Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mayor's Office launches Thrive Chicago Initiative - Are you involved?

The pipeline for helping youth from birth to work is not working for many youth living in high poverty neighborhoods. From time to time, new initiatives are launched out of a Mayor's office, intending to get everyone involved, and pointing in the same direction, in efforts to help young people succeed in school. In Chicago a Thrive Chicago initiative, modeled after the STRIVE partnership in Cincinnati, has been growing since the first of this year. I've not been included in the early stage brainstorming, so have only learned about the initiative by way of email forwarded to me by others. I have sent introductions to share the ideas I've been building on this topic for over 20 years. If you'd like to get included you should email "" to introduce yourself.

Since I've hosted a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago every six months since 1994, and the next is November 4, I hope someone from this initiative will participate and introduce the new initiative to those who participate in these conferences.

I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 and over time, came to view a mentor-rich program as a site based "collective effort" with the staff and core leaders serving as the "backbone". I encourage you to read the Stanford Social Innovation Review articles about collective impact to see the parallel in what I'm suggesting.

Thus, similar programs operating in every high poverty neighborhoods, would represent a "collective effort" on a citywide scale. Building a database of such programs, inviting them to connect, building relationships, etc. has been my focus since 1994. It's difficult work.

I don't have a complaint about the city trying to build such a collective effort. This is not the first time they have spent a lot of money building something I've already created with a lot less money. I launched a Program Locator in 2004. The city built their program locator a few years later. No one involved in that project asked for my ideas or offered to collaborate.

I have concern about their ability to make it work. Here's a few graphics that I hope leaders of this effort will consider:

In building a collective effort, data that shows milestones resulting from activities is important. However, building a database of stakeholders who need to be involved is equally important. Providing visualizations that align everyone under a common goal of helping youth move through school and into careers, then motivating stakeholders to build this into their own actions, will be critically important. I created this graphic more than 15 years ago and this strategy map nearly 8 years ago.

The title of this initiative could have been "It Takes a Village" which is an over-used quote.

Yet, it does take consistent involvement of time, talent and dollars from business, faith groups, social networks, colleges, etc. to support the annual operations of every organization who commits to being part of this initiative. One of the "data collection" initiatives I'd recommend would be just mapping the number of organizations who have a version of the "birth to work" graphic or strategy map on their web site.

This leads to another tool that I feel is essential for success of this initiative. Mapping. You can find numerous articles on this blog where I've used maps and shown how they can be used to assure that youth serving organization are available in all the places where they are needed.
This graphic is a map of Chicago showing high poverty neighborhoods. The oil well icons are added to the map using Photoshop. The city would need to not only create a map showing where programs are needed and where existing programs are located. They would also need an accountability map showing levels of business, volunteer and philanthropy involvement, along with government funding, in each of the neighborhoods where help is needed.

In the articles I've written I've described this as a "marketing problem". Any plan to "get everyone involved" and "help youth move from birth to work" requires on-going marketing and leadership support for 20-30 years, to get people involved, keep them involved, generate resources needed, point those resources to all the locations involved in doing the work.
With the short term attention span of media and business leaders, and the constant turnover of staff in schools and non profits, as well as the change ever four to 10 years or so in our Mayor, or our President, mapping a marketing strategy that keeps attention focused on this issue as frequently as sports fans focus on baseball, football, basketball or other sports, is the innovation that such leadership teams will need to provide.

Why should I be in this conversation? I've been spending more time thinking about this than most people over the past 40 years. I don't need to be involved if people are spending time reading all of the articles I've posted on my various web sites, or in forums hosted by others. Yet, I might be able to offer some insight that would reduce the "reinvention of the wheel".

Helping youth move from 'birth to work' is like building a skyscraper. Blueprints are needed that show what needs to be done at each stage along the way, along with the talent needed to do this work. EVERYONE needs to be paid! Raising this money and distributing it to networks of organizations in more than 50 community areas is a monumental challenge. I don't know all of the answers, but at least I've been thinking about the challenge for a long time.

Maybe all of what I've written about is already in the "thinking" and "planning" of the Thrive Chicago initiative. I'm hoping to find a web site, Google+ community, MOOC and other points of engagement where these ideas are being shared and where I or others can become involved.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Remember the Dream. 50 Years Later

This weekend marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. The important messages I've taken from this are "Just don't forget." and "There's a lot of work still to do."

I've written on this topic often in the past. Here are some articles I encourage you to revisit.

January 19, 2013 article - following my participation in a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. event at the University of Chicago.

October 11, 2012 article - General Powell saying "This isn't Charity."

Nov 11, 2011 article - "War on Poverty Continues"

July 4, 2011 article "Freedom is not Free"

Jun2, 2, 2005 article "Jesus or Martin Luther King, Jr. As CEO: Think about it."

Imagine if Dr. King, Jr. had had a projection screen at his events, on which he produced a map showing the high poverty areas of the US, with overlays showing racial demographics. What if he said, "This map shows all the places where people live in poverty, have less access to education and jobs, and have less chance for their children and grandchildren to share in the American Dream."

Then, imagine that he said "I'm going to check this map every 10 years from now for the next 50 years so I see a growth in learning opportunities, social justices programs, increased jobs opportunities, growing personal engagement from people who don't live in these areas, lending a hand to those who do."

With that he could have said, "Sharing this stage in 50 years will be young men and women of all colors who started life in one of these high poverty areas, but who now not only are well placed in jobs and careers, but are examples of leadership that is still working to fill this entire map with resources, talent, programs and opportunities that help future generations speed along this path to the American Dream.

He did not have those tools and I don't know if he ever thought this way. However, in 50 years we could see evidence of work done by many to create such a future.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Demographic map shows distribution by race in US

I've been using maps to draw attention and resources to all high poverty neighborhoods in Chicago so that every neighborhood could have great youth programs operating in non school hours, not just a few great programs in a few neighborhoods. I also maintain a Mapping for Justice blog which focuses specifically on maps and map ideas. I add new articles each week, such as one today where I'm pointing to a web map of racial distribution in the US, based on the 2010 Census.

This map, and others like it, illustrate that most big cities have high concentrations of minorities, and of minorities living in high poverty. Thus, connecting people from different cities in on-line forums where we talk about the problem and innovate new ways to overcome challenges, would make sense. Talent and dollars from many places could be supporting innovations like uses of mapping, that can be applied in many other places. This is new thinking when most philanthropic support focuses close to home or where a company is located.

Maintaining a map resource requires talent, tech support and operating dollars. As we connect more people who do this work with each other, such as in this web library, my hope is that we find ways to attract these resources to all of us, and that we find ways to partner where we use scarce resources more efficiently.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Building the Village of Youth Support in Chicago

On Wednesday, August 14 I attended the Why News Matters Summit in Chicago where a variety of speakers talked about "news literacy" and ways to make news literacy education available to youth and adults in more places.

As I registered for the summit I was congratulated by several people for my "letter to the editor" which had been posted in the August 12 issue of Crain's Chicago Business. A couple of people said "I passed this on in my network."

As I listened to the Why News Matters speakers I made notes to myself about how news literacy, and other forms of learning, might be made available to youth in Chicago neighborhoods via non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs. Last week I used this graphic in an article, to illustrate how volunteers from different work backgrounds could help build learning activities in different programs that would help build youth aspirations and skills for careers not modeled consistently by family or community in high poverty neighborhoods.

When I write about "business teams" my vision is that teams from media, arts, video, banking, engineering, etc. might work as a "virtual corporate office", with goals of identifying existing examples where youth already are exposed to different types of learning, such as the WhyNewsMatters program at Erie House, then recruit and support volunteers from their industry who would help embed these types of learning activities in other programs throughout the Chicago region (or in other cities).

I've already created a section of my web library with links to Chicago tutor/mentor programs, and with links to organizations that include health, STEM or arts as part of their activities. Existing programs can learn from what other programs are already doing. They can bring these ideas into their own programs if volunteers and business partners will help make that happen.

I've hosted a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago for the past 20 years. It's goal has been to share ideas that work in some programs so that they can be duplicated in other programs, reaching more kids throughout the Chicago region. It's goal is also to find people who are looking at this from a much larger scale than a single program, or a single youth and volunteer. If you're WalMart, or any other big corporation, your "big question" is how to put profitable stores in thousands of locations. Through the conferences, social media, and constant network building, I'm trying to connect with people who are engaged in this kind of thinking.

How do we make mentor-rich programs available to k-16 youth in all place where they are needed? This can only happen if businesses, and business volunteers, help make that happen.

The next conference will be Monday, November 4, at the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago. I created this page on the conference web site to show a list of activities that could be demonstrated via workshops and panel discussions. If you have an arts, technology, writing, journalism, entrepreneurship, etc. component to your youth mentoring and tutoring strategy, please make time to organize a workshop and share your strategy with others.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Benefit to Business from Encouraging Employee Volunteer Involvement

School is starting soon and every tutor/mentor program in the city is looking for volunteers. They are also looking for donors, tech support, and many other talents that enable them do do their work as effectively as possible. I had a letter to the editor appear in Crain's this week, calling on business leaders to form employee 'research and development, and marketing' teams that would build the company's involvement in youth tutoring, mentoring.

Today I found a couple of articles that show benefits to companies and their employees for encouraging such involvement.

First, take a look at this video:

Second, read this article by Daniel H Pink, titled "employees are faster and more creative when solving other people's problems".

In both cases they are talking about benefits to individuals from stepping outside of their comfort zone to build empathy with others, and with issues that are not part of their work experience and/or daily lives.

After you watch this I hope you'll also view this interview between myself and Edwin Rutsch who created the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

I believe that well-organized volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring, arts, technology and career focused programs can connect volunteers who don't live in high poverty neighborhoods with youth and families who do in an on-going process that transforms the youth and the adult, and possibly the community.

I've created an information library on the web where anyone can draw ideas to support what they do to make tutor/mentor programs available in their community, and to help these programs constantly improve the ways they engage youth and volunteers in transformative actions. I host a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference every spring and fall (not offered since May 2015) in Chicago to encourage people to come together, share ideas, build relationships, and find ways to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs in big city neighborhoods.

I share this information every day in one-on-one conversations, via email, via web forums, etc. with the goal that others will pass this information on to people in their own networks and that more people will gather in on-going learning and action planning efforts. I also look for people who will help me in my efforts, and will take ownership of these efforts and ideas in future years.

Please review this graphic. If we believe in the value of connecting extra adults with youth, and we understand the need for organization programs to build and sustain these connections, why wouldn't teams from business, professional associations, media, and other sectors work collectively to support the growth of these programs in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other cities.

Then browse this list of Chicago area youth serving organizations located in different sections of the region. They are all different. Some are better organized, better funded, and/or serve more youth than others. However, each needs a constant flow of volunteers, dollars, ideas, tech support, etc. to be the best it can be at serving youth in the neighborhood(s) where it operates. Pick a program and give it your long-term support, starting this fall.

In supporting employee involvement in well-organized programs you benefit your company and your current employee, while developing future employees and customers. In concept map are links to more articles showing benefits to business. 

How do you pass these ideas on? Look at the articles interns have written over the past few years. You can do the same.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

40 Conferences, 20 Years of Support for Tutor/Mentor Programs in Chicago

In 1994 I hosted the first Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago. 70 people attended and feedback was strong, so we hosted another in November 1994 and 200 people attended. I've hosted one every six months since then despite having inconsistent, meaning virtually none, financial support from the business, financial, education and philanthropic sectors.

Conferences in the past have been attended by city leaders like Mayor Richard Daley, yet the strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection have been never supported financially, or visibly, by the Mayor. I encourage you to browse articles like this in the conference category on this blog to learn more about the Tutor/Mentor Conference and its goals.

As a result of the conferences I've been able to generate numerous stories in Chicago media, like the one below, and like this letter to the editor that is in this week's edition of Crain's. See a complete list of media stories here. These don't add up to the weight of corporate advertising, yet they are more stories in local media each year than would have been if not for the conferences and other activities of the Tutor/Mentor Connection each year. We still need such attention on tutoring/mentoring in coming years.

Now I'm asking that you show your support with a financial contribution and an endorsement. See this page for more information and a PayPal button.

Endorsements will be posted here as I collect them.

I've not operated as a non profit organization since 2011 due to changes I've not yet been able to overcome. However, I'm doing the same work I've been trying to do since starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection and the conferences almost 20 years ago. If you share my concern for the well-being of young people and my vision of a tutor/mentor program as a strategy for expanding the networks surrounding young people, and for engaging adults beyond poverty in ways that grow their involvement, you'll find a way to support the conference and my on-going efforts.

While you don't get a tax deduction think of this as a "personal seat license" or "personal advertising support" or your own "investment" in strategies that are needed to support the growth of youth mentoring and tutoring programs in every city.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

20 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America. Chicago tops list

One of my Facebook groups shared this article with me today, showing 20 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America.
I responded by sharing a link to the Map Gallery I host, showing maps I've created between 2008 and 2011 that show high poverty neighborhoods where volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs can be a form of social capital, connecting youth and families in the neighborhood with resources, ideas and jobs out of the neighborhood.

While I've shared these maps in blogs like this, too few people know they exist and too few people are using them as planning tools for building a distribution of resources and programs that would help youth and families build economic stability, education opportunities, and a life free of violence.

If you read the map stories and share them with people in your own network you can help increase use of these maps. You may even help me find volunteers, sponsors and/or partners to update the maps and keep the service available.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Pallotta TED talk. Discussion. Solutions.

In 2011 when I first read Dan Pallotta's book, Uncharitable, I created a concept map to outline the chapters. After his TED talk in spring 2013 I updated it with links to places on the Internet where this is being discussed. After attending a Chicago Philanthropy Club meeting today where this was discussed, and after participating in a Philanthropy MOOC where this is being discussed, I updated it again.

This time I added a recommendation that this discussion be broken into sub-sections, based on the topics Pallotta listed in his TED talk. These are shown in the graphics below and in the concept map. When lots of people are talking about these issues we have too many different conversations going at once. By breaking this down into sub topics, perhaps we can gain some greater understanding of the problem and potentially move toward some solutions.

However, I want to go a step further. I think that when discussing overhead and the issues Pallotta is talking about we should break into sub groups so we are framing the discussion around specific types and sizes of non profit and social benefit organizations. Within each of the pie chart categories we should talk about organizations with budgets under $500,000, budgets under $1 million, budgets under $5 million, and organizations larger than $5 million. Others might suggest different budget sized, but the point is, small organizations don't pay salaries of $100,000 or larger or have departments doing fund raising, marketing, human resources, etc. In many cases one or two people do all of these jobs.

In addition, I think it's important to talk about where the charity is located. It costs more to operate in a big city than it does to operate in a smaller community or rural area. Different types of social services have different organizational strategies for achieving their mission. Some need to rent or own space. Others can get donated space. All of these factors make the topic of compensation, talent, advertising and marketing, etc. have different meaning when applied to different types of organizations and locations.

Finally, when there are 30 or more people in a room it's almost impossible to give everyone a chance to talk, or to express complex ideas that outline a person's understanding of this problem, or their ideas for a solution. I've been writing about MOOCs where 500 to 1500 people are given the opportunity to express their ideas in organized discussions that take place on the Internet and stretch over a period of weeks. One taking place right now is hosted by the Learning By Giving Foundation, headed by members of Warren Buffett's family.
I think that these types of on-line communities can draw together a much larger group of people than we can get together in any conference, and can give everyone a chance to talk. I think they can build in facilitation, network analysis, participation mapping, and do much more to help people who share a passion for the same cause to connect and innovate ways to solve the challenges Dan Pallotta raises. Maybe the solutions won't be what Dan is proposing. Maybe they will be ideas we never would have heard about if we did not make it possible for people who have no public status, not wealth or celebrity power, no elected position, etc. to express ideas that they have researched or developed through their own experiences.

If you're already hosting this type of discussion please post a link in the comments section so I can join you and the others who read this blog can also join you.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Creating a "Virtual" Corporate Office to Support Multiple Tutor/Mentor Programs

When I came to Chicago in 1973 it was to start a job in retail advertising at the corporate headquarters of the Montgomery Ward Corporation. Over the next 17 years I was promoted often and by the early 1980s I was in charge of the creative development of all national retail advertising. Later I was also responsible for building the first draft of the company's 52 week advertising schedule. I started with a budget of around $250 million dollars and a blank set of papers then had to develop a weekly ad schedule that had variations for big stores, small stores, specialty stores, etc.

Other than differences in products and services, all stores are basically the same. They offer a "things" people near each store want to buy. This graphic illustrates the range of merchandise and services offered by every Sears retail store. Wal Mart, Target, Dayton Hudson, Macy's have similar selections.

If you do a search on Google for different stores you can find maps showing locations throughout the Chicago region. Each of these companies has a corporate office structure with teams that build and operate stores, provide well trained people, provide the merchandise and services that a store offers, and provide advertising that draws customers to each store. This is mass merchandising. It's efficient. Small "mom" and "pop" stores have a hard time competing with the major chains.

Because of my background, the strategies I have developed mirror some of the work done by the corporate office of big companies. The tutor/mentor program's I've led have been site-based, which means students and volunteers come to a program site each week. Because we have space to operate, we're able to offer more different learning and enrichment experiences to youth and more opportunities to volunteer for employees from the Chicago region.
I've used maps to show where tutor/mentor programs are needed, based on high poverty, poorly performing schools, violence and other indicators. I've overlaid on these maps locations of tutor/mentor programs from a directory I've been trying to maintain since 1994.

Many of the existing programs, including the ones I led, were like the small "mom" and "pop" stores. We never had a consistent flow of operating dollars thus worked at a level of poverty that would make it difficult for most businesses to succeed. Everything I've been doing for the last 20 years has intended to improve the flow of resources, the talent in programs, and thus each program's ability to have a greater impact on the lives of youth and volunteers who get involved.

I don't think any organization will ever have the money that corporate offices spend to support their stories. Yet, I feel that type of support is needed to help each tutor/mentor program operate more effectively. Thus, instead of trying to build a single corporate office, I've been focusing on building a "virtual" corporate office where volunteers from many different industries and backgrounds are taking on roles that traditionally are part of a single organizational structure.

I'm not suggesting that small non profits should be consolidated under larger operating umbrellas. Just the opposite. I think the success of a tutor/mentor program comes from a core group of dedicated adults making a long term commitment to do everything they can to help the youth in their program. We need to push resources to the program level and give maximum flexibility for how those resources are used to meet local needs.

At the same time, programs need to communicate a common vision and "what they do" on their web sites. I created this "shoppers guide" to illustrate some information that I feel would help donors choose programs if it were on the organization's web site.

I've been trying to find ways to communicate this concept and today created this PDF essay. I hope you'll take a look and let me know if it makes sense to you. If it does, share it with business leaders who might begin to encourage employees to take on these roles. If you can improve on this, please try, and send me a link to your own version.