Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Connecting Resource Providers and Tutor/Mentor Leaders

I keep looking for a simple way to describe what I do, and what I'm trying to do. If I were the Mayor, President or the head of a big company or foundation, it would be easy for people to understand my ideas because these are the traditional leaders expected to think in broad, system-wide strategies.

I read a book many years ago titled, JESUS, CEO (see article). I'm about as insignificant in power circles of Chicago as Jesus was among the religious leaders of his time. Yet his ideas changed the world. Without the Internet!

The Internet changed how ideas can be communicated, so anyone can post an idea that might change the world. However, world-changing is a complex, long-term process, involving many people and many resources. If you're not a recognized leader, most people won't spend enough time on your web site trying to understand your ideas, or trying to adjust what they are already doing to fit new ideas into their thinking.

Well, I keep trying. Today I created the graphic that you see below.

If we're trying to connect thousands of k-12 Chicago youth in well-organized non-school tutor/mentor programs, where there is a diversity of volunteers representing different career backgrounds, and a variety of learning and enrichment activities in addition to one-on-one tutoring/mentoring, those programs need to be in neighborhoods close enough for kids to participate regularly and safe enough to attract volunteers who don't live in the neighborhood.

In addition, the programs need staff who stay with the program five, 10, or 15 years, building experience, trust, knowledge, relationships with schools, families, donors, other programs, etc. which gives them the ability to organize on-going activities, respond to the changing needs of their youth and volunteer base, collect and evaluate data showing impact of the program, communicate effectively via social media, written grant proposals and reports, and deal with the unexpected daily crisis that take so much of their time.

The need to be constantly focusing on ways to transform young people and volunteers into learners, partners and co-CEOs of efforts to transform their futures. That's quite an extensive skill base. Oh, they also need to manage volunteer boards, diverse egos, ambiguity, stress, frustration, and work with inadequate resources to do most of what they know they need to do.

Chicago has more than 200,000 youth living in high poverty. For one quarter of those youth to be enrolled in the type of programs I've described, there would need to be at 500 to 600 of these programs scattered around the city. There would need to be a massive, and consistent effort to educate the general public and attract financial resources, volunteers and pro-bono support to EACH of these programs, not just the most visible.

I have about 200 youth serving organizations listed in the Chicago Program Links of my library. If you look at these web sites you see a wide range of programs described, and on many sites you can't tell what type of program, if any, is now offered. You don't see a consistent use of web sites to show strategy, theory of change, history of participation, progress of youth through school and into jobs. Yet, unless more of the programs are showing such information it will be difficult for them to attract volunteers and operating resources on a consistent basis.

Let's reverse how programs are supported.

I've posted many articles about challenges facing non profits, and many articles showing how volunteers in business, colleges, hospitals, professional groups, etc. could act as a virtual corporate office, mobilizing resources and providing services that help mentor-rich programs have the infrastructure, talent and dollars they need to grow into great mentoring organizations, then constantly improve each year as they learned from others and from their own efforts.

Until leaders in business are taking on a commitment to support this citywide infrastructure, for business reasons, as well as social, religious and ethical reasons, we won't have a system in place that can support such a large number of organizations distributed over so many neighborhoods.

If this graphic helps you think of the system of supports needed in Chicago or in other cities, then I hope you'll share these ideas and/or adopt them in your own actions. If you have graphic talents and would like to create a new version of this, please join with interns in the project described in this forum.

You can find more graphics that illustrate these ideas in other blog articles, in the library on Pinterest, in articles I've posted on Scribd.com, and on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC pages.

No one can do all of this work without the help of many others. I can't do what I'm trying to do and each individual tutor/mentor program can't do all it needs to do. We need to connect.

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