Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to apply systems thinking mapping to helping kids move through school

In a number of past articles I've posted videos by Gene Bellinger, who leads a Systems Thinking network on a variety of web platforms. In a video I watched today Gene showed the history that led him to what he is doing today. I encourage you to view this.

As I looked at the first part of the video I was reminded of my own efforts using concept maps to show my history going back to 1965 when employees at the Montgomery Ward Corporation launched a tutor/mentor program in Chicago. I created this map to show history and my involvement until 1992, then this map to show the creation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, and my involvement, since late 1992.

I'm inspired to convert many of my maps and graphics to KUMU and Insight maker and create videos to help people understand them, but unlike Gene, I've not built a network of thousands of people who are interacting regularly about ways to make youth tutor/mentor programs available in high poverty neighborhoods, or to help those programs constantly improve their impact over many years as a result of how donors, business partners and volunteers support them. In fact, since 2011 I've operated as Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC due to changes at the non profit I had founded to do this work in 1992. It has been difficult to find talent, leaders and donors to give me the organizational strength to continue the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago, led alone help similar groups grow in other cities.

Thus, I spend a lot of time talking to myself, and creating in a vaacuum.

I created this graphic a few years ago to illustrate the fact that every youth serving organization is constantly experimenting, trying to find the best ways to motivate youth and volunteers to participate, and trying to find ways to turn this into youth aspirations that lead to motivation and learning. Edison had a good amount of wealth to support his experiments. Over the years I led Cabrini Connections I struggled to find dollars and talent to do this thinking with me. Hundreds of other youth serving organizations face the same challenges.

Parents are constantly experimenting, in raising their own kids. Tutor/Mentor program leaders are also constantly experimenting trying to help the kids they work with grow up. Few of us have blueprints to follow. Few of us have the consistent funding needed.

I created this graphic to illustrate this concept. Raising kids is like building a building. We start with a blueprint (and financing) then dig the foundation. From that stage forward,with the help of teams of workers who have different skills, we build the building, one floor at a time.

Chicago and other cities needs well organized, age appropriate, mentor rich programs in all high poverty neighborhoods. However, no one has a blueprint and no long term financing exists to support the hundreds of programs needed. The thinking behind a well organized program is complex. I've not found any programs using systems thinking mapping to show their history, and steps they go through to help youth move on to college, vocational education and jobs.

The thinking behind mobilizing resources to fill a city with programs is even more complex. Once Edison invented the light bulb, he then invented an industry that enabled light bulbs to be in every home and business. He had a lot of help doing that and a lot of money to invest. I've had even more difficulty finding people to invest money in the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which is aimed at building a citywide network of youth serving organizations that work in a systematic way to help kids move from first grade to first job and on through adult lives out of poverty.

The systems thinking tools Gene has described in his videos are available to me, and anyone else who cares about helping close the gaps between rich and poor. We should find a way to use them.

I'm don't want to invest my own time converting what I've built over the past 20 years into a new way of sharing ideas. I want to do this as a collaborative project with others who focus on the same goals, or who want to carry on the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago, and in other cities, in future years.

I've talked to many people about duplicating the Tutor/Mentor Connection. However, most don't really understand it. I feel that until someone actually is trying to create their own graphics, write their own blog articles, and enlist their own network in support of these ideas, they won't really understand. Until you are leading a tutor/mentor program and struggling to find the resources you need to operate, you won't fully understand how challenging, and how frustrating this is. If the Board of a non profit were writing regular articles, and creating their own graphics to illustrate the work that needs to be done, more would have a deeper commitment to strategies that support the growth of all programs, and would do more to help obtain the resources needed.

In today's video Gene said at one point "this (systems thinking and systems thinking mapping) is only important if it enables you to do something meaningful with it."

I think that foundations, researchers, businesses focusing on workforce skill development, policy makers, media and many in this country are as concerned with the education of our youth and with preparing them to compete in a global workforce as I am.

In fact, there are many who are beginning to do work in this area. Take a look at the Prezi on this page of the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University. Take a look at the way information is shared on the Boston Indicators site. In this section of the Tutor/Mentor web library I point to many who are innovating in visual thinking.

There must be some who will invest time and talent to apply the ideas Gene is sharing to mapping and sharing the information and ideas I've aggregated over the past 40 years.

Where to start? Look at the projects interns have created to share their own understanding of Tutor/Mentor Connection. Build your own understanding by creating a map on Insight maker, or on Prezi of some other platform. Join the forum where I've coached interns, and let me coach you and your team. Of reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook, or this site, and offer financial support to help me build this network.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A New Way of Attracting Philanthropic Support

The image of the lonesome warrior is one that reminds me of the men and women who are fighting overseas to make this a better world. As we count our blessings, let's pray for the young people in our armed forces.

However, this image is also one that I think of when I think of the people leading social benefit organizations around the world, mostly in isolation, mostly with too few resources to do everything they are trying to do. From 1990 to 2011 I led a small non profit organization, and I wrote thousands of letters to potential donors, business leaders, city leaders, foundations, etc. asking for support of the volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs I led, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which I created in late 1992 as a strategy aimed at helping high quality, constantly improving, tutor/mentor programs grow and thrive in all high poverty areas of the Chicago region.

While I raised more than $6 million over a 20 year period, I received far more rejections than approvals. My biggest challenge was not finding new donors. It was keeping existing donors who kept changing due to business conditions, changes of focus, funding restrictions, etc. After a few years of doing this I said "there has to be a better way". Below are some graphics that I included in an article I wrote on this topic in 2007.

Instead of each different tutor/mentor program competing for a shrinking pool of dollars, why can't we combine our efforts and innovate ways to inspire more donors to fund our sector? Then let those donors choose who to fund based on where we are located, and what we show of our work on our web sites.

When I was a retail advertising manager for Montgomery Ward I learned that more competition in a market created more advertising and led more customers to want the products we were selling. Those customers usually shopped at a store near where they lived or worked. I've piloted the uses of maps to show where programs are needed and to help potential customers locate programs in different parts of the city.

I've borrowed ideas from others for more than 40 years. My background studying history in college, and spending three years in US Army Intelligence, taught me to look for ideas applied by others and to borrow those ideas to improve my own efforts.

One of the web sites I found a few years ago was one that is called Internet Evangelism Day. This article suggests that the old way of standing on street corners to pass out religious tracts is replaced by using web sites to express ideas. The people who find your web sites are already interested in what you offer, thus will spend more time trying to understand your message.

Thus, my vision is that people who care about helping inner city kids living in high poverty areas will learn to use web sites like mine for deeper learning, and to make funding decisions. This graphic can be found at this link, and shows information in the various sections of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site. This link points to a concept map, which offers a "learning path" through the information on my web sites.

Some might say "who will spend this much time?" I would say, "Who is tired of spending billions of dollars with so little long-term impact?" Why in the social sector do we make funding decisions on sound bytes and elevator speeches, where in the corporate world plans are developed over many years of research and thinking.

The Internet is a Game Changer. Busy executives, people with too much money to know what to do with it. Political leaders. They all use computers and if the do a Google search for "tutor mentor" they will find my sites. If the spend a little time every day reading and reflecting they will soon understand the ideas and be able to adopt what makes sense to them into their own efforts.

Those who lead small non profits, or are struggling to get social benefit ideas launched, may relate to this One-To-Many graphic. We're constantly reaching out in many different directions, trying to find the help we need. We're like fish in a bowl, competing with thousands of others for a limited amount of dollars and volunteers. Unless you've got a powerful marketing machine, or are well connected in donor circles, you succeed some of the time, but not most of the time, and you spend tremendous amounts of emotional capital and energy all of the time.

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I'm trying to change this. I'm trying to recruit leaders in many places who lead strategic thinking process in their organization that aligns social benefit with corporate and organizational strategy. Such leaders will use their own advertising, visibility and resources to support the growth of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs that lead kids to careers, because it's a core business strategy.

I've been saying this for a long time, but last week I found an article on the Harvard Business Review that reinforces this concept. The article is titled Strategy & Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility. Written by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer.

Education and workforce development are of strategic importance for most industries. Thus, if leaders of business, health care, law, journalism, sports and entertainment, etc. are strategic, they can use tools like the Program Locator and Chicago Program Links to choose what part of a city they want to support, and what programs they want to help grow from good to great.

This isn't a strategy to support just one tutor/mentor program, or one brand name like the Boys and Girls Clubs, or Big BrothersBigSisters, it's a strategy to help every high poverty neighborhood have comprehensive programs that are one end of the pipeline to jobs and careers for businesses that are strategically engaging their corporate resources to help grow their future workforce.

Recently the President launched a new initiative to attract mentors, and has requested millions of dollars in funding. I encourage you to read this editorial from the BlackStar Project in Chicago, showing how this initiative supports big brand name organizations while ignoring smaller organizations who may be doing great work in many places.

If decision makers in philanthropy, government and business go directly to the internet to build their own understanding of problems and solutions, instead of depending on sound bytes provided by people who work for them, who depend on one or two page summaries from organizations competing for scarce funding, perhaps better, more consistent, and longer lasting support will be distributed to all of the neighborhoods where help is needed and to more of the organizations already operating in those areas.

Hopefully a few will spend time on Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC sites and step forward to offer their help for my own role in this process.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Poverty Reduction in US Cities. Long-term Leadership Needed

In today's Chicago Tribune Dawn Turner Tice wrote a column under the headlinge "A question of values and violence -- and a lot more". Read it here.

In her column she raised the menories of kids killed over the past 20 years, and pointed to the complex problem of poverty which contributes to acts of violence. She challenges what people who don't live in poverty have been doing over the past twenty years to solve these problems.

As you can see from the graphic, and from other maps and map stories on this blog, I've been calling on strategic involvement from all sectors of business, religion, higher education, media, sports and politics for over 20 years.

If you visit this page and this page, you can see how interns have created strategy visualizations to communicate some of the ideas from the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library, which I've built over 40 years of thinking of better ways to make high quality tutor/mentor programs available to youth in more places.

This is one of many graphics that I've created to illustrate the need to create a map showing how we get from where we are now, to where we want to be in the future. In articles like this I've pointed to uses of visualization tools and systems thinking process to create a blueprint that more and more people might follow.

However, unless media point to blogs like mine when they say "do something" then most of the ideas I share will never been seen by others who might use them.

This graphic is included in this article I wrote during Easter week. I've written more than 1000 articles since 2005, all focused on connecting people who could help with places where help is needed.

Writers working for the Tribune and other major media have a greater audience than I do. If they would just end their articles pointing to places where their readers can find more information, and find places to engage in LEARNING about problems and solutions, they would be doing more to solve the problem than by the occasional full page editorial saying we need to do more.

If youth from different tutor/mentor programs, schools and organizations like Mikva Challenge are creating strategy maps and pointing to online libraries and strategies that adults need to develop, I think the media will be compelled to give them attention, which in the end will provide more consistent focus on the problems we face, and the need for everyone to be part of the solution.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Legal Leader Using Social Media to Build Support for Mentoring in Chicago

Over the past few weeks I've posted a couple of stories showing how Dan Cotter, the 2014-15 President of the Chicago Bar Association, has been asking friends (and strangers) to help him raise money to fund Chicago mentoring programs. The weight lifting event was last weekend and on Dan's Facebook page you can get a detailed description of activities leading up to the event, during and after.

I've featured Dan's work because as the media and public leaders are agonizing about what to do to reduce violence Dan has been raising money to fund tutor/mentor programs in Chicago for more than 10 years. By highlighting the good work one person does my goal is to inspire others to take the same role so that people in many industries are recruiting volunteers and raising dollars to fund tutor/mentor programs in all high poverty areas of Chicago, not just a few high profile programs.

I created this graphic several years ago, and I've created many like it, to illustrate the role each person can take to mobilize others to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs.

One of the pushbacks I've had from people in business is "that's not what I do" or "I don't have time". Well, Dan's a busy attorney working for a big company. He's chairman of the board of the Lawyers Lend A Hand Program, and he's incoming President of the Chicago Bar Association.

Yet for the past four weeks Dan has been using his Twitter feed and Facebook to encourage people to get involved with mentoring and pledge funds to his weight lifting effort. In order for you to better understand what Dan's been doing, click into these three Twitter accounts which Dan uses.

DCotter1 - click here

The Lifting Lawyer - click here

CBA Pres 2014-15 - click here

Scroll down on each page and see how Dan Tweets, reTweets, favorites Tweets of others, and is featured in Tweets I and others have posted. He's taken an active position on social media to support a cause he cares about. If he can do it why can't executives of companies, faith groups, colleges and other professional groups do the same.

If you've read this far you've seen that I've given a lot of praise to Dan Cotter. He deserves it.

What if teams of youth and volunteers in different parts of the city where following social media and were creating links to a Village Map like this, pointing to people in different sectors who were trying to connect the people they know with programs working to help youth through school and into jobs and careers. What if they were writing stories like this to recognize the good deeds of people doing good work?

Each year the Mayor, or other celebrities, could give awards to leaders in each industry who have been outstanding examples of using social media to mobilize attention and resources.

Yesterday the Mayor said violence in Chicago is a complex problem and many people need to be involved in solutions. Here's a way many people can be involved, and who if they stay involved as long as Dan Cotter has, can make a huge difference, without spending a lot of tax payer dollars to do it.

Mr. Mayor, are you listening?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mapping ideas, network, relationships

Since 1993 I've been collecting information that anyone in Chicago or the world could use to support their own efforts to “create a better world”. I've been using GIS maps to show where programs supporting youth and families are needed and concept maps to show strategy, steps to achieve goals, network needed, etc.

I started using power point to create visualizations showing ideas and information available in my library back in the 1990s. I started putting this info on line in 1998. If you do a Google search for the words “tutor mentor” then click on images, you can see dozens of images that I've embedded in blog articles, web sites and other posts over the past 15 years. If you visit you can see a library of some of these. Browse the various sections of and the blog and you can see more.

I launched this strategy map on line in 2005. Each node on this map expands to open a new page in the strategy map. Interns have created animated versions of this and other maps, helping expand understanding of the ideas.

The blue box at the top of the graphic represents the commitment of myself, or any other leader, to on-going actions that help youth born in poverty move through school and into jobs and careers, with the support of volunteers and staff in well-organized, long-term, tutor/mentor type programs.

In 2011 David Price of Debategraph encouraged me to embed this information on his platform. The graphic below can be accessed at Click on any node and the map reforms with information related to that node.

This map has layers showing information in the Tutor/Mentor library. It's intended to support a conversation about ways people from every sector can “help youth move from living in poverty to jobs” as a result of long-term mentoring and a age appropriate learning supports. It's intended to support a conversation based on “what are all the things we need to be doing” that leads a growing number of people to take actions based on what they are learning.

As more information was added, the map became more complex, and thus fewer and fewer people were willing to view the map and, thus, use the information.

In other articles on this blog I've focused on network building and network mapping. Who are the people who should be looking at the information I've collected and who are the people who should be helping tutor/mentor programs grow in more places? How do we know who is involved? How do we expand involvement from year to year and sustain it over many years? This “village” map is one graphic intended to communicate this idea.

Recently I've connected with Gene Bellinger and a variety of other visualization innovators in groups on Linked in. I've shared my enthusiasm for systems thinking and idea mapping in articles like this one.

Through this I learned about another mapping platform called KUMU. I showed my interest in this in another article shown here

Yesterday I viewed a new video where Gene and Jeff talk about using KUMU which you can see below.

I hope you'll view this, and look at my own efforts to map networks, ideas and relationships. I really think this has huge potential and want to create some KUMU maps that would show the information in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library, as well as the information on the Debategraph map.

What appeals to me in this video is the ability to map networks of people and organizations, as well as the ability to sequence and relate ideas in ways others might follow along. If we can use these tools to identify who “is already involved” and to build “roadmaps” of actions that lead to more and better programs in the right places, helping youth through school and into jobs, this information can support millions of users, and provide a template for solving other social, environmental, health issues around the world.

I've worked under the “if you build it, they will come” mentality for 20 years since I never was able to find long-term partners and/or funders for the Tutor/Mentor Connection when I was first trying to build support in 1992 and 1993. I've had help from hundreds of people, but none have provided time, talent and dollars for the long term. Some who did give support were forced to stop due to business conditions, or changes in their own focus.

I just read an article in Fortune magazine about the property developers responsible for Silicon Valley. When they stated they had a few thousand dollars but the vision of what farmland could become if they put buildings on the property and found tenants. They are now billionaires. I'm energized to see that “if you build it, they will come” has actually worked for some people.

While I've attracted many positive comments, many interested parties, and more than 1 million visitors (and 15 million hits) to my web sites, this has been an effort to “find a needle in a world size haystack”. I know there are other people who share the same passion. We've just not connected.

I've created dozens of concept maps like the ones above that I feel could be converted to KUMU and communicated the same way Gene is sharing ideas in his videos. I think people could discuss the meaning of the maps, add new information, and form collaborations to apply the thinking in support of youth and families in their own communities, not just in Chicago.

I could convert the Debategraph by myself but I'm trying to resist this. I want to find partners in one or more universities, networks, companies, etc. who will not only provide the manpower, talent and dollars to do this work, but will take active roles in sharing this with the goal of putting the ideas to work over the next 20 years.

If you're at a university, part of a service learning project, or a company or foundation that supports this thinking please reach out and help me do this work.

Note: 7/7/2017 update  - here's an article that applies systems thinking, concept mapping and theory of change ideas, using as the mapping tool.  I've added this link to a section of the Tutor/Mentor web library, while also posting it here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Expanding number of people involved in Chicago youth development

This graphic was created by an intern from South Korea as an update of an earlier project done in 2005 by an intern from Hong Kong. You can view it here.

This second graphic was created by a volunteer from the University of Michigan as part of a one week winter break project. You can view it here.

Both projects show that volunteers who become part of well-organized tutor/mentor programs grow in their understanding of poverty and the challenges faced by youth, families, and the tutor/mentor programs who support these connections. As some volunteers grow over a period of two to three or more years of involvement, some become recruiters and resource builders who do more to help the program, and some become deeply involved in the lives of the youth, and do more to help the youth move through school.

Using maps, leaders can build a marketing and program support effort, modeled after how corporate offices support multiple stores in different locations, to make more mentor rich programs available throughout a city like Chicago. At some point, the number of programs who are growing new leaders would lead to a constant expansion of the people and resources needed to grow the number of programs, and grow the impact of these programs.

This does not happen if a few leaders don't step forward to support this process.

See more ideas like this on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site and library.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Problem Solving, Systems Thinking, Hacking: Violence, Education, Jobs

I’ve been working on this article for a week. The way I create articles is to draw from graphics and articles I’ve created in the past, and to point to articles, videos and graphics created by others who communicate an idea more effectively than I do.

Earlier this week I received the newsletter from the Making Learning Connected MOOC, #CLMOOC, which I’ve been following. This week’s assignment encourages participants to “hack their writing”.

In the newsletter these suggestions were offered:

In Make Cycle #4 we invite you to “Hack Your Writing.” Maybe you do not think you’re a “hacker” and associate the term exclusively with the most skillful and renegade of computer programmers. But this week we are encouraging a broader use of this term and a more open sense of its possibilities.

We imagine there are multiple entry points for this week’s make cycle. One option might be to revisit something you wrote before and “dress it up” anew. If you have a notebook or journal that you’ve scribbled in, if you have jotted down a fleeting poem, or if perhaps you have penned an essay or article, this week’s make cycle might involve revisiting an old writing moment and breathing new life into a former work. Perhaps you might want to take several different pieces of writing and put them together to create a collage or compilation? Go for it!

As I read this, I said, “That’s what I’ve been doing since I started writing this blog in 2005. It’s what interns have been doing when they create new versions of articles I’ve posted here.” So as you read this article, think of the different ways I’ve “hacked” and think of how you might duplicate what I’m posting to add your own voice to this movement.

The front page of both major newspapers featured “Violence in Chicago” this week. It's been an ongoing theme for a few years. In fact, This problem has been in the news off and on for over 20 years.

However, not much has changed. Perhaps if there were a “systems thinking” approach applied to this, more people might become informed, and involved in solutions. We might find ways to keep people involved for many years.

This is a long article. Please read on.

Here’s a graphic that I’ve borrowed from a video created by Gene Bellinger, who leads a Systems Thinking discussion group on Linkedin.

As I view Gene’s videos, my wish is that someone were doing exactly the same presentation, but focused on bringing people together to solve some of the problems we face in Chicago, which are deeply rooted in poverty, income inequality, political power, etc.

I've hacked Gene's video to copy this graphic, then to create views of each element.
I'm using them to communicate an idea that I launched over six years ago in a blog post focused on comparing the thinking and planning process that General's use to fight wars to what we need to be doing in Chicago to fight poverty and violence by providing stronger, on-going birth-to-work support systems for youth living in high poverty areas. You can find this graphic with an explanation here.

In the systems thinking video, this graphic is used to describe a “situation”, something that motivates people to gather to find ways to change the situation. In this and many articles I've posted on this blog the “situation” is poverty, violence, workforce development, poorly performing schools, and an ineffective funding stream to support organizations working to solve the problem.

In this graphic, Gene is focusing on how groups need to gather and review information that helps them understand the situation, as well as potential solutions.
In my own graphic, I show this as the analysis stage. I've created a huge library of information that people can use to understand how where you live influences what your future is. This library includes maps, that show all of the areas of Chicago where poverty is concentrated, so that planners provide support services in all of those areas, not just in high profile areas.

I've used concept maps to outline sections of the library. This shows sub sections. Thus in understanding violence you'd need to look at articles on poverty, drop out issues, social capital, workforce development, crime, etc. You can find this map at

Based on shared understanding a group will propose solutions, and build strategies to implement those solutions. This is the Strategy stage Gene describes. I use this Strategy Map to focus attention on a goal that can be shared by just about everyone, which is to help kids grow up and be starting jobs and careers by their mid-20s. People in different places, and with different resources, will develop different strategies to reach this goal. If they are well supported, and given time, many can be effective.

Steps 2 through 6 of my graphic represent stages of putting a strategy into operation. This includes generating the revenue needed to fund the entire operation, not just parts of it. In the military, the troops in combat are supported by a huge supply chain. We don't have such a system supporting all of the organizations working with youth in Chicago. This is the adoption stage of Gene's video.

As the plan rolls out in its first year data is collected showing what happened, and new information is collected showing how others have been trying to solve the same problem in different places. An analysis of this information leads to improvement in the strategy so it works better the second year.
This graphic illustrates this process of constant improvement as “The Problem Solving Loop”. The “Reality” in this process is that complex problems, such as ending poverty, require many years of effort.

One of the articles from my web library is titled, “The cyclical process of action research – The contribution of Gilles Deleuze” This article is part of a web library hosted by Geno Bertini.

One complete sub section of the Tutor/Mentor web library focuses on process improvement, collaboration, knowledge management, visualization, etc.  That map is shown below.

Process Improvement, Innovation, Knowledge Management, Visualization, etc. Open Map
In action research, a situation is identified and a group of people gather to build understanding and propose solutions. An action plan is developed and the ideas are put in to action. When the initial problem is solved, such as getting a business to donate land for a park, a new situation is created, which is “what do we do with the land”. This requires new people, with new expertise.

In numerous reports mentoring is mentioned as a solution. The situation that needs to be addressed is “how do we connect youth and adults and keep them connected long enough for the mentoring to influence the habits and behaviors of the mentee?”

Organized tutor/mentor programs are a solution, but then the “situation” becomes “how do we make these programs available in all of the places where they are needed”.

A variety of mapping platforms are available to support this stage of planning. Maps can include overlays showing indicators, like poverty, violence, poorly performing schools. They can show locations of existing programs. They can even show assets in different parts of the city who should be supporting program growth in different areas. You can find many examples for using maps at

At this stage of the problem solving there are many different “situations” which need to be addressed concurrently. Every organization working to reduce poverty by helping young people move through school and into jobs, or in helping parents earn a wage that enables them to provide more support to their own kids, has the same needs. They all need volunteers, public visibility (advertising), operating dollars, technology, etc.

I've created graphics like this to illustrate the 12 years it takes for a youth to go from first grade through high school. Building funding commitments that sustain this journey in every neighborhood is one of the challenges we need to overcome. One of the PDF essays I've written it titled “tipping points”. It lists some actions that might lead to more and better youth serving organizations in places where they are most needed.

Step 7 of my graphic is one that we struggle with as a country. We fail to keep the issue in front of the public long enough to reach all the people who need to be involved in solving the problem, and we fail to keep them involved for all of the years it takes for great programs to grow in all the places where they are needed, then to grow their impact on youth as they move from first grade to first job, which is a 20 year journey for every youth.

Thus this is another “situation” that requires the involvement of people from many different backgrounds, who innovate ways to communicate ideas and create on-going social purpose advertising, without the same resources that for-profit businesses use to attract customers. Dan Pallotta's TED talk calls attention to this “situation”. Here's a blog article inviting you to be part of that problem solving community.

This is another graphic from my blog. Note how it includes elements from several other graphics that were created earlier. The intent is to show that if we want to solve complex problems we need to influence what resource providers do, not just what social service and education providers do.

As I mentioned above, a major challenge is finding ways to reach more people with these ideas, and doing so with few, or no, advertising dollars. One solution is to engage young people in communicating these ideas.

At this link you can see how an intern from South Korea “hacked” my blog article to create a new video interpretation of the first graphic in this article. Here's a page where you can see a video created by a different intern providing an interpretation of the above graphic.

My hope is that many will do this.

Read the articles about learning and network building on this blog. Every person who shares these ideas helps expand the network of people who get involved and stay involved in providing solutions to poverty in one or more places. As one person learns to hack these ideas in their own efforts, they become a leader who then mobilizes others, rather than a bystander who hoping others “will solve the problem” or who thinks they can build a wall that keeps them and their family safe and not affected.

I do my best with what talent I have to communicate these ideas. I know others can do better. That's why I include links in my articles to other web sites.

Here is the Systems Thinking video which I “hacked” to build this article.

This is one of a series of videos that I hope you'll take time to look at and share with others. Gene does a great job of showing tools to use to create understanding, while also helping us understand how to look at problem solving from a systems thinking perspective.

Here's a section of my web library with links to many other people with great ideas for collaboration, innovation, knowledge management, etc.

Here are more articles with strategy ideas that you can use to build your understanding of the situation and potential strategies to solve the problem.

There are thousands of consultants, writers, educators, etc. who provide tools and ideas that people can use to solve problems. Most of these are “generic”. It's like getting a liberal arts degree but needing to learn what to do when you get a job.

I think students in high schools and colleges could hack work done by people like Gene, and build versions that apply those tools and ideas to solving specific problems.

If you're already doing this, please share. Perhaps future MOOCS will be showcasing such work, and will be helping more people become involved.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

82 shot and 14 killed. The war zone that is Chicago.

This is a guest article, submitted by Dan Cotter, who is Chairman of the Board of the Lawyers Lend A Hand to Youth organization, and 2014-15 President of the Chicago Bar Association. This is his opinion, and not an official statement from either of the organizations where he serves.

We must find a way to stem this violence and to create safe places and alternatives. One way to address the violence is through strong mentoring programs in our disadvantaged communities. Working as a board member of Lawyers Lend-A-Hand over the last decade, I have witnessed the impact that mentoring has on our youth.

A recent example of how powerful mentoring can be occurred at the Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth Spring Awards Dinner on April 30. At the dinner, George, a young man mentored through the Urban Life Skills Program of New Life Centers, spoke of how before joining the program he cared little for anyone else. He literally described himself as a "psychopath." After working with his mentor, he has become a whole new person that "wants to give back."

George is just one example. At an awards presentation by Jeffrey Leving to Passages, we met a number of young men who anxiously await the arrival daily of its executive director. They spoke of how important the mentoring program was to them and described it as a sanctuary from the streets and violence around them.

A dozen years ago, with two young children at home, I wanted to pay it forward for the huge impact mentoring had on my life. From my first mentor, my dad, to my 8th grade teacher, Cheryl Porter, to my high school coach, John Urban, to my college coaches, Tiny Devore and Kelly Kane, to my first boss in law, Mark Wilcox, and first corporate mentor, Paul Hourihan, to my wife, Ann, I have been blessed. So many provided advice, tutoring, and friendship to me. I was beginning to competitively powerlift. I joined the two and came up with Lifting to Lend-A-Hand. In 2002, I raised $2,600. I took 2003 off due to injury but then discovered I was a line item for revenue in the LLAH budget.

The next 9 years, the amount increased each year until we raised $45,000 in 2012. Taking a year off to "allow the organization to find other fundraising avenues," I decided to give it one final push this year as I became CBA President.

Thinking of George and the wonderful work grantees of LLAH perform to provide our future with strong mentoring opportunities, I decided the goal this year would be one year's grants - $100,000. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And think of the number of George's we can help with that amount.

It literally takes not just a village but a city, a state and beyond. You can partner with me. No amount is too small - if 5,000 people gave $20 each, we would hit it; 2,000 people at $50 each, 10,000 @ $10, 1,000 @ $100, etc. With just under two weeks to go, we are about to surpass $50,000 with less than 200 donors. Think of the alternatives if we hit $100,000. A city with less violence and more future. Please I to, hit donate and give what you can. $1, $5, $10. Etc. Dig deep and be part of the collective you that raises $100,000 for mentoring. Thank the mentors who have you their time, talent and treasures. Pay it forward. Yours in mentoring, grateful and thankful for the power of mentoring, The Lifting Lawyer. @lifting2014xi.

Thank you Dan. We need more leaders duplicating your efforts.

In the editorial page of the July 14, 2014 Chicago Tribune, the final call to action says "If Chicago is to conquer this plague of violence in Chicago, the solutions have to come from all of us." The image at the left is from the October 15, 1992 Chicago Sun Times, where virtually the same call to responsibility was issued.

I've been trying to build business and political support for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs for nearly 25 year. This image is from 1990 when Mayor Richard Daley and the CEOs of the Montgomery Ward Corporation and Quaker Oats Corporation visited the tutor/mentor program I led in Chicago. If you view past newsletters, media stories, and blog articles, you'll see a consistent call for leadership that would help mentor-rich programs grow in high poverty areas of Chicago and its suburbs.

This "it takes a village" map is one I've shared for many years, indicating that leaders from every sector need to support the growth of mentor rich programs that help youth through school and into jobs.

Had these ideas been embraced in the early 1990s, perhaps there would be fewer youth out on the streets shooting at each other.

Unless these strategies are embraced in 2014, I fear what the stories will be in 2034.

We need more people like Dan Cotter, doing heavy lifting to raise funds to support tutor/mentor programs, and using his own social media to help me spread this message.