Thursday, February 06, 2014

Use maps to mobilize community assets to support tutor/mentor programs

In 1993 when I started building a data base of Chicago volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs the goal was to find ways to increase the reach and frequency of stories that would show the need for these programs in high poverty areas and would draw consistent volunteer and donors support to every program, in every neighborhood. Since I had no dollars for advertising or Public Awareness, one strategy was to create map-stories following news reports of negative news. With these maps we'd show any of the tutor/mentor programs in our directory, with contact information, and we'd show a list of some of the assets in the neighborhood (banks, insurance companies, faith groups, colleges, hospitals, etc.) who should be working together to support the growth of high quality non-school programs in the map area because they are invested in the same geography!

Building map stories like this required the aid of a skilled map maker, along with a computer, software, etc. I've never had the money to have such people working with us consistently, although in the Map Gallery you can see maps made between 2008 and 2011 because of funding for a part time Map Maker that had become available. At this link you can see a couple other maps made between 1996 and 2000 by part time staff and volunteers. I have quite a large archive of these.

However, making the map was just the first step. We also needed to find a way to get the map into the newspapers, or in front of potential volunteers and donors and tutor/mentor program leaders in different neighborhoods. We did not have much money for that, but did include maps in a printed Directory that we mailed to about 400 locations once each year.
I also displayed a set of maps at every Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference held since May 1994.

In 2008-09 I was able to build an on-line, interactive version of the Directory, which anyone could use to make their own map stories. If you browse past articles I've written you'll find many examples. If you read this article you'll see instructions for making a map. This shows how students could make maps that can be used to follow negative news stories.

Unfortunately, in 2009 we ran out of money to continue to upgrade the technology and update the content on the maps, except for program information, thus some of the information has been out-of-date. That's why I'm thrilled to say that one of the Interns from IIT who has been working with me since Jan 8, 2014 has updated the bank section of the assets maps, deleting banks that have closed and adding six more to the list. You can read the full story of that update here.

I think maps are a powerful visual tool that can be used to point people and resources to all of the places in a city or country where a problem persists. This map from the Program Locator shows all of the banks now included.

Zoom into any section of the city and you can create a map view including banks, faith groups, hospitals, etc. who all share the same geography and who should be working together to solve a problem, because of their own investment in the neighborhood.. Students in local high schools or non-school programs could be creating map stories like this and using them to mobilize adult support for extended learning, internships, jobs, etc. Volunteers in faith groups and businesses could do the same. Anyone can create a map and tell a story. They can also show assets in a map-area. They can even create maps of political districts and use them to evaluate the effectiveness of any elected official.

However, there is a cost to doing this work and since 2011 I've not had a non profit structure to raise money via grants and charity donations and I've not been able to build a business plan that would show potential investors a return-on investment that would attract needed capital. Thus, I'm dependent on volunteers to help. There is much work still to be done to update all the sections of the Program Locator, keep it working every day, and teach people to use the maps in their own planning and leadership.

If you feel this map strategy has value and you want to help, you can send financial support at this page. Or you can introduce yourself to me on Twitter, Linked in and/or Facebook and we can talk of ways we might work together.

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