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.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Create Visual Blueprints

If you browse many articles on this blog you'll see that I'm committed to visual thinking, via concept maps, graphics and geographic maps.  Here's an example:

This Mentoring Kids to Careers cMap shows a variety of supports kids need at every age level as they move from first grade through high school, post high school and into jobs.  If you look at the lower left part of the map you'll see that I believe volunteers who get involved with youth in organized, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs represent a form of "bridging social capital", meaning they connect kids and families to resources beyond high poverty neighborhoods.  The value of these connections grow the longer they last.

Mentoring Kids to Careers - click to open

Below is the same concept map, except I've enlarged one segment to show the supports needed more clearly.  My maps is just a "starting point". Others could create a similar version and add more nodes onto the map.


Below is another graphic, that shows the "mentoring kids to careers" idea on the left, and at the right, shows a much larger range of problems that face kids and families in many high poverty areas.  All of these need to be address on a concurrent basis, which represents a huge challenge.

View this concept map - click here

These concept maps are a "hub and spoke" design. The hub is the issue and the spokes represent sub issues and solutions.   Below is another graphic, where I emphasize the timeline of 12 to 20 years that it takes to help kids through school and into jobs and careers.  Few funding streams last this long, which is one of the challenges we need to overcome.


In these graphics you can see a small map of Chicago, with areas of high poverty highlighted. Below is a screen shot of the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, created in 2008-09 using a contribution from an anonymous donor.

Screen shot of  Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator
The Program Locator was an on-line version of a Directory that the Tutor/Mentor Connection began producing in 1994, based on survey data it began collecting in January 1994.  The first on-line search page was launched in 2004, then this map based version was created in 2008.  Note: due to lack of funds the Program Locator is now out-of-date and serves only as a model.  See updated map at this link.

The graphic below shows the purpose of the maps and Program Locator.  If an intermediary, such as the T/MC shown in the blue box, gathers information and shares it in a web library and on-line directory, as I have done sine 1994, then anyone can reach out to "all who can help", represented by the list on the right, and pull them to the directory and the library, where they learn where help is needed, who is providing help, and what they do, based on information on their web sites.

Build information libraries to connect resource providers and service providers

Then they can decide who to help, how, and how much, without waiting for a grant proposal. Just send the contribution or an email to make a connection. Do it every year.


Let me summarize. Blueprints like I've shown at the top, need to be created to show all work that needs to be done, and how that work needs to sequence in order for it to be done right. For instance, if you're building a tower, you don't do the fourth floor, or install the electricity, until you've laid the foundation and built the first three floors. 

Kids need strong foundations, then continuous support, then people who help open doors to jobs, careers and life-long learning.

The organizations who provide that help need consistent, flexible funding, as do the intermediaries who support them.

4-part strategy
I could add  more and more, but instead, I encourage you to browse other articles on this blog, on a regular basis, not as a binge.

Visit this page and read about the 4-part strategy that I launched in 1993 and have been following since then. It's an information-based strategy that also focuses on the public awareness and knowledge building that need to be included in any long-term problem solving.

Then spend time going through other sections of the web site to know what's available, just as you would when going to a new shopping mall.  Bookmark the pages of interest and then return often for deeper learning. 

As you look at this information, think of 

a) how do these ideas apply in my community?

b) how do these ideas apply to climate crisis, public health issues, poverty, the digital divide, violence, or other issues beyond raising kids?

c) how might you share these ideas via your own blog, concept maps, visualizations, social media?

And, how might you support Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, to communicate these ideas more effectively, or embed it into my institution?

I look forward to connecting with you on one of these social media pages.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Lack of Technology Equipment or Access - Another Crisis.

read  Digital Divide articles 
I've posted several articles on the MappingforJustice blog that focus on the Digital Divide, or the lack of technology access and/or equipment, that prevents millions of people from accessing the world via the Internet.  This problem is highlighted now during #Covid19, as schools in Chicago and other states are closed and students are forced to access the Internet for learning. Many are left behind.

This screen shot shows interactive map included in WBEZ article titled "Clear Signs Of The Digital Divide Between Chicago’s North And South Sides"

The article reports that "more than half the households in Englewood and nearly half the households in West Englewood (51 percent), Riverdale (49 percent), Auburn Gresham, and South Shore (both 46 percent), lacked internet access at home".

This is a disadvantage for youth and adults.

In 2017 I watched a one hour documentary showing the Digital Divide in America, and identifying three key challenges that must be overcome.

I created this concept map to visualize that discussion and add some other issues that were not included in the video.
Digital Divide concept map - click here

I show these maps and articles with the goal that readers will be concerned and will share the articles with others, who will also be concerned, and that this will result in people from different sectors giving time, talent and dollars to help reduce this problem.

Browse other articles on this blog, and the Tutor/Mentor blog, and share with your network, as the graphic below suggests.

These graphics visualize network of support needed by every youth, in every neighborhood.

The "hub and spoke" graphic at the top visualizes the range of supports every youth needs as she grows from pre-school through high school, college and beyond.  The graphic at the bottom illustrates the role every person can take to "get informed" using information libraries and blogs such as the one I  host, then share what they are learning with people they know, "to get other people involved".

One of those spokes would be technology skills and access.  Here's an example.  I saw this article about "ending poverty in one generation" on my Slack channel, then shared it in my Twitter feed.

If other people read this blog, or follow my Twitter feed, they will find this article, too. They may share it with others who use the ideas in their own efforts.  That's the goal.

If this helps close the Digital Divide, or can make more mentor-rich learning efforts available to youth in all high poverty areas of Chicago, the USA, and the world, then we've done well with our time.

This work is not something that can be done in a day, or even a year or a decade. But it is work that needs to be done.  If you'd like help digging through the information I'm sharing, or in making sense of some of the graphics, I'm available.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Building learning habits during COVID19

Support learning
The image at the right shows volunteers and youth in the computer lab at the tutor/mentor program I led in Chicago from 1993 to 2011.  It's relevant now because it could be a room in millions of home throughout the world, where older youth and adults mentor younger youth and help them develop habits of curiosity and life-long learning.  Could we emerge from #COVID19 with a newly motivated culture of learning, where all are serving as coaches, tutors, mentors and guides?

In 2010 a volunteer who was looking at the resources of the Tutor/Mentor Connection wrote a blog article titled "Thinking like Google", in which he compared the T/MC to Google. He wrote,
It occurred to me that this forum is essentially modeled on a similar format as Google's. Tutormentorconnection.ning.com a) looks for information, or content, and people relevant to the cause of tutoring and mentoring; b) organizes, analyzes, and archives that information for future reference; and c) utilizes those references for targeted advertising campaigns, social networking, grant-writing, and the like. Even more to the point, this forum is a way of attempting to grow the idea of tutoring and mentoring to scale, or to a point where it "tips".

I've built a huge web library and I've created a variety of PDF essays over the past 20 years that are intended to help people learn ways to support the growth of volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning programs in high poverty neighborhoods. While I point to these via email newsletters and social media, I've been looking for new ways to introduce these concepts.

How about a WebQuest?  How might I motivate students and adults to take Michael's advice and begin to journey through my web library, and as they do, share what they are learning with people in their own network, so they begin their own journey through this information.

Several years ago I began to learn about WebQuest and I created an animation to introduce this concept. You can view it on YouTube


Here are a couple of other animations introducing students to a web quest.

Making a map, class assignment, animation.

Doing a web quest.

Interns were on this journey for short bursts of time every year between 2006 and 2015.  Here's a page that shows work interns have done in the past to guide people through this information.

For the past 20 years, I've been updating the links on the web library so all are working, and I keep adding new links. I also keep adding new blog articles herehere and here. Some of the articles written 10-15 years ago are as relevant today as they were then, so while it's important that you subscribe and follow new articles, it's also important that you visit the past and read some of those articles.

learning communities
focused on specific geography
Here's a visualization done by one of our past interns that illustrates the goal of supporting groups of learners in many sectors, who each look at maps to determine where youth and families need more help, and what programs are already operating in those areas.....who need constant support to constantly improve and stay available.

The links in the web library point to more than 200 youth serving programs in Chicago and others around the country. They point to research articles and to business and foundation web sites.  They represent a large ocean of ideas you can use to help programs grow, by borrowing good ideas already working in different places, rather than by starting from scratch on an on-going basis.

Most of the links in the web library point to other people's ideas, not my own. This emphasizes the purpose of the library for myself, and others. We can do more by borrowing ideas from others than from constantly starting from the beginning.

However, some links point to my own ideas, which I've communicated with illustrated presentations which you can find in my blogs, and on this page and in libraries at Scribd.com and SlideShare.

Intern projects from 2004-2015
Students from around the world could be looking at the web library, and my articles, and could be creating their own presentations to draw adults and other students from their own community into this information, and into actions that lead to the growth of more programs in more places that help kids move through school and into careers.  Visit this page and see how past interns working with me in Chicago have already been doing this.

Pages like mine could be hosted on the website of every college, high school and middle school, showing work their own students have done to visualize solutions to complex local and global problems.

If you're hosting a web library, and creating visualized articles to motivate people to visit your library and support youth serving organizations in your community, please share your links so others can learn from you. If you're interested in exploring this idea with me, let's connect on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Connecting Virtually During #Covid-19

This morning I spent about an hour in a webinar hosted by Valerie Leonard, founder of NonProfit Utopia, which seeks to support organizations in the non-profit sector.  At about the 35 minute mark of the webinar Valerie shared her screen with me and I presented some ideas that people might adopt over the next few weeks and months. Take a look at the whole recording, or just the last part.

powered by Crowdcast

This webinar was focused on strategies non-profit organizations might use to struggle through the massive disruptions caused by Covid-19 and the recovery that will come at some point in the future. As I listened to the first part of the webinar and viewed Valerie's slides I wrote some notes on my notepad, which I later referred to in my segment. Here's what I wrote:

Where are you located?

First. Ask  yourself, "What is my geography"?  Create a map and put an X on it to show where you live, or where your nonprofit organization is located.  The boundary of this map could be as small as a few blocks, or as large as a Chicago Community Area, Alderman's Ward, a zip code, or section of the city.  You decide.

Then ask, "Who are peers, or other organizations, doing similar work to what I do, within this geography?"  If you are a non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor program, I already have created a map showing nearly 200 existing organizations.  Similar maps are being created by STEM networks, ARTS networks, and others.  Any can be used as a base map for your own individualized map.

Then ask, "Who are other  organizations in my geographic area who are resources to me?" Universities, hospitals, faith groups, businesses, consulting groups, etc. all could be shown on the map. They all share the same geography, thus should share a concern for the well-being of the people and organizations serving that region.

is there a conversation?
Next, ask, "How well am I connected to these other organizations? Are we connected on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Instagram? Are we following each other? Do we share email newsletters?"

Are we regularly sharing ideas about what works, what does not work, what are common challenges we each face? Are there ways to address these collectively, as a shared commitment, rather than trying to solve these through our singular, limited efforts?

During the next few weeks while you're home-bound would be a good time to collect this information and start reaching out to people in your geography.

Then ask, "Am I looking at a wider geography, too?" Who else in Chicago does what I do?  Do they have conversations about issues that I can join and learn from?  Are they sharing ideas that I could use to improve my own organization, or to deal better with this crisis?

Look beyond Chicago, nationally, even internationally.

Think of this as network building, starting locally, but reaching globally
The Covid-19 pandemic affects people throughout the world. Thus, there must be some who are innovating ways to help social organizations survive and even thrive during this crisis.  There must be many with ideas of how to stay connected to youth and adult clients and help them during the months when they are home-bound and isolated from each other.

There must be ways to reach out to technology companies, policy-makers and donors to make broadband internet access available in EVERY household in America, then the world.  So that everyone can be part of this conversation, not just those blessed with the technology and knowledge of how to use it.

Use my blog as a model
I finished my part of the webinar by saying every non-profit should have a website and blog where they are sharing their own ideas, and their own maps.  Any could use my blog as stimulation for their own thinking.

Furthermore, youth could be using the time they are home-bound to do this research and create blogs and/or videos where they share their own ideas.  I pointed to this Feb. 2014 article during the webinar.

I posted a Tweet yesterday pointing to the TutorMentorConnection.ning.com site that I've hosted since 2007, showing how interns working with me in Chicago did this type of research, then created graphics, videos, animations, blogs, etc. where they shared their own understanding.



All non-profits have same needs.
I have been modeling this thinking and encouraging others to duplicate it for the past 25 years.  By using a map we're saying "Every neighborhood needs world-class quality youth serving programs"  Without a map resources flow to a few places, making a few good programs available to just a small fraction of the youth who need them.

I suspect this is true in other sectors, too. 

Be like Dan.

Make your voice heard.
What I've just done over the past hour is share my thinking via a blog article. You may agree, disagree, or not even look at this. 

However, I think it's something that everyone could be doing to share their own ideas about how to make the world a better place.  Maybe the "talking heads" could learn from what some of us are saying. Instead of just being an invisible body in a crowd, make your ideas known to others.

Here's a page where I show social media sites where I'm active. I encourage you to join me there and share links to your own stories.

And, here's a page where you can use PayPal to send me a contribution to help fund my time collecting and sharing this information.

Thanks again to Valerie Leonard for hosting the webinar today and stimulating my own thinking.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Learning at Home Resources

Kids can continue learning
With the CoronaVirus pandemic closing schools and non-school programs in Chicago, throughout Illinois, and in other states, parents and students are searching for sources of on-line learning, engagement and recreation.

Here's a link to the homework help section of the Tutor/Mentor Library, where I've been aggregating links for many years.  The challenge for most families is that there won't be a trained teacher, tutor or mentor to coach kids to use these resources.

One solution is for older siblings to tutor younger ones.  The other is for parents to try to learn about some of these resources. The best would be for kids to be pointed to learning sites, then figure out which ones they like best. Probably a combination.

One type of mentoring and tutoring that has been growing for the past decade is eMentoring and eTutoring, where the youth and volunteer do not meet in person, but online, in an activity that is facilitated through well-organized programs.  In this section of the tutor/mentor library I point to some eMentoring programs that I know of.

Because so many schools have suddenly closed, due to the CoronaVirus, many people are scrambling to learn how to teach on-line or to find on-line resources.  Social media is meeting that need, with many people sharing ideas, or aggregating links, to a collection of learning resources.

Here are a few Tweets in my @tutormentorteam feed today. If you search some of the #hashtags shown in these Tweets, you can see the same information as I am, and much more.









These same resources are probably being shared on Facebook, LinkedIN, Instagram and other sites. I like Twitter because you can narrow your search using a #hashtag, then scroll through Tweets you find.



I hope you find this useful. You can share what works by posting your own Tweet, using one or more of these hashtags.  If you point to @tutormentorteam, I'm sure to see your post.


I've been working from home most of the time since 2011, and have spent much time in on-line learning since 1998, so I'm not as inconvenienced as many are from being forced to stay at home.

I hope that this virus passes over most of us, and harms as few people as possible.  If you're able to share ideas and help others who need someone to talk with, or to help with food or other tasks, please do.  We're all in this together.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Reaching K-12 kids in high poverty areas - an on-going challenge

Every week for the past 40 years I've spent time trying to connect inner city kids with workplace volunteers in organized, non-school tutor/mentor programs that help these kids move through school and into adult lives.

At different times, like right now, keeping attention focused on this has been more than difficult.  The COVID19 virus is bad, getting worse and is having a growing negative impact on the economy. The impact on poor people, who can least afford it, will be greatest.  For instance, when major conventions and sports events close, think of all the workers who will be out of work. When schools close, think of all the parents with kids at home, needing supervision, and needing learning help. When someone gets sick, how do people with limited (or no) insurance, and no income, cover the bills?

Yet, while we struggle through this current disaster, I feel we still need to look long term. Kids living in high poverty area will need the extra support of non-school youth tutor, mentor and learning programs even more in coming months and years.  So let me share to graphics that visualize strategies I feel we need to focus on.

We all want the same outcomes: More youth stay in school, are safe in non-school hours, graduate, and move to jobs and careers.

To get the result we want we need to do the work shown at the bottom of this pyramid.
At the bottom of this pyramid I show that we need to build a knowledge base, then draw people together to use this information in an on-going planning and actions cycle.  This article describes this diagram.  It can be used in an area as small as a few blocks, or as large as an entire country.

This pyramid could be used to outline steps to overcome the COVID19 virus. At the top would be results we want. At the bottom should be information aggregated from all over the world to help us understand the disease and how to fight it.  A sub section of that library should be a collection of information helping teachers move classes from face-to-face school settings to on-line, or TV,  at least for the duration of this crisis.

The second graphic I'm sharing focuses on INFLUENCE.
We must influence what resource providers do; not just what non-profit leaders do.

Having led a non profit youth program for 20 years I know that I was expected to operate a great program, get outstanding results and find the money to pay for all the work that needed to be done.  Think for a  moment of a fish bowl, with hundreds of small fish. When you put a little bit of food in the bowl there is a frenzy of every fish trying to get some of the food. Not all succeed.  That's the problem with how our non -profit funding system works.

In this graphic, which you can read about in these articles, I show t hat we need to Influence what resource providers, business partners, media and policy-makers do, not just what non profit programs do, so that there is a consistent flow of resources to every program, in every area where tutor/mentor programs are needed, so they can all become great at what they do to help kids safely through school.

Almost every article that I've posted on this blog since 2005 focuses on one of these graphics. If you're forced to stay at home due to the COVID19 virus, why not spend some time reading some of them.  Then think of ways you can share these in your network and/or use them as thought starters in on-line and group discussions.

Here's two more graphics to consider:

If you're at an event, how well can you share your ideas?
I created this graphic as a result of attending large gatherings for many years, where there were great speakers, but there was little interaction between the speakers and individuals in the audience, or between the people who sat at different tables. My goal was to encourage event organizers to create on-line activities that paralleled what was happening in the room, and that kept participants engaged and interacting after the event ended.

Hashtags of Twitter chats
I created this concept map to archive Twitter conversations that I've been part of. Many are on-going. A few are archives.

All of these in some way relate to efforts by different groups of people to help build support systems for kids living in high poverty neighborhoods.

You can click the link at the bottom of each node and join the conversation yourself.  Some of these should have much greater involvement than they have had so far. It's up to event organizers to encourage this, as well as the rest of us.

Very few do this well.  However, with COVID19 causing more, and more, events to be cancelled, imagine this same event, but with every table empty.  How do event organizers share the ideas of the presenters with those who had been invited, without creating some form of online interaction.  Maybe we will learn ways to do this because of COVID19, and we will continue doing it after this disaster has passed.

Here's an article titled: LIFE AFTER CORONAVIRUS AND WHAT ORGANIZERS NEED TO BE THINKING ABOUT NEXT that I saw on the AdAge Twitter feed today. In one part of the article the interviewee said "There have never been so many opportunities to grow a single event into a year-round community."

That's how I feel.  Let's turn this negative into an opportunity to learn more ways to bring people together into year-round learning, idea sharing, relationship building and collective action that leads to brighter futures for all kids living in high poverty areas of the US and the world.

I'm on these social media pages. Let's connect.