Thursday, December 29, 2011

Walk alone to create a vision. Work together to achieve it.

Below is an article I wrote on Dec. 28, 2007. As I look back this week on articles I wrote during New Year's Week in previous years, this one is really relevant to my current situation.

After working within the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection organizational structure from 1993-2011, with more than 160 volunteers and teens participating each year, I'm entering 2012 as the sole leader of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Yet, I'm still carrying on the vision and network-building strategy that has been growing for the past 35 years. It is a lonely role sometimes. Yet there I'm meeting many people along this journey who can help me, and who I think I'm helping in their own work.

Hopefully in the next few months I can formalize some of this effort into a new team of people working with me.


The image of the lonesome warrior is one that reminds me of the men and women who are fighting overseas to make this a better world. As we count our blessings, let's pray for the young people in our armed forces.

However, this image is also one that I think of when I think of the people leading social benefit organizations around the world, mostly in isolation, mostly with too few resources to do everything they are trying to do.

Those who lead small non profits, or are struggling to get social benefit ideas launched, may related to this One-To-Many graphic. We're constantly reaching out in many different directions, trying to find the help we need. We're like fish in a bowl, competing with thousands of others for a limited amount of dollars and volunteers. Unless you've got a powerful marketing machine, or are well connected in donor circles, you succeed some of the time, but not most of the time, and you spend tremendous amounts of emotional capital and energy all of the time.

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I'm trying to change this. I'm trying to recruit leaders in many places who lead strategic thinking process in their organization that aligns social benefit with corporate and organizational strategy. Such leaders will use their own advertising, visibility and resources to support the growth of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that lead kids to careers, because it's a core business strategy.

I've been saying this for a long time, but last week I found an article on the Harvard Business Review that reinforces this concept. The article is titled Strategy & Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. Written by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer.

Education and workforce development are of strategic importance for most industries. Thus, if leaders of business, health care, law, journalism, sports and entertainment, etc. are strategic, they can use tools like the Program Locator and Chicago Program Links to choose what part of a city they want to support, and what programs they want to help grow from good to great.

This isn't a strategy to support just one tutor/mentor program, or one brand name like the Boys and Girls Clubs, it's a strategy to help every high poverty neighborhood have comprehensive programs that are one end of the pipeline to jobs and careers for businesses that are strategically engaging their corporate resources to help grow their future workforce.

Over the next seven days millions of people will make charitable decisions, either for good will, or for tax deductions. Choose a program like Cabrini Connections, or one of the others listed in the Links Library, and this will show the impact of Many to One.

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