Friday, May 25, 2012

Connecting Grains of Sand into Castle on Beach

We're going into summer and many people will be near lakes and oceans. How many of you will be building sand castles? Have you ever stopped to think how many grains of sand go into just one small sand castle?

What if you were just one of those grains of sand and you were trying to pull the rest together into one of these?

That's how I feel in my efforts to connect with others in Chicago and the country who are concerned with the future and who understand that our children are our future.

For more than 20 years I've been collecting and sharing information that can be used by anyone in the world to support their own efforts to help kids through school and into jobs and careers. I've been using maps, graphics, videos and the talent of interns and volunteers to organize and share this information and to encourage more people to use it.

This map is one entry point anyone could use.

This graphic is from a presentation created this week by Mini Song, an intern from Korea. She spent a couple of days reading articles I've posted then did this presentation to share her understanding.

In past articles I've written about PLANNING and LEARNING and how it takes time and commitment and reflection to build an understanding of complex problems like poverty as well as complex systems that would help a growing number of kids living in poverty neighborhoods of Chicago get the extra support, mentoring and learning needed over a ten to 15 year period as the move from elementary school toward jobs.

No one can digest all of this information in one visit to a web site or a conference. This needs to be an on-going process of learning, reflection, action, etc.

Over the past 20 years I've developed a calendar of events that intend to draw people together, stimulate their thinking and help them build relationships with each other, while also attracting new people into this movement. Such people might start their own journey as a volunteer or donor in a tutor/mentor program, or as an organizer of an activity that connects a company, faith group or college team with one or more programs in a city.

As you head into this weekend, my hope is that some of you will look at the Tutor/Mentor Conference being held on June 14 as an opportunity to connect and network with me and a few others. However, most of you can't attend the conference, but you can reach out to people in your network and start a discussion about the topics on the Debategraph map above.

You can begin to think forward, looking at August, when advertising, social media, sermons, and web sites might tell stories of people involved in tutor/mentor programs so that more people might choose to become involved with one or more of the programs in Chicago or in your own city. You could look six months into the future and think of activities you might do in November to bring attention to tutor/mentor programs and draw financial support to them in December. This article shows how lawyers in Chicago worked with me in the 1990s to create a Tutor/Mentor Week each November from 1995 to 2000. This could be duplicated by many groups in many cities, drawing resources to tutor/mentor programs from many sources.

I've been using maps to show networks of people focusing on the well-being of kids. These also represent people and organizations I hope will participate in the conferences and web events I host, and who will invite me to join with them in their own thinking sessions.

This map includes some of the organizations that are in intermediary roles, connecting networks of organizations. See the most recent version here.

This map includes organizations who have come together for drop out prevention conferences. In the lower right hand corner you can see links to other networks focused on similar issues. The link to the map is here.

If you're just a grain of sand within a small sand castle you don't have much gravity to pull all of the other grains together around your vision of the castle. Yet, if you write articles like this and post to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media on a daily basis like I do, you can draw some others together, and that's a start.

The goal is that the network grows over time and that more people take roles that help make the information easier to understand, that increase the number of people looking at it, and that motivate daily actions that support individual youth serving organizations in many places.

Of course, it's not the grain of sand that builds the castle, but some kids with help from Mom or Dad. That means you can help bring this vision together by your own efforts.

If you've read this far, congratulations! Enjoy your weekend.

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