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.


Unknown said...

Great post. I commented on my blog. You might want to consider the ning network. They sure make it easy to set up.

Scott Palat,

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

I created a page on ning a few months ago. It is

Not a lot of activity so far, but I'm trying to put forums anyplace where there are people who are concerned with inner city kids, poverty, and/or workforce development.

I'm also trying to recruit others who will help do this work, so we can be represented in more places.