Saturday, February 04, 2012

Battle Plan for War on Poverty

I attended a STEM Education Summit in the Chicago area on Friday, hosted at Oak Park/River Forest High School. While the speakers at this Summit were not talking about the high school drop out crisis, which I've written about in past articles, they were talking about a workforce crisis that will result from baby-boomers retiring and not enough young people preparing to go into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related careers.

Over the past 18 years I've created a variety of graphics to illustrate this problem. The one below shows that the "pipeline to careers" is not working well enough to reach kids at an early age and provide a wide range of mentoring and learning supports that would result in a larger number finishing high school and post high school education and entering careers in STEM or any other avocation they choose.

In the conferences I go to and web sites I browse I don't see many who are using maps and charts and thinking about this problem the way generals and CEOs think about the distribution channels and logistics needed to win military wars, or business wars.

A few years ago I created a graphic that illustrates the planning that would need to take place to enable more and better mentor-rich programs to be in neighborhoods where kids don't have an effective entry point into the "pipeline to careers" nor to that have enough effective supports along the way. As a result, we're losing kids to street violence, bad health, poor nutrition, and lack of preparation for adult jobs and responsibilities.

I've been trying to think of a way to communicate this idea in an article that I could post on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site or in the collection I've been building on

If you look at this chart you'll see how I compare the planning process needed to support military forces in many places to that needed to make tutor/mentor programs available in many places. While many might want to create "pilots" or "demonstration projects" we can't really afford not to have some sort of learning support reaching K-12 kids in all of the high poverty areas of Chicago with intense forms of learning support and mentoring, while also providing needed supports to kids in all other neighborhoods who may need more inspiration and support to succeed in school and/or choose STEM careers.

Maps can help us focus our attention on specific parts of a problem. Out of all the people talking about education reform, perhaps some can focus just on high poverty neighborhoods, while others can focus on non-poverty areas. If we can segment our focus then we're talking about the same problems and able to converge on better solutions than if we have a mixed bag of discussion where the words are the same but the meanings are different, depending on what the economic and community support is for the kids you're talking about.

So, if we have a team focused on helping kids born in poverty be starting STEM careers in 20-25 years, the first step is to be building a library of information and ideas that the group can use to innovate new solutions that might generate more consistent support, and a better distribution of resources in more places.

To reach youth at every age level in more places with age-appropriate mentoring and learning a huge range of programs will be needed, meaning the planners need to be thinking of ways to recruit, train and equip thousands of program organizers, leaders, tutors, mentors, coaches, etc.

Imagine the logistics needed to put military forces all over the world and keep them supplied with food, weapons, ammunition, medicine, etc. The army of teachers, tutors, mentors and leaders needed to reach kids in every poverty neighborhood of the Chicago region requires the same type of on-going support.

The War in Iraq lasted over 8 years. World War II lasted 4 years. WalMart has been growing for more than 40 years! Imagine the thinking that is being done some place in the headquarters of the military and at companies like Wal Mart that enables them to constantly recruit and train new talent to take the place of those who retire, resign or are lost in combat. We need this same type of thinking preparing young people for STEM careers, and for careers leading programs that prepare young people for these careers!

We've spent billions of dollars fighting wars. Big business spends billions of dollars on their human resource development so they have well-trained people in the jobs that need to be filled in order for the companies to be successful. We need people who are innovating ways to generate revenue to support this massive infrastructure of youth development, mentoring and tutoring programs in just the same way.

It all comes down to how well you can build and sustain public attention, interest and support for the war effort. Companies spend millions of dollars on advertising and public relations to maintain support for their business strategies and to attract customers to their products and services. While there are events like National Mentoring Month, National Volunteer Week, Make A Difference Day, Black History Month, etc. where is the coordination and planning needed to turn these into an orchestra of events needed to build long-term public support for this battle plan to end poverty by help more kids through school and into 21st century jobs and careers?

I have been trying to map these ideas using the types of graphics I've used in this article, and using on-line platforms like this Debategraph tool.

I'm not sure how clearly I've communicated this idea. I invite others to do their own version of this story. However, while I may not be communicating as clearly as I'd like, I've spent more years thinking about this from a systems perspective than many others in this country. I've written more than 1000 articles on this blog alone, and created numerous illustrated essays posted on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site and in many other places.

If you're trying to develop a strategy to mentor kids to jobs and careers, I'd like to encourage you to read some of the articles I've written. I also encourage you to hire me to help you understand these ideas. I can come to you and talk about any of the articles on this blog, or that I've posted in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library or the library.

If you've been fortunate to amass great wealth and you want to leave a legacy, why not put your name on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC or bring the Institute to alma mater where it can be integrated into the work a university does to prepare young people for adult roles.

If you'd like to connect, just post a comment or meet me on Twitter or Facebook.

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