Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Little Organization. Big Vision.

Last night the President ended the State of the Union address by quoting an employee of a small Michigan company who said "We're a little company but we do big things."

If you've read any of the articles I've posted you'll see that Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection is a small organization with a big vision, and a growing impact.

On the national level, a Mentoring Summit just ended in Washington, DC, and big corporations have made a pledge to support mentoring. First Lady Michelle Obama was quoted as saying "The idea that we have behind all these initiatives isn’t simply to create a series of one-time experiences for just a small number of kids. It’s about encouraging more caring adults to step up and make mentoring a part of their lives."

At Cabrini Connections we're launching our 2nd Annual Cabrini Madness event,where volunteers, students and friends form teams and compete to see which team can raise the most money for CC, T/MC by the time the NCAA basketball championship game is held in early April. Last year 112 students/volunteers raised over $23,000.

I was invited to be part of one team, and sent the following message to the leaders. I hope that this will be passed on to corporate leaders who are making a national commitment to support mentoring.

First, I hope that our team and other teams will draw from the ideas in the blog articles I post and the essays at

These use the "wheel" as a common image. Below is a chart I first created almost 16 years ago. It still is the model for a mentor-rich organization that seeks to have a long-term impact on youth and volunteers involved.

One way to look at this is as the "student" at the hub of the wheel. In this case the spokes would be pointing to the different people and different influences that would help that student through school and into a job.

Note that if you start mentoring a youth in first grade it takes 12 years for that student to finish high school. The major challenge to non-profits offering mentoring and learning support is to find the on-going FUNDING needed to provide consistent, age-appropriate learning and mentoring for this many years.

Another way to look at the "wheel" is that the hub is a "place" like Cabrini Connections and the spokes are all of the volunteers who participate each week. Together we reach more kids and offer more diversity of career modeling and support. This video gives a tour of Cabrini Connections.

Program walkthrough from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

In Cabrini Madness the hub of the "wheel" is each student, volunteer and team and the spokes lead to the people they know and networks they are part of (work, family, college, faith, etc.). If during the first three months of each year we can show people in our networks how important it is for them to help us, some will send donations, and some groups may organize activities on a year-round basis that help us.

One example of this is the Lawyers Lend A Hand Program in Chicago which is now raising money and visibility and awarding over $200,000 in grants to different tutor/mentor programs each year. In 1994 when I first reached out to them with a vision of supporting tutor/mentor programs all over the city , they were giving one $2k grant.....which went to Arne Duncan's Ariel Tutoring Program in Hyde Park.

We need a "lawyers for Cabrini Connections, T/MC" group that has people in the legal community working each week to recruit volunteers and donors to support our efforts. We also need support from every other industry shown on our "business wheel" so we have a diverse mix of volunteers mentoring our kids, and a diverse mix of funders making sure we have the resources needed to support their employee volunteers and constantly improve our impact on kids.

However, Chicago and America, need corporate and political leaders who use maps like we show here and here to develop leadership and program support strategies that enable tutor/mentor programs to grow and reach youth in all of the neighborhoods with high poverty and poorly performing schools. Using business maps in their planning, companies can develop strategies that reach many parts of a city, instead of just supporting a few well-known programs.

As this article says "The problem is not public schools, its poverty".

If our students and volunteers tell their stories of involvement in Cabrini Connections, or in any other tutoring/mentoring program, using blogs and videos and in other creative ways, they can attract the attention of growing groups of people who may support us throughout the year.

However, if corporate American and the President, Governor and Mayor adopt these ideas they will begin to provide the consistent resources that every tutor/mentor program in America needs to connect kids and volunteers with each other, and with extra learning and enrichment (see our Success Steps) so that by 2015 the nation will begin to see an eruption of kids from poverty neighborhoods who are leaving high school better prepared for 21st century adult responsibilities and jobs.

Mr. President, we're in your home town. You spoke at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in 1999. Your Secretary of Education led a non-school tutoring program. I introduced the T/MC concept to your wife almost 15 years ago when she was at the University of Chicago.

I'd be happy to help you learn to adopt and use these ideas. You can help us do big things with them.

No comments: