Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How can you tell what kind of program it is?

National Mentoring Month is starting in a few days and there will be many ads and public service announcements showing how mentors have been an important part of someone's life.

Hopefully this will motivate many people to go to the internet and search for programs where they can volunteer time, talent and hopefully dollars. One place they can look is the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, which has an interactive, searchable map that enables people to zoom into different sections of the Chicago area to learn what non profits, if any, offer tutoring/mentoring. Another feature is a library of links to more than 200 web sites of youth serving programs, organized by sections of the city and suburbs.

But, how does someone tell the difference between one organization, and another?

I ponder this often, and as I was cleaning my desk today (what a mess!) I found some notes that I had written more than a year ago. Here's what I'd encourage you to look for when searching for places to get involved:

a) does the organization have a web site, blog, or other written material that outlines the vision, mission and strategy of the organization?

b) does the web site include a "theory of change" showing how volunteers in that tutoring and/or mentoring program help youth; and how the overall activities of the organization help youth and volunteers meet regularly, stay connected, and build long-term (more than one year) relationships?

c) does the web site of organization show a "learning strategy" meaning, it points its volunteers, students and donors to other tutor/mentor programs, and resources, that can be used to benchmark, and compare, or to find help that is not available at that specific program location?

d) does the web site include a history of performance, including some statistics showing how many youth and adults have participated on a regular basis each year, and for multiple years. Such a history would show how long the organization has offered tutoring and/or mentoring, and how many years the organization has been continuously connected to youth in the same neighborhood of Chicago, or any other city.

e) If the organization makes claims of "graduation and college attendance rates" do they base this on the number of youth who started with the program, and who are still participating when they graduated? Or do they fudge the numbers as the Kauffman Scholars were accused of doing in the Dec/Jan 2010 issue of Youth Today? By fudging, I mean they do not include kids who dropped out of the program in early years when they report graduation or college attendance rates.

f) does the web site include testimonials/stories of impact from youth and alumni who have been part of the program in the current or former years

g) how does this organization work with others in its zip code, city or state to share ideas, build capacity, and assure that more kids have access to great programs, not just the kids in that program?

h) does the organization post financial reports, such as audits or 990 reports, on its web site?

While the Tutor/Mentor Connection maintains a directory of Chicago area volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs, and a links library, we don't have the manpower to be doing an ongoing review of each program to determine which meet these criteria. Our goal is to educate consumers (volunteers, parents, donors, program leaders, etc.) so they can compare one program to another, with a goal that all programs are constantly trying to be the best at what they do. This is because each program serves different kids in a different part of the city.

They all need to be as good as they can be.

Many organizations will not demonstrate everything I've listed. There may be other criteria that some people might want to add to this list. My point is, no program can reach this level of excellence, and stay there, without continuous investment of time, talent and flexible operating dollars, from people and partners, who get involved, and stay involved, for many years.

If you are looking to get involved, think beyond being a tutor or mentor. Inventory your talent, resources and networks, and look for ways that you can help one or more tutoring/mentoring programs on our Chicago Programs list, or in your own community, become the best at what they do, and the model everyone else is trying to duplicate.

We created a forum on our Ning Site where you can post reviews of programs, and discuss what it takes to help a program move from being good, to being great.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Obama supports Promise Zone. How in Chicago?

Today's Chicago Tribune features a story about the Harlem Children's Zone, which is a highly visible effort to provide a wide range of educational and community support services for people in an 97 block stretch of the Harlem Area of NYC.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection has been proposing geographic based strategies for many years, and uses maps to help draw investment (talent and dollars) to all of the tutor/mentor programs operating in different parts of the city.

This link shows the location of the Harlem Children's Zone headquarters in the Harlem Area of NYC. (If you know of anyone mapping youth serving organizations in NYC, please share the link.)

We've also been creating an information based library, so that leaders in Chicago can build their own understanding of strategies that they read about in the media. This link points to a section of the T/MC discussion forums (inactive since 2013) where you can find more information about the Harlem's Children's Zone, as well as challenges that face anyone who wants to duplicate that in Chicago or elsewhere.

According to the Tribune article, "The Harlem Children's Zone offers educational, medical and social services from cradle to college." On the HCZ web site you'll see different sections describing services for pre school, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. This has been so well publicized that at this page you'll see efforts to spread the model all over the country.

What I don't see on the web site are maps, that show the Harlem Zone, or show how HCZ is interacting with other community agencies that also work in the area? Do they compete with HCZ? does the HCZ use all of its media attention to draw volunteers and needed resources to programs on every block in the zone. The graphic below illustrates what such a leadership role might look like.

Kids and families living in high poverty area need a wide range of supports. If you think of building a new building, the architectural drawings show diagrams of how many people work together at each stage of the project, so that the end result is a completed building. Every worker at each stage needs to do their job correctly, and each needs to be fairly paid. This concept map illustrates a first grade, to first job pipeline showing how extra adult tutors/mentors, donors, leaders, etc. need to be involved in providing age-appropriate supports as kids grow up.

Unless someone is creating a map, showing the organizations already operating in a neighborhood, and segmenting this by type of activity, it would be difficult to know if all of the talent and services needed were available in a neighborhood. It would also be difficult to mobilize the continuous resources to make sure everyone was getting paid to do what needs to be done.

The Tutor/Mentor Interactive map is a sample of what is possible. We only map tutor/mentor programs because that is the focus of our work. We don't do this as well as we'd like because we can't find donors to invest consistently in this work. Yet, you can turn layers of information on, and of, or zoom into specific areas, to learn what programs, if any, are in any specific area.

If you've been reading about Promise Zones, or inner city violence, or the state of Chicago Schools, and you are concerned about how the next $30 million or so of public money will be spent, I encourage you to take a look at our maps, and some of the articles we're pointing to. There are many strategies that leaders can take right now to make poor neighborhoods "neighborhoods of promise". There are many strategies that might cost millions, that may never come close to that goal.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Did St.Paul Have a Map of the Road to Damascus?

Throughout the world Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths are celebrating the year end holidays. Many people will be spending time reflecting the meaning of these holidays, and the depth of their faith.

I hope that some will read this article and add it to their thinking. I used the story of St. Paul on the Road to Damascus in my title because, most people who travel, use maps to find their way.

I use maps too. Shown is a map of the Chicago region, with areas of poverty highlighted, and with locations of Catholic Churches shown.

Mike Trakan makes these maps for the Tutor/Mentor Connection. This week he posted three blog articles that show how faith groups might use these maps to build strategic involvement in many places, and for many years, so that the lives of inner city kids living in poverty are transformed, just as the lives of people of faith have been transformed by their beliefs.

Merry Christmas, Christians! Love Thy Neighbor! (Dec. 22)

Christmas Week! Help Us Spread Charity, Kindness, and Love! (Dec. 21)

Happy Hanukkah! How Jewish Faith Leaders Might Rally Against Poverty (Dec. 17)

These articles are not intended to suggest that people in faith communities are not already very generous in the way they help the poor. Our goal is that leaders use maps to build an understanding of where they are having an impact on tutoring/mentoring programs, and where there are programs that need faith partners to help them. Our aim is that there are numerous partnership supporting each of the tutor/mentor programs already operating in the Chicago region, or helping new programs form in areas with poverty, but without programs currently operating. Without mapping where you are involved, it's easy to look at what you are doing and think that this is enough.

Until we reach every poverty neighborhood, with well supported, ongoing programs, we are not doing enough to assure that more of these kids are staying in school and will be prepared for 21st century jobs and careers by the time they are adults.

If you would like help in mapping the current outreach of your faith community, contact the T/MC and we may be able to help you use maps for your planning and evaluation.

I hope that people in faith communities will use these maps throughout the year, not just during these periods of special celebration.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Motivations for Giving

I encourage you to read this article, titled 'Selfish' Giving: Does It Count If You Get In Return?. It's from a NPR report.

Then read this article about Ayn Rand's Virtue of Selfishness philosophy.

Then read the articles on this blog about poverty, workforce development and leadership (see tags at left). Unless donors have tremendous altruism, or tremendous motivations, or both, programs like Cabrini Connections will never have the sustained flow of resources needed to help teens joining us in 7th grade be starting jobs and careers by their mid-twenties.

What motivates your giving?

Can you support Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection with a Holiday Donation?

Can you make a bequest, or support us with a corporate or foundation grant program? Do we fit with your own personal and strategic goals?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Network Building - Understanding T/MC

I've written more than 500 article in the past few years, all aimed at one goal of "connecting people who can help, with places, programs and youth, where help will be needed for many years.

I point to articles written by people who are smarter than I am, and who write better than I do. If you read these articles and apply what you are reading to the articles and ideas I'm sharing, you'll see how powerful the ideas we share can be in helping solve some of the complex social issues facing our country.

Here are two articles that I hope will stimulate your thinking.

Managing the 21st Century Organization, by Valdis Krebs

Social Capital, Glue for Sustainability (a slideshare) by Victoria Axelrod, William Becker, and Jenny Ambrozek

In October 2008, Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, was in Chicago following the beating death of a Chicago teen. He was quote in the newspaper saying

"This is the time to look in our collective mirror and ask whether we like what we see or whether we can do better together." .. Arne Duncan

In the article written by Valdis Krebs, he says "Why not use the power of the network itself to create a solution? Improve the organizational network and then use technology to help people communicate across wide spans of the human network."

The Tutor/Mentor Connection has been connecting people and organizations for more than 16 years, and providing a library of information for people to share the same resources, ideas and their own ideas. We have create maps that anyone can use in their collective work, or their individual efforts, to help build and sustain mentor-rich organizations that constantly learn from the work each other is doing, and constantly expand their impact on the lives of inner city kids.

At Cabrini Connections, we apply this network-building concept directly to our own efforts to help a small group of young people move from 7th grade, through high school, and into college, then jobs and careers. This is a long-term process, which will only be successful as we expand the network of adults who are involved, and committed to this same goal.

Our aim is that when you look at our maps of Chicago, every program that is operating will be using some of these ideas to build their own systems of long-term support for the kids they are working with. When you look at asset maps, showing businesses, faith groups, colleges and hospitals, you'll see a growing number of groups who are providing the resources needed by each of these programs, and Cabrini Connections, to do this work.

This can happen if these organizations and resource providers are applying the ideas we're sharing on this blog.

As you read about networks on this blog, and about knowledge management, innovation, and problem solving, we hope you will include the T/MC in your network, and that you'll also help us find investors and benefactors to stimulate our own role as an intermediary and catalyst for this network building process.

Make your Holiday Donation at

Thank you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"The underlying issue here is racism and poverty"

The front page story in the 12/18 Chicago SunTimes was Health gap kills 3,200 black Chicagoans every year. In the Chicago Tribune the front page story was Saving Michael: Mom’s efforts to help Son. The report on health disparities was on an inside page of the Tribune, with the title Health Gap Widens between Blacks and Whites.

This "media map" shows how people who our outraged or emotionally connected to these stories can look at research, or competitive intelligence, that the Tutor/Mentor Connection has collected, then build neighborhood, business, or faith based strategies, that become long-term solutions to these programs.

Articles I point to in this map are:

Reframing School Drop out as a Public Health Issue

Supporting volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs as public health strategy

Role of Hospitals – Mt Sinai Map and Strategy

Role of Faith Groups – Woodlawn area map

Tutor/Mentor Birth to Work Pipeline Strategy Map

I've been writing about these issues for 16 years. However, we’re just a small voice, like a Prophet, that very few people are taking time to listen to. I've encouraged others on the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection team to do the same.

The links I’ve pointed to are just a few of the articles that can be studied by any big, or small, groups of people who want to change the headlines by finding solutions. Contact the Tutor/Mentor Connection if you'd like to have our help. We're at 312-492-9614

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Network Building for Inner City Youth

This video shows the interaction on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009 between teens living in inner city Chicago and volunteers who work in various industries and who live in neighborhoods beyond the inner city. Here's an album with two other videos showing our work.

This would not be happening if Cabrini Connections did not exist, and if donors and volunteers had not been willing to put time and dollars into this organization every year since 1993.

I'm one of the founders of Cabrini Connections, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I've been the leader since 1992. As this photo shows, I'll do almost anything to find the resources it takes to keep kids and volunteers connected to each other.

This has been a tough year. Hell, it's been a tough decade. And it wasn't much easier in the 1990s.

When you look at the maps of Chicago that Mike Trakan makes, how many neighborhoods have places where kids and volunteers have been connecting for the past 16 years? How many have managed to keep connected to many of these youth, and adults, so they are now able to help each other with adult lives and challenges?

Read the mission statement of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. What other organization in the Chicago region has as complete a strategy intended to help every poverty neighborhood have high-quality, mentor-rich programs? Look at the conference maps to see how programs throughout the region are connecting with each other because we spend time, and money, to organize these events.

We need your year-end donations and support in 2010 to continue this work, and to expand our impact. Chicago is too big a city for us to have an impact when we are struggling each month just to pay our rent.

Give me a call at 312-492-9614 if you'd like to talk about more ways to help, or that we can help you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

White House Mentoring. What's the Strategy?

I'm part of a Youth Mentoring Listserv hosted by Dr. David DuBois. Today someone shared an article about Michelle Obama launching a White House Mentoring program.

The consensus of the group was "good" and "why didn't she draw upon the collective wisdom of some of these experts to design the program?"

While the White House is launching its own mentoring strategy, we have plenty of problems in Chicago. Mike Trakan, Map Maker for the Tutor/Mentor Connection, created this map, and this article, showing the location of the most recent high-profile youth murder in Chicago.

Mike and the Tutor/Mentor Connection provide a lot of information and resources that leaders in Chicago, and the White House, could be using to build their own mentoring strategies. I updated a couple of the Essays in the Tutor/Mentor Institute today to help with such research.

In Defining Terms and Building a Network of Purpose, I ask people to build programs based on what youth they want to help, and what result they want to achieve.

At Cabrini Connections we're celebrating the holidays this week. We've been doing this every year since 1993. Our roots extend back to 1965 when employees of the Montgomery Ward Corporation started meeting every Tuesday evening after work with elementary school kids in the Cabrini Green area.

I think this represents one of the longest running tutor/mentor programs in the country. We have a lot of experience. Maybe the White House would want to talk to us?

I hope you'll value this knowledge and what we've been doing enough to make a Holiday Donation so we're able to keep doing this work, and sharing our ideas, in 2010.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Searching for Mr. Right

This is an important week for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. We sent out 4000 appeals for donations last week, and are reaching out to more people through our internet networking.

Without year end donations from a lot of individuals and a few corporate and foundation donors, we won't have the money to operate in 2010. Every day I'll be looking at our Holiday Fund and in our mail box, for checks ranging from $25 to $5,000 or more. This is our biggest, and most important fund raising period of the year. The money has to carry us through the first quarter of 2010.

This Local Global graphic illustrates the bigger picture, which I describe as "searching for Mr. Right". While I'm searching for donors to help us fund our Cabrini Connections program, which serves 80 teens living in the Cabrini Green area, and a network of more than 450 alumni which we're reconnecting to on the internet, the Tutor/Mentor Connection seeks to create a system of support that would make several hundred programs like this available to youth in high poverty neighborhoods.

To do that we need a few benefactors who will provide up to $1 million a year in funding for the marketing, team building, training, and work we need to do to help make this happen. We've been operating on less than $225,00 a year since 1998. That does not have a big impact in a city as large as Chicago.

Thus, if you're reading this, and want to help more of the 200,000 kids living in poverty have access to well organized, mentor-rich, long-term programs like Cabrini Connections, help us find Mr. Right, and help us with a few donations to keep the tutoring/mentoring at Cabrini Connections ongoing in 2010.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Connections to world of work and civic life.

I encourage you to visit Bob Pearlman's web site and read some of the articles. In this one, a quote that stands out is that "a social network is a student’s human connections to the real world of work and civic life."

This is what a program like Cabrini Connections offers. We connect kids who live in high-poverty inner city neighborhoods with people who can model a wide range of jobs and careers. We try to keep these kids and volunteers connected for many years, to expand their aspirations of what they can be, and to help them put these goals into the work needed to achieve those goals.

What the Tutor/Mentor Connection does is try to help such programs be available to youth in all of the high poverty neighborhoods of the Chicago region.

In some cities and states mentoring partnerships, with annual budgets of $350,000 to $1 million are trying to support mentoring programs. We have never had more than $225,000 in a single year, and we started in 1993 with no money and just an idea of what we were trying to create.

If you want to help us build this connection, why not make an endowment to the Tutor/Mentor Connection instead of building another building at your alma mater or at the local Hospital?

You don't need to be in Chicago, or the US, to offer this help. This Chicago Tribune article talks about virtual volunteering. You can be anywhere to help us, and you can be anywhere to draw ideas from what we do to help kids in your own community.

If you can make a donation to a Holiday Fund, you're helping us help these kids.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

System needs to be fixed

In my last blog I pointed to the future of philanthropy, if we create it. Right after that I received an email from a local organization that I had worked with to help them submit a proposal for the government Stimulus Funding for Mentoring Programs.

In the rejection letter they were told that they had a good proposal, but only 23 out of over 1400 proposals were funded.

Think of this. I spent a little time investigating doing a proposal for this grant. It cost me $600 for the time a grant writer spend investigating this. She would have charged me $1600 for the full proposal.

If each agency who submitted a proposal spent just $1600, then the total fund raising cost was over $2.4 million dollars.

I'm sure the time and labor of many of the organizations who submitted these proposals was much more than $1600. What a waste!

We need to find a more effective system of drawing dollars to doers. Who wants to help?

One way is to use map/databases like the Chicago Program Locator. Anyone can search by zip code, to find contact information, and web sites, for more than 160 organizations offering volunteer based tutoring and/or mentoring in the Chicago area. Using this information, you can choose who to fund, and how much to give.

If we can find ways to increase the volume of potential donors who search the maps, we can push dollars to doers, without them spending the time, money, and emotional energy, that goes into writing these un-funded grant proposals.

If we can apply the ideas in the Disrupting Philanthropy 2.0 article, we can do this even more effectively.

A look to the future

I encourage you to read this article titled Disrupting Philanthropy 2.0. It's about 55 pages, so budget time to read it. This offers a broad review of how philanthropy and the organizations supported by it, will change in the coming years.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection is already involved in some of this work, more as an inventor tinkering with ideas, than a social innovator with a working model to fund our innovations.

However, when you ready about FasterCures, how much different is its work than what the Tutor/Mentor Connection is trying to do?

While it's important that the leaders of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection be reviewing this information, it's also to our best interest that leaders in industry, philanthropy, other non profits, colleges and so on, also be looking at this so we can team up to build better solutions, using our combined imagination and innovation.

I look forward to connecting with you in this innovative digital future.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

State of Funding for Tutor/Mentor Programs

Jill Zimmerman, a Vice President with The Alford Group, was a featured speaker at the November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. She talked about The State of Funding for Tutoring and Mentoring Programs and Non-Profits. The presentation is now available on-line.

Mike Trakan created this map to show organizations that attended the conference, and what neighborhoods of the Chicago region they were from. The Attendee List on the conference web site enables you to contact these organizations. The Program Locator enables you to visit their web sites (if they have one).

We can change the fund raising picture for every one of the non profits who attended the conference if we can increase the number of people who reach out to provide big and small donations during the month of December, and in 2010.

If you want the same goals we want, which are expressed in this "Ready by 21" web site, and in the T/MC mission statement, then I encourage you to reach out and encourage people you know to become the donors and benefactors these programs need.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Internships and fellowships

One way we expand the manpower at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is through volunteers. Another is through internships. Here are some places where you can learn how interns are helping us.

Bradley Troast, NU Public Interest Program Fellow. See story on NU web site. Read his blog.

Jordan Merlo, Loyola University Chicago intern. Follow her blog.

Joe Piaskowy, a graduate student at Northwestern, and former Cabrini Connections video club volunteer, created this story about the Cabrini Connections art club for a class project.

Learn about other interns from IIT, University of Michigan, Hong Kong Baptist and more.

While these articles show how interns from various universities work directly from our office in Chicago, this DePaul University blog illustrates how students can support the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Connection as part of a class project. We'd like to see this duplicated in many places.

While these volunteer provide tremendous talent, we still need to find donations to pay the rent and other expenses of operating, so we can provide this service opportunity. Can you help with a holiday donation?

Monday, December 07, 2009

Business and Schools - Who's Right?

Here's an article by Diane Ravitch titled "Why Business Leaders Should Not Be in the Driver's Seat". You can discuss this with others on the Fireside Learning forum.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Make a difference. Use your vote. Enlist others.

If we get enough votes on Facebook we can win a $25,000 grant from the Chase Foundation.

While a vote for us on Facebook gives us a chance at finding the dollars we need, a donation to our Holiday Fund by you and people you know, can assure that our team has the dollars it needs.

Read about how Cabrini Connections was recognized for excellence.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Volunteering is not Free

In four weeks National Mentoring Month will celebrate the connections between young people and volunteers in many places around the country, including Cabrini Connections.

While this campaign supports the involvement of volunteers, all of the research on mentoring says it works best when the youth and volunteer are well supported by professional staff, and when programs are able to keep youth and involvement connected to each other longer than a few months or a year. Here's a report evaluating mentoring strategies in the UK, which points out the lack of infrastructure and unrealistic expectations.

So how do we find the money? In Minnesota, $14 million was raised in a single day to support 3,434 charities. The campaign was hosted on Razoo, a fund raising portal.

Right now every non-profit in the country is sending out Holiday Fund appeals, asking for donations. Some are spending huge sums of money on elaborate marketing. Others, like Cabrini Connections, are using email for most of our efforts, because we don't have much money, and because the money we do have should be spent on helping our kids and volunteers stay connected.

I helped the Lawyers Lend A Hand to Youth Program at the Chicago Bar Association grow from a $2,000 award in 1994 to a foundation that awarded over $200,000 to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago in 2007, and 2008, because I feel that businesses, professional groups and similar intermediaries could mobilize their entire industry to support all tutor/mentor programs in the city, with a lot more long-term impact than having each of us spend precious dollars competing for a shrinking donor pool.

Now, I challenge, and plead, for leaders who want to help youth stay in school, make healthy choices, and prepare for jobs and careers, to find ways to duplicate the Minnesota effort. Build campaigns in December that draw holiday dollars to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs. Do the same in January.

Use the Chicago Program Locator to find out what tutoring and/or mentoring programs are in different parts of Chicago, and which are near where you do business, worship, or attended college. Build a strategy that support all programs in a zip code, not just the one, or two, highly visible programs.

If we can dramatically increase the pool of donors, Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection will get its share, and the money we need to help other programs grow. If we continue to compete with each other, few will have the long-term support to dramatically make a difference in the lives of more than a few inner city kids.

In fact, do this every month of the year, so we have the resources to keep our kids and volunteers connected to each other, every month and for many years.