Monday, September 29, 2014

Can Billionaires Adopt Neighborhoods of Chicago?

I just saw a story in the Chicago Tribune showing that 17 people from Illinois are on the 2014 Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the US. A CBS report lists these people.

Now I understand that I've been tilting at windmills for a long time, but what if these 17 people divided the Chicago region and each pledged $10 million a year to support general operations of youth and family serving organizations in different sections of the Chicago region? This map illustrates the idea.

This money would not go to hospitals, universities, museums, religious groups (unless it is to operate a youth organization), nor would it go to political campaigns. The money would focus on high poverty areas using maps being produced by many different organizations to show health, education, poverty, violence, unemployment and other indicators. The money would not go to schools, either. If we change the support systems around the schools I feel more kids will come ready and motivated to learn. Maybe they will already have learned to learn, with the help of mentors in a non-school program that has a technology lab and volunteers from Google, Microsoft, Bank of America and other companies in the region.

If the richest people anchor such a commitment, those slightly less wealthy, like CEOs who earn more than 330 times low paid workers and more than 774 times what minimum wage workers earn, might also make on-going financial commitments to the same neighborhoods. See CEO Pay articles here and here.

How would donors choose who to support? This Shoppers Guide suggest information that could be on an organization's web site. Many of the youth serving organizations in Chicago neighborhoods may not collect this type of information, or have the ability to put it on web sites and in blog articles. The investments made by financial leaders should be intended to help every existing organization get the ideas, talent and resources to grow to be considered world class at what they do. That includes communicating what they do so volunteers, parents and donors can decide who to support, and so other programs can learn from what the best programs have already figured out how to do.

New organizations should form, using this investment, to fill voids in places where more programs, or certain types of programs, are needed. Maps should show where donor commitments are being made, and should show a growth of needed programs over the next 10-15 years, then a decline in the need for such programs as a result of this consistent investment.

Perhaps after 30 years there will be new problems that need this investment, but providing a support system that helps families and neighborhood schools help kids be better prepared for 21st and 22nd century roles, should not be needed in many places if such consistent, flexible investment is made for so many years.

Esquire Magazine has launched a Mentoring Project, with highly visible people talking about "who mentored them". Maybe they could champion my idea of wealth people adopting poverty neighborhoods with consistent financial support that matches their verbal support.

If ideas like this appeal to you, why not come to the next Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago on Friday, November 4 and introduce yourself. Or connect with me on one of these social media spaces.

Perhaps one of these wealthy leaders would want to put their name on the Tutor/Mentor Institute? If you dream it, maybe it can become a realty.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Celebrating achievements of Chicago tutor/mentor programs

Over this past weekend I had the pleasure to be the guest of two Chicago youth serving organizations who were celebrating milestones.

One was the Youth Service Project (YSP) which operates out of a converted storefront at 3942 West North Avenue. Their Facebook page shows they have been active since 1975.
YSP was celebrating a youth technology/job training program, called "igniTechLab" which it had operated this past summer. About 30 people, including youth, parents and volunteers were treated to an overview of the program, and three presentations by youth, who showed what they had learned from the program. Two teens showed how to build a web page without using formats like DreamWeaver or FrontPage.
Two others talked of the music lab they had set up on the second floor and the documentary of life in Humboldt Park that they were working on. The project leader described how she had built the curriculum from scratch after receiving a government grant. She was not sure how the project would continue since no source of funding has yet been found.

On Saturday, I attended the 50th year celebration of the tutoring program at 4th Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, right across from the Water Tower shopping center. The celebration was held in a elegant new building which must have cost several million dollars to build. When I first connected to this program in 1974 it was not known by its current name of Chicago Lights Tutoring.

From 2 till 3pm myself and 200 to 300 former and current volunteers, friends of the program and current and former students were encouraged to walk through the classrooms devoted to the tutoring program on the 5th floor of the Gratz Center which is the new addition to the church's mission. This program serves more than 400 pairs of youth and volunteers annually, and has had that enrollment for over 40 years at least.

I was delighted to see the timeline posted on the wall of one of the classrooms showing roots going back to the mid 1960s. The program I led at the Montgomery Ward headquarters on Chicago Avenue started at about the same time. This time line shows how I joined it in 1973 as a volunteer and became the leader in 1975. It shows that in 1976 I began inviting leaders of area programs, including 4th Presbyterian Church, to gather monthly for lunch and to share ideas. This networking eventually led to the formation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.

At 3pm all of the guests of the Chicago Lights Celebration gathered in a large chapel where we first heard Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, talk about how important mentoring and the attention of just one caring adult can be in the life of a child growing up. When I sat in my seat at the start of the 3pm session I was surprised to find myself sitting next to Bob Greene, a former Chicago Tribune writer, who wrote some great stories about the tutoring program at 4th Presbyterian Church, like this one.

Two of the veteran volunteers who spoke gave direct credit to Bob's stories for their becoming involved in the program. I'm not sure what percent of total volunteers stay with the program 5, 10 or 15 years, but it seems that they have many long-term veterans, demonstrating a well organized program. I kept hearing from volunteers "I've gained more from this than I think my mentee did."

During the next 90 minutes I heard volunteers and student alumni talk about how important the Chicago Lights Program had been in their lives. This resonated with me because every year since 1973 I've been part of a similar gathering of youth, parents, volunteers. This video is from one of those.

Find more videos like this on Tutor/Mentor Connection
You can see many more Cabrini Connections videos here.

When I sat next to Bob Greene I reminded him that I had reached out to him in the 1990s asking him if he'd tell stories of the other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, not just the great one operating on Michigan Avenue. When I've met with leaders and organizers of the 4th Presbyterian Church program over the last 40 years I've encouraged them to build an active outreach to motivate and teach faith groups from the entire Chicago region to partner and support the growth of well funded, mentor rich programs like the one they operate.

This is one of many maps I've made showing the density of faith groups in the Chicago region. Many of those operating in poverty areas don't have the wealth of churches operating on Michigan Avenue or in the North, West and South suburbs of Chicago. However, those who do have such wealth, of talent, not just money, could make a commitment to help at least one high poverty neighborhood build a program that in 50 years would be considered one of the best in the country of helping kids from poverty connect with a wide range of adults who helped them grow up and move into adult roles and careers.

Alex Kotlowitz said of the Chicago Lights program "It's a miracle that uses shared time to turn strangers into families" and "this program changes lives of youth and volunteers".

One of the later speakers said "It's not so important to bring a child into the world as it is to make a difference in the life of a child."

It takes the vision, and commitment, of many people from many sectors to help make this happen. As we move through this school year I hope many will read the ideas I've shared on this blog and look at web sites of different youth tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicago and make a commitment to help at least one.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Building teams to support non profit sector orgs

The map below illustrates a key challenge small non profits and social enterprises face. They need a wide range of talent and skills but don't often have the ability to find and recruit such talent, or to keep it for many years.

I have written many articles on this topic, such as this one, since this is the most important challenge keeping us for solving some of the complex problems facing our world.

I'm seeking this same range of talent to support my own efforts to help youth in high poverty areas move through school and into jobs and careers. If you're in the Chicago region, we can meet at a coffee shop, or in the LOOP, or at the next Tutor/Mentor Conference on Friday, November 7.

If you're from a beyond Chicago, anywhere in the world, we can connect on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum, or on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook, as well as by email or Skype. This page provides links and contact information.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

45 Years a Tutor/Mentor and Still Going Strong

Here is photo of Sean Mayfield and AJ Tyson. I've known Allen for 40 years since he was already a two-year veteran tutor when I joined the tutoring program at Montgomery Ward in 1973. Allen sent me this message last week to update me on the progress of a student he worked with in the Cabrini Connections program from September 2006-June 2012:

"I met with Sean recently and he's working at Weber Grill and will be entering his second year in college this fall. I tutored Sean for 8 years through the Tutoring Chicago and Cabrini Connections programs in Chicago. He always came to tutoring on time and with his homework. He is a bright young man. I was able to help him get a job interview at Weber Grill through one of my contacts. He got the job on his on. I'm very proud of him. He's doing well there. He will continue his studies in Chicago this fall. I've stayed connected with his Mom and Grandmother even though he finished high school in June 2012.

I'm now back at the Tutoring Chicago program and starting my 45th year of mentoring with my student from last year, Davion Willis. Erin McPartlin is the director and she's the one that got Sean and I together eight years ago when the program was called Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc."

I asked Allen if he was now raising money for Tutoring Chicago just as he did for Cabrini Connections when he was a volunteer there. He said, "Yes. I raised close to $10,000 last year."

Why does he continue to tutor, and why does he raise money for the programs? He said "I enjoy it! Once you're connected and see the benefit of what you do, it's easy to ask people you know to help."

I've included graphics like this on my blog for many years to illustrate the need to connect with youth when they are young, and stay connected to them for many years. Allen's involvement started with Sean when Sean was in 5th or 6th grade. It still continues today, after Sean has finished high school. In our conversation today Allen told me how he's reaching out to kids he tutored in the 1970s via Facebook. I'm doing the same. In this article I show how I've been connected to my first mentee for 40 years!

In this graphic I'm illustrating the need for volunteers from many industries to be involved in tutor/mentor programs all over the Chicago region, and for some of those volunteers to grow their involvement so they a) help kids into jobs, and b) help programs attract the operating dollars needed to keep these connections in place.

Allen and I both have longterm histories because the programs we were part of provided great support, and managed to survive on inconsistent funding and tremendous levels of volunteer involvement for all of these years. Just to be clear, I was the volunteer leader of the Montgomery Ward program from 1974 to 1990 and led the conversion into a non profit in 1990. I led it until October 1992 when I and six other volunteers left to create the Cabrini Connections program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC). I led the CC program till June 2011 when I left and formed Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in order to continue the T/MC after the strategy was dropped from the Cabrini Connections program.

My ideas and passion come from leading these two programs and from the constant struggle to find and keep operating resources that were essential to supporting the involvement of hundreds of pairs of youth and volunteers.

I point to the Lawyers Lend A Hand to Youth via blog articles not because they are great, but because they have been working at raising money to support tutor/mentor programs in multiple locations for nearly 20 years! I want more legal and professional groups to duplicate this, and do it better! That's the only way to help more tutor/mentor programs grow. We need to build a generation of leaders who are proactive in what they do every day to encourage volunteer involvement and support it with dollars and talent from other volunteers.

I've written about this often and have probably spent more time thinking about this than most people in America. I really appreciate it when people like Steve Sewall, Mark Carter, Betsey Merkel, Kelly Fair, Steve Braxton, the Jefferson Awards Program and others post articles on their sites helping people understand what I'm doing.

Just as individual programs cannot operate effectively on an on-going basis without financial support, neither can I or other intermediaries.
If you want to help me, a tax deductible donation can be make as a conference sponsor, using this link.

If you're not concerned with the tax deduction, or my tax status (I'm a LLC) with no revenue, then use this form and become a supporter.

If you're a long term volunteer like Allen, I encourage you to create a blog and share your story. Encourage others to get involved, and encourage others to provide the talent and financial support every single tutor/mentor program in Chicago or any city needs to support these long-term connections.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Expanding Network in Chicago

Last Thursday I attended the UIC Urban Forum in Chicago. As I listened to speakers many of the ideas resonated with me and I began building a list of follow ups. I encourage you to visit the web site to see the list of speakers, read the white papers, etc.

One of the panel members was NBA Hall of Fame Star Isiah Thomas, who grew up in Chicago. His comments were challenging. He said "This is about compassion, love and engagement, not a data issue." "When we start disinvestment in communities we take sports and play out of a community." "We're dancing around an issue of poverty and segregation." If you search #urbanforum on Twitter you can read some of what I heard.

Then on Friday and Saturday I attended the Chicago School of Data event hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaboration over two days people talked about collecting, organizing, mapping and visualizing data, with the important focus of "how do we use this data?".

I was one of a minority of the 300-plus participants of the Urban Forum who was posting Tweets to my timeline as the conference took place, using hashtag #urbanforum.

The organizers of the Chicago School of Data event hired bloggers, social media experts, film makers, etc who were active throughout both days collecting interviews and posting Tweets under the hashtag #chidata. Here's a RivetNews radio interview.

As I attended the Urban Forum I wrote in my notes "Where do people meet to follow-up on the various ideas shared by panel members?" The organizers of the Chicago School of Data event answered part of this by posting meeting notes in this Google Drive space.

Both web sites include agendas with bios of speakers. The School of Data event included a roster of participants, with links to their organizations. This seems like a real effort to support connections among participants.

I hope in future events organizers will use maps to show participation, such as the maps I've created to show who has been attending Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences. In fact, I created a concept map to suggest how participants in events like these could be mapped to show what areas they focus on, not just who they are.

If we can get more of the people who attend these events into on-going conversation and brainstorming, and bring donors in to help fund our individual efforts so we have time to participate in collective efforts, we can unleash a tremendous amount of talent toward making Chicago's future bright for all of its residents.

I encourage you to bookmark this article. As the hosts of these events provide follow up information I'll post links on this article.

Recap posted 9/24 on Escaped Notice blog

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Knowledge Based Problem Solving - What is it?

I've been trying to find an elevator speech that quickly communicates what I do to corporate and philanthropic leaders, and I continue to struggle to do that. Last night in an event at JPMorgan Chase I simply said, "while you're on the airplane search for "tutor mentor" on Google and my sites will be on the first page. Spend some time looking at the sites and perhaps you'll form your own understanding. Click on the images feature, and look at maps and graphics I've created.

That's probably not a good tactic, but I'm working in a field that does not have a lot of understanding of knowledge management and innovation, especially applied to social sector involvement. In early September I attended an event where a business leader said "most CEOs don't understand, or embrace knowledge management".

Wow. No wonder I have been struggling to gain consistent business and philanthropic support for nearly 20 years.

My problem is compounded by the fact that I'm talking in dimensions. I use maps to show all of the places in Chicago where kids need extra support that organized tutor/mentor programs can provide. I use graphics that show the 12-16 years of continued support kids need to move from first grade to first job. I use other graphics to show the range of people who could be helping, as well as the variety of age appropriate supports kids need at every age level.

Too few people are thinking this way. If they are, they are not connecting with me.

I've been creating illustrated essays to communicate my ideas. Below are two. If you're on an airplane or stuck in a hotel, I hope you'll look at these and want to meet so we can talk about how you and a team of your employees/friends might begin to dig deeper into this information and apply it in your own actions.

Solving problems requires consistent long-term impact. This is what a "vertical" network would do.

Vertical Horizontal Networks and Social Problem Solving by Daniel F. Bassill

Innovation is enhanced when you can look at what other people are already doing to solve the same problem you have been trying to solve. In this PDF step one focuses on knowledge management while steps two and three focus on ways to increase the number of people involved in this problem solving, and who help people use the knowledge to support youth, and youth serving organizations in many neighborhoods of big cities like Chicago.

Problem-Solving Strategy-Explanation and Overview by Daniel F. Bassill

These are two of many essays in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC Library. Form a circle of interested volunteers and begin to dig into this information, then apply the ideas in ongoing efforts to help every youth born in a high poverty neighborhood today be starting a job and career by their late 20's.

I am available to help guide you, and your team, through this information and help you understand how it is intended to be used.

If you figure out an "elevator speech" to introduce this, please send it to me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Increase flow of operating resources to needed youth orgs

This is a graphic I've used many times to illustrate how people from any part of the Chicago region can be encouraging friends, co-workers, family, etc. to support tutor/mentor programs in high poverty neighborhoods with time, talent and/or dollars.

This is a graphic showing the home page of the Boston Indicators Project which I wrote about in an article on the Mapping for Justice blog. I hope you'll read the article and see how this site provides information about 10 different issue categories relevant to the Boston area, and points to a Giving Common, where donors can search the same ten categories to find organizations working in those categories which they can support.

In a number of articles I've written since 2012 I've pointed to MOOCs, like the Education, Technology and Media #ETMOOC, as forums where people from many places can connect around specific topics.

I think a next step for Boston, and other cities who might want to duplicate what Boston has done, or do it better, would be to create MOOCs around each of the 10 issue categories, and timed at different times of the year so they support what people are thinking about and what programs are doing at different times.

Thus, a MOOC focused on education, violence prevention, youth and workforce development, etc. might have events in August/Sept as school is started, and November/December when non profits are looking for donations. Events in Jan/Feb would help convert some of the volunteers who join programs in September into leaders, and help recruit replacements for those who have dropped out. A May/June MOOC might celebrate what has been done during the year, share best practices, and remind everyone that programs need to repeat and be in more places the following year since kids only go through school one year at a time, and cities like Chicago have too few programs where they are most needed.

I hope you'll share these ideas and read others I've posted on this blog since 2005. Follow the links to do your own deeper learning, or to create a study group in your family, business, faith group, etc. so more people use this information to support their on-going involvement in tutoring/mentoring, or in any other issue important to the well-being of Chicago, the USA or the world community.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Climate Change March, Sept. 21, 2014

What issue has the most potential to unite people from around the world to fight against inequality? Climate Change. I encourage you to view this film, then plan to share it with youth and volunteers in your tutor/mentor programs. While we all seek ways to inspire youth to learn, many realize we need to provide a reason to learn and engage with others. Building in a "climate change" study/activism group within a tutor/mentor program could offer many longterm benefits to youth and volunteers, and to the larger community.

What I like about this video is how it shows that climate change is an issue that unites many different movements, such as income inequity, social justice, poverty reduction, jobs creation, political inequity, health disparities, etc. It also reflects a long-term vision and understands how difficult it is to recruit and retain deep involvement of millions of people, over many decades of work. I understand this from my own efforts to engage people who don't live in poverty, including my own family, college classmates, and hometown friends, in my own efforts to help build systems of support for inner city youth.

I host a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference every six months. The next is November 7, 2014 in Chicago. I invite someone involved with the climate change movement to organize a workshop sharing ideas for ways the ideas in this video could become organized activities within many tutor/mentor and non-school learning programs in Chicago and other cities. To present a workshop, fill out the form on this page.

Learn more about the Climate Change March, and this movement at

Monday, September 08, 2014

Building a Distribution of Influence

At any given time of the year it's not hard to find a story about a company or foundation providing a grant to support a youth serving organization in Chicago or another city. At some times you might even find stories showing how a group of people, like professional football players, are encouraging people to volunteer at one or more youth serving organizations in a city.

However, how often do you see corporate leaders, or groups like the National Football League, or National Basketball Association, show maps on their web sites, as part of strategies intended to help well-organized, long-term youth mentoring, tutoring and learning programs grow in every high poverty neighborhood of a city?

I use maps, like the ones below, to show the entire city of Chicago, so leaders will create strategies that distribute volunteer talent, company technology and ideas, and flexible operating dollars to programs in every neighborhood, so each has the resources to constantly grow its impact.

I include maps in on-line essays like this one, which can be used in any organization to inspire their own thinking of ways to influence the growth of programs that help kids move through school and into jobs and careers.

Virtual Corporate Office: Strategy for Helping Youth Tutor/Mentor Programs Reach Youth in More Places. by Daniel F. Bassill

If you search Google for the words "tutor mentor" and look at the images page, you'll see dozens of graphics like the one below, which have been created to communicate ideas that can be adopted by many leaders, from many different types of organizations. You can see a collection of these on Pinterest, and in many of the articles from this blog.

This graphic shows a quarterly communications/event strategy that needs to repeat year after year in order to increase the amount of dollars and volunteers available to youth tutoring/mentoring organizations in a city, or in the country. It shows that if visible leaders, like the President, add their own voice, more people will respond.

I led a tutor/mentor program from 1975 to 2011 and used the web site to share ideas like this. While that program is still operating, it has a new web site and limits the information it shows about what it does. I host a link to that program, and nearly 200 other Chicago youth serving organizations in this section of my web library.

If you look at every one of these web sites you'll see that some do a great job of signaling what they do, while others give only limited information. However, few include a blog like this one, where they talk about the need for mentor-rich programs in more places than their own, or where they talk about the challenges they face, and ways volunteers, donors and/or business partners could help them overcome those challenges.

I hope my own example inspires others to create articles like this on their own web sites, and that it inspires talent from industry to help programs tell their stories and build great programs. Here's an article posted last week by Mark Carter, who leads a consulting company in Chicago. And this web site of an organization on Chicago's West site shows support for the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences.

School has started and while a few kids will be lucky enough to be part of a great tutor/mentor programs, many kids will not be as fortunate, and even more kids won't even have a program within a few blocks of where they live.

If more people write articles like these, more kids will begin to have great programs available to them.