Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Add Support for Volunteer-Based Tutoring/Mentoring to your New Year's Resolution

Yesterday when I came to the office I received an email telling me about a funeral being held that morning for the 2-year old daughter of a former Cabrini Connections student. The message came from the volunteer who began mentoring that youth in the mid 1990s and who continues to this day --- more than 15 years later -- to still be a mentor in the life of this youth and his family.

I went to the funeral. It was tragic. The minister said "nothing I say can make sense of this tragic death" but "God has a purpose and maybe this death brings us together and changes our own life direction".

While he was addressing the family and friends of this young man and his wife, he did not realize he was also addressing the Cabrini Connections family. I had not talked to this volunteer in more than a year, or to this young man in about the same length of time. At the funeral I saw, and talked with, others who had been part of Cabrini Connections, or the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program prior to 1992. I'd not seen many of these young people for many years, but have been making an effort to reconnect via Facebook and our Linked in pages.

Maybe this tragedy will be the catalyst that gets more of our former students and volunteers reconnected to our current students and volunteers and each other.

Mentoring is not about reading, writing, test scores, and teacher-directed tutoring. It's about relationships that form because a program like Cabrini Connections is available in the neighborhood, and creates an introduction during one year, that we hope lasts for a life time. Well organized tutor/mentor programs support the match between youth and adult, with the goal that they last for additional years so the bond between young people and volunteers, and the organization, grows and remains supportive as everyone grows older.

Once in Cabrini Connections, always in Cabrini Connections. I've been saying this for many years. I mean it.

Being at this funeral and giving support is just one small example of the type of support mentors can give to youth, and each other. Recognizing that these young adults, who were in elementary school or middle school when we first met them, still need our support for them, and for their own children, is what this community is really all about, and why we need donations from people who read this blog or visit our web sites.

January is National Mentoring Month. As you make your New Year's Resolution I hope you'll read the blogs we write, and learn more about this long-term form of mentoring, and ways that you, your church, your family and your business can support it in 2009 and beyond.

You can make a donation at if you want to help us continue this work in 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

SunTimes “Stop the Killing’ Special Report misses opportunity

Over the past weekend the Chicago SunTimes ran a series of stories profiling the personalities involved in three shootings that took place in a 59 hour period of April 2008. Today, a full page editorial titled “Gang-related’ Killings much more than that” focused on the causes of inner city violence, saying “When we fail to face up to the real causes of violence in Chicago, when we chalk up hundreds of murders with a dismissive “gang-related” as if all that is needed is a bigger crackdown by the cops---we let ourselves off the hook.”

"Poke beneath the surface of any shooting on that weekend of April 18 and you will likely uncover a tangle of social woes that only an entire city, as a whole, can do much about. The police can clean up mess after mess, but more messes will be coming along."

You can read the full editorial at…,CST-EDT-edit29.article

If you click the links to the left on violence, or media, you’ll find that this is not a new story. In fact, as the front page of the October 15, 1992 Chicago SunTimes shows, the media have been calling for public involved in solving this problem for a long time.

So why is so little happening? What’s the opportunity that was missed in today’s editorial?

It’s right on the front page of today’s Chicago SunTimes, which featured the headline “SAVING TROY” . Page 2 and 3 were devoted to this heart-warming story, about a homeless man who was helped off the street by a Chicago businessman who connected with him by chance on a cold morning last April. As much as this story was about Troy, it was also about how one volunteer got personally involved, and because of that involvement Troy’s life is changes. However, the life of the volunteer has also been changed. Pete Kadens has gone from personal involvement, to joining the board and becoming a leader of STREETWISE the newspaper that helps the homeless in Chicago. He is quoted as saying, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s been one of the neatest, proudest, happiest times of my life.”

I did not read anything in the “Stop the Killing” report that suggested strategies for getting people who don’t live in poverty personally engaged so that they use their time, talent and resources to make life different for those who do live in poverty.

Yet, that’s what can happen when volunteers join structured, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections, or many others that you can find in the Program Links section of the T/MC web site. I encourage you to read some of the volunteer profiles from Cabrini Connections. As you skim the web sites of some of the other tutor/mentor programs from Chicago, you’ll see similar stories.

If we can increase the number of business volunteers connecting with kids in tutor/mentor programs, we can increase the chances of fewer kids growing up as gang-bangers, and more kids growing up and becoming contributing members of society, perhaps even a future President.

I want to thank the Chicago SunTimes for writing these stories. I’d also like to thank them for making a $2 million award to the SunTimes Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend A Hand Program in the fall of 2006. Money from that award was distributed as $240,000 in operating grants to 31 different tutor/mentor programs in 2007 and another $217,000 in grants in 2008 (even though the stock market dive has seriously eroded the original $2 million award).

As we enter 2009 there will be more killings and more opportunities for the media to write stories calling on the public to build long-term strategies to bring hope to the hopeless, and an end to the violence. I hope that each time the paper writes a story about violence and poor schools, it will point to the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, and our database of Chicago area programs, where people like Pete Kadens can get involved, and stay involved for a long time, in helping change the future for kids born into concentrated, segregated, inner-city poverty.

I hope they also point to the articles on our web site that readers can use to build their own understanding of these issues, and to be more involved in helping comprehensive, mentor-rich volunteer-based programs grow in inner-city neighborhoods. Finally, I also hope they will use the maps in the Tutor/Mentor Map Gallery, to encourage business, hospitals, colleges and faith groups to become strategically involved in all of the areas where they do business or have facilities, not just a few high profile places, or a few pilot programs.

If there is one media story and reference to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in a major newspaper of Chicago each week for the next five years, there will be an army of volunteers like Pete Kadens, and a growing support system to prevent some young people from growing up to become involved in “gang-related” killings on Chicago streets. If our business, faith, and political leaders point to programs in neighborhoods where they do business, on a weekly basis, they can help this network of programs and army of mentors grow, and stay connected to kids for many years.

Can this happen? That's my wish for 2009. Help me make it come true.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Creating Communities of Practice

The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) is attempting to create a "community of practice" as defined in this article by Etienne Wenger.

The T/MC community consists of every organization listed in the Links Library and Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, as well as people who are linked in each of the web sites we point to. It also includes anyone we reach via email newsletters, or participation in on-line forums. It's a galaxy of people and organizations connected by a gravity of common purpose. We all want to help kids born in poverty connect with adult support systems that result in kids finishing school and starting jobs/careers by their mid-20s.

I encourage you to read the article by Etienne Wenger and use your understanding during 2009 and beyond to help us connect members of this community to each other.

2017 Editor Note: I've updated the link to Etienne Wenger's blog to a more recent article since links to the 2008 story are lost.

Monday, December 22, 2008

President-Elect Obama Promotes Mentoring

The December 19, 2008 edition of The New York Times included a public service advertisement showing President-elect Barack Obama encouraging readers to "Be the change: mentor a child."

The advertisement is a call to action from ServiceNation and National Mentoring Month partners - The Harvard School of Public Health, MENTOR and the Corporation for National and Community Service - and is timed to coincide with January's National Mentoring Month activities. The call to action also is benefiting from the leadership of Be the Change, Civic Enterprises, City Year, and the Points of Light Institute.

Newsweek magazine has also agreed to print the Obama ad pro bono, and additional publications are being approached to do the same.

See the full New York Times story.

On the National Mentoring Month web site, a section points to 10 Things You Can Do In January. Number 10 is Make a Donation to a Mentoring Program in your Community.

I'd like to see the nation get a jump on the January campaign by emphasizing point Number 10 in December, when donors are making holiday gift decisions and year-end tax decisions. Without building the funding infrastructure of volunteer-based mentoring and tutoring the PR campaign will send new volunteers into battle as ill equipped as we've sent soldiers in war in Iraq.

Furthermore, I'd like to encourage people from around the country to think of the meaning of the charts and maps on this blog. What are all of the ways we need to work together, using our time, dollars, talent, and the leadership of people like President-Elect Obama, to create a infrastructure that would support on-going, mentor-rich programs in high poverty neighborhoods of every city in America?

We can't find this solution until we get more and more citizens involved. With President-Elect Obama's commitment to service, and out-of-the box thinking, we have a great opportunity.

Friday, December 19, 2008

$217k in grants awarded by LAWYERS Lend-a-Hand Program

On Wednesday, December 18, 2008, twenty-seven outstanding Chicago-area tutor/mentor programs were awarded $217,000 in grants at the annual Grant Reception of the Sun-Times Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth Program (LAH). The reception at the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) was attended by program leaders and volunteers as well as judges and other members of the legal community.

The CBA originated the program in 1993 to impact the lives of underprivileged youth through tutor/mentor programs, and the program benefited from receiving substantial funds from the late Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz and The Chicago Sun-Times.

The money will benefit over 2,500 Chicago-area young people from neighborhoods including Cabrini-Green, Albany Park, West Town, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Austin, Belmont-Cragin, Rogers Park, , Hermosa, Uptown, Edgewater, South Chicago, Pilsen, Lawndale, Little Village, Garfield Park, Englewood, and Washington Park. Programs serving youth in the surrounding suburbs of Palatine Township and Evanston also received awards. Read more and see the complete list of programs receiving grants.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection has been a proud partner of this vision since June of 1994 as part of an on-going strategy aimed to draw volunteers and operating dollars on a consistent basis to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in every high poverty area of Chicago.

In 1994 when the T/MC first began working with the Lend A Hand Program, the only grant was the Thomas A. Demetrio Award of Excellence, which included a $2,000 grant. The first winner was the Ariel Education Initiative, led by Arne Duncan, who is now the new Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration.

One of the strategies we launched with the Lend A Hand Program was a Tutor/Mentor Week. Initially this was planned during the week of the November Conference so it could help us draw participation. At the same time the Chicago Bar Foundation and Lend A Hand launched a November benefit, which by 1999 was attracting nearly 1700 attorneys and friends. This photo was from one where my son Jacob was a guest.

As a result of these events the Daily Law Bulletin featured front page stories about the event, the Lend A Hand and the Tutor/Mentor Connection. At the same time we were generating news coverage in local newspapers, radio an TV, thus building greater frequency of stories drawing attention to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs and the intermediary groups that were supporting them.

This is one headline from the Law Bulletin.

Our vision is that law groups in every major city duplicate what the Lend A Hand Program is doing, and that leaders in other business sectors, faith communities, and civic, social and alumni groups, also duplicate this. The result will be a diversity of volunteers and of funding supporting tutor/mentor programs and K-12 youth, in a growing number of high-poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.

This vision can be a reality if you share information about Lend A Hand Grants with leaders in your own industry, and/or your own community, and if leaders like President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan, give attention to business support systems like this in their own leadership activities.

In 1994 when we began working with the Lend A Hand Program our vision was that our partnership could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and that 80% of that money would be distributed to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs throughout the city. The other 20% would be split to fund the operations of the Lend A Hand Program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Because of a $2 million award from the Chicago SunTimes to the Lend A Hand Program, this vision is now becoming a reality. Among the grants to tutor/mentor programs in Chicago was a $30,000 grant to the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

We need your help to sustain this program. Giving donations, bequests and other charitable gifts to the Lend A Hand supports Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, and many other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, just as much as giving gifts directly to these programs helps cover 100% of their operating and innovation expenses.

As Judge Thomas Donnelly said when announcing the awards, "We wish it could be two or three times as much." With your help, and donations to Lend A Hand, the donation pool can increase, meaning larger grants and more support for tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Duncan Secretary of Education - Former Non-School Program Leader

Today Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools was named to be the new Secretary of Education in the Obama administration. Congratulations. We wish you well.

Readers of this blog can Google Arne Duncan's name today and find literally thousands of stories and commentaries like this.

I've known Arne Duncan since 1994 when he attended a Tutor/Mentor Conference in his role as Executive Director of the Ariel Education Initiative. I met with him the year prior to Paul Vallas leaving CPS, and exchanged an email discussion about support for the Tutor/Mentor Connection just the week prior to him being named CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

He's given small grants to support Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences in the past (2003, 2004, 2005), but has never taken on the leadership and advocacy role I feel we need from the public schools leader to make comprehensive, career focused, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs available in every high poverty neighborhood, and around every poorly performing school.

So, I've put in three graphics I hope he'll point to over the next four to eight years. Hopefully, he will show them to President and Mrs. Obama, and they will champion these concepts as well.

The first shows three time frames in which kids need learning opportunities. The third time frame, after 5PM, evenings and weekends is when business volunteers are more available and more likely to make weekly commitments that last for many years. This does not mean that business volunteers and donations are not needed at schools and Boys & Girls Clubs during the school day, and right after school during the 3pm to 5:30 pm time frame.

This second graphic shows the same three timeframes, but on a chart that reinforces the need for learning supports and mentoring, starting in preschool and elementary school and staying connected to kids all the way through high school and college and into careers. In this graphic, parents, teachers, social workers, mentors, are all PUSHING kids to make good decisions that we know will help make their lives better. What we need is the partnership of businesses and universities who will use their resources (people, jobs, learning, dollars, technology, facilities) to PULL kids through school and into careers. When there are thinking teams in each industry, and in colleges, brainstorming ways to influence the decisions kids make, and the way the resources of the business and university are used to connect kids with non-school learning programs, there will be more leadership, and more good ideas, being circulated in more places.

Generals use maps to position troops and supplies in their efforts to win wars. Obama is the Commander in Chief, and Duncan is about to become a 4-Star General. If they learn to use maps like these, to focus resources and strategies in all of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities, so that a wide variety of constantly improving, mentor rich, volunteer-based programs grow AT THE SAME TIME, in all of these places, then they can mobilize resources from businesses, hospitals, universities, faith groups, etc. and point them to places where they are needed.

Finally, we don't need to reinvent the wheel. We don't need to build a new government in Iraq. We need to help existing programs already operating in Chicago and other cities get the resources, ideas, volunteers, leaders, dollars they each need on a continuous basis to operate in one or more of these places, building and sustaining connections with kids and volunteers, and each other, that build quality and impact at the same time as the PUSH kids through school and PULL them toward careers.

Every city needs a Program Locator database to help volunteers and donors locate existing tutor/mentor programs and to help Generals understand the existing deployment of troops, and where reinforcements are needed. If our new leaders borrow some of these ideas instead of creating brand new ideas of their own, maybe they can make some progress over the next 8 years of winning this war.

Along the left side of this blog are tags to maps, strategies, articles, and links that we hope the staff of these new generals will read and use as ammunition for the upcoming battles.

If we're called upon, we'd be happy to serve as mentors to these leaders or to anyone else who wants to become more strategic in mobilizing and sustaining resources to help kids through school and into careers.

Lots of Talent at Cabrini Connections

Last Friday evening Mike Trakan, who works part time for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, and produces the maps on our blogs, showed he had another talent. He leads a Chicago area band called TRAKAN, which was one of four groups to donate their time and talent at a benefit held at Schubas Tavern. Mike's a quite guy at the office, but a wild man on stage!

Mike wasn't the only member of the Cabrini Connections staff showing off talent on Friday. Chris Warren, our Public Service Fellow from Northwestern University, also is part of a band, called Howling Poppies. Chris is a drummer and not only performed with his band, but took on a Ringo Starr role with Mike's band.

Chris and Mike originated the idea of a benefit concert a few months ago, as we all talked about how difficult the economy was going to make it for raising money for non-profits. They recruited performers from two other bands, Black Collar, and The East-Side Ramblers, a drums and sax jazz duo.

See more photos here.

While we raised a few dollars from this event, we also made some new friends, and found another reason to tell our story via the internet, so maybe we reach even more people who want to join us, or who have already been part of Cabrini Connections or the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program in the past.

For instance, in the bar at Shubas, I ran into one of our current volunteers, Allen Tyson and a former volunteer who I had not seen in almost 18 years, Jim Alexander. Allen and Jim were both part of the tutoring program at Wards when I was its leader, and an employee at the company. While Allen has been tutoring, and helping raise money, Jim has been receiving our newsletters, but had not gotten involved. Because of this chance meeting, he's now reconnected.

By creating this presence on the Internet, we're connecting with other former volunteers. Last week I received a Linked In invitation from Joan Marcus who was an advertising copywriter and tutor at the Montgomery Ward program in 1979! She's now in PA and leading her own communications company.

On my Linked In page I'm now connected to 54 of our former volunteers, dating back to the late 1970s. On our Facebook page we have 161 members, with 9 of them being former students dating back to 1973.

We're building these connections with the help of volunteers and the talent of people like Mike and Chris who help draw public attention to our web sites and blogs.

I hope you'll help us by making a holiday donation. See our eCard here, and our PayPal page, here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Combatting Poverty through Place-Based Initiatives

Yesterday I attended a forum hosted by the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago and the Urban Institute. The title was "LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Combating Urban Poverty through Place-Based Initiatives.

Panel members were:

Robert Chaskin, Chapin Hall research fellow and associate professor, School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago,
Ajay Chaudry, director of the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population, the Urban Institute
Craig Howard, director of community and economic development, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, who talked about New Communities Program, and
• Celena Roldan, director of child care, Erie Neighborhood House. 1701 W Superior St., Chicago, IL 60622.

This session was broadcast as a webinar and potentially more than 1000 people were listening. The recorded session will be available on the Chapin Hall web site so hopefully many more people will find this and learn from what was presented. If you subscribe to their email list you can get notification of when this will be available and of future events.

The speakers were each given a few minutes to offer their ideas, and each talked about how children living in places with high poverty face greater disadvantages and challenges than do youth in more affluent situations. Furthermore they all focused on the need for long-term solutions, and emphasized how difficult it is to evaluation community building efforts. Mr. Howard emphasized that donors and policy makers need to be thinking in 10 to 20 year time frames, rather than in 2-3 year grant cycles.

In their summary comments, the speakers each encouraged collaboration, information sharing, capacity building, flexible funding, etc., but when I asked how they might envision President Obama using his internet army to connect and share information, to achieve these goals, none of the speakers seemed to have given this much thought.

My first observation is that 90 minutes is too little time to share the depth of experience of these speakers. Second, the 20 minutes for Questions at the end of the event is too little time for an audience of more than 200 to ask more than a few superficial questions. In addition, I was disappointed that no one used maps to illustrate the range of places where poverty is concentrated.

I would love to see these organizers build an internet platform on Ning or some other portal so speakers and participants could stay connected to each other in on-going idea-sharing and collaboration following the event. Classroom and Fireside Learning are two examples of connected communities. Social Edge is another example of the type of on-line community that could be encouraged.

I posted links to speaker profiles so you can go to their sites and look at their research. There is much to learn. However, in the LINKS Library on the T/MC you can find dozens of additional articles related to poverty and place-based solutions. You can also find links to information that non-profits, businesses and foundations might use in supporting their own involvement.

While yesterday’s event draws attention to new research and the problem of poverty, we need a comprehensive adult e-learning strategy, which engages more and more people in business, universities, philanthropy, non profits, and education with these programs. This village chart illustrates the many different sectors who need to be sharing their ideas and connecting in community problem solving.

If you review the articles I’ve written over the past few years you can see that I am actively engaging in the type of network building that I feel is needed to draw a crowd attract volunteers, donors and policy makers, to the research created by the Urban Institute, Chapin Hall, and dozens of other places, as well as articles and blogs by many who comment on these challenges, and point to solutions.

I’ve created forums for people to connect with T/MC and its network on Ning and at central web site hubs, like the T/MC site, but I’m also participating in forums hosted by others for the same purpose. So far I’ve not found any forum that consistently connects researchers, donors, business leaders, policy makers, etc, with a goal of creating understanding, sharing good ideas, and pointing resources to place based organizations who cannot put the ideas to work without consistent, on-going, flexible funding.

The T/MC is not the only place where this type of information needs to be aggregated and we are a small non profit, and cannot facilitate the learning of this information the way a university or faith network might do.

Just like there are millions of suns in the galaxy, each with stars connected to them by gravity, there needs to be hundreds of hubs drawing people from education, non profit, media, business, politics, etc. to this information, and pointing them to thousands of place based locations where kids need the type of help that volunteer-based mentoring, in many different formats, can provide.

I’m hopeful that President Obama will draw on his community building skills, to engage more people in this learning process, in internet forums, and in place based activities. If President Obama creates an Issue Wheel, like the Boston Innovation Hub, and uses his weekly radio addresses and other public speaking opportunities, to encourage members of his on-line army of supporters to go through the issue wheel to find knowledge about issues, and lists of actions they can take to solve problems, along with maps and databases showing places where they can provide time, talent and dollars to solve problems, he could radically change the way people learn and work together to solve some of the problems we’re writing about.

If public and private sector funding is made available, to organizations who organize this knowledge, and facilitate life-lone learning, understanding and actions, based on this information, these funds would be leveraged by the time, talent and dollars that people contributed to implement the ideas they learn in all of the places where concentrated poverty is a costs to society, and a tragedy to individuals and families.

We don’t know yet what the new president will do, but each reader can do something now to make a difference.

I encourage you to seek out a tutor/mentor program and make your donation before the end of 2008. You can help change the pattern of poverty by how you help kids connect with mentors, and knowledge, and education and jobs.

If you want to help Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, click here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tutor/Mentor Conference follow up

While we held the fall Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference on November 21, the networking following the conference is continuing in many areas. I've posted the welcome remarks by Dr. Clinton Nichols of the Field Museum on our Ning page.

I've also posted photos from the conference on the conference web site.

We're now doing what most other non-profit organizations do at this time of year, which is sending fund raising appeals to potential donors. I hope you will download our Holiday Fund Brochure and consider a donation, or forward it to others who might help us continue this work in 2009.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Strengthening Out-Of-School Time Non Profits - A Marketing Problem?

I received two studies this week which I hope readers will take time to look at during the coming month, so that in 2009 you can share these with your network, and expand the number of people who work to implement the recommendations.

The first was titled Strengthening Out-Of-School Time NonProfits: The Role of Foundations in Building Organizational Capacity. This study, by Heather B. Weiss and Priscilla M. D. Little of the Harvard Family Research Project, describe seven organizational challenges of the Out-Of-School Time (OST) non profit sector.

These include
(a) effective leadership,
(b) mission-driven/results-oriented approach,
(c) ability to benchmark and use information for adaptation,
(d)development of an effective workforce, creating and maintaining internal and external networks,
(e) integrating policy and advocacy with direct service, and
(d) developing and implementing a sound sustainability plan.

While these are great topics for non-profit managers to focus on, this paper was aimed at the role of foundations (donors) in building organizational capacity. Thus, there are key questions for foundation leaders, such as

(a) Will the grants made by non profits give them the organizational supports needed to achieve their program goals?
(b) What internal capacity do foundations need to build to create organizational strength at the non profit level?
(c) Is a grant portfolio too heavy on program innovation at the expense of organization building?
(d) Are grant makers close enough to the non profits they fund?

While this paper gives us lots of knowledge for building stronger organizations the second paper helps us focus our thinking on ways to have stronger organizations in all of the places where they are needed.

This is titled, The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America.

“The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty: Case Studies from Communities Across the United States” explores how pockets of extreme poverty emerge and persist in communities. Concentrated poverty is found to occur in a variety of social and economic contexts that imply the need for tailored strategies to ensure a better future for these communities and their residents. Common features are identified for the 16 communities that were studied. This report was created by The nation’s Federal Reserve Banks, in conjunction with the Board of Governors and the Brookings Institution.

While concentrations of poor people living in poor neighborhoods have been observed in large Northeastern and Midwestern cities, concentrated poverty also exists in smaller cities, immigrant gateways, suburban municipalities, and rural communities. The need for a deeper understanding of the relationship between poverty, people, and place led the Federal Reserve to join with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program to create this report. It contains case studies, undertaken by the Federal Reserve’s Community Affairs Offices, of 16 high-poverty communities across the United States.

The report is available online at

As you read these reports, I urge you to keep this chart in mind. It shows three time frames when we can connect with kids, which are the school day, right after school from around 3pm to 6pm, and right after the work day ends, from after 5pm to 8pm. It also shows that the time line from first grade to a career has some people who PUSH kids to do their best, which includes non profit organizations, parents, teachers, etc.

What the research on poverty shows is that in some places, kids are not being pushed by enough people who can influence aspirations for diverse jobs and careers, or who can help connect kids to these opportunities as they grow up. Peer and community models influence different, sometimes more negative choices, as kids get older, which leads to the high drop out rate for high schools in areas of high poverty.

The report by the Harvard Family Research Project focused on community foundations, and other private philanthropy. The T/MC chart focuses on the business community who we feel needs to be more strategic in using their resources (people, ideas, technology, facilities, jobs, dollars) to PULL kids from first grade to a career. This is the "pipeline" that I hear so many talking about, but so few people actually supporting.

Our final graphic is a map of Chicago.

This highlights the high poverty areas of Chicago, and locations of poorly performing schools. These are places where strong OST programs, including volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are needed. It's great that the Federal Reserve Banks supported the poverty study. We hope that means they will build strategies that mobilize and distribute needed resources in all of the places shown on the map as needing strong non profits, in partnership with community foundations, public funding and the kindness of many strangers.

I encourage you to view the other map articles in this blog to see more examples of how maps can be used to support business, church, university and hospital involvement in different neighborhoods of Chicago. This strategy could be applied in any city, perhaps with leadership from the Federal Reserve Banks themselves!

The OST report had an emphasis on benchmarking and networking. I consider every organization listed in the T/MC database and Links Library to be part of our network and each time we post a message we are inviting members of our network to connect with us in on-line discussions, as well as face to face meetings, so we build stronger relationships and a greater personal and organizational knowledge that leads to stronger non profits helping youth through school and into jobs and careers in all of the places around the country where such programs are needed.

As people read this, I hope you take a personal role in strengthening non profit tutor/mentor programs, by sending a donation to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, or to one of the other organizations listed in the Chicago Program Links.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Is Great Teaching Enough?

Today was the second School Policy Luncheon held at the Union League Club in Chicago, and organized by Catalyst-Chicago. One of the speakers was Michael E. Woolley, M.S. S., Ph.D., University of Chicago, SSA.

During the first event, held in November, Charles Payne, author of “So Much Reform, So Little Change,” and Penny Bender Sebring, founding co-director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research provided information that illustrated how schools in high poverty areas which have high levels of social capital perform better than similar schools with less social capital.

In this presentation Sebring described social capital in two ways. Bonding Capital is the connections made between people within the community to each other. It happens when people attend faith services, go bowling together, and through other group interactions. Bridging Capital is what connects youth and families within a community with people and experiences beyond the neighborhood.

Catalyst-Chicago has posted live recordings of the November event, along with the presentation materials used. This is a great resource and I encourage you to use it in building a better understanding of the ways tutor/mentor programs expand 'bridging capital' and 'bonding capital' in inner city neighborhoods, and how that impacts school performance.

In today's presentation, Dr. Woolley presented evidence showing that the more social capital and positive adults involved in the lives of inner city kids, the more likely that they will do better in school.

I did a search on Google to find out more about Dr. Woolley, and saw that he had been quoted in an August 2008 Chicago Sun Times series about the impact of violence on the performance of kids in school. "Small world," I said to myself. I created maps and wrote about this article on this blog.

I hope to connect with Dr. Woolley, and other researchers and advocates, in order to make this evidence known so that funders will begin to spread dollars to school and non-school solutions, and will evaluate volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs based on their ability to create and sustain relationships between inner-city youth and volunteers from beyond the neighborhood, rather than trying to align the work of these programs with classroom learning and the extended school day.

If you know of such people, or if you're trying to build a similar case to support volunteer based tutor/mentor programs, let's find places to connect, such as the T/MC web site, or the T/MC ning site.

If you're a person looking to make a major donation, why not use it to support non-school tutor/mentor programs in inner city neighborhoods, instead of building another building on a college or hospital campus.

Bank of America Local Heroes™ Award

On November 19, 2008, I was honored to be one of five Chicagoans to be recognized as a 2008 Local Hero by Bank of America. This is part of an international Neighborhood Excellence Initiative® . In each major market Bank of America recognizes five Heroes who "who champion causes vital to their communities., inspire others to get involved, and who have special and significant impact on individuals, families, or communities."

In addition to the award, each Hero was able to designate a charity to receive a $5,000 donation. I chose Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Ray Dowdle, who has been Chairman of the Board of Directors, and my main volunteer support for the past 16 years, received the award on behalf of Cabrini Connections.

The photo shows myself (far right) and Ray Dowdle, (second from the left). At the far left is David J. Rudis, Illinois President, Bank of America, and to my left is Steven McCullough, President and CEO of Bethel New Life, who presented the Hero Awards.

In his opening comments Kenneth D. Lewis, Chairman, CEO and President of Bank of America, reaffirmed his confidence in the US economy, and his company's commitment to supporting the non profit sector by saying, "while other companies give in-kind donations, our in-kind donation is cash".

For non profits who are facing uncertain philanthropic support, that is a strong message of support.

It's an honor to receive recognition like this for the work we do. I was humbled as I listened to the acceptance speeches of the other Chicago heroes. None of us are able to lead an organization unless many other people are willing to provide time, talent and dollars to support our visions, in countless ways and for many years.

Thus, I offer thanks to all of you who have help me and Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Creating Networks of Purpose

In January 1994 we launched our first survey to determine who was operating volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs in Chicago. 120 programs responded and 54% said they had little or no contact with peers. 70% wanted more contact and 90% said they would come to a conference if it were at low/no cost and fit their schedule.

So in May 1994 we hosted the first Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. It was attended by 70 people and the speakers and display table hosts were leaders of tutor/mentor programs who we had discovered from our survey. There was enough positive response that we hosted a 2nd conference in November 1994 and 200 people attended. We've been doing this every six months since then and the most recent conference was on November 21 at the Chicago Field Museum.

The map to the right shows the addresses of organizations participating in the Nov. 2008 conference. Some organizations sent multiple participants. Not all of these are tutor/mentor programs. Some are people interested in starting programs. Others are people with skills or knowledge they wanted to share. The map shows participants from all parts of the city, but much fewer from the South part of the city and the suburbs.

This map shows organizations that participated in the May 2008 conference. If you compare the two maps you'll see that some of the same organizations attended both conference, but we had quite a few more organizations from the North part of the city at the November conference, and more from the downtown, Near North area, at the May conference.

Participation from the South part of Chicago and the suburbs was low at both. Below we show a third map, this time with locations of poorly performing schools, and locations of about 140 organizations who offer combination tutor/mentor services. This map shows that there are less tutor/mentor programs in the South part of the city, which may account for lower participation at the conferences.

However, our aim is to attract people who want to start programs, not just those who already operate them. In the Mapping for Justice blog, we post maps showing the distribution of pure mentor, and pure tutor programs, in addition to combined tutor/mentor. We also show maps of businesses, hospitals, colleges, and faith groups, who could be working together in different neighborhoods to help programs start, and grow to becoming world class operations.

On the conference web site we've posted these maps, along with insets that show the participating organizations from the Chicago central city area.

I've invited staff at Cabrini Connections to write blog articles that describe the conference and I've also invited others to write about their participation. You can find links to Nicole's blog, Chris's blog, Vjeko's Blog and others, on the Tutor/Mentor Connection page.

On the conference web site there is an attendee list which you can scroll to see who attended the conference, and to make contact with these people. Our aim is that the conferences energize the tutor/mentor movement and draw new resources to all of the programs in the city. This strategy is described in a pdf titled "Creating a Network of Purpose", which is one of several strategy essays you can find in the Tutor/Mentor Institute section of our web site.

As we head toward the year-end holidays, I hope that readers will encourage friends to look at the list of participants and chose one or more to send a donation so they have fuel to do their work in 2009 and beyond.

If you'd like to learn more about how to create a Tutor/Mentor Connection in your own city, or how to connect your strategies with the T/MC in Chicago, please contact us.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Connected Learning Concept Map

I've used concept maps to describe strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Here's one that illustrates the concepts of "connected learning". Thanks to George Siemmens of for pointing this out to me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Social and FUNd Raising Events in December

I hope you're all enjoying your Thanksgiving feasts and get-togethers with friends and family. We all have much to be thankful for, yet there are many who need our help in this world. Thus, as you head toward the December holidays, I hope you'll review the work of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection and consider making a donation to support our continued work in 2009.

One way is to use the PayPal Donation Form on our Cabrini Connections site. Another is to attend the benefit being held on December 12 at Shuba's Tavern in Chicago.

The benefit will take place on Friday, December 12th) from 6-9pm at Schubas Tavern. Four groups will be playing: 2 indie rock bands (,, a hip-hop group ( and one last special guest yet to be announced.

Since the space and some drinks were donated, your $30 donation at the door will get you a complimentary drink, 4 great bands and the chance to connect with tons of interesting folks who are committed to helping at-risk youth succeed! PLEASE BRING FAMILY/FRIENDS AND HELP US SPREAD THE WORD!

As we enter the final month of the year, we're finishing a 16th year of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. We've never had much cash to work with, and have always had one eye on the rent collector and bank balance, yet we've had help from hundreds of volunteers and an orchestra of donors. What you see on this blog, and our other web sites is the result of continuous effort to innovate new solutions to complex problems. It's all made possible because many people have helped us.

That's my thanks to you on this day. I hope you'll help us keep this going.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tutor/Mentor Conference articles

I've asked the staff at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection to share ideas and reflections from last Friday's Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference on their blogs. El Da'Sheon Nix, the administrative coordinator (or head coach)of the Cabrini Connections team, wrote this.

Chris Warren, our 2008-09 Northwester University Public Interest Fellow, showed how the Tutor/Mentor Connection and the Conferences are intended to reduce the disconnect, or organizational silos, that separate many organizations working to help kids through school and into careers. His blog is here.

I encourage this blogging because as staff and volunteers write articles that enplane the goals and strategies of an organization, they are building and strengthening their own understanding, making them more effective leaders. It also helps me know their level of understanding so I can coach them more effectively.

Finally, the blogging is part of our network building and capacity building. Each writer has his/her own network of college, family, social, civic members who are more likely to read the blog articles of someone they know, than of someone they don't know. Thus, there are many entry points into the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which is illustrated by the graphics on the blog article Chris wrote.

Others have also offered reflections from the conference. Here are a two places where you can read comments on the T/MC Ning site and the Technology for Humanity site.

As others write in this forum, or on their own blogs, they, too, become network builders, connecting people they know with their own organization, and with the Tutor/Mentor Connection and hundreds of other organizations. Ultimately, the weight of this network-building and communications is intended to serve as advertising, to draw customers (volunteers, donors, parents, students) to the various organizations and tutor/mentor programs who are operating in different parts of Chicago and other cities.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's All About Relationships

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference was held in Chicago on Friday and about 110 people attended. Some were people I've known for a long time and others were attending for the first time.

A couple have introduced themselves on our page, and posted comments about the conference. I hope others will join them.

I network in several forums on and on Fireside Learning a discussion was started around a paper titled "It's All About Relationships" by Charles Leadbeater in Educational Leadership.

We have a new President, and a new First Lady, and that means new hope that we can move the education discussion beyond simply focusing on test scores, schools, teachers, and school leadership, to an expanded public understanding of how important relationships, a sense of belonging, social and emotional supports, and non-school learning and mentoring can be in helping build student aspirations and preparations to succeed in school

As the leader of a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program I'm constantly searching for operating funds for myself, as well as hundreds of similar programs in Chicago. Yet I keep coming up against foundation demands that I tie my work to school curriculum, individualized tutoring, and test scores.

A couple of years ago Robert Halpern, formerly from the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, and now at the Erickson Institute, wrote a paper titled "The Big Lie" in which he described the challenge facing me and others in the non-school field. You fan find this on a page titled Reframing Expectations of Out of School Programs, which is on the Partnership for Afterschool Education web site.

I feel that we're entering a time of great opportunity, and if we can connect more of the different organizations who operate non-school programs, and who understand the importance and value of connecting adults from beyond poverty with youth living in poverty, we can create new leadership, and new funding streams, that will support the on-going operations, and constant improvement of such programs in cities across the country.

If you feel the same way, meet me on our or introduce me to other forums where people are meeting to expand the resources available to support these programs.

If you'd like to understand the goals and strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection better, just click into some of the links along the left side of this blog. Read the articles and follow the links. If you share these with friends, associates and business associates, you can help expand the network of leaders using these ideas and thus the number of youth connected in volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tutor/Mentor Conference, Today in Chicago

Today the Tutor/Mentor Connection is hosting its 30th Leadership and Networking Conference since May 1994. Why are we doing this?

When we surveyed programs in spring 1994 more than 50% said they had "little or no contact" with peers. 70% said they wanted more. 90% said they would come to a conference.

The first attracted 70 people and that's when we published our first Directory listing tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. The reception was so great that we did the conference again in November 1994 and 200 people attended. We've been doing this every six months since then.

The purpose is not just networking. It is public awareness. The conference is part of an advertising campaign aimed at drawing volunteers and operating dollars to all tutor/mentor programs, based on the believe that connecting kids with inner city neighborhoods with adults who can model jobs and careers and help build aspirations is a good thing.

Most people can't be here today for this conference. Thus we hope you'll join us on line. Connect through blogs,or online forums. We want to learn from you and we want to help you learn from the rest of us.

Together we need to find ways to attract more consistent donor dollars, build leadership staff who can work with kids, volunteers, schools, and multiple donor demands, and find ways to link our programs to the workforce development goals of businesses and hospitals.

I'm off to the conference now. I hope to connect with you soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why support volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs?

Why Participate in this week's Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago or network with Tutor/Mentor Connection?

If you operate a non-school volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring program, you are competing with schools and public education for funding. I keep getting told “we fund education reform and focus on teachers and leadership.” Yet, I keep reading articles that say that chronically low-performing schools may not change without an equal emphasis on social and emotional support, or without increasing the social capital in the community around the schools. I believe volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs can be meeting places for youth, volunteers and non-school learning. Here are a few articles I read that support my thinking.

"It's All About Relationships" by Charles Leadbeater in Educational Leadership:

Lessons from High Performing Small High Schools in Chicago

Eight conditions that have a positive affect in forming student aspirations,

Bring your own ideas of why and how tutor/mentor programs impact the lives of at-risk youth and of how we can expand business and philanthropic funding of volunteer-based organizations that build these conditions for student success.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Leaders and Role Models - Action Strategy

This map was created almost 10 years ago and it represents a vision I've had for many years. The signatures on the map are of eleven high profile athletes like Carlton Fisk (White Sox), George Foster (Cincinnati Reds) and Otis Wilson (Chicago Bears). The map was circulated at a celebrity golf benefit and athletes were asked to "adopt neighborhoods" by putting their signature on specific community areas in Chicago.

The idea was that when a reporter puts a microphone in front of an athlete after a game, or practice, the athlete would learn to talk about the way he/she was supporting tutor/mentor programs in the adopted neighborhood. Think of how often this might deflect questions from a bad game, to a different topic! If enough athletes and other celebrities adopt this concept, their collective voices become advertising that draws volunteers and donors to tutor/mentor programs in under served neighborhoods. Such a strategy could duplicate in other cities, and include recording stars, business leaders, clergy, and many others who want to help kids succeed in school, stay safe in non-school hours, and be starting 21st century jobs and careers once they finish formal education.

This never became an operating strategy, but it has remained the model of a leadership strategy the Tutor/Mentor Connection seeks to develop. It shows that athletes, celebrities and business leaders can adopt neighborhoods, and use their media visibility, blogs and personal communications to draw attention to the tutor/mentor programs in those areas.

This T/MC essay/pdf  illustrates the role of athletes as leaders. On Friday Nov. 21 during the Tutor/Mentor Conference at the Chicago Field Museum, a panel of athletes and business leaders will talk about ways any athlete in Chicago or another city can adopt a neighborhood and use their visibility to mobilize volunteers and donors to support the tutor/mentor programs in that area.

I encourage athletes of all sorts to attend and embrace this idea. It's critically important in a time of economic crisis, and as we head for the year end holidays. However, it is really important as we help President Obama achieve the lofty goals he has set for his Presidency.

If you'd like to take a role in making this "adopt a neighborhood" idea a reality, join us at the conference, or call 312-492-9614 to get involved.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Small Actions. Large Impact

I responded to this question this week: "I am looking for examples where making a small behavioral change can have a large impact on a problem." I received this via an email list from a Social Marketing Consultant in North Carolina.

I figured since I took the time to respond, I might as well share my response here:
I encourage you to visit and

These links go to two parts of a single organization started by myself and six other volunteers in the fall of 1992. It's an example of how small actions, repeated over a long period, can grow.

I also encourage you to view the maps at . We began to create maps in 1993 when a librarian at the United Way of Chicago asked me how I was going to show the locations of tutor/mentor programs in Chicago that I was collecting via the first T/MC survey. I said I did not know and she showed me a Geography magazine, where maps were used to show information. I took that inspiration and have found a variety of volunteers and a few donors, and have been making maps ever since.

This is the small action of one person, and one organization. However, as you look at the maps, you can see that if other individuals begin to use them, it can result in a more consistent flow of dollars, volunteers and programs into all of the high poverty areas of a city like Chicago. This lowers the costs of acquiring these resources, reduces the emotional burnout of fund raising, and helps programs keep key leaders longer, thus building human capital and experience. This leads to better results.

I write about this in this blog and encourage others to do the same. The small action of one person writing about this, and lead his/her friends to take a role. Depending on who your friends are, and who their friends are, this can lead to big actions and tipping points.

If people begin to use maps like this all over the world, we begin to create a bridge that connects "people who can help" with more of the places where help is consistently needed, and we show a role of the middle man, or the small-action person, who takes the time every day, or every so often, to point his friends to the map, with an encouragement to "do something", even if it seems just like a small action.

These add up.

Dan Bassill
Cabrini Connections
Tutor/Mentor Connection
800 W. Huron
Chicago, Il. 60642

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Working With Banks to Build a Tutor/Mentor Program Investment Strategy

Now that the election is over it's time to do some creative thinking so that HOPE becomes REALITY for millions of kids and families living in high poverty neighborhoods of big cities. We need strategies that bridge the gap between rich and poor. I think tutor/mentor programs should be part of such a strategy because of the personal connection that is created when an adult becomes a one-on-one tutor/mentor to a youth. Here's an outline of that thinking.

If you agree, then why not join with me in brainstorming ways to help constantly improving tutor/mentor programs become available to more k-12 kids in more high poverty neighborhoods. Why not take the role shown on the chart above to draw people together to learn more about tutoring/mentoring and ways to make great programs available in every high poverty neighborhood.

One of the biggest challenges to such a strategy, is lack of funds for general operations of such programs. I know from my own leadership of Cabrini Connections, that this is the most significant challenge I face every day. Second is finding talented, dedicated staff and volunteers who will make long-term commitments to being part of such programs. Third is sustaining programs for many years, so that relationships can form, and volunteers and business partners can influence student aspirations and career choices.

I feel such obstacles can be overcome if businesses look at tutor/mentor programs as part of their own human capital development. We know that volunteers who engage in non profit service have many benefits, and so do the companies who encourage volunteerism. If we can help more kids from poor neighborhoods move to jobs and careers, we diversify the workforce, and help find new workers to replace retirees who will be leaving the workforce over the next 15 years.

I use maps to help businesses, churches, hospitals, and universities do their planning. You can see many examples on this blog, and in the Mapping For Justice blog, also hosted by the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Today, I'm showing how some of the major banks in Chicago might build "adopt a neighborhood" strategies, supporting the growth of tutor/mentor programs in neighborhoods where they have branch banks, and recruiting volunteers who travel to and from work via the major expressways, as volunteers, leaders and donors.

Chase Bank Chase branches are throughout the city, but there is a strong concentration along the Kennedy, and stretching through the North side of the city. You can click on the map image and see an enlarged version. As you look at each map, our goal is that volunteer teams form, who lead an on-going learning and leadership process, using the branch bank as a meeting place, an advocate for local programs, and even a potential site where kids and volunteers can meet once a week during non-school hours.

Bank of America While there a dozens of locations throughout the city, notice the concentration in the area between the Eisenhower and Stevenson Expressways, as well as the Northwest part of the city. If teams form at one, or more branches of a bank with many locations, each team may take a different role in supporting neighborhood tutor/mentor programs. If these teams connect and share ideas via the Internet, and company-organized events, they learn from each other and build relationships that help in the workplace, as well as in developing and sustaining tutor/mentor programs.

Banco Popular
Notice how branch banks are along the Kennedy Expressway, and near Ogden Avenue.

MB Financial Branches in the North and Northwest part of the city could support tutor/mentor programs in this area, and help encourage volunteers from the suburbs who work at other businesses, to become part of tutor/mentor programs in areas where it has branch banks. MB Financial has been a sponsor of the annual Cabrini Connections Golf Benefit since 1995. I local businesses in a Chicago community area banded together, they could host workplace fund raising, and other benefits, that support the operations of tutor/mentor programs in areas where they do business, while also supporting the role the Tutor/Mentor Connection takes in creating these maps and encouraging networking and information sharing.

Park National Branches in the West and South parts of the city could be meeting places for community and business partners working together to help create new tutor/mentor programs in under-served areas. Park National has also been a sponsor of the Cabrini Connections golf benefit. It's branch in Roseland is near Salem Baptist Church which is led by State Senator James Meeks. That branch of Park National Bank could be a catalyst in the Roseland/Pullman area, for the growth of tutor/mentor programs.

Citibank Locations throughout the city, with branches in areas where there is a need for more volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

CharterOne CharterOne's locations in the Southwest and South part of Chicago could help increase the number of tutor/mentor programs in this area, working with churches and other banks in this area.

These maps will constantly change as each business adds or deletes branches, but we hope they also change as businesses take a lead in investing time, talent and dollars to help support the growth of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.

If you'd like to work with the Tutor/Mentor Connection to help develop a strategy for your business, church, college, please contact us, or send a representative to the next Tutor/Mentor Conference, which will be held at the Chicago Field Museum on Nov. 21, 2008.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What to do with $300 million donation.

After the election of Barack Obama, perhaps the next biggest news in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, was a $300 million donation to the University Chicago by a wealthy alum. I saw this story in Thursday's Chicago SunTimes. Then a couple of pages later I read about a judge being mugged and robbed a few blocks from where the Obamas live.

If you're not aware, Hyde Park is the home of the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Hospital. It's also an area surrounded by many neighborhoods of highly segregated poverty.

I've been using maps to show where poverty and poor schools are in Chicago, as well as to show where incidents of violence are taking place. In one map I show locations of hospitals and in another I show universities. You can see one of these stories here.

On Friday I attended a workshop that talked about the Asset Based Community Development program at Northwestern University - . This is a community organizing process that focuses on the assets in a neighborhood, rather than the deficits.

Thus, while the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC)'s poverty maps point out deficits, or problems that need to be solved, the maps showing churches, hospitals, universities and businesses, show assets in the same community, or region, who could be working together to solve complex problems facing the community.

I read in today's Chicago Tribune Business Section that now that the University has the donation, "the hard part" is to figure out how to use that $300 million donation. Not for me.

I'd use it to tap the assets of the University of Chicago, the University of Chicago Hospital and the surrounding businesses and churches and community-based organizations to build a world class network of non-school youth and career development organizations in the high poverty areas within two miles around Hyde Park and these institutions.

I'd enlist Michelle Obama to be my chairperson, not just because she is the new President's wife, but because she has been an executive of the University of Chicago Hospital and she is raising her kids in this neighborhood. She does not want them, or anyone else, to be a future victim of a mugging caused by someone who may have grown up in the high poverty areas around Hyde Park. She's also an alumni of Public Allies, so has a history of service and organizing.

When she goes to Washington, DC, she will learn that the Capital is also surrounded by neighborhoods of high poverty and that many people working in government have been victims of similar muggings and acts of violence. Thus, a solution out of Hyde Park, can be a solution applied in DC and other cities, too.

Many people say this is an education and a social service problem. I say it's a business and marketing problem. It's a problem that affects all Americans. Until we fill the neighborhoods on the T/MC poverty maps with a wider range of learning supports, too few kids will have the tools to become future Barack Obamas.

Many people expect government to solve this problem. I think leadership needs to come from the private sector, perhaps with a little government help and leadership. When I listen to Obama's call for sacrifice and service, I think he might have the same ideas in mind. The community needs to be organized. The University is part of the community.

I view a comprehensive volunteer-based tutor/mentor program as a "retail store" where the products and services are things that would attract kids and volunteers to participate, and would support them in on-going activities that result in kids becoming alumni of the university and employees of the alumni who now lead companies around the world. Such programs would attract volunteers from beyond the immediate neighborhood, creating "bridging capital" that expands the aspirations and
opportunities for kids living in neighborhoods with more people modeling poverty and negative careers, than modeling a degree from the University of Chicago or any other university.

Every CEO who leads a company knows what it takes to build a great 'store' and develop products and services that draw customers. If you look at the maps we're creating, we show locations of businesses, churches and hospitals in the Chicago region, in addition to locations of nearly 200 volunteer based organizations that offer various forms of tutoring and or mentoring.

On the business maps you'll see that some of these companies have stores, or offices, throughout the region. I'm sure these were put in locations where the companies feel they have potential customers.

While having a store in the right place, with merchandise needed by customers is important, these companies also know they need to spend millions of dollars to advertise regularly so they attract and keep customers. Furthermore, they need to constantly upgrade their offerings as customers habits change and new competition enters the market.

I've heard social workers and teachers say that these are not skills being taught in the social service or education departments at most universities. They are being taught in the business schools.

As kids enter tutor/mentor programs in elementary schools they have one set of needs. As they grow older they have other needs and peer and community pressures are the competition keeping many from staying in school and moving to jobs and careers. To compete with gangs and negative aspirations the "stores" or tutor/mentor programs in an area need to offer activities and services that are more compelling. That's a simple enough concept. Making it work is much more difficult.

The top businesses in the world rely on constant research and learning to make sure they keep their companies competitive and leading their industry. These habits are taught by universities. Why not make the task of building a world class youth development system a practical learning project for the students who go through the business school at the university over the next 8 years? Why not engage the alumni and others who are now called to service by our new President and his wife?

Why not create a Business School Connection, drawing upon the talent of business schools in every major city to not only help establish tutor/mentor programs, but to assure they have the resources needed to keep kids and volunteers connected.

I fully believe that if the University of Chicago, or another university with a similar windfall donation from an alumni, were to apply some of this $300 million to a private sector business-development initiative with these goals, their work would attract the attention of people from around the world, and it would soon be duplicated by other universities who are surrounded by poverty and seek a more diversified student body and alumni base.

This is how I'd spend the money. In fact, it's how I'm spending the donations I have been receiving for the past 15 years.

None of the gifts I have received have been larger than $60,000, but, if you read other articles I've written, and follow the links on this blog, you'll see that we're already operating a tutor/mentor program called Cabrini Connections and working to help similar programs grow around the Hyde Park neighborhood and in other high poverty areas of the Chicago region.

We'd like to be a resource or a partner to any university or hospital who wants to help more kids be the next Barack Obama and who have the alumni who can provide the dollars needed to do this work.

We also would welcome any donor who would like to make a similar large scale investment in our own work.