Monday, December 31, 2007

Act Locally. Influence Globally. Add this to your 2008 Resolution

This photo describes the strategy of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC). While we operate one tutor/mentor program in the Near North part of Chicago (LOCAL), we created the T/MC (GLOBAL)to help tutor/mentor programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and its suburbs. Through the Internet, we're sharing this strategy and enlisting partners in big cities throughout the country.

We'd like to encourage businesses, colleges, civic and health care groups to adopt this local/global strategy. It's very expensive to operate a tutor/mentor program, and it takes many years for a program to become great, as well as a minimum of 6 years for a youth to go from 7th grade to high school graduate. Thus, while a company can put great energy into one or two sites, they really only reach a few kids out of the more than 200,000 living in poverty in Chicago, or the approximately 13 million living in poverty around the country.

However, if a company uses its advertising, public relations, internal communications, etc. to encourage employees and customers to get involved in tutor/mentor programs all over the city, or in many cities, it can influence what happens in many tutor/mentor programs, and the lives of thousands of kids.

What's great about this concept is that this form of leadership is not really very expensive. It's a mindset. Business uses all sorts of advertising to influence the actions of millions of people. If they apply this same thinking they can influence hundreds of tutor/mentor locations. In addition, they probably will also learn more ways to make the local programs they operate much more effective. That's what we've learned. By operating the Tutor/Mentor Connection we actually have done more to help our own Cabrini Connections program grow.

Follow the links at the left side of this page, or skim through the articles I've written over the past 2 years, and learn how your church, business, law firm, university, and/or high school service learning project can adopt this thinking in your own efforts.

Have a safe, happy new year. I'll add some more to this blog tomorrow.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Spiritual Connection

Does your spirituality drive your social entrepreneurship? This is the question on the Social Edge web site (now only available on web archive) this week.

I responded by saying that I believe there has been a spiritual force guiding my 30 years of involvement in tutoring/mentoring, and that this force helps me connect with others at different times and in different ways.

I write about these connections on this blog, and in each article, I link to others who I'm connecting with, or learning from. If you browse the links along the left side of this page, you'll see that each leads to other web pages, with listings of other tutor/mentor programs, or with discussions where I contribute and learn. In addition, many of these web sites link to even more sites, where I would like to spend time learning if I could stretch each day into 40 hours instead of 24.

I can't do that. Thus, my hope for 2008 is that some of you who read this blog will either take on the role of network builder, researcher, advocate, or you will recruit others in your own network to take on this role.

I hope you'll browse the various links and visit the forums that I visit, and that we can connect in one or more. In addition, if you are meeting in other forums where there are great ideas, and a great focus on actions that many people take to help millions of kids stay in school and reach careers, please forward the link to me so I can join, and I can connect others in my network to these new places of learning.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 2007, with your time, your talent, and your dollars. I look forward to connecting with you in more strategic ways in 2008.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Many to One, Not One to Many

The image of the lonesome warrior is one that reminds me of the men and women who are fighting overseas to make this a better world. As we count our blessings, let's pray for the young people in our armed forces.

However, this image is also one that I think of when I think of the people leading social benefit organizations around the world, mostly in isolation, mostly with too few resources to do everything they are trying to do.

Those who lead small non profits, or are struggling to get social benefit ideas launched, may related to this One-To-Many graphic. We're constantly reaching out in many different directions, trying to find the help we need. We're like fish in a bowl, competing with thousands of others for a limited amount of dollars and volunteers. Unless you've got a powerful marketing machine, or are well connected in donor circles, you succeed some of the time, but not most of the time, and you spend tremendous amounts of emotional capital and energy all of the time.

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I'm trying to change this. I'm trying to recruit leaders in many places who lead strategic thinking process in their organization that aligns social benefit with corporate and organizational strategy. Such leaders will use their own advertising, visibility and resources to support the growth of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that lead kids to careers, because it's a core business strategy.

See this concept map at

I've been saying this for a long time, but last week I found an article on the Harvard Business Review that reinforces this concept. The article is titled Strategy & Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. Written by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer.

Education and workforce development are of strategic importance for most industries. Thus, if leaders of business, health care, law, journalism, sports and entertainment, etc. are strategic, they can use tools like the Program Locator and Chicago Program Links to choose what part of a city they want to support, and what programs they want to help grow from good to great.

This isn't a strategy to support just one tutor/mentor program, or one brand name like the Boys and Girls Clubs, it's a strategy to help every high poverty neighborhood have comprehensive programs that are one end of the pipeline to jobs and careers for businesses that are strategically engaging their corporate resources to help grow their future workforce.

Over the next seven days millions of people will make charitable decisions, either for good will, or for tax deductions. Choose a program like Cabrini Connections, or one of the others listed in the Links Library, and this will show the impact of Many to One.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Building Networks of Purpose

Every day I spend time building networks of support for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region, and looking for ways to help these programs have a growing impact on the lives of inner city kids and the volunteers who become part of their lives.

This networking connects me with many different tutor/mentor programs and supporters in Chicago, and with similar groups and leaders in other parts of the country and the world.

On Friday, December 14 this networking took me to Wisconsin, where I was a speaker in a Mentoring Conference held in Kenosha, that served as the kickoff of the Kenosha-Racine Mentoring Network. The featured speaker was the Executive Director of the Minnesota Mentoring Partnership, and another speaker was Kathy Munson, from the Wisconsin Mentoring Partnership. Thus, by organizing this conference, the leaders (from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside) were connecting mentoring leaders from three states. By my writing about this on my blog, I hope I'm connecting mentoring leaders from many other places with these groups and with our groups in Chicago. Mentor Kenosha-Racine has set up their own blog, and I encourage you to connect with them.

Following the morning conference, I attended a meeting of the Wisconsin Mentoring Partnership planning team. This volunteer organization has representatives from Milwaukee and other parts of the state and their aim is to build a network mirroring best practices in Minnesota, Michigan and other states. I've met with leaders of this group for over 10 years, sharing strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

After the conference in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I drove back to Chicago to attend a holiday party hosted by Dr. James Galloway, whom I met in September when I participated in a Health Careers conference, focused on American Indian and Alaska Eskimo youth. Following our meeting, I've participated in an on-line forum connecting members of the Pathways into Health Careers network, and Dr. Galloway was a speaker at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference in November. During Friday evenings social gathering, I met others from the public health field, and hopefully some of these connections will become future partners of the T/MC and future supporters of tutor/mentor program growth throughout Illinois and the Midwest.

In today's newspapers there were letters to the editor about the Poverty Gap, and articles the drew attention to poverty in various parts of Illinois. In the Parade Magazine the front page featured the highly visible Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington, talking about ways to give to charity.

The one article that I felt was most important, was one that talked about how the huge charitable donations from the Bill Gates foundation, intended to solve major public health issues around the world, was having an unintended impact of reducing support for basic human services.

On the T/MC web sites I use charts and maps to illustrate the many different organizations who need to be working in a neighborhood to help youth grow up safely and move to jobs and careers, as well as the many different neighborhoods where such help needs to be funded for many, many years.

My holiday wish is that leaders like Gates, Denzel and Oprah would support complex problem solving blueprints such as I'm piloting so that their visibility could result in a distribution of flexible, on-going operating dollars, from big, and small donors, to all of the different non-profits who are part of the village needed to raise children in America and the World.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Growing Corporate Support for Charter Schools in Chicago

Mayor Daley and Arne Duncan have called on the Chicago business community, and local and national foundations to help raise $50 million to support Renaissance 2010 which is the Mayor's plan to make 100 new schools available in Chicago to under-served youth. In response, the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago committed to help raise $25 million and created the Renaissance Schools Fund (RSF) to support the transformation of Chicago’s public schools through greater choice and competition, and to provide all families with high-quality educational options.

This map shows locations of new or planned charter schools. A list of corporate donors shows commitments ranging from $250,000 to over $2 million. The map, list of schools and links to other stories can be found on the Medill Reports web site.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) supports this strategy, but as the chart above shows, we also feel that unless funds are not put into learning and mentoring that takes place out of the school and beyond the school day, the new schools will soon be struggling with the same challenges of the former schools, in that not enough kids come to school motivated, and prepared to learn, and not enough kids have an adult network expanding their learning, their aspirations, and their opportunities for jobs and careers beyond school.

Just getting a school started will not be enough to assure the success of a youth from when he enters one of these new schools at first, 6th or 9th grade. Business needs to stay involved for many years, encouraging employees to be involved as volunteers, leaders, donors, and innovating workforce-development strategies that can help more kids build the soft skills needed to succeed in school and work.

It's a good challenge as we head into 2008.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Building Public Will - Expanding the Choir

If you've read past articles on this blog, you can see that I'm singing the same song, over and over, trying to connect people who can help, such as volunteers, donors, business leaders, with tutor/mentor programs that have a long-term, volunteer-based strategy of mentoring inner-city kids through school and into careers.

In many ways, I'm a choir of one, I'm singing solo. I'm a whisper in the wilderness. In order to achieve the goals I write about, I need to expand the size of the choir, enlist more people to sing different parts of the music, and take different roles in this orchestra.

The result, is a growing reverberation, or Hallelujah Chorus, of people supporting youth in different neighborhoods of Chicago, and different neighborhoods of other big cities around the country...and the world.

So, how do we do this. How do we build the public will needed to not just support tutoring/mentoring, but willing to sacrifice more than token levels of time, talent and dollars, for many years, even decades.

I don't have a simple solution. I do have a path. I point to web sites where other people are writing about this topic, and educating their readers. Thus, every time you visit my blog, or the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, you're pointed to other places where researchers, writers, tutor/mentor leaders, are educating readers about why and where and how they can help build this public support for programs that use volunteers in many roles to mentor inner city kids toward jobs and careers.

Everyone who reads one of my articles and shares it with a friend, or who passes on a link to the T/MC web site, is taking a role in this choir. Thank you.

Since we're in the year-end fund raising period, here's a few articles that I encourage you to read which related to building public support, and raising funds for non profits. I hope many readers will uses these ideas to raise money during December, and 2008, for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, such as Cabrini Connections.

Building Public Will at

From Spare Change to Real Change: The Social Sector as a Beta Site for Business Innovation -

How to Use the Internet for Group Fund Raising -

Guidelines for Funding Non Profits - call for general operating support -

Follow the links at the side of this blog and in the LINKS LIBRARY and you'll find many other people who are sharing information and raising awareness, in an effort to mobilize resources for organizations working with at risk kids, and working to help more kids prepare for 21st century careers.

As we head through December, many people will be thinking of ways to share their blessings, or make this a better world. Cabrini Connections is not the only tutor/mentor program in Chicago. If you point friends and families to places like the Chicago Program Links on the T/MC web site, you can help us build support for Cabrini Connections and all other tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region and in other cities.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Role of Leaders - Thanks LaSalle Bank/Bank of America

I heard a radio commercial as I drove to work this morning. It was created by LaSalle Bank/Bank of America, and encourages holiday donors to visit the bank and make donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.

When I describe the Role of Leaders, this is one of my goals. I'd like to see leaders in every industry use their advertising to draw volunteers and donors to volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs in all parts of the city, not just the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Most tutor/mentor programs are small. They don't have the brand name and clout of the Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, or Big Brothers Big Sisters, yet many do great work and many operate in neighborhoods where these groups don't have facilities. They can't find enough donors on their own, so the T/MC seeks to engage leaders in business and churches to use their advertising to help these various organizations get the resources during the year end holidays, and throughout the year that help them stay connected to kids.

Here's an example of how a leadership group in the Chicago legal community is supporting tutor/mentor programs: Lawyers Lend-A-Hand Program

If people are encouraged to visit the Chicago Program Links they can find many choices in many neighborhoods. If advertising from different businesses focuses on different parts of the city, or in all neighborhoods where a company does business, then we do more to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs throughout the city.

If your church, hospital, civic group, or business is integrating charity giving, or volunteerism into its advertising, please include this link, and send us an email to tell us what you're doing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mentoring as part of larger strategy:

Mentoring has become hugely popular over the past 10 years. I encourage you to read a new Public/Private Ventures Brief, titled Mentoring, Policy and Politics, written by Gary Walker, which illustrates how it became such a widely accepted strategy. (You can download the report from the P/PV site.)

The final sentence of this report, in a section titled “Future Directions” states “Infiltration, not consolidation, is where mentoring’s greatest usefulness lies in the years ahead.”

I wrote about this in the Articles section of the Tutor/Mentor Connection site and encourage you to read my comments after you've read the P/PV article.

If you'd like to submit an article to rebut or support my thinking, I encourage you to do so. However, if you support the idea of mentoring as part of a larger strategy, then I encourage you to look for ways to connect with the T/MC during 2008 so we can expand business and philanthropic support, which is essential for building and sustaining high quality tutor/mentor programs.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Follow the links.

I've been building this blog for over two years now. I keep adding links to the left side of the page, to sites that I visit, which are entry points for vast areas of learning.

I just updated the list today and added a link to The Raiser's Raiser a blog that writes about fund raising, and posts links to other articles of interest. If you lead a tutor/mentor program, or are a volunteer or donor, I encourage you to read some of these articles and follow the other links on the page.

I can't teach everything I know, or everything that is known by others in this world. I can provide a path to information I think it's important for me to know and that I hope you'll use to guild your own learning

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Connecting with Public Health Community

A couple of months ago I pointed out a report titled "Reframing School Drop Out as a Public Health Issue."

Today I found the web site of the Oxford Health Alliance Initiative. It's LINKS sections is extensive, and the site offers excellent networking and collaboration features. (12-2018 note: this site no longer active. Use Community Health Solutions as a resource.)

I wish I had time to browse all of these links and see what connections I can make between them and the work the Tutor/Mentor Connection is doing, but I don't. So I'm appealing to readers to take on this role.

In a way, I'm looking for volunteers to take the role of "scout bees" who go out looking for food sources, then alert "worker bees" who bring the food back to a bee hive. Here's an article on eLearnspace that prompted my thinking on this.

If you follow this analogy, the T/MC web site is the bee hive/colony. People who go out through the internet and share information, like I do here, and here, are acting like scout bees. They are sharing our information in a wider network and are connecting the people and information in these networks to the T/MC web site and those who visit it.

In many ways the scout bees are network weavers, acting to connect information and knowledge, with a purpose of making good things happen that are not possible by the efforts of people working in small groups, and in isolation from each other.

By reading this blog, and passing it on to others, you're taking the role of a scout bee, worker bee, and network weaver.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Legend of Will Smith - Super Role Model

I just finished reading an article about actor Will Smith, in the current issue of TIME. What a story! What an example of purposeful living! I already liked his movies. Now, I like the man.

Why? In an error where everything that goes wrong is someone else's fault, this young man seems to recognize that he has the power to make things go right. Maybe not all the time, but often enough that life is good.

There are some habits described in this article that we could all learn from. If we could instill these habits in our youth, we'd have a lot less crime, a lot less drop outs, and a lot fewer worries for their future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

University of Chicago Graduate Student Killed. A Stolen Dream. What's the University Doing? What's Obama doing?

Today's Chicago SunTimes reports the tragedy of a University of Chicago graduate student from Senegal, Africa, being shot and killed by teens living in the area around the University.

This is not the first time such a tragedy has taken place in Chicago. Click here to be reminded of previous stories.

What I'd like to know is why the news media have not yet made the connection to the rich University and the University of Chicago Hospitals, Presidential candidate Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle, who as I recall works for the University of Chicago Hospitals, and the lack of significant strategic involvement by the university and its alumni to support the growth of comprehensive, mentor rich, career focused, neighborhood youth programs that might have provided an alternative path for the three young men who chose to go on a crime spree last week.

I've been building a database of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs since 1993 and sharing this information with many information, including the Obamas and others at the University of Chicago. I've been trying to encourage leadership from the university and the hospital that would lead to more and better tutor/mentor programs in the neighborhoods around Hyde Park (60637) where the university is located.

If you search for the 60637 zip code in the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, looking for programs that define themselves as a "mixture of tutor/mentor programs", you'll only find three groups in this area. One is The Blue Gargoyle, located near the University of Chicago. For many years I've received calls from parents and social workers on the South Side of Chicago who were looking for tutor/mentor programs in the area. Many had contacted the Blue Gargoyle first, who then refered callers to us since they could not fill the demand themselves.

You can search a map version of the program locator for the zip codes around 60637, and you'll see that there are very few volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

This has been an issue for many years. Thus, my question is, what's Obama's track record, or what's the university's track record, or strategic plan, for helping more and better tutor/mentor programs grow in this part of Chicago, using the resources of the University, the Hospital, and the rich and powerful alumni of both institutions.

My belief is that if there had been a strategy since 1995 when I begin communicating this information to the hospital and university, and other business leaders in Chicago, there would now be many more tutor/mentor programs in the area, and some of these would be the best in the country (based on the quality of thinking and resources that the university could bring to bear on this issue, using the proposed on the T/MC web site).

Is there a strategy? Do any of the candidates have a strategy?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let's Redefine Christmas by Putting More Thanksgiving in It.

Today's Chicago Tribune include a full page ad that encourages people to consider giving gifts to charity, rather than to each other. I saw this ad a week ago and was going to write about it.

Anyone willing to spend this kind of money to encourage philanthropy is a hero to me.

However, the first ad apparently used the word "loathsome" and that generated negative feedback. Thus, the second version was rewritten. Eric Zorn wrote about this in his column today, which is what prompted me to take another look.

When I first saw this ad I wondered who sponsored it, and there was some small type saying The Dolio Family Foundation does not solicit donations from the public. In his column today Zorn interviewed Matt Dalio, on behalf of the Dalio Family Foundation, the sponsor of the $2 million campaign. This gave me a greater appreciation of the goals behind the ad.

I just want to say THANK YOU.

If you've read my blog in the past you know how much I'm trying to recruit leaders who will use their visibility, and their wealth, to generate more consistent year-round support for tutor/mentor programs. I don't have an advertising budget, thus having someone like the Dolio Family Foundation step forward and spend their money is great news for me.

I only have one wish. I'd like to have seen them provide a link to a web resource where people could find a list of charities to support, such as you'd find on or

Furthermore, I love to have them review the Program Locator which the Tutor/Mentor Connection is piloting. This is intended to help tutor/mentor programs grow in all poverty neighborhoods, by teaching donors to look at maps showing all the places where programs and donations are needed, then choose what section of the city, or what zip code, they want to help.

Once they have made that decision they can search the Program Locator by zip code, and type of program, age group served, and time of day service is provided, to narrow down their search. This only leaves a few choices in most neighborhoods.

If systems like this were used, the small charities operating in neighborhoods without the high visibility of a Cabrini Green, or a Robert Taylor Housing Development, would have a better chance to get consistent funding and this would enable more comprehensive tutor/mentor programs to grow in all parts of the city.

If leadership like that provided by The Dalio Family Foundation helps long-term charities grow in high needs areas, their gift will have a lasting effect. So will yours.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Customer Service - Key to Volunteer Retention

One of the themes of every Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference is volunteer recruitment and retention and one workshop was a panel discussion hosted by leaders of three different Chicago programs. Nicole White wrote about this and included a few photos at this blog.

For programs to provide a high level of customer service, they need to find ways to recruit and retain key leaders who understand the goals and strategies of their program, can build relationships with youth and volunteers, and are able to support the individual needs of each youth and volunteer as the tutoring year moves from September through June.

I feel one of the challenges of going to scale, or of having hundreds of high quality volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs is the difficulty of finding experienced leaders for many different tutor/mentor programs, and to keep these leaders in place for 5-10 years.

One obstacle is lack of consistent, or adequate funding. Many tutor/mentor programs, including Cabrini Connections, work shoestring budgets, thus staff wear many hats, work many hours, and often work with hand-me-down equipment that is not always in good working condition. It's hard to keep good people in these jobs when their skills are so highly valued in the for-profit world.

You can help change that with year end donations, and charitable bequests, to support tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, or in other communities.

However, a second major challenge is that I don't know of any university that is preparing graduates for careers specifically in volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs. If young people apprenticed in tutor/mentor programs as they moved through high school and college, and they took courses in communications, marketing, leadership, as well as education, youth development, psychology, etc., they would leave college ready to take mid level and leadership roles in tutor/mentor programs. Or they might leave college and go into industry, more aware of their pro-active role as a leader and donor in support of individual programs.

If you're thinking of a place to leave a fortune, why not consider a bequest to a university to set up such a training program? It could have an impact all over the country.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No Funds Left Behind

Today there is a story in the Chicago Tribune showing how funds provided by the government via the No Child Left Behind Law are taken away once a school improves its test scores.

This is the thinking that got us into Iraq without a plan to win the peace. In most neighborhoods with poorly performing schools, poverty is the main problem, or English as a Second Language. Just because a school improved test scores does the government think poverty has gone away. It would be great if NCLB were also focused at reducing high school drop outs, or preparing youth for 21st century careers. Then maybe the funding would be more flexible and would continue for decades, not just a few years.

If you've read my blog previously you'll see that I feel a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program should be viewed by business as a workforce development strategy. Volunteer involvement provides learning and networking experience for current workers, and it can help build a pipeline to careers for future workers.

We host a variety of information on this subject on the T/MC web site, and host a conference every six months to draw people together, and to build visibility for tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region.

I've asked people who attended the conference last week to write about it. Read Keith's blog and you will see a few more photos and a few more reasons to get involved with the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

If we can get business to think strategically about tutor/mentor programs, we can innovate new sources of long-term revenue, and reduce our dependency on short sighted (and limited) public funding.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

National Football League Alumni Score for Tutor/Mentor Programs in Chicago Region

On Thursday, Nov. 15, Marcus Sullivan, former football star at the University of Illinois, and in the National Football League, helped open the Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference. By their participation, they help us draw volunteers and donors to all tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region. Using the Program Locator, anyone can choose where they want to be involved, and what programs they want to support. As we approach the year end holidays, we hope you'll all use this resource to make a donation to one or more tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region.

In this photo he is shown with Scott K. Niermann, MPA, SERVE ILLINOIS Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service

On Friday, Bruce Herron, who wore #51 for four years as a linebacker, for the Chicago Bears, talked about the importance of teamwork, in sports, and in life. In this photo Bruce is shown with Daniel F. Bassill, President of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, and LaMarr Johnson, Labor Market Outreach Specialist, IL Dept. of Employment Security.

LaMarr has been a speaker at the past two conferences, and introduced a new State of Illinois web site intended to help young people plan for careers.

LaMarr, Bruce, Marques and everyone who attended the Thursday-Friday conference, are part of a growing team, a network of purpose, working to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in the Chicago region.

In the next few weeks we'll post additional photos from the web site, and talk more about how hospitals, pro sports teams, tutor/mentor programs, lawyers, colleges and youth can work as a team to help young people from economically disadvantaged, and socially isolated parts of America have the expanded network of support they need to succeed in school and move to careers.

Join us on-line to be part of this team. Send your donations to help the T/MC do this work.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Conference Day

I'm at the Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Il. This is where we're hosting the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

This is the 28th time I've hosted this conference since 1994, and I still get jitters,hoping everything will run smoothly, enough people will attend, and that participants will get value from attending.

Yet, I know from past experience that I've done all I can. It's now up to those who attend to make this conference and this networking work for them. I know from past experience, that just one or two contacts out of a face to face conference can lead to major impacts on an organization.

For instance, in the first conference we started our relationship with lawyers and judges of the Chicago Bar Association. That's led to a Lend A Hand Program that now mobilizes lawyers and judges to be part of tutor/mentor programs all over Chicago. It also raises money to help fund these programs. Yesterday was the annual meeting to review grant requests. Almost $200,000 was awarded to different tutor/mentor programs in Chicago.

In another conference, around 1998, I met Steve Roussos. Steve was a PhD student at the University of Kansas and had contacted me saying "I'm coming to Chicago. Can we meet?" I asked when. He said November. I said, "will you do a workshop?" He did, and we've been working together ever since.

In another conference, in around 2000, I met Scot Evanbeck, Dean of University College at IUPUI, in Indianapolis. The web site was re-built by IUPUI in 2005 as a result of the networking and collaboration that resulted from that first meeting.

In the T/MC OHATS documentation system I've documented actions and networking that has taken place since 1999. Through this you can see how the conferences play a role in bringing people together, share knowledge, and enable each participant to use this knowledge to build their own program, start a new program, or support a citywide strategy of multiple programs.

It's showtime! Got to get dressed and help set up. If you're in the area, why not drop by. If you can't make it, why not join us in the forums on the T/MC web site.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mentoring Makes A Difference

I was searching Google tonight for articles about mentoring that related to workforce development and found this one titled Mentoring Makes a Difference.

The writer makes a strong case. The question I ask you is, what do we need to do to make effective mentoring programs available in more high poverty neighborhoods, so more kids can participate?

That's a primary reason I invite people to come together every six months for conferences,such as the one we're holding on Thursday and Friday, and to read this blog, or to visit the TMC web site. If we agree mentoring makes a difference, then let's put more time into making mentoring available to more kids.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NFL Players help build Tutor/Mentor Network

Marques Sullivan, former college football star at the University of Illinois and National Football League will be one of the speakers helping to kick off the 28th Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, to be held November 15 and 16, 2007 at the Olympia Fields County Club in Olympia Fields, Il.

Marques Sullivan was a multi-sport athlete at Fenwick High School in Chicago, achieving All-America honors in football during the 1995 season. He was an All-America football player at the University of Illinois and then played for the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and New England Patriots between 2001 and 2004. Having grown up in inner city Chicago, he understand the importance of mentors and coaches in the lives of young people. He is currently involved with many charities in the Chicago area.

Learn more about the conference at There is still time to register.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Network Building - Can you do it?

Today on the Smart Communities blog Suzanne Morse wrote about the Tutor/Mentor Connection, drawing from a comment I'd posted on her blog previously. We were introduced to each other about a year ago via the Non-Profit Blog Exchange .

This illustrates how people who care about the same issues can each voice their opinions, using their own blog, and connect their networks to each other, via blog exchanges.

If more people do this every day, we'll soon have an army of people working together to help disadvantaged youth.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tutor/Mentor On-Line Network - Social Problem Solving

We're holding the next tutor/mentor conference next week in the South Suburbs of Chicago. The map shows that within a 12 mile radius of the Olympia Fields Conference site there are many areas of high poverty where tutor/mentor programs are needed.

We hope leaders of programs that already operate in this region, and in other parts of the Chicago region, will attend. But we also want other leaders to attend.

Our goal is to create a convergence, of business, health care, universities, faith groups, k-12 educators, social workers, lawyers, etc., ... all focused on expanding the learning and mentoring network for k-12 kids living in poverty, with the idea that volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can be a more important strategy to business, hospitals, faith and university leaders.

While we expect leaders of some tutor/mentor programs to attend (see the attendee list), we're not yet getting leaders of business and health care organizations to participate. We know some CEOs understand how volunteerism can be a valuable form of workforce development, and how some health care leaders understand mentoring as a workforce development strategy, however, getting these people into an on-going conversation that turns them into leaders of the Tutor/Mentor Connection's strategy, is not yet happening.

Part of the problem is that most business people don't even know the Tutor/Mentor Connection exists. Those that do are too busy to attend our conferences, or to far from Chicago to attend. This is true for tutor/mentor program leaders, too.

Thus, we've been working to move this networking to the Internet. In the past year more and more social network spaces have become available, which enable people who care about a cause, to connect with others who care about the same cause. We've created discussion forums on the T/MC site. But we also have space on Linked In and Facebook. In addition I participate in forums hosted by others, such as the Learning to Finish Wiki, and the Classroom 2.0 community. At we've started a new outreach with health care professionals.

Each of these communities connects the T/MC to a growing network of others who care about kids just as much as we do. If we can turn this network into a network of purpose, we can solve problems facing non profits, and do more to help kids.

Building collaborations and partnerships and focusing them on long-term goals is a difficult process, in the best of circumstances. I've been building this network for the past 30 years, informally at first, with limited support from foundations, or government. Yet over time we've helped many people build tutor/mentor programs, and many volunteers connect with kids. Here's a timeline that illustrates this growth.

Some where in America, today's papers will report stories of kids being killed, schools that perform poorly, poverty, and other social injustices. If you read one of these, I encourage you to join us in one of the forums I've listed, so you can learn ways you can be part of the solution, or that you can connect your network so they can be part of a solution.

We can become angry about a problem, and hope someone else solves it. Or we can begin to learn more about the problem and become a catalyst who helps make it go away.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Halloween Tragedy. Education Gap Grows. How to respond?

Last week's headlines included a tragic story of a young mother who was shot and killed as she was out trick-or-treating with her three young kids. It was a random shooting, gang related, and too common in Chicago.

As tragic as this was, it did not get as much of a headline as the reports from the most recent round of education test results, showing a continuing gap between the learning or rich and poor in Chicago.

The question is, "who cares?". Do you see the stories of shootings so often that you just read past them? Is the education gap something that is "somebody else's problem"?

The reason I advocate for volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring is that it connects people who don't live in poverty, who have never had to fear for their life as they go to school every day, or walk in a park, or take their kids out for Halloween, on a personal basis with kids and families who deal with these issues every day.

If we can help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections grow in every part of the Chicago region where there are pockets of poverty, we can connect thousands of people with this tragedy and, hopefully, increase the number of people who don't put the paper down when they read these stories, but dig deeper for meaning and understanding, and look for ways to stop this killing.

I write about this often and encourage you to scroll back through the past messages that I've posted. I also encourage you to try to participate in the next Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, which will be November 15 and 16.

If you can't attend personally, then join us on the Internet, in the T/MC forum, on Facebook, or in other spaces where we can stay connected for many years, or as long as it takes to develop a more sophisticated, and broad based, response to these tragedies.

As you move through the coming week, and read more stories like these, I hope you'll remember this invitation.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

NFL stars participate in Tutor/Mentor Conference

Bruce Herron, a former Chicago Bear, and active business leader in the Chicago region, is just one of the speakers participating in the November 15 and 16 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, being held at the Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Illinois.

Visit the conference web site and review the agenda and list of speakers. You can register on line. Scholarships are available for any who requests them. A few workshop slots are still available, so if you'd like to do a presentation, host a meeting of a business, or community network, or host a display table, email the Tutor/Mentor Connection, or call 312-492-9614

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Two Kids.Five Days. We're living in a crossfire."

The front page story in today's Chicago SunTimes was about the senseless shooting of two more Chicago kids. One was 10. One was 13. A quote with the front page headline reads "We are becoming veterans of doing this. Too many young people are dying for stupid reasons."

In one of my email messages today one of my former volunteers contacted me. She reports that the student she worked with has had one baby. Her sister has had two, maybe three. Both are under 18.

The only good news about this is that the volunteer is still in contact with the teen mother, and with Cabrini Connections. We don't have magic to prevent kids from making decisions that make their life more difficult (or end it), but we can build and sustain an adult support network that will be available as these kids wise up and look for alternatives to the bad decisions they have made.

That's what the conference on Monday was all about. Alternative Schools Network recognizes that there are almost 250,000 kids out of school, and out of jobs. Many of these kids are ripe for recruitment by street gangs, who provide a self esteem and reward negative behavior.

There is no simple, or short term, solution. Another march in the streets, and another headline in the paper, won't change habits that have built up over many years, and many generations.

The only solution I know is a difficult, long road. It's one of getting informed, and getting involved.

We're hosting a tutor/mentor conference on Nov. 15 and 16. That's a place to begin to get informed, as is this blog and the links I post when I write articles. If people visited this blog as often as they go to church or another faith based institution, or as often as they read the newspaper, or watch TV, we'd have a lot more people who were well educated about the problem, and had a wider range of solutions that they could bring into their actions.

However, getting informed, is only relevant if you also get involved. Visit the Chicago Program Links, or the Program Locator, and find a tutor/mentor program in Chicago, or another city, where you can become a sponsor, a volunteer, a leader, a network weaver, or a student.

The more you stay involved, the deeper your commitment becomes, because it becomes more personal, and your knowledge becomes more sophisticated.

As you build a personal understanding of how difficult it is to get kids to participate, stay involved, and to change habits, all of the information you can find on the internet can stimulate your creative side, and lead to new ways that you support a tutor/mentor program, or a youth, with your time, your talent and your dollars.

There's a process to this. I wrote about it here.

Establish a learning group at your college, in your high school, at your law firm, in your synagogue or mosque or in your business. Grow your understanding of the problem and the ways that you can be part of the solution.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Consequences of Dropping Out of School in Illinois

On Monday I attended a Statewide Summit titled Building a System to Re-Enroll Students who Dropped out of School. It was hosted by the Alternative Schools Network.

The research on high school dropout rates is being compiled by The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Here's an excerpt from the summary document:

Dropping out of high school without obtaining a regular high school diploma has a number of adverse labor market consequences for adults in Illinois, especially for men whose employment rates and real annual earnings have been declining since the late 1970s. On every core measure of labor market success, adults (18-64 years old) in Illinois without high school diplomas are far worse off than their better educated peers. Employment rates of adults (men and women combined) in Illinois during calendar year 2005 were only 55% for high school dropouts versus 69% for high school graduates and 82% for those with a Bachelor’s degree. As a consequence of their lower employment rates and their lower wages when employed, adult high school dropouts in Illinois had mean annual earnings of only $15,650 in 2005 versus nearly $23,000 for high school graduates and over $50,000 for bachelor degree holders.

I encourage you to visit the site and read the full report.

I'm a big fan of the Alternative Schools Network. Jack Wuest has been building this organization for more than 30 years. He can fill a room with political leaders better than most.

I wish I could find a way to link his efforts more strategically with mine so that while we're addressing the needs of nearly 250,000 drop outs in Illinois between the ages of 16 and 24, we can also be developing prevention and youth mentoring strategies that reach young people as early as elementary school so we prevent them from becoming drop outs and do more to help the develop their full potential.

As I sit through meetings like this, I keep a running journal, making comments to myself, and looking for linkages to the speakers that I'm listening to. I thought I'd share with you some of my notes from Monday:

While I was listening to the first panel, with Arne Duncan, Wayne Watson, Mary Ellen Caron, Jesse Ruiz, Geoff Obrzut and Therese McMahon, I looked around and saw more than 200 people. I wrote "How do they connect with each other, or the speakers, during, or after this meeting?"

One of my frustrations for the past couple of years is that while some people can get a crowd in a room, they don't create ways for people of the crowd to connect well with each other, or with the speakers. My goal is that on-line forums would support face-to-face events, thus encouraging more interaction, and more application of the ideas from a conference in real world problem solving.

As I keep working to develop the mapping capacity of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, one goal is to create a Google map showing the participants of specific events.

After the first panel I went to a workshop hosted by Jeff May, a member of the Illinois Task Force on Re-Enrolling Students who Dropped out of School. Jeff listed some goals of the task force:

1) learn who is already working with these youth; what works, etc.
2) don't reinvent the wheel
3) many agencies provide funding, but work in silos. Need more integration
4) the goal of the task force is to find as much as $131 million in funding

During the Q&A with Jeff, the question of Truancy vs Drop Out came up. The task force is focused on those who have already dropped out, not those who might. Jeff gave a insightful definition. A Truant is a "part time drop out" while a Drop out is a "full time truant".

As I listened to the focus on drop outs, and the goal of finding new money, my thought was "What is the strategy to build political support?" My goal of connecting tutor/mentor, youth development, prevention, workforce development and diversity into one goal of helping every youth reach a job is to broaden the base of people who have a self interest or personal connection to the cause.

Senate President Emil Jones was the keynote speaker. He received an award from Alternative Schools Network and lavish praise from Deputy Governor Louanner Peters, who introduced him.

As he talked about the need for a "system to re-enroll drop outs" I wrote, "shouldn't we be talking about a "system to assure that all students, including dropouts, are starting jobs and careers by their mid-20s?" Such a system goes way beyond the thinking of No Child Left Behind.

Jones talked about his youth experiences and the discipline teachers were able to administer, saying "They weren't trying to hurt me; they were trying to get my attention."

That's a lot more difficult in today's environment.

Following Senate President Jones, was a panel of state representatives and state senators. As Kim Lightfoot, who represents the 4th district, spoke I wrote this note "Is the question one of how to reduce drop outs, or re-enroll dropouts" or "is it one of "how to prepare more young people for 21st century careers?"

I reflected on my role at this point in the forum saying "my role is a catalyst. I have limited time to meet people in one-on-one settings. By putting my ideas on the Internet, like I'm doing now, I hope to stimulate the involvement of thousands of people.

I visited the Alternative Schools Network web site this morning before writing this. It has great information on the demographics of drop outs and a database of organizations working with youth who have dropped out.

I don't know how much traffic the site gets, but I hope by writing about the forum and posting the web site, more people will find the site, the research data, and locations where they can get involved as leaders, donors, volunteers, etc.

My goal of networking with ASN and others is that they can draw attention to my sites and tutor/mentor programs, just by putting links on their site, or pointing to this sector when they host their events.

Unless we expand the number of people visiting these sites, reading the research, then finding ways to act, not just as a voter, but by voting with their feet, their dollars, and their time, we won't dramatically change the system of supports for kids who are at risk of being drop outs, or who have already become drop outs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Participate in Tutor/Mentor Conference? Visibility, Dollars, Ideas.

Tutor/Mentor Programs in Chicago who received Lend A Hand Grants at the May 1996 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

I sent an email to the leader of one of the more sophisticated tutor/mentor programs in Chicago today, and decided to share that letter with the world. I hope you'll read it and make time to be part of the November 15th and 16th Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference being held in the Chicago suburbs.

I hope all is well with you and that you've submitted your proposal for the 2007 Lend A Hand Program grants. The size of the grant pool this year is close to $200,000, which is a huge increase from previous years when it averaged around $35,000.

This means you and others who operate volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago will receive larger grants this year, and for the next 10 years (because that's how long the LAH grants should continue at this level or higher!).

This is exactly what I've been trying to make happen since 1993 when we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC).

The Lend A Hand Program received a $2 million award last November, focused on funding volunteer based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago at a much higher level than in previous years. This was not an accident. It was the result of a concerted effort by several members of the legal community, which started in 1993 and 1994.

With much more money to award, it will be a challenge to keep LAH funds focused on general operations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, but if programs are to grow, and more programs are to start in areas without such programs, we'll need consistent funding from the LAH and we'll need similar funding from other business and philanthropy sectors.

It will take the combined efforts of leaders of many tutor/mentor programs to keep the LAH group focused on funding general operations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, and to encourage other industries to duplicate their lead .... in Chicago, or in other cities.

That's something I would like to talk about with you. That's something I'd like to be talking about with leaders of tutor/mentor programs throughout the country!

In order for leaders in other industries to duplicate the Lend A Hand program, they need to know about this and know why they should become involved. At the Nov. 15 and 16 conference one of my board members, Steve Miller, President of Legacy Mortgage Corporation, is hosting a workshop titled "How business leaders can and should participate in charitable organizations".

I hope leaders of tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region, and in other cities, will encourage one of your board members to attend this workshop, and this conference.

We also want health care people to participate. Last month, I wrote an article titled: Reframing School Drop Out as a Public Health Initiative.

Some programs, such as Chicago Youth Programs, Inc, are wonderful demonstrations of health care involvement in a tutor/mentor program. If these programs host a workshop, or a display table, to show how they have built hospital and health care support, and invite leaders from hospitals in the entire region to attend, this can lead to others duplicating this type of support in more places.

I also hope you'll do a workshop on evaluation. In order to keep money coming to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs we need to develop some outcomes that business leaders understand easily. As you can see from articles like this, I feel that if industry looks at a tutor/mentor program as part of a workforce development, or diversity strategy, they will invest more creatively and consistently.

I think you're further ahead than many on this, which is why I keep inviting you to share what you know vis the conferences.

Having you part of the conference helps with our efforts to motivate people like LAH to support tutoring/mentoring. On the conference web site you can see you can see photos from past conferences where LAH is giving grants to tutor/mentor programs.

I know this is a busy time for leaders of tutor/mentor programs, but the rewards from what the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been doing for the past 14 years are beginning to show up in the increase of funding from a variety of sources.

If we can build on this we can stabilize the resource pool for tutor/mentor programs
all over the region. If other cities duplicate this, and collaborate with each other, we can influence this growth in cities throughout the country.


If you cannot come to Chicago for a conference, connect with us on-line in blog exchanges, discussion forums, webnars, etc. If you host your own event, link to the T/MC conference, and to web sites of others who also host events. By doing so we create greater traffic of potential volunteers, donors and business leaders through a network of linked organizations. This is essential for building the type of public awareness needed to gain more consistent support for comprehensive, long-term tutoring/mentoring programs operating in high poverty areas around the country.

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rev. Jackson duplicates Mayor Byrne strategy to call attention to public housing

I'm part of a Non-Profit Blog Exchange this week. What's that got to do with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Public Housing in Chicago, or former Mayor Jayne Byrne.

The story on page 5 of the Chicago Sun Times today is titled "Jackson rips cops at housing complex". The photo shows the Rev. Jesse Jackson with a family at an apartment in the Harold Ickes development on the near South Side of Chicago.

The goal of the Rev.Jackson is to draw attention to the needs of residents living in public housing. He along with 20 area ministers distributed 500 turkeys and other food items and drew attention to the harassment by Chicago Police of residents inside the development. In one quote, the Rev. said "We intend to break up the Gestapo-like techniques used in this area."

Jackson moving into a housing complex reminds me of how Mayor Jayne Byrne did this almost 27 years ago when she moved into a Cabrini Green apartment at a time when gang violence was surging in the the area. I was leading a tutor/mentor program serving kids in the Cabrini Green area at that time and I remember it well.

In fact, a few days prior to the Mayor moving in, I was at a meeting of several church leaders who were talking about what could be done to stop the violence. I remember telling them, "why don't you call on members of your congregations to be leaders, volunteers and donors who support tutor/mentor programs as an alternative to involvement in gangs in these areas." Or, "why don't you vote for elected leaders who do more to make such programs available.

To my knowledge none did much of this, and the Mayor moving into a Cabrini Green apartment did not do much to help my tutor/mentor program get volunteers. I'm not sure anything has changed and that Jackson going into Ickes is going to lead to a faith based effort that draws volunteers, leaders and donors into tutor/mentor programs in the 60616 zip code where the Ickes complex is, or to any of the other high poverty neighborhoods of the city where tutor/mentor programs are needed.

It would be great if when the Rev. Jackson calls attention to the problems of the neighborhood he'd point to the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and say "search the 60616 zip code, sorting for tutor/mentor programs, serving junior high, or high school youth, and see what programs you can find."

If you do this you'll see six that offer some form of tutoring and/or mentoring to junior high school kids, and just one Boys & Girls Club offering any type of mentoring to high school kids. That means the neighborhood has few alternatives for its kids in the non school hours, other than gangs or hanging out. If you search other zip codes you'll find even few programs in some areas, and more programs in other areas.

There should be good programs in every high poverty neighborhood, for every age group.

When leaders begin to put this message into their own communications, pointing the people who listen to them to places where volunteers and donors are needed, we'll begin to get more consistent support for these programs.

That brings me to the Blog Exchange. A Blog Exchange connects me with another blogger, who I've never met. We look at each other's web sites and write something about what the other is doing. One of my past blogging partners was the Smart Communities blog. As a result of a first introduction, I'm now a contributing member to the Act Now wiki hosted by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. This led me to organize my own blog exchange around the conference I host in May and November.

I'm always learning new things when I read what other bloggers are writing.

This time I'm matched with Kivi Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications Blog. This was a surprise to me, because this is the blog I point to on my own blog as a path people can go to and learn more about fund raising, philanthropy, marketing, etc., by reading what these bloggers write on their own blogs. Kivi's blog is loaded with good ideas for how to get a message spread to many people. The blogs she links to have a wealth of additional good ideas.

When I visited her blog today I found a section I had never seen before. It's a "how to" for non profit bloggers. Great stuff!!

I'll bet she could condense this article to have the size with twice the impact. I hope she tries.

So what does this have to do with Rev. Jackson and Public Housing. My goal is that many people are using their visibility and writing ability to talk about ways we can solve poverty by building and sustaining comprehensive, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that mentor kids through school and into jobs and careers.

Every time a leader points to the problem, they should point to a solution, just the way Kivi and other bloggers point to web sites of other non profit bloggers. Every time a tutor/mentor program is featured in a news report, they can draw attention to every other program if they just finish their interview with "look here for more information" and point to a web site like the T/MC that links to many other web sites.

Not every tutor/mentor program is equally good at telling their story. I'm over 60 and my writing habits are pretty well set. The only way I can tell my story better is that good writers take me on as their own community service, and tell my story for me. Thus, if students in high school writing classes or college journalism or marketing courses adopt tutor/mentor as a cause, they can spread out and tell the stories of tutor/mentor programs in their city on a daily basis.

This adds up to a growing public awareness that leads more people to be volunteers, leaders and donors in more places, at programs that end poverty, one child in a job at a time.

If you're a Mayor, or pastor, point to the tutor/mentor programs in your community the next time you are delivering a sermon.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Creative Economy 101

The Smart Communities blog has started a Creative Economy 101 discussion.

It references an article in Business Week that I encourage everyone to read, especially the people in industry who are concerned about skill shortages and/or diversity in their workforce, or those people who think kids should be learning to think, innovate and solve problems in public schools, rather than correctly answer the questions on standardized tests mandated by NCLB.

As you read this, thinking about ways the accumulated knowledge of tutor/mentor and business leaders could have a growing impact on building and sustaining connects that influence the choices and habits of young people as the grow up and choose careers. Think about the role leaders in industry might take to support the growth of such places in all neighborhoods where they do business, where they have customers, or where families of employees live.

How would Jesus, or ML King have worked to solve this problem? I wrote about this here, and here.

Here are a couple of essays to stimulate your thinking:

Tipping Points - what are the actions individuals, organizations might take to assure that more youth are entering jobs, careers by age 25?

Theory of Change - What results to we hope to achieve from our actions?

Role of Leaders - what role can business, faith, university and hospital leaders take to achieve this vision, and meet their own workforce development and diversity goals?

Process Improvement and Innovation knowledge base - visit these links and learn from the same people we learn from.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Creating Pipeline to Jobs & Careers

Pipeline to Careers cMap - click here

A couple of days ago I wrote an article about a forum I attended, during which leaders of manufacturing companies talked about workforce development issues.

What I'm concerned about is that business leaders seem to be competing for youth who have reached 10th or 12th grade with the grades and social skills to be able to succeed in an apprentice program, or in a college track.

I think that with the shrinking workforce and competition for skills workers, there won't be enough of these young people to feed the huge economy, and that unless business leaders develop strategies that reach inner city kids, as early as elementary school, this group of young people will continue to drop out before they reach the stage when they would be able to become an apprentice or enter college. Even kids who do graduate from big city public schools may not have the critical thinking and problem solving skills desired by industry, because of the education and policy emphasis of teaching to the tests.

I created a map illustrating my vision that companies encourage volunteers and customers to connect with kids in non school tutor/mentor programs, and that these programs be challenged (and funded) so that they can provide a wider range of enrichment, learning and skill development activities, to go along with tutoring and mentoring.

I'm hosting a conference on November 15 and 16, and I hope business and health care leaders will attend, to discuss ways they can use their resources more strategically to support this pipeline to careers strategy, in multiple locations throughout the Chicago region, and in other major cities, not just in one or two locations.

I hope you'll help me recruit leaders from tutor/mentor programs, as well as from faith groups, businesses, hospitals, colleges and civic groups to participate.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tips for Mentoring, from program in Australia

I've been encouraging others to share their experience via blogs, and to use blog exchanges as a way of connecting our networks and drawing more visibility, volunteers and operating dollars to all of us.

One leader to take this up is Robin Cox, who leads a program in Australia. His blog has great information, in fact, it's almost a training manual for anyone who is starting or leading a program.

I hope you'll take a look and read it often.

These are the types of experiences we try to share at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference we hold in Chicago. If you're able to participate, the next one is November 15 and 16. I'm still looking for workshop presenters, so please share your time and talent.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is College the Only Path to a Rewarding Career?

I attended a conference in Chicago today titled Mobilizing to Attract Skilled Workers to High Tech Manufacturing. This was a Program of Swiss Business Hub (USA), the Trade Commissions of Switzerland to the United States.

The speakers talked about the critical skills shortage that will face the US and other countries around the world as their populations shrink over the next two decades and as the baby boomer retire. Dr. Ed Gordon's book the 2010 Meltdown provides an excellent overview of this impending crisis.

What was provoking is that many of these speakers talked as though there were a conspiracy of higher education and government leaders to channel youth from high school into college, while ignoring and under investing in high paid careers in manufacturing. I hope to write more about this later this week, but to start you thinking, here's an essay titled, A Career in Toolmaking or Machining Technologies: The Right Choice for Students, Community and Country, that I hope you'll read .

At the same time, there was also a clear message that high schools, colleges and industry need to be working together on workforce development goals, for the good of the country. I remember a time around 1998 when I was in the office of Gerry Chico, the Chairman of the Chicago Board of Education. On his wall were 10 steps to school reform. Step 6 was "prepare youth for careers". I said to Chico, shouldn't that be steps 1, 2 and 3? He grabbed his assistant excitedly and said "He gets it! He gets it!"

Unfortunately public education leaders and policy makers still don't seem to get it.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Connecting with YouthNet in UK

I'm constantly searching the net to find others who are using blogs and social network forums to link leaders, volunteers and donors with each other in ways that might build relationships or lead to better practices to support the on-going operations of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

Today I found a discussion hosted by the UK based YouthNet. One question in the article I read was "How do we engage with "the public" more on the issues of transparency, effective ways to give and charity governance?" This is a challenge I feel all the time, but in a broader sense.

How do we cut through all of the media messages that hit all of us every day to get a bit of attention on issues related to helping disadvantaged kids?

How do we get people who already are overloaded with raising their own kids, taking care of parents, dealing with jobs/careers, or concerned with local, national and/or world politics, to spend a few quality minutes each week reading or blogs, or spending time with a youth as a volunteer tutor/mentor?

We don't have advertising dollars to use like big businesses. We can't be like newspapers getting reader attention with headlines that sensationalize bad news.

I don't have an answer, other than linking to blogs where other people are also asking the question and looking for the answer. If you're writing about this, why not write about us in your own blog and let's work together to attract viewers to ours sites.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Honoring a Network Weaver - Steve Habib Rose

I was saddened to hear about the sudden death of a person I've never met face to face, but have grown to know and admire through out many conversations on the Internet. His name is Steve Habib Rose. If you'd like to know more about Steve, and contribute to his memorial, visit 

I met Habib in the Omidyar community nearly 2 years ago and over a period of months we began to grow closer together around Network Weaving concepts. Just last week he posted an article on his blog that connected his network to the Tutor/Mentor Connection network: He started a Network Weaver's discussion on Ned after Omidyar closed. It's at 

 In one recent conversation he had one of those "aha" moments and realized how many people he knew in Seattle who he might introduce to me and the T/MC. He sent me two introductions in the past week. Steve was a person with one of the most generous spirits that I've met on the Internet, or in the non virtual world.

I think we might have talked only once on the phone, but through many online exchanges we came to know and trust each other. I'm sure that in whatever spiritual world he has gone to he's introducing people to each other, and pointing to us who are still doing this work on earth.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stop the Violence Discussion on TV tonight

ABC 7 Chicago's Ron Magers and Cheryl Burton will lead a discussion about how to stem the growing tide of violence against the children of Chicago in the half-hour special STOP THE VIOLENCE: LESSONS ALTERNATIVES, Wednesday, September 26th at 10:35 p.m. on ABC 7.

During this follow-up special, Magers and Burton will initiate a conversation with community leaders focusing on education as a key component to helping curtail violence, the impact of active parents on students' education and the role community members can play in creating compelling alternatives to gang activity.

Joining Burton and Magers for the continuing discussion on the best ways to keep our children safe are Arne Duncan, CEO, Chicago Public Schools, (CPS); Diane Latiker, founder, Kids Off the Block ; Phillip Jackson, executive director, The Black Star Project ; and Meredith Rodriguez, education outreach specialist, BUILD Chicago (Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development) .

The special will be featured on-demand at

We've included a map with this story so that in the follow up to this discussion, leaders will innovate ways to support volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in all poverty neighborhoods, as a strategy for violence prevention, workforce development and public health.

The three organizations who will be part of the ABC 7 panel are all included in the Chicago Program Links section of the T/MC web site. These programs and the other 190 programs listed ALL need constant media attention, volunteers who serve as tutors, mentors and leaders, as well as flexible operating dollars that can be used to pay for rent, staff, training and other essentials required to make these organizations consistently available to more youth in Chicago, or any other city.

I hope that anyone who is aroused into action because of the ABC 7 report will visit the T/MC web site, join the forums, or attend the November Conference.

After the media turns its attention to another problem, it's up to us to innovate ways to keep public attention focused on this problem.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue

"Good education predicts good health, and disparities in health and in educational achievement are closely linked," writes Nicholas Freudenberg and Jessica Ruglis, in an article posted at

The authors write "If medical researchers were to discover an elixir that could increase life expectancy, reduce the burden of illness, delay the consequences of aging, decrease risky health behavior, and shrink disparities in health, we would celebrate such a remarkable discovery. Robust epidemiological evidence suggests that education is such an elixir. Yet, health professionals rarely identified improving school graduation rates as a major public health objective, nor have they systematically examined their role in achieving this objective."

Last week I wrote about my participation in the Pathways into Health conference. I encouraged participants to continue to network via on-line forums.

In the Freudenberg/Ruglis article one recommendation was to target schools and cities with the most serious dropout problems for intensive intervention, saying "in more than 20 cities at least three-quarters of high school students attend schools where fewer than 60% of students graduate". Graduation rates for 10 largest public school districts are included in the report. In Chicago the 2001 graduation rate for African Americans was 42.1% and for Hispanic youth was 50.8%.

I'd go further and encourage them to use maps to show where poverty and poorly performing schools are concentrated in these cities, to create marketing plans that distribute solutions into each of these neighborhoods.

In their conclusion, Freudenberg/Ruglis wrote, "seldom have health and education professionals been in a better position to work together to achieve common goals. Rarely has a single problem -- high drop out rates -- contributed to so many adverse social, economic, and health conditions."

I read this article with enthusiasm and I hope it stimulates other health care professionals to look outside the box for partners and solutions to the drop out problem.

However, outside of the box means outside of the school building, and the non school hours, not just non-traditional thinking.

In previous blogs I've pointed to the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools as a leader in a movement to make learning supports a part of public education policy.

In my writing, my only criticism with these articles has been that solutions have tended to be primarily school-based. Even when the Freudenberg/Ruglis article talks about connecting young people to caring adults, they tend to emphasize building connections with adults at the school, and not in the non-school hours when kids can connect with adults who hold jobs and work in other careers beyond education and social services. Cabrini Connections is an example of such a program.

In the 10 biggest cities poverty is a root cause of poorly performing schools and the number of kids living in poverty neighborhoods is well over 100,000. I enthustically encourage education and health leaders to connect their strategies.

However, I also feel they need to connect with business and workforce development leaders and look at the non-school hours and non-school locations as times and places when adults can connect with kids in long-term mentoring and tutoring programs.

Such connections can expand the network and skills of adults involved who model a diversity of different aspirations and career opportunities, and can expand the number of people who are personally connected to these kids, and care enough to give time, talent and dollars to build and sustain comprehensive systems of support.

We can, and should, make these connections in Internet forums. However, we can also connect in face to face events. We're hosting a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in the South Suburbs on Nov. 15 and 16.

If you have read this far, you're interested. I hope you'll bring your network to the conference.