Thursday, March 27, 2014

Building Network to Solve Complex Problems

This graphic illustrates the need for youth to be surrounded by a wide range of age appropriate learning resources as the move from elementary school toward jobs and careers. Depending on the level of economic security a youth needs more of these because they are not naturally available in the community. I view volunteer tutors/mentors who connect with kids via organize tutor/mentor programs as "extra adults" who can help youth and families have greater access to some of these supports.

If you agree with that logic, then the next step would be to become part of efforts that help more volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs be available, so more kids are reached and more volunteers get involved.

I've written many articles trying to show the long term involvement needed by many people, in many places, to help tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods, and become great at what they do. It's only when the begin to be "great" that the kids entering those programs have the best chance to benefit from the services they offer. If an organization can't keep it's talent, because it can't keep its funding, it's not likely to become great, or stay great.

I constantly hear people say we "want something to happen" but few share a map showing how they think we'll get from where we are now, with only a few people talking about the problem (or a lot of people talking about it, but in different silos), to where we want to be after a period of consistent effort.

I really appreciate it when other people help share these ideas via their own blogs. Today Betsey Merkel posted this graphic on the I-Open Blog. Betsey's in Ohio and hopefully leaders from Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and/or Toledo will see this and want to adopt the ideas in their own cities. If they do this well, and share what they do, perhaps that will influence how leaders in Chicago and other cities also view the ideas.

2024 note:  the tutormentor articles on the I-Open site no longer open.  I've posted a link from the Internet archive.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Changing futures for youth involves changing what CEOs do

I posted this graphic on my blog in April 2013. It expresses a lot of ideas. So I thought I’d try to break it down into components, which I've done below. If you visit this blog you can see these components in a YouTube video created by one of my 2014 interns.

I feel this graphic is important to understand because if we want mentor-rich youth programs helping kids in more places move through school and into jobs we must influence what resource providers do at the same time as we're influencing what youth programs do. This requires a huge, on-going vision, and a wide range of intermediary supports.

Here is same graphic, but with numbers on different parts. In the paragraphs below I’ll show the meaning.

First, the goal of this graphic, and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC is to help high quality, long-term, site-based tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods. This section of the Tutor/Mentor web library includes dozens of research articles that show the impact of poverty, indicating the potential benefits of mentor-rich programs.

Second, if we want mentor-rich programs in more high poverty neighborhoods, then we must find ways to increase the flow of needed resources to all programs, and keep this consistent for many years. To do that we need to influence what the donor and resource provider do, not just what programs do.

I’ve been following the National Mentoring Summit via a live feed for the past two days and posting comments on Twitter. There are about 800 people at the Summit, and between one-, and two-hundred subscribed to the live feed.

In one of the featured discussions yesterday, David Gregory, Host of NBC's Meet the Press, was a speaker. @davidgregory has over 1.6 million Twitter Followers. Justin Bieber @justinbieber has 49 million followers. @MENTORnational has only 3663 followers. As of yesterday @tutormentorteam has almost 1600 followers.

These are “attention gaps” we need to close and we cannot do that without more consistent, and strategic, support from business, public leaders, media and other potential resource providers.

Let’s look at this chart closer:

A tutor/mentor program supports a connection between an adult volunteer with a youth living in an area where indicators show extra adult support and learning activities are needed. NOTE: many mentoring strategies are nor primarily focused on youth living in high poverty. However, there is much research showing that for youth living in high poverty the non-school hours offer risk if not filled with positive learning activities and that there are too few resources in most neighborhoods. The Tutor/Mentor Institute's primary focus is helping mentor rich programs reach youth living in high poverty areas of big cities like Chicago.

There are a wide variety of formal mentoring programs, and many youth are involved in informal mentoring. This New Report: The Mentoring Effect, shows that too few youth are engaged in formal mentoring.

This is one graphic from my web site illustrating a need to support youth for many years. On you can find more graphics like this, which point to a long-term result, which is when kids have made the journey from first grade through high school, post high school learning, and into jobs with family level wages or better. Our aim is to help youth programs build strategies that support this long-term goal.

This graphic is intended to illustrate the infrastructure needed in every tutor/mentor program. Most people, including youth and volunteers, don’t see the work it takes to recruit and retain youth and volunteers, and find the operating dollars and other resources needed to build an ongoing program. See this graphic at this link.

I’ve piloted uses of maps since 1994 to illustrate the need for tutor/mentor programs in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago. Without the maps donors and media focus on a few high profile programs, or a few high profile neighborhoods. You don't get a distribution of resources to all of the neighborhoods, or all of the programs, which need consistent support.

The oil well graphic indicates the need for programs to help youth from birth to work. See more maps at

Most efforts to support non profits, including tutor/mentor programs, share ideas that help programs improve themselves, and their operations. This concept map shows a section of the Tutor/Mentor Web library that represents a college of resources that tutor/mentor leaders could draw from to be better at what they do.

However, most smaller programs are so overwhelmed and under financed that they can't draw from this information for on-going learning as much as they need to. This section of the library should be read by business leaders, donors and policy makers. It shows challenges facing non profits.

As the Iceberg graphic demonstrated, every program has common needs for a wide range of talent. Few have the money to hire all the talent they need or purchase the best technology and other tools needed to run a high quality business.

This is where we need to grow. Business leaders have tremendous expertise in building chains of stores operating in multiple locations. I wrote about Polk Bros recently, showing how advertising and sales promotion were used to draw customers to stores. On Pinterest I show many graphics that illustrate the role of business and professionals could take to draw needed resources to volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs all over the city. I created this “Virtual Corporate office PDF” to illustrate the way volunteer talent in many companies and industries could be mobilized and focused on supporting the growth of tutor/mentor programs throughout big cities like Chicago.

If programs are consistently supported, and are constantly learning from each other, and engaging all of their supporters in efforts to constantly improve the organization’s impact, they should be able to show on their web sites many indicators of their value and impact. This pdf illustrates some of the things a “shopper” should want to see when looking at a tutor/mentor program’s web site.

Teams of volunteers from business, universities, high schools, etc. could help programs collect and share this information on web sites, and could provide some of the advertising support needed every day to encourage more people to look at these web sites and provide support to help one, or many, programs grow.

As a result of this support there should be many programs with a long-term history and the ability to posts murals like this, showing youth and volunteers who have been part of programs in the past, and who are still connected to those programs today, while helping programs provide services to the next generation of youth.

Now, when you look at this graphic, do you understand what it is showing? Can you share this with people in your own network? Take a look at this blog to see how interns have been creating visualizations and new interpretations of graphics like this. Start a project at your school, or in your church or in your tutor/mentor program, where youth and volunteers create their own interpretations, focusing on your own community and/or school neighborhood if you're not in Chicago.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Change Fortune for Youth In High Poverty

On Monday I posted a version of this graphic to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, wishing everyone share in "the Luck of the Irish".

I think cities need to create their own luck for youth living in areas with high concentrations of poverty, and fewer learning, enrichment and job training opportunities than youth in more affluent areas. How do we do that?

In the four leafs above I've put the four strategies described in this 4-part strategy map. In the presentation below, this 4-part strategy is explained by an intern from IIT who worked with me for six weeks in 2013.

If we have better information to support innovation and collective action, and to distribute needed operating resources into every high poverty neighborhood, more people can use that information to help constantly improving, mentor-rich programs reach k-16 youth in those high poverty neighborhoods.

By "constantly improving" I mean that both programs and resource providers are learning from the best work being done by others on a consistent basis and are applying these ideas to help make every tutor/mentor program in each neighborhood a world class effort. Instead of searching on Google for information showing what others are doing, this information should be aggregated in web libraries such as the one I've maintained since 1998.

This graphic is explained in this video, created by a 2014 intern from IIT.

If youth have access to more non-school support systems, they can create their own good fortune, because they will have more of the help that youth in more affluent areas have naturally available to them.

Anyone can take a role in making this strategy available to Chicago or other cities. Youth from middle school, high school and/or colleges could be creating new interpretations of this information, sharing it with adults in their own neighborhood.

If you'd like to know more about the information in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library, let's find a time to meet in Chicago, or on-line. If you're around on May 19, I encourage you to attend the next Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference, which will be held at the Metcalfe Federal Building. Registration is open.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Luck of the Irish to all

Enjoy the day! Be safe. May good fortune find all of those who seek help in doing good in this world.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March Tutor/Mentor Newsletter - Speakers for Conference

You can now read the March 2014 Tutor/Mentor newsletter. It's full of links to research, resources, ideas, and articles that anyone can use to help building and sustain mentor-rich programs that help youth move through school and into jobs and careers. If you'd like to receive this in your email, just subscribe at this link.

Included in this newsletter is a list of speakers who I expect to present workshops at the May 19, 2014 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. You can see the list, and bios, here. A few more people are expected to confirm workshops and some of those who have confirmed may change before May 19. However, I think this is a great list and offers many reasons for people to attend the conference.

I'm pleased to announce that Becoming We the People, a non profit focused on Northwest Indiana, that has been part of conference planning since 2011, has agreed to act as fiscal agent for conference sponsorships. I offer $20 scholarships to anyone who requests them, and do not charge a fee to workshop presenters. Thus, finding some sponsors to help cover these costs, and other expenses related to the conferences and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, is really important.

If you read the newsletter and browse the links we point to you'll see a huge amount of information. The conferences are part of an on-going effort to collect and share this information with a growing number of people who need to be consistently involved in helping constantly improving tutor/mentor programs reach youth in more of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities, with a flow of ideas, talent and dollars that enables each program to constantly grow in what they do to help transform the lives of youth, volunteers and communities.

Graphics like this one are intended to communicate this ideas. Visit this page to see a video breaking this graphic down into individual components.

I hope you value the ideas and will share this information in your own network. If you can attend the conference in May please do. If you can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Linked in or in Google communities, then we can go deeper into this information and connect more frequently.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Young homicide victim not forgotten, and shouldn't be.

On Thursday, March 6, 2014 I read a column written by the Chicago Tribune's John Kass, telling the story of a 12 year old boy shot to death in Chicago in 2012, and of a CPS Social Worker who is trying to keep his memory alive.

This article resonated with me because I've been collecting media stories about violence, poorly performing schools, poverty, gangs, etc. for the past 20 years. While most shootings get very little attention in the media, and good news stories get even less attention, some stories get full page attention and are the focus of some of the most talented writers at Chicago's local media outlets. The three stories in this image are examples of a "don't forget, demand actions, it's up to all of us" type of headline and editorial.

When we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 the goal was to build a master database of known tutor/mentor programs, along with a library of research showing where they were most needed, and why. We started using maps to show where these programs were located, and where more were needed. We organized events, like the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences to draw people together to learn from each other, and to motivate media to write more stories that could serve as advertising to draw public interest and greater volunteer and donor support of programs in every neighborhood.

Since we had no dollars for advertising, and could not get consistent support from Mayor Daley or other city leaders, I began to develop map-stories, following media stories, so that when the media story build public interest in the problem our map stories could focus that interest on neighborhoods where the event motivating the negative news story took place. I called this "The Rest of the Story".

I did not have many ways to share these maps during the 1990s or 2000s, but I've kept them and always created a map display at every Tutor/Mentor Conference. Recently I've begun to create a web archive of map-stories. This slide show is from that archive.

Find more photos like this on Tutor/Mentor Connection

These stories are reminders that we need to do more if we're to create more opportunities for kids in these neighborhoods to connect with mentors and tutors and learning opportunities that steer them away from gangs and help them move toward jobs and careers.

As I went through my library of map stories, I also skimmed through some of the media stories I've collected. This is one from 1995, talking about how poverty impacts kids. I have many stories like this. Too many.

We're still talking about the same problems in 2014 as we were talking about in 1995.
We've spent billions of dollars, yet the same problems continue to plague us.

One challenge from the past was the inability for people to connect frequently in place-based meetings where they could dig deeper into this information and build a shared commitment to actions that might have greater long-term impact. We now have the internet and social media, so more of us who care about this problem have the potential to connect and innovate new ways to build and sustain the flow of resources into every high poverty neighborhood that is needed to create more opportunities for kids in these neighborhoods.

More than a decade ago I created this strategy map to visualize leadership commitments that need to be made by hundreds of people in Chicago and other cities.

One of the links on the strategy map points to this "village map".

My goal is to put links in every node on this map, pointing to leaders in every business, faith, entertainment, media and civic sector, who have a version of the strategy map on their own web site, indicating their support of the strategy. As that list grows, so will our ability to keep memories of slain youth alive by the work we do to build systems of support in every neighborhood that are designed to prevent a repeat of such tragedies some day in the future.

I'm just one person. I have a small voice. It's a big city and a big world. I encourage more youth and adults learn to create map-stories and blog articles like this, and share them on their own media as frequently as I do. Build your own links library and include a link to my sites. Build your own Twitter and Facebook pages and let's connect.

As more people do this my voice, and yours, will become a roar.