Thursday, December 01, 2011

'Good To Great' Philosophy

"Good to Great" & the development of Great Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Programs

How many of you have read the Jim Collins book titled "Good to Great and the Social Sectors"? If not, you get a copy from your local library or and read it.

Here are some links to blog articles where the writers summarize this book


"Good-Great: Social Sector"

Read this Tactical Philanthropy series of articles and reflect on the resources needed to grow from good to great, and to stay great for many years.

I’ve applied Good to Great concepts in the leadership of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (and before that in my leadership of the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program) since 1977 when I learned about Total Quality Management (TQM) while working as an Advertising Manager at Wards.

I was lucky to have many mentors during the early years and one said “If you don’t write you plan on paper, you don’t have a plan.” Thus, every year since then I’ve written the plan, and made an effort to share it with others in the organization who needed to be the people who embraced the plan and made it a reality.

I now share that plan via our web sites and this wiki with people from around the world.

Since Good to Great is a new way to understand process improvement, I am embracing it, and think this can really help us focus the board and all of our other volunteers on the mission of any single tutor/mentor program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection type citywide strategy rather than just the fund raising.

Below I’ve listed what I feel our our Hedgehog values. Do you agree with these? Are there others that you might add to the list, or that you feel are more important than these?

Do these ignite your passions and make you want to sacrifice as much as our soldiers in Iraq to end poverty through mentoring kids to careers? Maybe that’s an extreme example of commitment, but what would it take you to make a sacrifice that is even 10 or 20% of what’s represented by the “ultimate sacrifice”?

Hedgehog Roles

a) Getting a youth and volunteers is only the start of the tutor/mentor process. A program needs to keep youth involved and connected from when they first connect at least through 12th grade. We've tried to do this since 1993 for youth living in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago, giving more than 580 youth the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive, long-term tutor/mentor program (Cabrini Connections), which connects them with a diverse base of adult mentors and learning experiences. From 1975 to 1992 we applied the same concepts in a program serving younger 2nd to 8th grade youth.

If we were not providing this, no one else would be.

Just keeping a non-profit organization like Cabrini Connections funded and operating from year to year, is a tremendous accomplishment

b)We maintain a database of Chicago area non-school tutor/mentor programs and an understanding of where they are located, vs where they are most needed in the Chicago region.

No one else in the Chicago region is providing this type of information, at this level of detail

No one else (in Chicago or in any other big city) is using maps or internet-based databases the way we are to draw resources directly to existing tutor/mentor programs

If we were not providing this, no one else would be.

c) We use the database to invite program leaders and stakeholders to gather on a regular basis for networking/learning and capacity-building activities that benefit ALL programs, not just a few highly visible programs.

If we were not providing this service, no one else would be. (No one else can without building and maintaining the type of database we own). What we are doing is providing a form of community information, which is described in this white paper by Peter Levine of Tufts University.

d) We focus on building strategic involvement and long-term commitment from the business community, which uses company resources (people, dollars, jobs, etc.) to build great programs that PULL kids to careers.

Most others focus on what government, teachers, parents need to do. We focus on what business and private sector needs to do because we recognize that there is not enough government money to fuel the operations of programs like Cabrini Connections in all the places they need to be, and for all of the years they need to grow to be good, then to be great.

e) We use Internet to connect people and ideas from around the world, and to stimulate the flow of resources directly to t/m programs throughout Chicago.

In the volunteer section of the Cabrini Connections web site we hosted a "resources to help you" sub-section. This includes links to the volunteer handbook, homework help, and other materials that we hoped all volunteers will read and use as a constant resource. Another sub section focuses on additional web resources to learn from and incorporate in your tutoring, mentoring and advocacy for Cabrini Connections.

This information is what unites us as a community of purpose. As more of our members understand this information we create many owners and many leaders. We can withstand any changes in leadership. We can constantly get better at what we do.

One of the articles I point to is a pdf from the UCLA Center on Mental Health in Schools. The title is School Engagement, Disengagement, Learning Supports, & School Climate. This focuses on motivation, which is the fuel that drives student learning and aspirations. I encourage volunteers to read this, think about this, discuss it with others, and try to find ways to help tutor/mentor programs motivate students, volunteers and leaders to do more each year to help us achieve our mission of helping kids to high school graduation, college, then careers.

f) We are a learning organization. The information we share on these wikis and our web sites is available to any member or supporter. We need to find time to read, reflect and use this information on an on-going basis. This is a lesson I have tried to teach staff, volunteers and partners of Cabrini Connections since we formed in 1993. It's also the core idea we share through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC see web site which was formed in July 2011 after the Board at Cabrini Connections decided to downsize and no-longer support the T/MC strategy.

Leaders, volunteers, students, donors and supporters of programs like Cabrini Connections need to become active network weavers, people who use search engines like Google to find places where other people are offering tutoring/mentoring, or discussing issues related to effective tutoring/mentoring. In these groups members need to participate, sharing information from what they do at their own programs, and providing invitations for people in these groups to use our web sites, or join in the activities that we do.

I do this every day, and if you search Google for 'Bassill', or ‘tutor mentor’ you will find numerous places where I am actively networking. Each person in a tutor/mentor program and a tutor/mentor community should set a personal goal to be active in 5-10 places each month, over the course of a year. If 50 people are doing what Dan does, we can dramatically increase the influence of the ideas we all share, and the number of people who are helping us achieve our mission.

If we were not doing this, no one else would be (and no one else can unless they maintain a database, and lead a resource building effort)

g) I have more than 35 years of knowledge about how to involve volunteers in a non-school tutor/mentor program, along with the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of other people and organizations, and we use this to

1. help parents, teachers, social workers, volunteers, donors, etc. find existing tutor/mentor programs near where they live/work

2. help individual programs grow from Good to Great, while helping new programs fill voids

3. help networks like T/MC grow in other cities and in other social service sectors (which network with the Chicago T/MC in a shared effort of helping programs grow from good to great)

h) We have innovated a knowledge-based innovation and networking process that can be applied by people in other cities, or in any other social benefit sector.

i) We have piloted innovative network-building tools using maps, graphics, video, animation and interactive on-line databases. These can be applied in other cities for the same purpose as we use them in Chicago, or in other social benefit sectors.

Few other organizations in the country can claim this many years of continuous learning and application of knowledge to build and sustain a volunteer based tutor/mentor program.

However, we have not communicated these ideas effectively to enough people and have not built the leadership team and organizational strength to be able to expand our influence and fully develop and share these ideas. That will be the goal of Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC over the next five to ten years.

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