Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Build Great Youth Teams in Every Neighborhood - Role of Intermediaries

Like everyone else in Chicago, I'm celebrating the accomplishments of the Jackie Robinson West Little League team. I'm also watching the Bears and hoping the Cubs and Bulls will put great teams on the field. I have hopes for the White Sox, too. I even cheer for the Blackhawks. I think several million other Chicago area residents have the same thoughts on their minds today.

Thus, I want to draw your attention to the infrastructure that is needed to build great teams.
Then I want to ask you to think of ways volunteers in business, civic and alumni groups, faith groups, etc. can take on roles of fans and team owners to build and sustain great tutor/mentor programs in every high poverty area of Chicago and other cities.

Below is a graphic I've been trying to develop for many years.

The team on the field consists of youth and volunteers who are connected via the efforts of the staff and leaders of organized tutoring, mentoring and learning programs. Youth in poverty face many obstacles, thus the defensive line in this graphic represents some of those obstacles. However, organized tutor/mentor programs in high poverty neighborhoods also face many challenges.

Unless we as a city can overcome these challenges there will be too few Jackie Robinson West type teams and tutor/mentor programs in the many Chicago area neighborhoods where they are needed.

In this graphic, the fans in the stands are people who work in business, attend faith services weekly, attend local colleges, etc. These are the people who support great sports teams by their attendance, by watching on TV, or listening on the radio. They sport teams, and sponsors, by the way they purchase sports apparel, and the way the talk about their teams on a daily basis. These are people who could be volunteering time, talent and dollars to support tutor/mentor programs.

In the sky-boxes are team owners, boosters, investors and others who pay millions of dollars to make great teams the professional level, and at the major college level. Unless we find investors like this to support the growth of great tutor/mentor teams, there will be too few, and there will be few who have long-term commitments to building great teams (think CUBS).

This next graphic shows the role of intermediaries. The articles I write and graphics I create are limited by the talent I have to do this work. The number of people who see these is limited by my own lack of personal visibility and advertising dollars. Thus, if we want more great teams we need more people doing what I do, taking on an intermediary role to help connect people they know with ideas and with programs where they can help implement these ideas.

I send out a monthly email newsletter, with graphics like these, and with links to different sections of my web library. This section points to almost 200 Chicago area youth serving organizations who need support from fans and owners to be world class at what they do.

The goal is that people use the information I'm aggregating to expand the range of ideas they have to support actions they take to help great tutor/mentor teams be available in more places. Volunteers from different places could help create a better design for this newsletter, could write articles, and could create their own versions to circulate this information to their own network of family, friends, co-workers, etc.

Below is an animation that illustrates a role athletes could take on a regular basis to mobilize fans and owners to support constantly improving youth programs in high poverty areas.

This animation, and other videos in my library, could be re-produced in many ways, with hundreds of different athletes, celebrities, etc. giving the message.

This isn't an ICE BUCKET campaign, but if it is given the same attention, the result will be better support of hundreds, or thousands of different youth serving organizations operating in Chicago and other cities.

And ultimately, that will provide more of the support youth need to move through school and into adult lives and careers.

Friday, August 22, 2014

9-Yr Old Executed. Rage in Short Supply

This image is from page 12 of today's Chicago Tribune, which is an article featured on the front page under the headline "Young Life Cut Short Along a Gang Divide".

This second image is from a today's John Kass column, on page 2 of the Chicago Tribune. The headline is "9-year-old boy is executed, but rage is in short supply.

I've written about the Woodlawn Community Area of Chicago in the past, both because of the violence and because it is one of the Promise Neighborhoods intended to support youth throughout the community area. I hope you'll browse some of these articles and see a pattern, and a strategy, that can respond to Kass's "where is the rage" question.

The map (below) is from a December 2011 article. The map shows the location of a shooting, and the location of New Beginnings Church.

In February 2014 (and often since 1994) I've posted stories showing how others can create map stories to "expand the supply of rage" and turn this into a supply chain supporting the growth of youth tutoring, mentoring, learning and jobs programs in high poverty areas.

Here's another based on today's story.

I created this map using the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator. It shows the location where the shooting took place, which is just South of the Woodlawn Community area, in the Greater Grand Crossing Community area. On this map I show community area boundaries, and the number of youth age 6-17 living below poverty in that area. I've been collecting information about Chicago volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs since 1993, and green stars on my maps show locations of programs. You can click on a star and get the program name, and double-click to go to their web site.

This next map is one that looks closer at the neighborhoods around where the shooting took place, and adds information about hospitals, businesses, universities, faith groups, etc. in the area. All of these groups could be connecting to support the growth of non-school tutor/mentor programs in the area. Read this story, which I wrote in 2009, to see that I've been sharing these maps with leaders of initiatives like the Woodlawn Promise Zone Initiative for many years. So far the strategies don't seem to have been adopted, or we would see a growing number of non-school tutor/mentor programs in the area.

While I've been creating map stories to draw attention and mobilize resources for tutor/mentor programs in high poverty neighborhoods since 1994, I'm like John the Baptist. I see a brighter future, but too few people are listening. While media tell these stories from time to time, and writers like Kass call on people to be involved, they don't do this every day, and when they do, they don't point readers to web sites where they can learn more, and find ways to get involved. When they do, they point to single locations, not locations all over the Chicago region.

In this graphic, posted in 2009, I show that while the media post stories every day related to the issues surrounding incidents of violence, they don't connect these stories in ways that point readers to many paths of involvement.

They don't get paid to do this and media don't make money focusing on good news. Thus, where's the solution.

In this article, I show how youth from schools throughout Chicagoland could be creating blog articles just like this one, and for the same purpose. This image is from one of several presentations done by interns working with me in past years.

Anyone can take on the intermediary role that connects people with ideas and brings them together to focus on actions that lead to solutions. Youth can do this.

If writers in various media outlets, and bloggers on social media, encourage young people to become activist and community mobilizers, and show them how to create map stories like this, we can build the reach and frequency, and evangelism, needed to build the supply of rage, and actions, needed over many years to reduce these problems in Chicago, and in other cities around the country.

Use the articles I've posted since 2005 as a lesson plan for creating such stories.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Violence Not Limited to Chicago - Solutions Need to Connect Cities

I was at the St. Louis airport Sunday morning after spending Saturday in Nashville to celebrate the 50th birthday of Leo Hall, who I first met when he was a 4th grader living in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago. I've been Leo's mentor, and he's been my mentor, for 41 years.

While I sat at the airport I browsed the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the stories about the violence in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. This editorial and the extensive media coverage reminded me that the issues of race, poverty, violence and economic inequality are not limited to Chicago.

Nor is this a new problem.

This image is from the editorial page of the April 22, 2014 Chicago Tribune. I have written follow up stories to negative news for nearly 20 years. I've used maps in many of these. Here's the article I wrote following the April 22 Tribune editorial.

Among the many stories in Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch paper was one titled Why Did this Happen Here which included several maps to show how isolated this neighborhood is from surrounding areas.

As with the violence in Chicago, and other tragedies that take place throughout America, media all over the country are writing about this incident. One story from the Washington Post, which was printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was written by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post. In his column Gerson wrote "As America has grown more diverse and prosperous over the last several decades, the economic and social isolation of some communities has only decreased." He goes on to say "As a practical matter, it becomes increasingly difficult to enforce order in the absence of opportunity."

This map of the US, hosted by a site titled Poverty and Race in America, Then and Now, shows that poverty and racial segregation are concentrated in urban areas. You can zoom into this map and create your own map stories of St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, New York or any other major city in the US.

These are not new problems. However, the Internet enables us to connect and understand these problems in ways that never were possible in the past. What we've not yet learned is how to go from talking about the problem to drawing needed talent, technology, dollars, jobs, etc. into each of these poverty areas, and keeping the flow going for a decade or longer. The presentation below illustrates a role young people and volunteers from every part of the country might take to help make this happen.

Building Network to Solve Community Problems: Youth As Leaders by Daniel F. Bassill

As I said, I was in Nashville to help celebrate the 50th birthday of Leo Hall, who I first met in 1973 when I joined the Tutoring Program at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago. In my remarks to Leo's friends and family I emphasized that Leo and I met because others had made the commitment to organize a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program at Wards in 1965 and keep it going for 9 years before I joined it. If they had not done that Leo and I would never have connected. Furthermore, we would not have stayed connected if I and others had not kept the tutoring program at Wards going through 1990, then kept newer versions going through 2011. Tutoring Chicago and Cabrini Connections both still operate today, even though I'm not directly involved with either. Thousands of youth and volunteers have been connected, not just Leo and I. I'm still connected to many via Facebook and other social media.

I use maps to emphasize the need for long-term mentoring and tutoring programs in all high poverty areas of Chicago so more volunteers and youth can connect in long-term relationships. My goal is to draw consistent resources to all of the tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region, not just to the two I've been part of. I reminded the people I spoke with on Saturday that everyone has a responsibility to provide time, talent and dollars to help these programs grow, and that many of us have unique communications talent to draw attention to these programs and neighborhoods where such programs are needed on a daily basis.

That's the message I've put in this blog since I started writing it in 2005. It's the message in printed newsletters since 1993.

This problem is not limited to Chicago, or St. Louis. Yet it is one that people in big cities may understand better than people living in smaller communities and/or rural areas. Thus, I feel that people in big cities need to connect and innovate tools and collaboration strategies that draw needed resources consistently to all of the youth serving organizations and intermediaries who work in each city, while also innovating in an on-going communications effort intended to draw needed resources to youth serving organizations in high poverty neighborhoods of each city.

At the end of every day, look in the mirror and say to yourself what you've done on that day to make this happen.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sharing ideas that help youth serving organizations grow in more places

This is one of nearly 60 strategy presentations that I share in an on-line library. These are not intended to support a single program in one neighborhood, but a network of age appropriate, mentor-rich organizations in every high poverty neighborhood of a metropolitan area.

Collective Effort Required to Support Youth Mentoring Programs by Daniel F. Bassill

As I've created these essays and shared them on blog article, I've encouraged interns and others to look at them and crate their own versions. Visit this page and find work done since 2006.

I encourage others to do the same. Create versions that focus on your city, or your neighborhood in Chicago. As you do that share your versions on your blog and send me a link so I and others can learn from you.

Friday, August 08, 2014

New Attention For Vocational Education

Last night as I took the Blue Line to an event in Chicago I read through my current issue of I found a story titled "The Dream Factory" which showed how Georgia-based Southwire set up a vocational education program for troubled teens. I ripped this story from the magazine and stuffed it into my pocket, aiming to look it up today.

The event I attended was hosted by members of the insurance industry, to give recognition and raise money for a program called InVEST, which provides financial literacy training in public schools.

During the reception I looked for a place to sit and found an older African American man with a great seat by the window. We introduced ourselves and he told me he was superintendent for a school in Milwaukee, with goals of keeping kids in school, reducing violence, and preparing kids for careers. I pulled the Forbes article from my pocket and encouraged him to read it, saying "if we can get the business community strategically involved, we can solve many of our problems".

Today as I browsed my Wall Street Journal, I found another article about this company in Georgia, under the headline "Factory Helps Teens Get Diplomas". I said to myself, if two high profile business publications are giving attention to this, maybe more business leaders will be motivated to try to build similar solutions.

A commitment to business involvement in pulling kids through school and into careers is not a new issue for me. You can see in both of the graphics I've used the role of business volunteers, dollars, technology, ideas and jobs reaching youth at early age then providing age-appropritate mentoring to help youth through high school, then college or vocational training, then into jobs.

This is another graphic I've used for a long time. The hub of this wheel is a youth, and the program that connects a youth with volunteers and a wide range of career opportunities. Such programs need to be located in many places, especially in high poverty neighborhoods where the diversity of adults working in different careers is limited.

As I said, I've been interested in vocational education for many years. One of the books I read in the 1990s, was "Rethinking America" by Hedrick Smith. He showed the same lessons that Southwire is demonstrating. For many young people the job provides the reason to learn math, science and better reading skills. Too many schools that focus on college as the only track don't provide this opportunity for a large number of their students.

I think about ideas like this as a result of becoming a mentor to a 4th grade inner city boy in 1973 through a program organized by employee volunteers at the Montgomery Ward Headquarters in Chicago. I became the volunteer leader of the program in 1975 and continued in that role until 1990 when I left the company and converted the program to a non profit, where I became its first full-time paid executive directory. In 1992 I created a new version of the original program, aimed at helping youth from 7th grade through high school, and led that till 2011. I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to mimic what the corporate office at Wards was doing to support 400 stores all over the country. My goal was to provide better support to all of the non-school tutor/mentor programs in Chicago.

If I had not been involved for so many years, I would not be looking at articles like these and would not be writing a blog encouraging others to become volunteers, then carry these ideas about vocational education and strategic business involvement back to your business.

This blog is organized into sections, so if you view the list on the left side, you can see article written about workforce development, violence, complex problems, etc. Consider this a learning resource for developing stronger tutor/mentor programs and for developing more and better vocational education programs involving businesses in your community.

If you're looking for a place to volunteer, here's my list of Chicago area youth serving organizations. It's organized by sections of the city and suburbs, so you can look for programs close to where you live or work, or on the route that you travel between home and work. In some parts of the region you have multiple choices. In others there are few choices. Some programs are well developed. Some need a lot of help to be well developed. Many need help with financial management. Most need help finding money to manage!

This graphic illustrates that every tutor/mentor program could have a broad range of volunteers and a broad range of learning experiences. Here's a pdf that illustrates this idea and shows how company teams, or volunteers from an industry sector, could take on a role of "virtual corporate office" to help mentor-rich programs grow in more places.

I've written many articles that leaders can use to build and sustain mentor-rich programs and strategies. I hope today's attention in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal will encourage companies to form research teams who will begin reading and reflecting on these ideas.

8-14-2020 update - I've known Dr. Edward Gordon of Imperial Consulting Corporation since late 1990s. His web site contains a wealth of ideas focusing on the connection of school and work. This link points to periodic articles he shares. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Look in your Google mirror!

Occasionally I will do a Google search for "tutor mentor" or "Bassill" to see where my web sites show up on the search and to find others who I don't yet know who may be pointing to my sites. When I do this I also click the "images" button to see what types of graphics show up. Below is a graphic that was among many that I found yesterday.

If you and thousands of others around the world search for "tutor mentor", you'll find my sites on the first page. That means the ideas I share are available to people anywhere in Chicago, or in the world.

In the Google images you can find a page reference for each image, thus you can see how the image is being used. I've put over 100 images on my Pinterest page with links to one page where the image has been used, but this is pretty limiting. I've used some of these graphics over, and over, to illustrate the need for youth mentoring and tutoring programs to be in many places, and for them to have long-term strategies that engage volunteers from diverse work backgrounds.

In the graphic above, I point to stories and media interviews from the early 1990s, showing that I've been giving a consistent message for almost 20 years. In this I'm sort of like John the Baptist, saying "there's a better future" and trying to survive at the same time.

If you're involved in youth development, mentoring, tutoring in any way, I encourage you to search for names of people you feel are leaders in this movement. Look at the images with their profiles. Do you see maps and graphics showing strategy or do you see pictures of them with youth or with other leaders and celebrities?
If you search for my name you'll find some photos of me, like from 1999 when I received the Publisher's Clearing House Good as Gold Award on a year end Montell TV Show. You'll also find photos of me with Leo Hall, who was my mentee in 1973 when I first became involved. He's still my friend today.

However, most of the images are going to be similar to this, showing the role of intermediaries who connect people from their network with programs serving youth in high poverty areas, and with a library of information they can learn from so they are more strategic in how they use their time, talent and dollars.

I've often been told I'm so far out in front that no one can see me. When I look at the images of most people, I see a self promotion, and an emotional appeal. I've not done that and perhaps that's a problem. Unfortunately, too few people are interested in long-term solutions. They want to feel good now.

Yet, as this Huffington Post article about the high costs of high school drop outs shows, we pay a huge price for short term solutions.

The image at the top of the page is from this page, where I'm asking for financial support, partners and investors to help me do the work I do. I'm not operating as a 501-c-3. Thus your support is an investment in reducing the high costs of poverty.