Thursday, October 29, 2015

More than Mentor: Tutor/Mentor

Sara Caldwell became a volunteer with the tutoring program at Montgomery Ward in the late 1980s. In 1990 she created a video that appeared on Channel 11 TV, titled "Cabrini-Green: What You Don't See", which told the story of the program that had been hosted by Montgomery Ward since 1965.

Today she shared another video on Facebook, which she had created around 1991-1992.

What Tutoring Means To Me 2 from Sara Caldwell on Vimeo.

In the final portion of this video you can see me talking about building support for older kids than the 2nd to 6th graders who made up the core of the program. You can also see me talking about helping programs like the one at Wards grow in more places, supported by businesses throughout the city.

In late 1992 myself and six other volunteers created Cabrini Connections to serve 7th to 12th grade youth. Between then and 2011 more than 700 teens participated, with a third staying involved for three to seven years. Many are now college graduates and working, and I'm connected to some on Facebook and LinkedIN. Below is a video that talks about that program.

Cabrini Connections from Matt Lauterbach on Vimeo.

In 1993 we also created the Tutor/Mentor Connection, to achieve the vision I talked about in the first video, and help mentor-rich tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs.

I've created maps and a wide range of visualizations to communicate the idea of programs that engage a wide range of volunteers in many roles, as a community of support that helps kids from first grade to first job. The two videos illustrate that this could happen through the efforts of multiple programs serving the same kids. Or it could be a single program.

I began using the term "tutor mentor" in the 1980s to define what was happening in the programs I led. It was more than tutoring. It was more than mentoring. It was a core group of adults making a long-term commitment to helping kids grow up. In the presentation below I try to differentiate between the words "tutor" and "mentor" based on who it is that we're serving and the extra support kids living in high poverty neighborhoods of big cities need that other kids don't need.

Defining Terms. Tutoring. Mentoring. by Daniel F. Bassill

When I look at a map of Chicago, I want to see icons (green stars) in all high poverty neighborhoods, indicating that tutor/mentor programs are there. When I double click on the green star I want to be able to go to a web site where I see indicators, stories and videos showing a long-term commitment to a mentor-rich strategy.

That commitment could be communicated using a strategy map graphic like the one below.

This photo shows me in 1983 receiving the Jefferson Award for Community Service from Illinois Governor James Thompson.

The videos and this photo show I've been doing this work for more than 30 years. That does not put me on the list of 25 heroes in mentoring, perhaps because I've always focused on more than mentoring, and more than tutoring, and on ways to build communities of workplace volunteers who provide a wide range of support to help kids in high poverty areas move through school and into work. I call this "tutor/mentor". Or "Total Quality Mentoring (TQM).

In the first video I talked about enlisting companies from every industry to support the growth of these programs. We still need that type of leadership...supporting mentor-rich programs in multiple locations, not just one or two favored programs. CEOs can demonstrate that commitment by putting a version of the strategy map on their own web site, with their photo/logo in the blue box, then enlisting teams of employees to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs the say way groups of employees support store locations in many places.

Want to talk about this? Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIN.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More non-school programs needed

I found this article today, written by Michael Romaine, a former volunteer with Tutor/Mentor Connection. It's title is "After school, opportunity gaps linger". I'm quoted in the article and hope to see more people writing similar articles focusing on other high poverty neighborhoods in the Chicago region.

The map below is from a story I wrote on October 18, showing how organizations in Austin and other neighborhoods could help collect information showing what non-school programs are available.

We need more people collecting this information. We also need more people like Michael who are writing stories that draw attention to the information.

Michael and I had met on September 25. However, I did not know he wrote this story. I actually found it while browsing the AfterschoolMatters web site. I was doing that while refreshing my understanding of work done by various intermediaries who focus on Chicago youth.

This concept map was my guide. It includes links to each of the organizations shown on the map.

I keep looking for people to help me collect and share this information, including sponsors who would put their logo on my concept maps, or PDF articles, while providing me with funds to do this work. Connect with me if you're interested.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Role of Influence: Expanding Support for Youth Serving Organizations

I've posted more than 1000 articles on this blog since 2005. All focus on ways to help high quality, volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and learning organizations become available to k-12 youth living in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities. All seek to influence what other people do, recognizing that my ideas and efforts alone have very little impact.

I use visualizations to communicate ideas, and realize many are not clearly understood by people who have not spent as much time as I have thinking of ways to make systems of support available the same way teams in corporate offices spend time thinking of ways to make retail stores, food outlets and product distribution systems available to customers in many places.

Yesterday I uploaded a presentation that is intended to help clarify the meaning of one of my graphics. See below.

How to Influence Change: Use of Visualizations by Daniel F. Bassill

I created this based on information in this blog article and this series of articles.

If you read this, Tweet this to your own network, or lead a discussion group within your church, business, social group and/or fraternity, I have had an influence on your actions. If the people you share this with, share it in their own networks, I've had a greater influence, and you've had your own influence. If this is viewed and shared by people who are in positions of greater power, or influence, then the ideas are leveraged, and have even greater influence.

This is a process. It'a a relay-race, where one person passes on the idea to others, who then pass it on to an even larger group of people.

That's how movements grow and change begins to happen.

Take the first step. Read this.

Take the second step. Forward it to your own network.

Take additional steps. Browse through articles I've posted since 2005 and other articles I've posted at

Create your own versions of this idea, just as interns working with me in Chicago have been doing since 2006.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Today's Chicago Tribune, page 3, shows uses of maps in violence prevention

Last week I posted an article telling of the story about ways to use maps that Dawn Turner of the Chicago Tribune had written. At that point the story was only available on the Internet version of the paper. Today the story is on page 3 of the first section of the Tribune. I've already received some email and calls offering congratulations. I'm hoping to receive calls offering help and partnership.

Also in today's Chicago Tribune, is a full page opinion article about the epidemic of gun violence, written by Catherine A. Humikowski, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of Chicago.

Yesterday I participated in a webinar about #getgundata and #preventgunviolence hosted by Dialogue4Health, which is “ devoted to connecting the practice of public health with partners in other sectors who have the power to deeply influence health outcomes”. The speakers talked about the lack of research on violence, guns and related topics, which prevents the nation from developing fact-based solutions to this epidemic.

In response to the webinar, I posted an article on Medium, showing how I've been reaching out to hospitals and public health leaders for more than 20 years, encouraging them to build strategies that support the growth of comprehensive, volunteer-based, tutoring, mentoring and learning programs in the areas around each hospital in the city. Browse articles tagged "public health" to see these ideas.

While we need better data, there are many things hospital, university, business, political and faith leaders could be doing to fill different parts of the city with a wide range of youth and family supports, including jobs, that would help reduce the epidemic of violence.

I'd like to help. I need help from some of you to re-build my own capacity to help.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Using Maps.Role of Intermediaries

In my last article I pointed to a Chicago Tribune column by Dawn Turner, titled "Interactive maps could combat Chicago violence". In the paragraphs below I provide an example of leadership that could be taken by anyone in one of Chicago's high violence community areas (or beyond).

Here's a map showing community areas on the West side of Chicago, with information showing the number of low income youth age 6-17 in each community area. This is from a report I produce a couple of years ago, using the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator's interactive maps (which are not working now).

The green stars on the map are organizations in my database, who provide some form of tutoring and/or mentoring. I've added information showing churches in the Austin area, who I've learned also support mentoring strategies.

Below is another view of the West side of Chicago, also created using the Program Locator. On this view I added layers showing poverty and showing poorly performing schools.

I also added locations of Baptist and Christian Churches. If you look at the tabs on this graphic, you'll see that I could have also added information on other assets, such as banks, hospitals, universities, drug stores and insurance companies. This map view could have zoomed in to just the Austin area. Using another section of the Program Locator, it could also have shown political districts (Congressional, State Legislator, State Senate). See gallery of maps created between 2008 and 2010.

The idea is to show everyone who shares the same geography, who should be working to help high quality learning, mentoring, tutoring, jobs programs and health programs be available to youth in the area.

This map shows the location of BUILD, Inc, which has a new facility on Chicago's West side. On this map I include a graphic showing the role of intermediaries, who collect and share information that anyone can use to support the growth of mentor-rich organizations. I also include a graphic showing quarterly events that could be held in the neighborhood, and in the city, to draw attention to map stories and draw volunteers and donors to each of the programs operating in different community areas...based on what they show on their web site and what volunteers and donors are learning to look for as they shop for a place to get involved.

I've been collecting this information for over 20 years and have been sharing strategies for as long. Thus, I don't expect most people to have an intuitive understanding of the strategies I'm proposing. What I do propose is that leaders recruit teams of youth and volunteers who dig into the information the way interns have been doing since 2006. Click on this page and find visualizations, videos and blog articles which share understanding of Tutor/Mentor Connection strategies. As others look at my web sites they could create their own visualizations showing ways local leaders can help needed youth serving organizations grow in their own neighborhoods.

One role that needs to be taken is Community Information Collection. My map shows that there are tutor/mentor programs that I was not aware of. In every community area of the city and suburbs, teams could be collecting information to show who is already working to help youth. They could be plotting this information on maps, and sharing it in blog stories. They could be sharing it with myself and others who are building area-wide databases. Read more.

If you're a business, you could have a team doing R&D to find reasons to support employee involvement, as a workforce development strategy. You could also learn ways you could expand your involvement. Read this Role of Leaders Pdf. Look at this article about Research & Development.

If you browse through articles I've posted since 2005 you'll see frequent use of visualizations. I've posted some on Pinterest. Youth, volunteers, elected leaders and others concerned with violence, poverty and inequality can look at these graphics, then write their own story showing how they think the ideas apply to their own neighborhood, or to their own actions.

As more and more people do this we begin to have the impact Bernie Sanders talks about in his Political Revolution.

I mentioned that the Program Locator is not working properly. I'm looking for volunteers or partners who will help me fix current problems and updated to meet future opportunities.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Maps as Part of Violence Prevention Strategy

In yesterday's Chicago Tribune, Dawn Tice Turner wrote a story titled "Interactive maps could combat Chicago violence" Click here to go to the Tribune web site. Click here to see version of the story I've posted on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site.

Right now if someone tries to use the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, they will get error messages, due to a technology problem I've not been able to fix. I don't have the money to hire anyone to work on this, which has been a significant problem for the past few years.

If it was working, you'd be able to zoom into different sections, and create map stories, as demonstrated in the presentation below.

How to Use Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator to Make Your own Maps by Daniel F. Bassill

I was able to build this using a $50,000 anonymous donation received in late 2007. That money enabled me to hire Mike Trakan on a part time basis, who from January 2008 till mid 2010, rebuilt our desktop map-making capacity in Chicago and was able to create a wide range of maps using donated ESRI GIS software.

Using part of the money I was also able to hire a consultant and team of developers from India, who built the Program Locator during mid 2008 through spring of 2009, which is when we ran out of money for continued development. I've been able to use the program locator to create map stories until August 2015 when a change in hosting arrangements for the site led to the error messages.

Below is an example of the type of presentation that can be made using the Program Locator. Elected leaders could be creating maps of their districts, showing where tutor/mentor programs are needed, what programs exist, who could be helping, etc. They could be using these map-stories on their blogs, in email, and in inviting community members together to help build and sustain high quality youth serving organizations that provide hope and opportunity and reduce reasons to be part of gangs and a culture of violence.

Chicago Community Areas_Youth in Poverty Analysis by Daniel F. Bassill

An anonymous donor provided the funds to build this. I hope another donor, or business partner/investor, or team of volunteers, will step forward and help me bring this back to life and add needed upgrades.

If you want to make a contribution (not tax deductible) click here and use PayPal to send support.

If you want to borrow ideas from me to help you build your own platform and design it to accomplish the same goals as I've piloted for the Tutor/Mentor Connection's Program Locator, I'd be happy to be a consultant to you and your efforts. I think this needs to be a service in every city, and that it can apply to any type of service that is needed in many parts of a city and is provided by many different organizations.

Contact me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIN.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Network Building: Chicago Ideas Week

I attended Chicago Ideas Week - - session on Wednesday titled The Giving Solution: How Philanthropy Is Changing the World. The cost of $15 was well worth the investment. I took lots of notes, but was not able to Tweet since my phone battery died. Thus, I'm writing this article to share some of what I was thinking as each speaker shared his/her ideas. I created the map below to share links to speakers and to connect them and other participants to my own network of people and ideas. You will be able to go to the CIW web site to view video archives. You can go their today and follow live streaming of current presentations.

See this at

What follows is a pretty long commentary including some of my reflections as speakers were talking.

Terry Mazany of Chicago Community Trust was the first speaker. Mazany talked about the 2015 Chicago Marathon, with 195 charity partners supported by several thousand runners and more than a million spectators and said “What would it be like if 10 million people were engaged in solving local/global problems?”

I can agree with that vision. That's been my own goal for over 20 years.

I've intersected with Terry often over the past decade and the Tutor/Mentor Connection was supported by small CCT grants from 1998 to 2002. In fact, one of the research papers used to support creation of T/MC in 1993 (and continuation today) was titled Redefining Child and Family Services: Directions for the Future, which was a 1992 Chapin Hall paper, written by Joan Wynn, Joan Costello, Robert Halpern and Harold Richman. The report was partially funded by The Chicago Community Trust. Read the paper.

I point to this because the Trust is launching new initiatives using #whatyoudomatters as a slogan, and intending to influence greater philanthropy and personal gifts of time and talent to support problem solving efforts throughout the greater Chicago region. I hope they succeed. I hope they continue this effort for the next 20 years. One of the problems with philanthropy is it often discontinues support too early.

The Trust is also focusing on general operating support. which is critically important. I'm impressed with some of the work that I've seen over the past two years, the way the web site shares ideas and the way they are using social media to connect with others and give attention to organizations they fund. No donor funds 100% of any organizations on-going operations. So many donors need to follow this path. See this article.

I'd like to be involved in their planning. In this 2005 article I pointed to three different events that focused on education and the well-being of youth, but were not connected with an internet strategy. Often since then when I ran into Terry Mazany at events hosted by the Trust, I offered the same advise and encourage efforts that connected participants to each other. I'm glad to see that their strategies are moving in this direction.

Since last getting a grant from the Trust in 2002 I've not had a one-on-one conversation with any of their leaders because I was not able to get past the Letter of Inquiry. With social media we're getting closer to being able to talk to each other without the “proposal” providing the reason. Maybe this will lead to a better shared understanding of problems and solutions.

The next speaker was Rachael Chong, CEO of an on-line platform that matches professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest and time availability. Browse the web site. This is a sophisticated, and needed operation. As I listened, I said to myself, this looks similar to Taproot Foundation, which matches professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest and time availability. I sent Tween to Rachael asking how they differ. I've not heard back yet.

The next speaker was Richard Johnson, co-founder of Spark Ventures, which models a form of sustainable philanthropy, using income generated from business ventures to fund needed services in a community. Visit the Spark Ventures web site to learn more about this. It's a way to generate on-going revenue without depending on changing commitments of donors or government, and it's a way to fund innovation that others might not understand, or be willing to support.

Their work seems to focus on the developing world, but has applications in urban areas, too. Last week I wrote about Urban Farming and suggested that the urban farming network connect with the Tutor/Mentor network (see list of Chicago area organizations). I'd encourage them to look at the Spark Ventures model. I can envision urban farms in low-income neighborhoods generating revenue to support tutor/mentor programs, while also providing opportunities for youth enrolled in these programs to earn income and develop marketable skills. This could be a win-win-win. I tweeted this suggestion to SparkVentures.

The next speaker was Briggita Witt, Global Head, Corp. Responsibility for Hyatt. Over the past 8 years she has created Hyatt Thrive, which is engaging employees from hotels located throughout the world. In Chicago Hyatt helped prepare hundreds of Chicago high school students for college and the workforce through partnerships with City Year, Urban Alliance and Year Up. As I listened to Briggita, I thought, "How can I get into this conversation? How can I inspire a team of Hyatt employees to browse articles on this blog, and want to join in efforts that make tutor/mentor programs more available, and shape these to be a source of future workers, future customers, and future problem solvers who focus on the same issues HyattThrive focuses on?"

The next speaker was Dan Ariely,, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, who gave a humorous and enlightening and thought-provoking talk about how emotions impact giving. He left with two questions: 1) What is the role of emotions in giving and 2: how do we maximize the whole ecosystem around giving. I encourage you to visit his site and dig into this information for yourself.

Dan talked about the “identifiable victim” motivation for philanthropic giving, using examples like “If I look at the masses, I'll never react. If I look at only one story, I'll give.”

This entire talk really resonated with me. I recall talking with Chicago Tribune writer Bob Greene almost 20 years ago, asking why he only wrote about a single tutor/mentor program in Chicago, instead of all of them. He told me “If I can narrow the story down to one person saved by a tutor/mentor program, he'd write about it”. Never happened.

Dan also talked about how “philanthropy is about emotion” saying “If we think rationally, we give less.“ This is a conundrum for me since I've been building a library of information intended to draw people into deeper learning, and strategic, long-term approaches that make tutor/mentor programs available to more kids. Dan's examples, and my own experiences, show this to be like pushing a rock up a steep mountain.

Actually I've understood what Dan's saying for a long time. I always featured kids and volunteers from the Cabrini Connections program in newsletters focusing on T/MC. What I've never been able to do is draw together a team of creative people, social psyshologists like Dan, and tutor/mentor leaders, who would innovate ways to tell on-going stories, with a powerful emotional appeal, that draws donors and volunteers to tutor/mentor programs in all parts of the city, not just a single program.

The last speaker offered a message I hope many respond Nancy Lublin , ceo of DO Something, and  CEO/Founder, of described how text messaging was attracting thousands of youth and adults who needed someone to talk to about a crisis in their lives. Nancy's organization is data driven and the thousands of text messages that have come into the Crisis Text Line have begun to provide clues and prompts that help counselors respond to urgent needs. A TextChi 24-hour crisis text service is now available for the Chicago region. I've already shared this with my own family and my social media networks. I encourage readers to share this in their own networks.

I'm not a great “reporter” so the brief summaries I've provided are intended to inspire you to visit the web sites of these speakers and build your own understanding. However, this also inspires me to share this PDF essay.

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

I feel that if groups of people are aggregating information showing the good work already being done by companies such as Hyatt and innovators such as Catchafire, SparkVenture, and CrisisTextLine, others can learn, borrow and adopt these ideas for other places, or other causes.

To build in what Dan Ariely was talking about, the "carrot" is food for thought. However, we need rabbits who spark an emotional response, that motivates people to chase the ideas and spend time digesting it.

Bad example? Do it better.

Someone has to pay for this work to be done and I hope the Community Trusts efforts lead to such funding, not just for traditional 501-c-3 non profits, but for social benefit organizations who work for similar goals but under a different tax structure. That would include myself.

I don't need to be doing all the collecting or sharing. Chicago Ideas Week and others do a great job of putting the spotlight on some of the people operating in this space. I want to know where to go to find ideas when I'm looking for them.

I want to inspire people to churn this information so more people are aware and are using the good ideas to make good things happen in more places.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reflection Following Presidential Debate

I watched the Democratic Presidential debate last night and was pleased by the focus on issues. Today I was scrolling through past blog articles and came upon one titled "2006 State of the Union Response: There's A Better Way"

I hope you'll visit this link and read the article. It is as relevant today as it was then.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Urban Farming. Tutor/Mentor Strategy?

Today's Chicago Tribune included an editorial showing Urban Farming as a strategy that could invigorate Chicago neighborhoods, and focused on the Urban Agriculture programs of the Chicago Botanic Gardens. I think this is one a strategy that could be embraced by youth serving organizations throughout the city, including public schools.

The graphic below is from a pdf I title "Virtual Corporate Office" , which you can see below. In it I show a mentor-rich non-school program to be a form of retail store for learning, mentoring and opportunity. Like a Macy's or Target store, mentor-rich programs have the potential to offer a wide range of age-appropriate learning opportunities, made available by volunteers from different industries. I'd love to see a connection made between urban agriculture leaders, leaders of youth serving organizations and donors, so that a map of Chicago could see a growing number of places where youth are learning skills and career opportunities as part of urban agriculture programs.

Here's the full presentation:

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

With all of the vacant land in Chicago and other cities this seems to be a realistic opportunity. However, mentor-rich programs could also be mentoring technology, communications, arts, writing and many other skills, which apply to careers in urban farming and agriculture, and every other industry.

What's needed to make this happen? I think that a program that educates people to be leaders of mentor-rich programs is needed. Take a look at the presentation below, which shows leadership of tutor/mentor programs to be a "jobs growth" strategy that cities could embrace.

Citywide Youth Supports Infrastructure - a Jobs Creation Strategy? by Daniel F. Bassill

It takes leaders to make this happen. I keep looking for such people to champion ideas like this. A few days ago Phil Roos, who worked at The Quaker Oats Company in the 1980s and was a volunteer at the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program that I was leading, posted this message on his Facebook page:

This goes out to alums of the Quaker/Montgomery Ward Chicago tutoring program at Cabrini-Green. Daniel F. Bassill, who was our fearless leader, puts out the following plea for leaders in Chicago and beyond to step up and help him continue this good work that truly makes a difference in people's lives. From Dan: "I would love to find a few leaders who think like this and who would adopt the Tutor/Mentor Connection as their mission. I also lead from behind and depend on others with greater talents and stronger networks to carry these ideas to reality. I had a structure helping me do this until 2011 but have not been able to rebuild it since then. There are several thousand alumni from the tutoring programs originating out of Montgomery Ward who could be such a team of leaders. I keep looking for one or two with the sense of purpose, and organizing skills, to take a role."

I hope others will do the same. If you're a leader interested in responding, email me at tutormentor2 at earthlink dot net, or connect with me on Twitter, LinkdedIN or Facebook.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Focus on Inequality. Using Maps.

Last spring I wrote a series of articles following the publication of Robert Putnam's new book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis"

I created the graphic below several years ago to illustrate the inequality of opportunity for kids living in poverty neighborhoods and those who live in more affluent areas.

I have piloted uses of maps for nearly 20 years because they focus attention on all of the places with high concentrations of poverty, which are places where kids need extra help offered by organized, long-term, tutoring, mentoring and learning programs.

Finding ways to keep this issue in front of the public every day, and to grow the number of people involved, is one of the challenges that cities have faced for as long as I've been involved in this work...more than 35 years. Many of my articles focus on creative ways to generate attention and draw resources to every tutor/mentor program in the city. Here's one of those ideas:

Every big city in the world has areas of concentrated poverty, and consistent neglect. Thus ideas I share could be applied in any city, led by a wide range of different institutions and leaderships.

Use the articles on this blog and the Mapping for Justice Blog, and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC site, as resources for on-going learning and innovation that you can apply through your own leadership.

I want to help make that happen. I need a few of you to help me do that.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

What Am I doing? Why Do I Keep Trying?

When we first launched the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program in November 1992, and the Tutor/Mentor Connection in January 1993, we had no money and no deep pocketed friends. We just had a 20-year history of connecting workplace volunteers and inner-city kids in organized non-school tutor/mentor programs, and a firm belief that this was a "good thing to do".

While leading a single program at the Montgomery Ward Headquarters in Chicago from 1975-1990 I built an understanding of how important it is to be able to connect and learn from others, and a realization that without someone maintaining a master database of programs, it was not only difficult to invite people to connect and learn from each other, but for city leaders to build a sustained, long-term master plan, that would make high quality, mentor-rich programs available in all high poverty areas of Chicago and its suburbs.

Not having a committed source of revenue makes it difficult to do this work. While I raised over $6 million from 1993 to 2011, I started from zero every year and constantly had to find new donors to replace those who stopped giving. I had to put nearly $100k of my own money into this effort, and never was paid as much as I had been earning in 1990 when I left my retail advertising job at Montgomery Wards. The financial meltdowns between 2000 and 2010 had a negative impact on my personal finances, as well as my ability to raise the money needed for the work I was doing.

Thus, over the years I've had to occasionally remind myself why I do this. Since I'm at a low period, both in terms of confidence, and revenue, that's what I'm doing now. The image below shows the progression of my thinking. I have gone through this over, and over, for more than 20 years.

The first panel says "connecting a youth and non-family adult in a supportive relationship is a good thing." If you don't agree with that then you don't need to read any further.

The second panel says that in big cities like Chicago, where poverty is measured by miles and the number of kids in poverty numbers over 200,000, organized non-school programs are needed to enable volunteers from many different backgrounds to connect, and stay connected, to kids for multiple years. Some of the programs themselves become anchors in the lives of kids, offering safe places and a community of supportive adults and learning activities beyond what a single mentor might offer. I've been building a list of organizations that provide various forms of tutoring and/or mentoring in Chicago, which you can find here.

If you agree that organized programs are needed, then the next progression is to think of ways to make high-quality, mentor-rich programs available in every high poverty neighborhood for kids as early as first grade and as old as age 16 to 26. While non-profit organizations compete with each other for limited resources, making it difficult for more than a few really great programs to operate in the city, businesses use sophisticated corporate office strategies to support the growth of retail stores reaching customers in multiple locations. I've been trying to apply that thinking to my leadership of the Tutor/Mentor Connection since 1993.

Below is a 1995 story about the work I've been doing, written by John McCarron of the Chicago Tribune

This is evidence that what I write today is something I've been trying to build support for over many long years. Below is a presentation I created in 1998, showing the strategy I was sharing with city business, political and philanthropic leaders then, and which I now share with leaders in cities across the country.

This graphic is one of many that I've created to communicate ideas and strategy. If you look at the top of the pyramid, it shows we all want kids to "finish school, graduate, stay safe in non-school hours".

I believe that the work at the bottom of this pyramid, which I've been doing for over 20 years, is essential for making that happen. I still don't find others who incorporate this four-part strategy or this learning network strategy in their own efforts. That makes me believe what I do is still needed.

Every article on this blog, and each section of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site are active parts of this strategy, and each is an example. However, so much information also represents a weakness. Too much information and too little time for busy people to try to understand it is a problem. Too few dollars, or talent, to create new web sites, or fix things that are broken, or out of date, like the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, make it more difficult to demonstrate what I'm trying to do. This is something you need to take some time to read and understand.

Even though I'm at low point now, I still believe Chicago and other cities needs someone doing what I'm doing, but from a much stronger organizational base, such as a stand-alone Institute and think tank, or as a college-based Institute funded by one of those people who I seek continually donating $25 to $100 million to various universities.

In fact, I think there needs to be someone doing this work in every major city where poverty and inequality can be plotted on maps and where leaders can mobilize people and resources to fill map-areas with needed programs and services. I've a library of ideas that others could use and I'm hopeful I can become part of your planning teams if you want to take on this role. You don't need to start from scratch if you take some time to investigate and get to know what I've been doing.

I'm not certain how many more years I can sustain this work, but I'm confident that I need to keep trying. If you want to help, please introduce yourself or email me at tutormentgor2 at earthlink dot net.