Monday, April 27, 2015

After the Riots. Do the Planning.

Since 1994 I've been following media stories that focus on violence, poor schools, inequality and police violence with stories that focus on the planning needed to build and sustain "birth to work" solutions in high poverty neighborhoods throughout the city. With the weekend riots in Baltimore, I want to emphasize this again.

Do the planning.

Here are some reminders.

In 1992, the Los Angeles riots were the featured headline, following the police beating of Rodney King. In one of the follow up articles, Jonathan Peterson of the Los Angeles Times, wrote "L.A. Riots' Wake-up Call Fell Mostly on Deaf Ears. He quoted Stuart Eizenstat saying 'We are not very good as a country in dealing with long term problems, except when they present themselves as a crisis.'

In a follow up, shown in a Nov. 1, 1992 Chicago SunTimes, article, Peterson was quoted as saying "Many Americans hoped that, some how, the stubborn dilemmas of crime and poverty that so dehumanize urban life would be tackled with a renewed public will. Yet, except for a flurry of local efforts, nothing much has happened."

I combined these quotes with this August 1993 Chicago SunTimes story, which leads off with a statement saying "Chicago neighborhoods that were poor 20 years ago are even more entrenched in poverty today because the city lacks a comprehensive battle plan".

This article concludes "While Chicago has “had all these sincere people making good efforts, one group working on poverty, one on education reform, one on community policing, these problems are too interwoven and too immense. The city needs all anti-poverty efforts “at the same table”.

Here's another story, from 1997 where Ariana Huffington writes "We can give ourselves a cozy feeling of cheaply acquired nobility by apologizing for past injustices. Or we can stop patting ourselves on the back and cross the tracks top the other side of town to take small, concrete, unglamorous steps to end present-day suffering.

I included the reminders from 1992 with both of these. My media file contains dozens of stories showing the problems caused by intense poverty and lack of consistent leadership and commitment.

I've used this graphic often, to show the need for leaders and citizens to do "deeper learning" as part of a planning and action process. See it in this 2007 article ....written 8 years ago!

I first used this graphic in a 2012 article. It shows a planning process that could be used by leaders in any community. Note that Step 7 focuses on building and maintaining public support. I think this step keeps getting skipped as we talk about responses to stories about violence, police brutality, etc.

I've been trying to bring people together, and build continuous focus on these issues since 1994. I created this presentation in 1998 following my participation in the 1997 President's Summit for America's Future. I've never been able to build, or sustain, consistent support for this strategy in Chicago. However, any leader, in any other city could adopt these ideas, as a "fresh, new approach" and perhaps 10 years from now report on successes made in that city.

If you're interested in these ideas, or getting acquainted, I encourage you to attend the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference that I'm hosting in Chicago on May 8. Registration fees are minimal. Bring a group and I'll give you a deal. See for details.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Your Zip Code Should not Determine your Future

Great video shared by Generation All today.

Reading "Our Kids" book by Robert Putnam? Join discussion

I posted articles about Robert Putnam's new book, "Our Kids" the American Dream in Crisis" in three March 2015 articles, starting here.

Bryan Alexander is leading a discussion of this book, chapter by chapter, starting here. I encourage you to join in. As you do, refer back to my own articles that focus on actions individuals, corporations, faith groups and political leaders need to take to help close the opportunity gaps.

For instance "mentoring" is mentioned as a solution, and faith communities are encouraged to take a lead. I focus on volunteer based tutoring and mentoring as part of organized programs operating in high poverty neighborhoods. It's the programs that make one-on-one connections possible, and make connections to other forms of learning and experience also possible.

I started following Putnam several years ago after reading his book, titled "Bowling Alone". I see mentoring as a form of "bridging social capital". The positive impact grows over time and is enhanced with organized programs make a wide range of mentors available to youth, and keep the youth and volunteers connected for multiple years.

Building the flow of talent and resources to make good programs available in more places should be part of the discussion when reading "Our Kids" and similar books.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Creating Learning Orgs to Solve Complex Problems

This is a graphic I've used for many years to illustrate work I've been doing. At the top of this pyramid is a goal we all want. At the bottom is information aggregated by myself and others that can be used to support the work of everyone else in achieving this goal.

This is a different version of the graphic. Again, an information library is the base of this pyramid. However, getting more people to find and use this information, helping them understand it, then motivating them to provide time, talent, dollars in one or more places where the problem is concentrated, are three additional steps in a 4-part problem solving strategy I've developed over the past 20 years.

This is a third version, that emphasizes the importance of maps, to assure that resources, and solutions, are supported in every high poverty area of the Chicago region (or other cities of the world). Without using maps you don't know where the problem is, or if solutions and resources are available in all of those places.

These last two graphics also illustrate that connecting people who can help to places where help is needed, is an active, on-going process and a role that needs to be well funded, and shared by many people.

This is a map showing intermediary organizations focusing on the well-being of youth in the Chicago region. I'd like to see each of them including visualizations like I'm showing here, to illustrate how they are focusing their followers on information they can all use to help youth in Chicago have greater opportunities.

Every city should have a map like this, and institutions like universities, should have maps like this, showing all the people focused on the same problem, but from different perspectives. Youth could be creating such maps. They could also be part of the communications process that shares ideas across networks and encourages people to gather and build relationships. They can be mobilizes of volunteers and donors at key times each year, or create stories following negative news.

I've written dozens of articles since 2005 tagged with "learning". I hope you'll spend time reading, reflecting and sharing these.

I've been sharing these ideas for many years, but have not had any luck at attracting, or retaining, a benefactor who shares the vision and has the money to support the work. If you can help, I'd like to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mapping Philanthropy - BMA Funders Map

If you've followed my articles you'll see that I'm passionate about mapping data that supports the growth of mentor-rich, volunteer based tutoring, mentoring and learning programs in high poverty areas. This graphic shows a the home page of the BMA Funders mapping platform. It's an innovative, interactive map, showing funding of programs that "offer Black men and boys in the U.S. greater access to the structural supports and opportunities needed to thrive. "

I encourage you to get to know this platform and learn to use it. At the same time, read the article I wrote at the Mapping for Justice blog, showing how this compares to the Tutor/Mentor Program locator map platform that I've been developing since the early 2000s.

I have been aggregating links to program locators and mapping platforms for more than a decade, with the goal that anyone building one of these would borrow ideas from others who are doing similar work. Better yet they might collaborate on efforts to secure funding, and technology talent, to help each other build the best platforms possible.

Finally, they might also collaborate on enlisting students from high schools, colleges, faith groups and existing youth tutor/mentor programs, to be story tellers, using the maps and the data to educate policy makers, donors and other volunteers so funding reaches every poverty neighborhood, and supports a wide range of needed youth and family supports.

If you're interested in helping me, or learning from my 20 years of experience, let's connect.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Be Part of the Tradition. Tutor/Mentor Conference First held in 1994

In January 1994 a survey identified 120 organizations in the Chicago area who offers various forms of non-school, volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring. The survey included two questions related to 'how much contact do you have with peers and do you want more' and 'would you come to a conference'. 80% of respondents said there is "some need or a great deal of need" for increased contact. When asked, "How likely is it that you would attend a city-wide conference with other Tutoring/Mentoring providers for minimal or no fee?", 68% said they were were "very likely to attend" and an additional 22% were "somewhat likely to attend" See survey responses.

So a first conference was held in May 1994. 70 people attended and the first printed Tutor/Mentor Chicago Programs Directory was distributed. Feedback was enthusiastic, so a second conference was held in November 1994. 200 people attended and the conference has been held every six months since then.

This video shows what past participants have said about the conference.

Conference Capacity from Cabrini Connections on Vimeo.

In 2011 a DePaul University graduate created network maps, showing participation of organizations in the 2008 and 2009 conferences. I'm part of a 2015 Information Visualization MOOC (#IVMOOC) being hosted by Indiana University, and a team of students is now looking at all 42 conferences to create similar participation maps. See more here.

I've been writing articles about network building for many years, showing how important this is, and seeking funders/investors who would support my own efforts.

The Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conferences are part of a 40-year effort at building networks of support for youth via non-school tutor/mentor programs operating in high poverty neighborhoods. The next is Friday, May 8, 2015 and I hope you'll attend, or encourage others to attend.

However, I hope you'll also check back to see the network maps that are created to show the past 42 Tutor/Mentor Conferences. My goal is that others who host events that gather dozens, or hundreds, of people and focus on poverty, inequality, education, violence, health, workforce development and democracy, will begin to build participant mapping into their own events and that they will share their maps in public space, showing who is participating, how participation grows and who still needs to be participating.

Such maps can become a link between people who are now working in separate silos, but toward the same goals. They can be an accountability tool, showing the year-to-year success event organizers have in attracting key participants, and keeping them involved. They can also be an accountability tool motivating those who need to be participating, but currently don't show up, to get more involved.

Here's an example:

Look at more conference maps to expand your understanding of what's possible using maps.

Then look at this Talent Map The conference maps show who attended, by category. You can quickly see that business, political groups, funders, media and many other sectors represented on my maps have not been attending the Tutor/Mentor Conferences. That's a problem for me, and for kids in Chicago.

However, it might not be a problem for Chicago if other organizers, were able to show participation maps for their events, indicating that the people not attending my conferences are attending their events.

So far, I don't know of anyone who is doing this. Thus, how do we know if the "village" is completely represented in efforts to help end poverty, provide greater opportunity, and solve other related, complex problems that we face in Chicago?

If you're interested in talking with me about these ideas, or inviting me to be part of your planning, let's find time to connect.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

America needs central-city and suburban residents to unite in a new coalition to support shared prosperity.

I have been using maps since 1994 to show places in Chicago where people live in concentrated poverty. My efforts have aimed to engage people from beyond poverty in deeper learning that builds their own involvement in solutions to poverty, as solutions that affect the future of their own kids and grand-kids.

This quote "America needs central-city and suburban residents to unite in a new coalition to support shared prosperity." is part of a long article titled "Philanthropy’s Misguided Ideas for Fixing Ghetto Poverty: The Limits of Free Markets and Place-Based Initiatives"

In the past month I've posted several articles focused on closing the opportunity gap, and referring to a new book by Robert Putnam, titled "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis".

I encourage you to read these articles. Share them with the volunteers in your tutor/mentor programs. Share them with family, fiends, church members. Encourage them to form study groups and engage others.

Short term results might be to support existing tutor/mentor programs, so more volunteers get involved and more kids are served. Additional efforts might result in new programs being created where none now exist.

However, the long-term effort aims to create a coalition with a vision for a future America and world where prosperity is shared and opportunity is available for all.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Turning the Pope's message into Action Plan

As Christians and Jews celebrate this religious holiday I add my own hope for peace in the world, at home, and in the hearts of men and women. I'm thrilled by Pope Francis and his emphasis on the poor. This Wall Street Journal article is one of many that you can read to see his impact. Here's an article I wrote in 2013.

A first step in reducing poverty and the opportunity gap is for highly visible leaders to draw attention to the problem, and call on the rich and privileged to be a greater part of the solution. However, the next step is for leaders to map how we get from where we are now (here) to where we want to be in the future (there).

This PDF is one that I hope Christians, Jews and people of other faiths will share in their congregations. Form study groups to understand this. Then implement the strategies so a growing percent of every congregation is growing their involvement in activities that make more and better non-school tutoring, mentoring, learning organizations and safe spaces available to youth in big cities of the US and the world.

Network Building. Role of Faith Community by Daniel F. Bassill

This is one of many strategy and idea articles I've posted in the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC library and written about on my blogs.

Start a study group. Read these. Discuss them in groups. Come to the May 8 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago and connect with others who already lead tutor/mentor programs, or who are trying to start new programs.

Create your own maps to show what congregations may already be hosting programs and what congregations have study groups, or marketing programs, to engage members, and the places where they work, in efforts that help programs grow throughout the Chicago region, or in any other urban area.

On the next major religious celebration, create your own blog and show your own maps and blueprints for getting from "here to there".

Thursday, April 02, 2015

What if 1% of election spending were focused on problem solving?

Next week Chicago will elect a new mayor (or re-elect the incumbent) and will also elect some new aldermen. One of the issues is violence in Chicago. Shootings are up over the past year. They've been up and down for the past 25 years, as this front page from the 1992 Chicago SunTimes illustrates. In July 2014, 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 elected officials were leading a “systems thinking” approach to draw stakeholders together, more people might become informed, and involved in solutions. We might find ways to keep people involved for many years.

Business and philanthropic leaders might apply the same process. For instance as The Chicago Community Trust celebrates it's 100th year anniversary, and holds its second annual On The Table event in May, they might have teams facilitating a systems thinking approach to reducing poverty in Chicago areas neighborhoods.

Problem solving is a cyclical process. A group of people get together to solve a problem and the solution leads to new problems that need to be solved, or new learning that leads to year-to-year growth in how the problem is being solved.

Here’s a graphic that I’ve borrowed from a video created by Gene Bellinger, who I met in a Systems Thinking discussion group on Linked-in.

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 seven 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. Click on the graphic to enlarge it. Read this article for a full explanation of each step.

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 (1). 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. Robert Putnam's new book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" calls attention to how this opportunity gap is growing in America. I wrote about it here.

I've used concept maps to outline sections of the library. This map shows research articles in the library. 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.

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. The information I've shared here can be used by leaders in business, philanthropy, media, politics, education, etc. to engage people in this on-going systems thinking problem solving process. If just a fraction of the billions of dollars spent on electing people in this country were spent to facilitate this problem solving process in every city, perhaps the leaders could actually shrink the poverty and opportunity gaps in America.

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 a version of the Systems Thinking video which I “hacked” to build this article.

Click here to view this Systems Thinking video

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.

Note: 7/2/2017 update - here's an updated "creating a better future" page from Gene Bellinger.