Wednesday, November 09, 2011

If we keep doing the same thing the same way...

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Attributed to Albert Einstein.

I've been writing this blog since 2005 and I've been trying to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in the Chicago region since 1993 when I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Over the years I've developed a strong belief that traditional "beg for gift" philanthropy is an ineffective way to generate the continuous flow of resources and the high levels of talent needed to operate a single tutor/mentor program, let alone enough to reach 20-30% of the kids living in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago.

When we launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection our goals were

a) create information about existing programs, where they were needed, what they do, how they differ, who funds them, etc.

b) dramatically increase the number of people looking at that information

c) activities that help people understand the information

d) efforts that lead people to become volunteers, donors, leaders, etc. in each of the different tutor/mentor programs operating in Chicago

While I've had many people give positive feedback I've not found philanthropic investors to provide the capital needed to build organizational strength that would make what I was doing as effective as it needs to be. Part of that was because of an inability to keep donors involved for multiple years. Part of that was due to not having volunteers with enough civic reach involved in this effort. Part of it was not having the resources for advertising and public awareness.

I started following the blog articles written by Dan Pallotta a few years ago. I have a link to them on this web site. I saw references to a book he wrote titled "Uncharitable" but I never had time to read it until I picked it up at the library a couple of weeks ago.

I'm not completely through but in reading it I can see many reasons why I've not been able to find the financial and leadership support I've needed for the past 18 years.

If you have read my blog articles you see I point to the ideas of other people via web links and blog exchanges. The first commitment of the T/MC was to "collect ideas created by other people and to try to get greater circulation of those ideas so more people understood them".

I don't need to originate an idea. If it's good, I just need to find ways more people will look at the idea and try to understand it.

I think Dan Pallotta has some good ideas. Some are so controversial that they can keep you from thinking through some of the other ideas. That's why I've created a map of the chapters of the book. While you're having difficulty getting past some of the first ideas you need to be thinking of some of the other ideas.

So as I'm still moving through the last chapters of Uncharitable I'm saying "How can I help more people begin to read and reflect on this book" so that over a period of years we might build a sub-culture of people who think differently and act differently.

We don't need to change everyone. We need to change a small percent of everyone.

I've not dug into this deeply so if you know of people who are doing what I'm describing, please post a comment and share a link. In his book Pallotta sort of bashes religion for some of their practices regarding charity.

Yet, I think that if someone were to take the various sound bytes out of Dan's book and create a 52 week lesson plan, it could be connected to the 52-week lesson plan of any faith group and included in weekly discussion groups just like people read a passage of scripture then sit and discuss it with small groups of other people.

I created a concept map outlining chapters in Uncharitable and put links to some of Dan Palotta's blog articles, as well as to some written by others. I'd like to find a group who would take ownership of this and put it in a format like where others could add new links whenever they want.

Obviously I have a self interest in this. I'm trying to find capital that I can invest in the ideas I've generated over 20 years which I think would help an entire industry of volunteer-based, mentor-rich organizations become available in high poverty neighborhoods. I need to find investors who share the vision and are willing to invest in long-term solutions that start with the building of information libraries and interactive technology portals. I've outlined many of the ideas I'm trying to develop in this wiki.

Thus, my goal in bring attention to "Untouchable" is to build a sub-set of leaders and volunteers and investors who will apply these ideas to support my own efforts and those of leaders in hundreds of youth serving organizations throughout the world.

I look forward to connecting with others who have been thinking of ways to change the insanity of what we've been doing now to support our efforts.

NOTE: in the comments I've added updates to this post, reflecting additional thinking on this topic.


Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Add this to your reading list on this topic -

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's another article worth reading.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Dan Pallotta has released a new book titled "Charity Case" which you can learn about at

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Another resource to look at is the NON PROFIT REVOLUTION - http://

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

December 2012 article featuring Dan Pallotta says "Pick a cause. Adopt if for life."

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Here's another related article. It focuses on problem of using fund raising costs as a measure of charity effectiveness.