Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Covering Violence in Chicago. Covering the Solutions

Yesterday I titled my post "Does this scare you?" and wrote about the financial challenges of non profits. Last night I attended an anti-violence media forum at Columbia College, titled "Covering Violence. Covering the Solutions." It was co-hosted by Community Media Workshop. The moderator was Natalie Moore, a WBEZ reporter. Panel members included Brenda Butler of Columbia College, John Owens, Chicago Tribune, Gaynor Hall Paterson, WGN/CLTV, Chris Rudd, Mikva Challenge Juvenile Justice Council, and Juliana Stratton, Cook County Justice Advisory Council. About 50 people were in the audience. This was recorded and when I find the link I'll add it to this article.

The meeting started with a video showing emotional responses to violence. The panel members affirmed that Chicago has earned a world-wide reputation for violence. They also expressed concern that no one has found a better way to report this. When it came time to offer solutions, one panel member commented, "writers give headaches, not solutions" and "it's not a reporters job to find the solutions".

One of the final words of advice to community organizations was "Rely on yourselves to tell your own story."

This was really scary. Yet it's a fact.

One person in the audience suggested "every non profit should find time to learn how to get their story to the media." A week ago when I met with the leader of a non profit and suggested they create a blog, the response was "where do I find the time".

The panel asked for solutions. The Chicago Tribune, in a series started a couple of weeks ago, is asking for proposals for a "New Plan for Chicago". I've been providing solutions for many years. Finding more ways to get this information to the public, and to community leaders, is what I want to talk about today. I hope reporters will find time and ways to encourage others to take a look at these.

I've used this graphic often in the past to illustrate the role a single tutor/mentor program takes in connecting volunteers with youth in well organized programs. Such programs need to be located throughout the city, in all of the high poverty neighborhoods.

This graphic also shows the role of intermediaries, like the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Well organized non-school tutoring and/or mentoring programs like Cabrini Connections, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cluster Tutoring, Chicago Tutoring, Family Matters, Highsight, and many others shown in the directory of Chicago programs that I've hosted since 1994 connect youth who need extra adult involvement with adults who help provide such support.

In the discussion of how media cover violence Chris Rudd of Mikva Challenge offered that media stories give a message to youth that "You don't matter." In my years of leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program one of the most important lessons is that one person in the life of a youth can say "You do matter."

If Chicago wants more non-school tutoring, mentoring, arts, youth media, technology and job-training programs available to youth in high poverty neighborhoods, the media need to be telling more stories about the challenges programs face in finding money to fund their operations. In the video leading off last night's event, Phil Jackson, CEO of The Black Star Project was a featured speaker. Yesterday Phil emailed me to say he could not bring a team to the Nov. 4 conference because his organizations is facing financial challenges, meaning they are short of cash!"

I'm no longer leading Cabrini Connections because we ran out of cash too often between 2007 and 2011. Other programs and non profits serving people in high poverty no longer exist for the same reasons.

I created this graphic many years ago to illustrate how any of us who are concerned with violence, education, racial discrimination, social justice, etc. can use our own personal or professional media to encourage the people we know to get informed, then get involved with one or more of the different tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region.

In 1993 when we developed the strategy for the Tutor/Mentor Connection (read 1994 case statement)our goal was to increase the number of media stories about tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicago. This 1994 article announced that strategy and is one of many media stories shown on this page.
I come from a retail advertising background so in 1993 when we were developing the strategy for the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I understood that without a regular frequency of stories reaching more and more people, we never would be able to generate the awareness, understanding and motivation of the much larger network of supporters needed to provide talent, time and dollars in all of the different neighborhoods where tutor/mentor programs were operating, and where more are needed. Thus, events like the Tutor/Mentor Conference were created as a strategy to generate public awareness and media stories, as well as bring programs together to share ideas.

As we went through the 1990s and 2000s I realized that with virtually no money for advertising and/or PR support, my impact would be limited. I also have come to develop an appreciation of the specific needs within every on-going tutor/mentor program. One of my interns created this graphic a few years ago to illustrate the infrastructure needed in each program in order to support on-going tutoring, mentoring and learning

Due to lack of funds most programs simply don't have enough people and talent to focus on all of these functions they way larger corporations or larger non profit organizations do.

Thus, I've looked for other ways to support the growth of these programs.

This graphic represents all of the things that should be part of a well-organized tutor/mentor program. Many of these could be provided by volunteers who offer their talent to support the infrastructure of a program, in addition, or instead of, being a one-on-one tutor/mentor. Thus, accountants could offer pro-bono book keeping and financial services. Journalism students, advertising and public relations professions, including reporters, could take on the story-telling responsibility for one or more organizations. Technologists could take on web site management and tech support responsibilities, adopting all of the programs in a zip code or community area, or just a single program.

Awards could be given each year to recognize who does this well. Blog articles and news stories could tell such stories. This pdf illustrates the potential of influencing constant process improvement by recognizing the good work being done by people supporting non profit organization growth.

I'm not suggesting pro bono projects where a team builds a solution to a problem the non profit proposes, then leaves it up to the non profit to implement the solution. Those things are needed, but I'm suggesting that volunteers, and/or volunteer teams, take on this as an on-going role. Develop the solutions AND implement it!

When Edison and other inventors were creating a working light bulb they experimented thousands of times. Everyone working to reduce inner city violence and keep more kids in school and heading to jobs, rather than out of school and heading to jail, is experimenting. No one has figured out a solution that works all the time.

And one of the biggest problems is that no one has figured out a dependable way to provide "energy" to all of these places on a consistent basis. What I mean by energy is "time, talent and operating/innovation dollars".

While I've been sharing ideas like this for over 18 years, I've found that while the ideas may sound good, and I get many heads nodding approval, most people who work for a living usually can't give away their talent for free, especially on an on-going basis.

And since I've never had a Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, or even one of the leaders of Goldman Sachs, Bain & Co, or other investment bankers in my corner, I've never had the dollars to "ignite the passion" of others who might become intermediaries to provide one, or more, of these solutions.

I'm now in the process of restructuring the Tutor/Mentor Connection, to build a new non profit, with a board of leaders who do have this type of wealth and influence. At the same time, I'm looking for partners and investors to develop the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, so that we could become an incubator of new ideas and solutions that provide the fuel and energy it takes for non profit organizations operating in high poverty, high violence, and high drop out areas, to innovate more effective ways to help kids move through school and into jobs and careers.

I've written a long article and most people won't take time to read it, or pass it on to others who need to be reading it. Last night's meeting ended with a "Rely on yourself to tell your own story" message.

On the We are Not Alone web site are links to videos created by young people, and organizations helping young people become journalists and communicators.

In this link you can find a variety of visualizations created by interns working with me since 2005.

In this PDF I show how maps can be created showing where tutor/mentor programs are needed, what programs exist, and what assets exist in the same zip code who should be supporting the growth of youth mentoring programs in those areas.

If we want to call more attention to solutions, and build a resource flow to make constantly improving youth tutoring, mentoring programs available in more places, teach youth in high schools, colleges and youth programs, in the city, and in the suburbs, to do the following

a) adopt a zip code or community area and create map analysis reports that you post on your own blog;

b) if you are in a high poverty neighborhood, become a reporter of the activities going on every day in the youth organizations you are part of, or write about programs in other neighborhoods, and ask why the leaders in your neighborhood are not making such programs available to you;

c) if you live in an out-of-poverty neighborhood, adopt a city or suburban zip code with high poverty, and do the same analysis. Take on the same role of telling the story.

Not only can youth, with the help of volunteer mentors and tutors, learn to tell this story on a regular basis, they can find ways to amplify the voices of others who are telling the story. The video below was done by a Tutor/Mentor Connection intern in spring 2013 to show case the work other interns had done in previous years.

At some point in the future when we look at a map of Chicago, showing existing youth serving organizations, we should be able to click into the web site of each program and find stories written or created by youth and volunteers telling why the program is needed, where they are, what they do and how others can help them.

We also should see visualizations showing the reduction in violence, drop out rates, poverty zones, and the increase of indicators showing Chicago and its suburbs being the best city in the world for everyone to raise their kids.

Journalist can give attention to these stories when they are covering bad news, or doing solution journalism. By recognizing the good work done to support the growth of youth tutoring/mentoring programs in every neighborhood, we encourage new strategies that support a community of programs working together to solve a problem, rather than individual programs competing with each other to stay alive.

It won't be so scary if this begins to happen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Does this Scare You?

I keep adding links to a section of my web library showing challenges facing non profits. Since so much responsibility is heaped upon them, this should scare anyone. I attended the Breaking IT! Down Conference last Friday at UIC, and the mid day panel focused on challenges facing non profits, as well as ideas proposed by Dan Pallotta in his TED talk. I wrote about that here.

During the noon panel John Rodgers of Arial Capital talked about how leaders of hedge funds and private equity funds were making over $500 billion dollars at the height of the financial crisis and that much of this income came from managing the funds of philanthropic foundations.

Carlos Tortolero, Executive Director of the National Museum of Mexican Art, summed up the feeling of many non profit leaders when he said "We have to talk about survival. We can't talk about growth."

So what will it take for some of those hedge fund managers to devote 20-30% of their annual income to supporting youth tutoring, mentoring, jobs and college access programs, as well as the infrastructure that helps each program operate more effectively, and at a lower cost per program?

That's a scary thought. I'll write more about my ideas tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Poverty - Public Education's Biggest Problem - Washington Post article

Two articles by Valerie Stauss in the October 18, 2013 and October 17, 2013 show the impact of poverty on education for poor kids and the impact of policy being driven by "elites" who have no personal experience with living in high poverty.

One paragraph reads "But education has a powerful role to play in combating poverty and its various manifestations. Not just by exposing children to career-advancing skills, but also by exposing them to a full range of potential interests and pursuits, by affording time and resources to discover what they care for and what they are good at, and by supporting creative thinking and creative action."

This type of support can be offered by non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, even if it is not being fully offered in the local school.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mentor Role in Larger Strategy

I’ve often been asked “What type of tutoring or mentoring do you do?” and have had difficulty communicating the idea that volunteer tutors/mentors represent “extra adults” helping kids living in high poverty neighborhoods of big cities who have too few people in their lives who model diverse jobs and career opportunities, and who are working to help these kids move through school and into adult lives and careers.

Kids aren’t “widgets” or “robots” where a certain dose of tutoring or mentoring can overcome the personal and environmental challenges facing them. All kids need extra forms of support. Kids in poverty have extra challenges, and less community support.

This graphic can be found in this PDF essay. It is intended to illustrate the influences in the lives of youth living in high poverty areas that are not as common to youth in more affluent areas. It also emphasizes the supports that are less frequently available.

Over the past 20 years I’ve created a variety of visualizations to illustrate my ideas. I hope you’ll read the rest of this article and follow the links to additional information and ideas. If you agree, please form a group and begin to share this information regularly.

Throughout the country the terms “tutoring” and “mentoring” are used in a variety of different ways, with different meaning, based on the experience and perspective of the person using the terms. Until we group into sub-categories, focusing on kids in urban poverty, kids in rural poverty, immigrant kids who often don’t speak English, and kids who have social/emotional needs, but may live in communities with tremendous resources, we won’t build a shared understanding of problems facing each sub group of kids, which means we won’t build and sustain long-term strategies to help youth overcome those challenges.

This graphic is from a “Defining Terms” essay that illustrates the role of different types of tutoring/mentoring roles, in different types of programs.

I’ve written numerous articles on this blog showing impact of poverty on inner city youth. I integrate maps into many, to illustrate the need for comprehensive programs in many different neighborhoods. This section of links in my web library contains links to many other web sites that focus on concentrated, segregated poverty as a root cause of many social and economic ills. On the Mapping For Justice blog I provide numerous maps that further illustrate this point.

I’ve created a variety of graphics, like this concept map to illustrate the different needs of youth as they move from one grade to another, over the 12 years most kids to move from first grade to high school graduation. In areas of high poverty, volunteer tutors and mentors are extra adults who help young people and communities access these resources.

I point to a variety of articles about “social capital” which show how youth in segregated, high poverty neighborhoods benefit from volunteers and programs that connect them to ideas, experiences and opportunities beyond what are modeled in the family or community. This is a form of “bridging social capital”.

Thus, if non-school tutor/mentor programs are able to recruit volunteers from diverse workplace backgrounds youth would be exposed to a diverse range of career and education models, as well as many different racial, age and religious backgrounds.
Read - Mentor Role in Youth Development Strategy

A program with a mix of volunteers from different business backgrounds can offer a wide range of extra learning and mentoring activities beyond one-on-one tutoring or mentoring. Site based programs with space in the neighborhood close enough for youth to participate weekly are more likely to offer such extra learning opportunities on an on-going basis than community based mentoring.

Programs that have a diverse base of volunteers are “mentor rich”. I used to use the term Total Quality Mentoring (TQM) to show a constant process of innovation and improvement made possible by the participation of such a diverse base of volunteers.

However, not every program has the leadership, marketing, or connections to business, that are needed to draw volunteers from diverse backgrounds. This set of articles in the web library show challenges facing non profit organizations.

This article focuses on “tipping points” or actions and strategies that might help stronger, mentor-rich youth programs be available in more places.

In this 2010 Civic Enterprises report titled, “Untapped Potential: Filling the Promise of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Bigs and Littles they Represent”, a BBBS study shows that many volunteers are concerned that they alone cannot do enough to help their mentees overcome the poverty where they live. Many are willing to do more.

Thus, while using conferences, technical assistance and training to help each program improve their ability to recruit and retain volunteers, I have been advocating for leaders in business, faith groups, hospitals, etc. to become proactive in building support for mentor-rich programs in every neighborhood.

This “Recruiting Talent Volunteers” pdf and this “Virtual Corporate Office” pdf illustrate roles companies and their employee-volunteers can take.

The links below provide extra reading for corporate leaders, showing many benefits to programs of volunteers engaged for multiple years

==Service Learning Loop flash animation in 2011.

== Volunteer Involvement Growth/Benefit - flash animation -

--- In addition, here are a set of links to articles showing benefit to companies resulting from support of volunteer involvement in mentor-rich programs

This last graphic is a “reality check”. While I spend many hours every day reaching out to build a network of people and resources to support youth programs in inner city neighborhoods, I realize that the world has many complex problems, and most people are more focused on their own jobs, family, entertainment and health than they are on the well-being of people who they don’t see and relate to every day.

Thus, I’m not trying to get the attention of everyone, or even most of “everyone”. I’m just trying to get the attention of a very small percent of “everyone” which really represents a large number of people in a world with more than 7 billion humans.

Or, to put this another way, I’m trying to inspire people to devote a regular slice of the time, talent and dollars they devote to helping others, to helping well-organized, volunteer based tutor/mentor programs reach youth in high poverty neighborhoods.

One way to do this is to help business volunteers become involved in any tutor/mentor program in the Chicago region. I do this by providing this list of Chicago programs in many of my blog articles and my social media.

If what I do is copied and adopted by others, we'd have much more daily attention focused on helping people engage with this information, and become involved in different programs and the lives of kids in many places. This ROLE OF LEADERS essay illustrates strategies that could be adopted in many organizations.

I also do this by sharing ideas that help programs attract and retain volunteers. Workshops at the Tutor/Mentor Conferences always focus on volunteer recruitment strategies.

However, another way to do this is to create a “Great Mentoring Reunion” with a goal of reaching people who have been involved in tutor/mentor programs over the past 40 years. There are thousands of inactive mentors and former mentees who already have some personal experience with mentoring and tutoring. Many have benefited from such involvement. Connecting people from the past, and the present, can lead to greater support of tutor/mentor strategies and mentor rich programs in the future.

Increasing the number of programs and volunteers expands the army of people who are looking beyond ‘mentoring and tutoring’ to all of the actions needed to help youth move through school and into jobs and careers.

The Chicago Tribune is now seeking ideas for a new plan for Chicago. I encourage anyone who has been reading this blog and my articles to submit your own ideas for how we engage people, and keep them engaged and learning from their service, for multiple years.

Without engaging more people who don’t live in poverty, in personal involvement with any strategy that is developed, it’s not likely to reach youth in all the places where kids need help, for all the years help is needed.

If you share your strategy on a blog and send me the address, I’ll be happy to take a look at it. If you join the site you can share your strategy in your own blog within that web site.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Engaged Learning as the Bridge to Civic Engagement - Applied Thinking

I attended a presentation last night at UIC and was pleased to hear Dr. Troy Duster, Chancellor's Professor, University of California, Berkley, say that "moral arc of leaders is long" and "in bleak times, step back and let's take the long view."

His ideas on "engaged learning" mirror efforts I've made since the mid 1990s to build partnership with faculty at different universities in the Chicago region, including my alma matter, Illinois Wesleyan, so their students could do the work required to build networks of people working consistently to help make youth serving organizations available in every high poverty neighborhood of the region.

I looked up Dr. Duster on the Internet to see if I could find more of his ideas. I found the Longview Institute, which operated from 2005-2009 (not very long). I learned that he is the grandson of Ida B. Wells, so he has a long history of civic engagement and community organizing.

Having been sharing ideas about ways youth programs in Chicago should be created and supported for the past 20 years, I certainly appreciate the need to think of the "long view". In fact much of the work I've done over the past few years has been aimed at putting my ideas on the Internet and finding younger leaders who have the passion and talent to carry them forward into the future.

These are some blog articles I've written on this topic in the past. I've created maps showing the location of universities throughout the region. My goal since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 was that teams of students/alumni from each university would become a hub of knowledge about tutor/mentor programs and support groups in the area around the university.

In the early 2000s a team of students from DePaul University created this strategic plan, providing reasons for a University to form an on-campus Tutor/Mentor Connection.

I was told by a researcher at Chapin Hall in 1993 that I was unrealistic if I felt I could get universities in the city to work together for a common purpose. I wish that researcher had spent more time recognizing that I was only hoping that small teams in each university might form to do this work. I could connect those teams with each other via my newsletters, conferences, and ultimately web sites. This concept map and article was created in 2009 by a graduate from Northwestern University. It shows different departments within the university who each do some work related to the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Such maps could be created for many campuses and student communicator could be inviting representatives of each to connect and share ideas on an on-going basis.

Dr. Duster was passionate in his belief that engagement with communities could start at the university level by engaging youth in local problem solving. He described resistance on university campuses to engaged learning and called for "insurgencies" to form on different campus, with enlightened leaders forming their own engaged learning projects.

I'm still looking for a day in the future when there would be a Tutor/Mentor Connection student team/project on every campus in the Chicago region. Dr. Duster's comments give me hope that if I, and others after me, keep sending the invitation and pointing to models of existing projects where youth support the growth of multiple needed services in the areas around a university, we might have a breakthrough at some point in the future.

At the Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago on Nov. 4 I'll be leading two workshops talking of ways students in high school and college could be engaged in team building and information sharing. I hope some who have heard Dr. Duster will want to attend.

Monday, October 07, 2013

A New Chicago Plan - Some Suggestions

In Sunday's Chicago Tribune, readers and organizations were invited to finish the work that civic architect Daniel Burnham started over 100 years ago — "to address the imperiled livability, uneven prosperity and desperate public finances that have driven residents to leave by the hundreds of thousands." Read the article and offer your ideas.

As this 1995 article demonstrates, I've been offering my ideas for close to 20 years. In the graphics below I'll highlight a few key points.

Raising kids is like building a building. You start at the beginning, birth or conception, whichever you prefer, and work toward adulthood, and self reliance. A team of people is involved in any building project, and blueprints define work that needs to be done at each stage of the project, along with who needs to be involved.

This takes 20 to 30 years of consistent support. Building and sustaining support from millions of Chicago area residents, now and in future years, is the primary challenge that must be overcome.

The graphic below is one I've been working on for nearly 20 years. It shows a range of supports that youth need from the time they are born to when they enter jobs and careers. To me, volunteer tutors/mentors in organized non-school tutor/mentor programs are "extra adults" helping youth and families get needed resources. They are needed in areas of high poverty where families and communities struggle to make such resources available.

If you click on this link you can view the graphic. You can also click on a few of the nodes, which take you to a web library where I've aggregated links specific to that topic.

Building a solution to the problems facing Chicago, and other cities, should be considered a form of "open source" development. A web portal that enables anyone to post an idea and link it visually to a map, or a blueprint, is something I've been looking for help with for many years.

This image is a map of Chicago. The "oil well" intends to illustrate that the "birth to work" support system needs to be available in different parts of every community area of Chicago. Since poverty is now growing the suburbs, and what happens in the city affects the suburbs, this new vision for Chicago really needs to be a vision for the Chicago region.

While I've been sharing these ideas for nearly 20 years, most of the leaders in Chicago have been busy ignoring them and doing their own "problem solving". In addition to the Tribune's call for ideas, the Donors Forum has launched a platform for "Building a Better Illinois" and the Mayor's office is supporting a Thrive Chicago initiative, which does not yet have a web site.

There are dozens of different organizations focused on helping youth overcome poverty and succeed in school. Thus, one of the first challenges is connecting the different networks with each other and integrating the ideas into one collective vision, with a set of blueprints that anyone can use to support their own actions, in one or more neighborhoods of the region. This concept map points to many networks focusing on youth that I'm aware of. I'm sure there are more.

Anyone who has put an addition on their house, or built a towering skyscraper knows that you need financing so that everyone gets paid to do the work they are supposed to do. Anyone involved in non-profit work knows that finding financing to do all of the work you need to be doing is almost impossible. I was at a Philanthropy Club meeting last week where a Compass Point report titled "Underdeveloped: Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fund Raising" was discussed. I've created an entire section of articles that focus on challenges facing the non profit sector, and have recently pointed to solutions offered by creative thinkers like Dan Pallotta.

Thus, not only do we need to create a blueprint capturing the ideas of many different organizations already involved in efforts to improve the well-being of the Chicago region, we need to innovate new ways of funding this work over a period of many decades, while the city and state faces all sorts of financial challenges.

I created this slideshare essay to illustrate some of the work that needs to be done.

Here are a few additional essays on Scrib.come that I would recommend

* 4-part strategy on Scribd -

* Planning Cycle - War on Poverty -

* Collaboration goals -

* Year Round strategy -

The success of the new Chicago Plan, or any other, will depend on how many leaders in business, philanthropy, religion, politics, etc. adopt the commitment shown in this strategy map and this Role of Leaders essay.

When the Mayor asks "Where on your web site do you show your commitment to this strategy? before providing a contract or favor, or when the media begin to build web lists pointing to web sites of leaders who include a version of this strategy map on their web sites, we'll begin to have the motivation and accountability needed to not only build a strategy, but to build and distribute the resources to make it work.

I've hosted a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago every six months since May 1994, with the goal of bringing leaders together to innovate ways to make more and better tutor/mentor programs available throughout the city and suburbs. I've never had consistent financial support, nor have I had consistent participation from media, business leaders, political or faith leaders. Yet, I'm still sending the invitation to connect.
The next conference is Monday, November 4 at the Metcalfe Federal Building. If the ideas I've shared resonate with you, take part in the conference, or reach out to add your support to my own efforts, or include me in your efforts.

Visit Pinterest to find more graphics like those in this article. Click into the various sub categories of past articles (shown on left) to find more illustrated articles and ideas.