have any tests coming up, or term papers due? Is there homework that you need help with? 

 Note. We tried to provide volunteers with report cards and case histories so they had some information to guide their planning.  The answer given by each student would lead to what they do with their tutor/mentor over the rest of the tutoring session.

 4) If the first 3 questions don't stimulate activities for the weekly session, then the final question is "what's going on in the world?" Pull up a newspaper and look at any page. Read an article together and ask "is that important to you?" or "what do you think of this?"

These questions can repeat every week, with different answers each time, because as they say, "life happens".  Kids in high poverty areas are exposed to many forms of trauma which often lessens their focus on school and learning. Having someone to help them cope with these issues is really important. It's just as important to have someone share and celebrate the good things, too. 

If volunteers end each session with "What will we do next week?" questions, they then have a structure for following sessions. They can say "We talked about this last week" as a lead in to work they have planned. In the programs I led we also had email newsletters to provide an outline for any planned activities for the coming week, such as special speakers, report card review, upcoming writing activities, holiday parties and/or field trips.

Last December I wrote a long article showing what it takes to make an on-going tutor/mentor program available and that keeps kids and volunteers coming back each week for several years.  

In addition, I've been putting archives of program plans from past years in my Google drive.  Here's the 1989-90's plan.

Here's the Volunteer Handbook for the 1989-90 Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program.  While this is 30 years old some of the tips and guidelines will still apply. 

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Please connect with me and other tutor and/or mentor program leaders and volunteers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and/or Facebook and build a network of people sharing ideas and helping each other do more to help kids.

Thanks for reading.  Have a great weekend.