Monday, September 14, 2020

Constant challenge: How can we do this better?

I'm a sports fan, so during baseball, basketball and football season I'm following stories about the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Bears, which all focus on a common theme: How can we do this better?

Each team is constantly trying to improve, to be great, and drawing on a vast range of resources in this effort.

Now let's apply this thinking to helping kids born or living in poverty areas of Chicago and other cities with pro sports teams.  Are there groups of people using graphics and maps like I use in my blogs, with the goal of helping constantly improving youth serving programs be available to k-12 youth in every high poverty neighborhood of each city?

The graphic above has many elements. Let me focus on two:

This arrow graphic can be seen in the upper left corner. It shows the 20 to 30 year long journey each child takes as they move from birth to work. 

Kids living in areas of concentrated poverty have too few people modeling the many careers kids might aspire to, or helping open kids move from one age group to another.

If you stand the graphic above vertically, it resembles an oil well, or a skyscraper. and emphasizes that the work done in the preschool and elementary school years is essential foundation work that propels kids through high school, college, vocational training and into jobs and careers.

Schools and youth serving programs need to be located in every high poverty neighborhoods, providing age appropriate support as kids move through school. Teams of adults from the community and the larger geographic region, including businesses, faith groups, hospitals and universities, need to be part of teams working to help individual programs grow, and helping many individual programs fill different neighborhoods.

All of the articles on this blog and the resources on the Tutor/Mentor Institute,  LLC web site are intended to support groups of people who are trying to figure out "How do we do this better?"

There are dozens of business, civic, government and philanthropic groups in Chicago and other cities looking for ways to help reduce poverty, violence, inequality while improving working conditions and preparing people for the workforce. 

The information I share can be used by any of them. I'm not sure most of them even know I exist.

As you watch pro sports today, I hope you'll spend some time thinking about this.  I'd like to be a coach and mentor to help you and your team dig through the massive playbook that my web resources represent. If you are part of some of these planning groups, or know people who are involved, please pass on an invitation and encourage them to read some of the articles I've posted.

Connect with me on any of these social media sites.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Our Children Need Your Help

 Between 1995 and 2003 the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which I lead, organized an annual Chicago area tutor/mentor volunteer recruitment campaign. This always kicked off on Labor Day weekend, since it was in the weeks after that many people made decisions to volunteer. Below is the 2001 Campaign Manifesto, with signatures of leaders who endorsed the campaign.

You can see that Lura Lynn Ryan, First Lady of Illinois, and Richard M. Daley were signers. As were Governor George Ryan, and Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago schools and future Secretary of Education.  Visit this page and read about the goals and history of the campaign.  Visit this page to see the campaign manifesto and see who else signed this call to action. 

We had support from CPS CEO Paul Vallas in the early years of the campaign and received a $25,000 annual grant from 1998-2002 to fund a part time campaign organizer.  However, that funding did not continue beyond the 9/11 tragedy and 2002. With fewer dollars we moved the campaign and conference organizing on-line, using the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator to help people find tutor/mentor programs in different parts of the city, on a year-round basis, not just in September.

From 1993 through 2000 we also had pro bono support from Public Communications, Inc (PCI) a Chicago PR firm.  As a result we were able to get consistent attention from Chicago media, for the recruitment campaign and the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences, which we held in May and November every year from 1994 till 2015.  Visit this page to see a long list of media stories resulting from T/MC and PCI efforts. 

These were part of a year-round strategy intended to draw attention, volunteers and flexible operating dollars to EVERY youth tutor/mentor program in the Chicago region. 

President Obama was not a signer of the Manifesto, but was a speaker at the 1999 Tutor/Mentor Conference.  Mayor Daley also appeared at a conference, as did Paul Vallas of CPS.

However, none of the people who signed the Campaign Manifesto between 1999 and 2002 actually embraced the vision and strategies of the T/MC, nor have any in the years before, or since then.

Thus, while my small organization continued to lead this effort as the Tutor/Mentor Connection through mid 2011 and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC since then (while also leading our own small tutor/mentor program), too few have been actively supporting the four strategies that we piloted in 1994.

These are described in the visual shown below and at this link

Step 1: collect information others can use, including list of Chicago area youth tutor, mentor and learning programs;

Step 2: create on-going public awareness intended to draw viewers to information in step 1; 

Step 3: facilitate understanding of information in the library, so more would use it to help great programs reach k-12 youth in more places

Step 4: Use attention generated in Step 2 to motivate people to use the program list to seek out places where they can offer time, talent and dollars to help great programs connect youth and volunteers in on-going efforts intended to help youth move safely through school.  Information collected from programs each year would update library in Step 1.

The timeline below shows some of the milestones of the T/MC's 1993-2020 efforts.  View at

While I still act on all four steps of the 4-part strategy, I've had almost no help, and no funding, to do this since 2015 when I hosted the last Tutor/Mentor Conference.  

Yet, media stories remind us daily of  how people in high poverty areas and people of color need extra help. Engaging volunteers through organized youth tutor/mentor programs is just one of many resources and investments needed in many places.

Now, with the Covid19 pandemic moving most students to virtual learning, there are even more challenges of sustaining non-school tutor and mentor programs, and their connections with kids. We need to connect people, ideas and resources, more than ever before.

I've written hundreds of articles on this blog showing roles anyone can take to duplicate the T/MC strategy in their own city or to rebuild it in Chicago.   Some of these talk about rebuilding the T/MC

Just reading my blog and sharing with your network is one step that anyone can take. However, in looking at all I was able to accomplish with a small organization, imagine what you or someone else with much larger resources and greater talent, could achieve, following the same strategies and building on what the T/MC started?

That's my goal. |

New leaders are needed to rebuild this strategy and take it forward for the next two decades, applying it in every major city in the world where a few people live in areas of concentrated poverty, surrounded by others who are blessed with greater opportunity and wealth, and fewer systemic obstacles. 

If you'd like to know more or help amplify my efforts, reach out to me on these social media platforms or introduce yourself with a comment on this blog. 

If you'd like to make a contribution to help fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, click here

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Athletes taking a lead

In past few weeks I've posted several articles calling on sports figures to adopt some of the strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute, LLC and lead them in the cities where they play and/or where they grew up.

I'm encouraged by videos I've been seeing, like this one from the Houston Texans

View the video and look at the list of demands.  Since I'm seeing a growing number of these I'm building a concept map where I'll aggregate links to as many as I can find. In the comments below send me links to videos by other teams in any sport.

This graphic shows the potential outcome of on-going leadership from people who have a large following. 

They can inspire people from diverse backgrounds, with a wide range of talents, who work in various industries, to become teams who help bring mentor-rich youth tutor, mentor and jobs programs, and other needed investment, to every high poverty area shown on maps like mine.

Here's another graphic that visualizes their role in a different way.

Athletes can fill the blue box in the middle of this graphic every day, through their Tweets, videos, media interviews and speaking engagements. They can influence the flow of dollars, volunteers, tech support and more directly into every high poverty area.  

The key word is EVERY. With a map you see all the places within a geographic area, such as Chicago, where help is needed. It's not enough for a few good programs in a few places. Every neighborhood needs a full Birth-to-Work range of great out-of-school-time programs, schools and services.

Along with the map athletes can provide visualizations showing the long-term commitment needed to solve the problems facing this country and the world.  Kids need access to great school and non-school programs, but just like great sports teams, these don't magically show up. They need to be built through constant investment. Then they need to remain in place as kids move through school into adult lives.

By being in the public eye on a regular basis athletes can also encourage deeper learning. My blog has more than 1500 articles and the Tutor/Mentor web library has more than 2000 links. This can't all be learned in a day, or a year. It requires on-going visits, continuous learning and reflection with others.

That requires constant encouragement. View ENOUGH posts and make a commitment. 

Athletes can do this.  Will they?  

Monday, August 31, 2020

Call goes out for Volunteers

 Below is a column from the 1997 Chicago SunTimes, telling about the Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign that my organization (the Tutor/Mentor Connection) launched as an annual event in 1995.  From 1998 to 2002 we grew the campaign to include more than 100 youth programs who were recruiting volunteers at more than 30 sites throughout the Chicago region during the first week of September.

Visit this page and see media stories from 1990s.

It's now almost September 2020 and once again volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in Chicago and throughout the country are searching for volunteers. This year is different. Most of those calls now seek virtual volunteers who can support youth via ZOOM and other remote platforms, until face-to-face contact can safely return.

What always made my efforts unique is that while I led a single tutor/mentor program reaching youth in one neighborhood of Chicago, the campaign organized through the Tutor/Mentor Connection intended to draw volunteers to every youth tutor, mentor and learning program in the Chicago region.

We supported the volunteer recruitment campaign in the 1990s with a printed directory listing more than 100 different youth serving organizations. We started putting this list on the Internet in 1998 and in 2004 we launched a map-based program locator, that enabled people to find programs in different parts of Chicago by searching for type of program, age group served and location.

In 2008-9 we created a map-based version of this Chicago Program Locator, which you can see at this link. That site has not been updated since 2013 due to lack of funding and talent yet it still serves as a model of what communities might create to help services required in multiple places get the resources needed to grow and thrive, such as youth tutor and/or mentor programs, 

We never had consistent funding to do this work, although from 1998-2002 we were well supported by several foundations.  Yet the work of helping youth through school, by helping organized volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs be part of their lives, is on-going work. These programs need help to grow in 2020 more than in the past.

Because I've created a program locator template and a Chicago Programs Database anyone can use their own voice to draw attention and support to all youth programs in a geographic area.

Below is a recent Tweet from NBA Basketball star LeBron James:  

He and other athletes are now taking a lead in calling attention and response to social justice issues. They are focusing on get-out-the-vote strategies, and supporting youth development programs in different places. 

Let's invite them to use those voices to help youth tutor, mentor and learning programs grow throughout Chicago and other cities.

I've posted several articles in past years featuring this image of LeBron James, focused on roles athletes and other celebrities can take to help tutor/mentor programs grow in cities where they play or where they grew up.

Please read them. Share them with athletes you know.

Here's what they can do:
a) they can support efforts to build comprehensive youth program databases, segmented by type of program, age group served and location

b) they can support efforts to build interactive program locators, borrowing from my example (and others if they can find them)

c) they can use social media, traditional interviews and public speaking opportunities to urge people to look at these databases, locate programs in specific areas, and donate time, talent and dollars to help each program become the very best at helping kids through school and into adult lives.

Athletes know that it takes many years of hard work to build great sports teams, and it takes many years of individual effort, along with support from coaches, friends, family and others to reach an elite level of performance.

That's the same range of on-going support needed to help single youth tutor/mentor programs become great, then stay great.  Instead of supporting just one program, athletes like LeBron have the abilityto draw support to every one of these programs.  However, without the database, a search engine and on-going effort, that won't happen.

Imagine this. Look at my website and the articles on this Tutor/Mentor blog, which I started in 2005. What if one of the Chicago sports stars, from the Bears, Bulls, White Sox or Cubs were the author of all of these articles? How many more people might have responded and how many more youth might have been helped through school and into adult lives?

Please share this knowledge and help great youth development and birth-to-work mentoring programs be available in every low income area of Chicago and the rest of the world.

I'm on social media at these sites. Let's connect.

If you value my articles and web library, please help fund Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. Click here to learn more. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Help build the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Knowledge Base

Below is a graphic that visualizes almost all that the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been trying to do for the past 25 years. In this post I'm going to show a role that volunteers, including students, can take to help me collect and maintain information that others can use to help youth in every poverty area of the Chicago region. 

The blue box in the middle of this graphic is where I've operated for almost 45 years. Initially I was connecting workplace volunteers with 2nd to 6th grade youth living in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago in weekly one-on-one tutor/mentor sessions held at the Montgomery Ward Headquarters in Chicago.

In 1993 I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) to try to help volunteers and donors connect with youth in all high poverty areas of Chicago, through organized non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs like the one I was leading. Since 2011 I've led the T/MC via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

If the blue box on that graphic were a live link it would connect you to a vast library of information which I've been collecting formally since 1993.  The graphic at the right visualizes part of what's in the library.  It contains information about Chicago youth programs, including age group served, type of program, time of day, role of volunteers and location where services are provided.

In this link you can search an interactive site built around this structure and find specific programs in different zip codes of Chicago.  

Using this information anyone (see list at the right side of top graphic) can find places where they offer time, talent and/or dollars to help formal programs grow and help more kids and volunteers connect. Anyone, including program leaders and volunteers can draw from information in the web library to learn ways to constantly improve what they do to help kids.

While the library is vast (you can use this blog article to see various sections), I seek help in maintaining my list of Chicago area programs.  You can find this list in these places:

a) Chicago programs links in web library - click here  You can also see those programs on the map at this site

b) Chicago programs list on Facebook - click here

c) Chicago programs list on Twitter - click here 

My lists are organized by sections of the city (North, Central, South Central, South).  In the graphic at the top of this article you can see how I've created a grid, dividing the city into smaller sections.

My invitation is that groups in each section will take on the role of reviewing links in my library to determine if those programs are still active.  If not, they will email me and I can remove those programs from my lists.  At the same time they will survey the neighborhood to determine if there are other programs that I should include in my lists.

NOTE: I'm not looking for every type of youth program in Chicago. I'm trying to find those who have a strategy that involves volunteers as tutors and/or mentors.  In the larger web library I have other sections where I point to other youth programs in Chicago and to others who are maintaining their own directories.

Anyone can do this work. It could be a class from a local school, a church group, an existing youth program, a civic organization, a business-sponsored club, or a college group.  

It's a great virtual learning project. All you need is a computer and internet access. You can work alone, or gather in a ZOOM group with your peers or mentors and discuss how you are locating programs and what you are finding.  You can share ideas for ways to draw attention to the programs in your area, then share those ideas with groups doing similar work in different parts of the city.

  If you want to take this role email me at tutormentor2 at and let's set up a ZOOM call where I can point you to the list and help you understand what I'm asking for.  Once you commit, I'll pin your organization to my map. Ultimately I hope to have groups in every part of the Chicago region.

As you learn about programs by looking at their websites I want you to use social media to tell others about them, what they do, where they are, who they help and how others can help them.  

That's the role of the BLUE box in the middle of the top graphic. I'm connecting people who can help with programs who need help in making a difference in the lives of kids living in high poverty areas. If you learn to take that role, and practice it for a year or more, it will become something you might do often throughout your lifetime.

That would dramatically change how non-profits are supported and how well they are able to do their work.

Not in Chicago? You can build a Tutor/Mentor Connection type strategy and take on the same role, to help youth tutor/mentor and learning programs grow in your own community. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Annotation as social learning

 Today I saw this post by my #clmooc friend Terry Elliott, a college professor from Western Kentucky. In it he's sharing a video that shows students in his college class how to use to annotate a class syllabus document.  I encourage you to take a look.

I learned about annotation a few years ago from Terry and Kevin Hodgson, another #clmooc educator.  I shared some of my thoughts in a few blog articles which I encourage you to read.

At the site-based tutor/mentor programs that I led in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 we began to add computers in the 1980s and continued to update this capacity in following years.

As the photo at the left shows, this normally led to students and volunteers surrounding a computer, to do various forms of engagement.

Since Covid19 closed schools and non-school program sites in March this face-to-face interaction has almost ceased, or has been severely limited.

In fact, this photo might be from any home in America, where the adult is a parent or older sibling, helping younger students or peers with on-line learning.

With ZOOM and other video conferencing those kids could be looking at a screen with fellow students and/or volunteer tutors and/or mentors.  I see stories from many programs showing that that has been happening over the past few months.

I'm sure it will continue, and grow, the longer students are prevented from attending classes at schools or non-school program sites.

So why not use and do shared reading, via remote learning.  Students and volunteers could each be looking at the same document, and highlighting and annotating, just as Terry shows in his video.  Using video conferencing they could not only be writing and adding thoughts in the margins, but they could be talking to each other, asking questions, and reading what each other is saying.

Above you can see a screen shot from one of my blog articles, which I've highlighted to illustrate annotation in action. Visit this in this blog article, and find a link to an annotated version in where you cab add your own comments.

Below I point to an article I wrote showing how some Chicago youth programs are adopting e-learning strategies. I'd love to write a story in the future showing uses of annotation in e-learning.

How are Chicago youth programs pivoting to e-Learning?
I posted this article a few weeks ago to share some stories showing how Chicago youth programs were adopting e-learning strategies. I updated it today to add this article from Midtown Educational Foundation. 

Reminder.  If you'd like to share how your organization is dealing with Covid-19, read this blog article and contact GrowthWorks directly. 

Thanks for reading. If you'd like to help me fund the work I do, click here and use PayPal to send a contribution. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Building Public Will to Invest in Racial Justice

Today I listened to an Instagram conversation hosted by the Schott Foundation, featuring their president, Dr. John Jackson ( @DrJohnHJackson ) and Keron Blair (@Keronblair). Below is a Tweet from that conversation. If you listen to this you'll see a focus on the political will needed to generate a sustained distribution of resources into all Black and Brown neighborhoods that lead to social justice over a period of many years.

In several past articles I wrote about "building public will".  Below I share what I wrote in 2015.

----- begin 2015 article -----

I scratched out the outline for this story a couple of days ago as I was riding the train and thinking about the challenges we face in solving complex problems like poverty. I hope you'll follow along with my thinking. 

This graphic is part of a strategy graphic that shows the planning steps needed to solve complex problems or role out a new business strategy. See the full graphic and explanation here

Every year, millions of dollars are spent by social benefit organizations trying to attract resource to support their work. The money is spent directly on fund raising, marketing and public education. It's spent indirectly on training programs and consultants.

Regardless of where an organization operates or what cause it focuses on, we're all competing for a slice of the same donor pie. That pie seems to be shrinking, either because of economic circumstances, or because of the rise in organizations competing for a share of the pie. Natural disasters that occur randomly around the world exert a huge pull on discretionary donor dollars every time they happen.  Covid19 has added a new level of challenges.

Thus, it's unlikely that great programs, doing similar work, but in different places, will be available in a large percent of the places where such programs are needed. Since 1993 I've piloted uses of maps to show where non-school tutor/mentor programs are most needed, then using the maps to influence donor support of programs in every place where the map shows programs are needed.

In recent years there is a growing application of mapping and data visualization (see blog). However, I still don't see many who are trying to create maps of all service providers doing similar work in areas where that work is needed. Such maps would show a poor distribution of needed programs. Over time it would show change as new programs launch and some go out of business.

It's also unlikely that many organizations will attract on-going dollars to enable them to provide long-term support. In youth development, this is a serious issue. Kids take 12 years to move from first grade to first job. If they are living in high poverty areas, the support system needs to reach them early and stay with them through school and even into work. Such support systems are needed in many, many places.

What's the solution?

Building public will is step 7 on this map. Each step is important in solving complex problems. However, until more people from different places, with different talents, and different levels of influence get involved in brainstorming ways to build public support and keep it growing, I don't see many long-term solutions emerging.

I created this graphic (see article) to illustrate that while we want to help social benefit organizations and clients use the resources available to achieve their missions and/or overcome challenges they face, we also need to influence what people who don't live in poverty do to help them. This can include direct support such as funding, or public policy. It can also include indirect support, such as removing barriers and obstacles. 

Some (but certainly not all) of the actions we need to be focusing on include:

a) constant education of the public so they have deeper understanding of the problems and places where strong, constantly improving, social benefit organizations are needed

b) innovation of on-going advertising-type campaigns to influence what resource providers do

c) build growing understanding of how current systems of philanthropic and government support are not working. 

Just a small growth of the resource pie every year could make a huge impact on the availability of needed social benefit organizations (including tutoring/mentoring organizations) in more of the places where they are most needed. 

Building public will requires champions and leaders from every sector, in every city of the world. I'm certain that this discussion is taking place. I'm just not sure where this is an on-line forum, a cMOOC, or part of a web library that points to a wide range of places where this is being discussed. 

Use the comment section to provide links to open, on-line forums, Google groups, or cMOOCs that you're aware of, where "building public will" is the focus of the group. Or introduce yourself to me on TwitterFacebook or Linkedin.

---- end 2015 article ------

Now we're in the middle of a global pandemic, and facing a highly contentious November election. We've a climate crisis that threatens major disruption over the next century.  

As I listened to Dr Jackson and Keron Blair this morning I thought of this concept map. It shows the need for long term investments to help kids move from birth to work and shows many different issues that need to be addressed in every high poverty area of the country.  This requires a massive investment. Finding ways to build the public and political will needed will require finding ways to connect people from each of these sectors and innovate ways to cut through the noise of every other issue to draw daily attention to this challenge.

I share these graphics here and on Twitter (knowing that only 22% of people actually use Twitter!) with the invitation that others who are more appropriate, or more visible, spokespeople will borrow them for their own leadership.  

If you'd like my help understanding the meaning of these or any or my articles just reach out to me.