Sunday, November 23, 2014

Involve Youth: Thanksgiving Message

Over the coming week millions of people throughout the USA will gather with family and friends to celebrate and give thanks for the blessings of living in this country. However, a small percent of citizens don't share many of those blessings because they live in high poverty areas of big cities and rural parts of the country.

I've been blessed to be able to lead volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 where inner city youth and volunteers from many different backgroundsconnect on a weekly basis throughout the school year, with a goal of transforming the future for both groups of people involved. I've also been frustrated by how difficult it is to find the consistent operating dollars needed to sustain on-going, constantly improving programs.

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC kin 2011 to help draw needed resources to every non-school tutor/mentor program in the Chicago region, based on the way corporate office teams at big companies like Montgomery Ward (where I worked from 1973-1990) help stores grow all over the country. At Wards I had an annual retail advertising budget of over $250 million to reach out to over 20 million people a week with invitations and motivation to shop at our stores.

As the leader of a single tutor/mentor program, and the leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I had almost no money for advertising, yet the need to attract attention and resources was the same. Thus, as I've created a list of Chicago youth organizations, I've also enlisted volunteers and interns to help build the public awareness of our work.

The Thanksgiving graphic above was created by one of our Cabrini Connections students in 2009. Visit this blog and you can see two graphics created as part of a technology club led by volunteers.

I've had interns from various colleges working with me since 2005, creating visualizations with the same goal. I think youth in many programs could be creating visualizations, videos, blog articles and other forms of "advertising" that could be drawing the attention of potential volunteers and donors on a daily basis, not just during Thanksgiving and the year-end holidays.

If you're doing this kind of work, and showing it on your web site, please send me the link so I can give you attention and help you attract needed resources to your organization, while inspiring others to duplicate your efforts. While you're thinking about this, and counting your blessings, I encourage you to visit this Illinois Gives Big event web site, and browse the list of organizations that you can support on December 2, 2014. Many of these are also listed in my list of Chicago youth orgs. They all can benefit from your help as we move into 2015.

While we don't have traditional advertising we have tremendous talent within our youth and volunteer networks who could be helping attract support to tutor/mentor programs so that every year when we give Thanks, more people have something to be thankful for.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Use of Concept Maps to Show Strategy

Since October 25 I've been posting a series of articles on the Mapping for Justice blog, illustrating my uses of concept maps to show strategies leaders can adopt to build and sustain mentor-rich organizations helping kids living in poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.

These articles, and most on this blog, illustrate the role intermediaries can take to support multiple organizations doing similar work, but in different parts of a large geographic region like Chicago.

Throughout these articles you'll see a constant focus on drawing needed resources (talent, dollars, technology, ideas, etc. directly to each organization already operating and to neighborhoods where more are needed.

Any business leader knows that without a constant flow of operating and innovation resources the business cannot grow, or survive. I continue to seek a few leaders who will add their support, talent and leadership to the ideas I share on these blogs and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site.

If you'd like to help, or learn more, connect with me on one of the social media sites shown in this link.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mentoring: One Size Fits ALL? No.

I've been connected to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership since 1995, before they were THE partnership. I've followed the growth of mentor support networks in many cities, and today received the announcement of the launch of the National Mentoring Resource Center hosted by MENTOR and funded by OJJDP.

I've been trying to use visualizations, like the one below, to show that while every youth needs a mentor, youth living in high poverty areas of big cities need mentors, and a lot more that volunteers can help bring to a youth and his/her neighborhood.

The new Resource Center has a What is Mentoring page. I wish it, along with MENTOR and others who focus on mentoring as part of a strategy to improve the well-being of youth and adults, would create a graphic like the one above, that shows the different types of mentoring, and then shows strategies that focus more narrowly on those types of mentoring.

During the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference last week I encouraged people to do a Google search for the words "tutor mentor" then look at the images. Then do the same for MENTOR, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and any other well known mentoring strategy you know of.

Do the same for the word "tutor".

I'm the only one who seems to be focusing on mentoring as part of a set of actions that help youth move from first grade through school and into jobs, or at least the only one providing visualizations to illustrate how long this takes and how funding and leadership needs to be provided for many years, not just one to three year grant cycles.

I'm also one of the few who consistently uses maps to illustrate that constantly improving, growing, programs need to be reaching youth in every high poverty area of a city. If MENTOR would create it's own set of graphics, perhaps we could begin to build a conversation that focuses on the different needs of kids, based on where they live, and based on what other needs they have.

Instead of saying "Mentoring Works" we should be saying "Mentoring works for specific groups of young people and adults if the right strategy is in place."

This is not intended as a criticism of MENTOR or any other mentoring organization. I wrote this Defining Terms essay almost 15 years ago with the same goal in mind.

I'm sure others could create a better visualization of the different types of mentoring needed, as well as the different strategies that work best for different populations. If someone already has done this, please share.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Value of Intentional Influence - SSIR series

I've been reading, and commenting, on a series of articles on the Stanford Social Innovation Review site, titled The Value of Intentional Influence.

I hope you'll spend some time reading these, then browse back through blog articles I've written on this site, and the Mapping for Justice site, and look at some of the printed newsletters I was sending to 12,000 people in the 1990s.

Here's a graphic that illustrates my goal of influencing what resource providers do, along with what tutor/mentor program leaders do, so every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other cities is filled with great, or constantly improving, non-school programs helping kids move through school and into jobs some day in the future. In this article you can see how I posted this in a blog, then one of my interns from IIT and South Korea, converted it to a video on YouTube.

This is one of many graphics I've created to emphasize the role everyone, or anyone, can take to influence the actions of others.

I've been trying to influence what people do since I became a mentor, then leader of a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in 1973-1975. Actually, I started earlier in college when I was in a fraternity and tried to influence new freshmen every year to join the fraternity. When I came to Chicago in 1973 it was to become a retail advertising copywriter with the Montgomery Ward corporation. For the next 17 years my daily focus was creating advertising that would influence people to shop in one of the 400 retail stores we had in 40 states.

At Wards our annual retail advertising budget in the 1980s was close to $250 million. In the past 20 years my advertising budget has been close to zero. I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 with no money and seven volunteers, and with a primary goal of creating a new youth serving programs to help 7th graders in Cabrini-Green move through high school. I've never had more than $150,000 in a given year for everything the Tutor/Mentor Connection was trying to do, even though my focus was the third largest city in the USA.

Thus, my ability to influence what leaders in industry, philanthropy, media, politics, sports, religion, education, etc. do has been limited, even though writers like John McCarron of the Chicago Tribune recognized the vision I had as early as 1995. See article. In the past three years, as the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC has been my organizational structure, the dollars I have available to influence people has been even less, yet my time has grown since I'm no longer also responsible for leading a non-school tutor/mentor program with 80 pairs of teens/volunteers meeting weekly.

If you want to help youth born in high poverty neighborhoods move from birth to work you need to make a daily effort to influence what others do to provide the talent, operating dollars, technology and ideas to schools and non school organizations working with youth and families in high poverty neighborhoods.

If you want to help me do this work you can go to this page and make an investment in my work. Or you can contact me and explore ways you can become a partner, or even an owner, sharing this influence building effort in your own community.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Follow up to November 7 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

The 42nd Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference since May 1994 was held last Friday. Between 80 and 90 people attended.

Several people took photos, which I'm aggregating into an album.
Here are links to a few albums and stories I've already received. I'll update this blog as I receive more:

JP Paulus of DoGooder Consulting posted photos here.

Steve Sewall wrote this article and posted photos here

Valerie Leonard, posted this article.

Cheryl Howard-Neal posted on the Illinois Mentoring Partnership Facebook page, "Great seeing everyone at the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference today. Lots of great information and a wonderful opportunity to network with other mentoring and tutoring programs. Many thanks to Dan Bassill for organizing and hosting this event."

Jordan Hesterman of Becoming We the People, who is a co-organizer of the conference, posted this comment on her Facebook page.

See conference photos posted by Jordan Hesterman on 11/17. See Twitter Storify created by Jordan.

Darryl Allen of The Mentorship Institute shared this photo of myself and Cliff Wright, Jr. and wrote "It was pleasure to participate and present at the Tutor/Mentor Conference - November 7, 2014. I found the participants very engaging and informed on a variety of topics. The presenters were passionate and knowledgeable in their particular disciplines."

As I receive pdf copies of workshop presentations I'll post them on the agenda page for the conference.

Thank you all who attended. While the next conference will be held on May 8, 2015 at the Metcalfe Federal Location, I hope to connect in one-on-one meetings with those who attended, and those who follow via social media, to talk of strategies that will help make volunteer-based non-school tutor/mentor programs more effective, and available to youth in more places. Just contact me to schedule a meeting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day. Service. How Much is Required?

I served in the Army from 1968 to 1971. I did not do anything special. I was in South Korea my final year. I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal in my final month. That's nothing compared to what millions of men and women in the US Armed Forces have sacrificed to keep this nation free and strong.

Yet, as the photos above show, my service did not end in 1971 when leaving the Army. By a strange set of circumstances I became a mentor working with a boy named Leo in 1973, then leader of a Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program in 1975. In 1993 I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection, with a goal of helping well-organized, ongoing, non-school tutor/mentor programs be available to youth like Leo in all high poverty areas of Chicago. Since 1998 I've been sharing my ideas on the Internet since every major city in the world has small concentrations of poverty where youth grow up without hope for the futures that so many other children take for granted.

In 2011 I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in an effort to continue the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago and support similar intermediary groups in other cities. Since I'm now approaching age 68, my goal has also been to find a place that would continue the work I've been doing in future years.

I just hosted a 42nd Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference since May 1994 and in August, was an honored guest at Leo's 50th birthday celebration.

I've written articles about service and heroes often in the past, often during national holidays like Veteran's Day. I keep asking why people won't sacrifice huge amounts of time, talent and dollars to make America a better place for all families to raise children, not just celebrate the sacrifice men and women give when they fight America's battles on foreign soil.

From 1990 to 2011 I operated under a 501-c-3 tax status, and was able to raise nearly $6 million from companies, foundations, family and friends to support the Cabrini Connections program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Never with any consistency. Since 2011 I've been doing the same work, but under an LLC tax status. I've reduced expenses to bare bones, under $20,000 a year, yet I've operated at a financial loss each year since 2011 due to my inability to find investors, partners and/or supporters who share the same vision and purpose I share in these article, and are willing to support it with time, talent and dollars.

In 2011 I created this "HOPE" graphic, asking supporters to provide funds to support my continued efforts. You can still do that via this page.

Later I created this graphic, saying "If companies can put their name and logo on race car driver uniforms, why won't they do the same for social innovators and people working to create a better future for people in our world?" Read more about this idea.

Unfortunately, while I've had many people praise my work, I've yet to find consistent revenue to operate in the black, or an investor who will designate $25 to $30 million to create a Tutor/Mentor Institute on a college campus, or as a stand-alone organization.

If you're able to help figure this out or make the connection, please do it as your own act of service on this Veteran's Day.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

What Does Knowledge Based Problem Solving Mean?

I attended an event yesterday with about 200 other people, which was focused on making Chicago a better place for kids to grow up. Great speakers, including one from UCAN who hit the nail on the head when he said, "We need consistent funding, and we need if for 10-15 consecutive years."

When I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 the mission was to "gather and organize all that was known about successful non-school tutor/mentor programs and to apply that knowledge to expand the availability and effectiveness of these services to children throughout the Chicago region". Read it here.

I've attended events like yesterday's for more than 20 years. With 50 people in the room few get to talk, or express deeper understanding of problems or solutions. Even in breakout sessions, the person taking notes does not capture, or communicate, most of what was said. I remember when the Wallace DeWitt Foundation was giving out huge grants to cities in the early 1990s. The decision making was based on what people could bring to the table from their own experiences, not all the information that was available to them. I think that's still the case.

I've often tried to explain the purpose of the information I collect, by using the analogy of a "hospital operating room" where the operation is performed in an amphitheater where hundreds of others are watching. I found this graphic in a Wall Street Journal ad, and it communicates the idea visually.

I hope you'll follow this progression of thinking, because it applies to helping cities like Chicago solve complex problems.

1) At the start of the "operation" two people are bent over a patient (a problem like violence?). As long as the expertise they both have is enough to do the operation, they continue. (This photo is from an improvisation workshop in spring 1993, during the first year operations of the Cabrini Connections program I founded and led until 2011.)

2) However, as usually is the case, something occurs where the two doctors on the floor, don't know the answer. They say to the audience, "Do any of you know how to solve this problem?" Someone says "I do" and they join the two on the floor. As this continues to happen, new ideas are brought to the operation and the group on the floor grows.

3) At some point, no one in the amphitheater knows the answer. However, someone says, "I know someone who does know the answer. I'll find them and invite them to join the group." Once that happens, the operation continues.

4) Eventually, a problem will arise that no one knows the answer, or knows anyone else who has ever dealt with that particular problem. Someone high in the gallery says, "I'm starting a PhD course at the local university. I'll look into this and when I find an answer I'll bring it to the group." Several people, in universities, or in business, could be doing research on that problem.

I've been looking for people with experiences and information that could help people in Chicago build systems of support that help youth in poverty move through school and into jobs since I launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. I'd been doing this informally since I started leading a tutor/mentor program at the Montgomery Ward Headquarters in Chicago back in 1975. Below is a map of the information in my "knowledge" library.

This information has been growing for 20 years. It's been available to leaders in Chicago and other cities for that long. It went on the Internet in 1998. Yet, too few seem to value the role information has to support innovation and problem solving. That means when I go to events where people are gathering to "solve the problem" of education, violence, workforce development, health disparities, etc, few are even aware that my library exists.

The process does not effectively capture the knowledge of everyone in the room, or of others who may be in other cities and countries. Yet anyone could be building a web library, with links to ideas and resources they find valuable, and with links to other web libraries. This concept is outlined in the PDF showing the goal of a "Tutor/Mentor Learning Network" which I've been trying to build since 1993.

The critical idea in this PDF is that since few of us have advertising dollars, we need to take daily actions that draw attention to everyone in the network of information and ideas, not just to our own organization, no matter how powerful we are. As speakers have emphasized over, and over, "No one can solve this problem by themselves."

I've devoted one entire section to collaboration, knowledge management, visualization, innovation, etc. You can enter it via this map. This section could be curriculum for school, or non-school, youth programs, where volunteers from business and universities help youth learn these skills, and learn to apply them in their own efforts.

One set of blog articles that I point to focuses on "online learning, MOOCs, etc." The ideas in these sections can help enhance the process and group is using to solve Chicago's problems, regardless of if the connect with me or not.

Below is another visualization that I've created to illustrate the role knowledge, or work done by others, can take in supporting the constant improvement of work everyone is doing to help youth born in poverty move through school and into jobs and careers.

Using Ideas to Stimulate Competition and Process Improvement - Concept Paper by Daniel F. Bassill

I've hosted a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference every six months since 1994 to help draw attention to information in this library, and to encourage people represented by the links I point to to connect, share ideas, and build relationships with each other.

The next is Friday, November 7 at the Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago. If you care about the same issues as I focus on, I hope you'll attend. If you have the ability, I invite you to become a sponsor. Help me continue to build and share this knowledge library, and keep it freely available to Chicago and other cities.