Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Poor, and the Hopeless, don't Vote. How do we change that?

I'm in more than a few on-line discussions. I'd like to point to two.  In one, Mark Sims, who I've been connected to via on-line media for several years, posted a recent article with the headline of "African Americans Left Behind". Go to the blog and read his description of the problem and Marc's requests for solutions, and see the ideas I posted.

That led to some Facebook interaction in which Marc shared a link to this video: It's from 2008, but it captures the current struggle to close the wealth and opportunity gaps in America.

The video reminded me of another article I added to Tutor/Mentor web library recently, titled:  Race and Beyond: Why Young, Minority, and Low-Income Citizens Don’t Vote

Watch the video. Read the article. Read more of the research, from this section of my web library

The second conversation is one I've been having for more than a year with Terry Elliott, Kevin Hodgson and other educators who I've connected with via on-line cMOOCs, such as the Making Learning Connected (#CLMOOC) and Digital Writing Month (#digiwrimo) MOOCS.  

The graphic above was from this article, showing how Terry, Kevin and I had been adding comments to visualizations created by each other during the 2015 CLMOOC. Recently I posted an article asking "What are all the things we need to know and do to assure that youth born, or living in poverty today, are starting jobs and careers by their mid-twenties?"

In that article I posted some comments by Terry, and a link to an annotation of one of my articles, done using

Today, I read a new article that Kevin had posted recently, under the title Entry Points in the Interaction Universe, in which he talks about how difficult it is to build and sustain a learning community.

Marc emphasizes how poor people don't like to read, and don't do much reading, which, perhaps, is one reason they don't vote and don't have many chances to move up the opportunity ladder and out of poverty.  

My response to Marc:

The ideas I've shared for the past 25 years, and the work I did prior to that in leading a tutor/mentor program at the Montgomery Ward headquarters, was aimed at getting people who do read, and write, and who have jobs and careers, and who don't live in poverty, more engaged and involved in the lives of kids, so more would become active evangelists, like I am, in building  communities of people who work toward helping the poor build the learning and education skills and habits needed to be more capable of overcoming the challenges they face.

Getting people to look at the ideas I share is as difficult as what Kevin is trying to do.  

Normally at this time of the year I post a "New Year's message" of hope and responsibility, and point to some past articles I'd like you to read.

In my response to Marc I included a link to this article, which includes a link to an address to graduates of West Point military academy, encouraging each to spend time in deep reflection and learning. 

Using the Diigo annotation tool that Terry Elliott introduced me to, I've created two sets of blog articles that I hope you'll take some time to browse.

a) year end articles since 2005 -- click here

b) Use of concept maps to communicate ideas and strategy -- click here

This is a lot to look at. However, we won't solve complex problems without a few people making this commitment to deeper learning.

In most of these articles I'm focusing on the power, and responsibility, each of us has to try to engage others in this conversation.

Together we have the power to make the world a better place for everyone, not just the wealthy 1%.

I'll see you in 2016

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Support the work needed to help kids in all Chicago neighborhoods

Thank you to those who have already sent contributions to help me continue the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC work in 2016. 

The graphic shown above has a lot of information. At the top of the pyramid, it shows a goal of helping all kids stay safe, finish school, and head on to college and careers. At the bottom, it shows the need for someone to maintain an information base that others can use to help cities reach the goal. It also shows an active role of connecting those who can help...all of you...directly with organizations in high poverty areas who are working to help kids through school and to stay safe in non-school hours. 

Finally, it plots this over a map of the Chicago region. If cities don't use maps to point resources to ALL, ALL, ALL, of the neighborhoods where help is needed, then very few of those places will receive that help on a consistent basis.

I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to support the work at the bottom of the pyramid and created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to continue doing this, even without a non-profit status. 

A few of you have provided year-end contributions to help me do this, but so far too few to do it well....or pay all the bills. Here's a page with a PayPal button. If you want the same ultimate goals, then help support the work needed. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

Thank you all for reading my articles for the past year. I hope they make sense to you and that you share them, and the links I point to with others. 

Here's the link to the December copy of my email newsletter. Please read, subscribe, and share.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Can Hospitals Heal America's Communities?

I've been using maps to show high poverty areas of Chicago and to show assets, like hospitals and universities, who could be developing strategies that influenced the growth of tutor/mentor programs and community health in areas around each hospital. Here's a sample article from 2008.

Here's a set of articles on the MappingforJustice blog, that focus on  public health and hospitals. 

In my email today I received the Community newsletter, which featured a white paper titled "Can Hospitals Heal America's Communities?"

I started reading this, and was making mental notes of comments I'd like to add. If I printed the article, that's what I'd do. I'd get my yellow marker, and my pen, and add notes throughout the article. I've done this for nearly 40 years.

However, last week Terry Elliott posted a Tweet sharing with me an collection of my blog articles, which he had annotated, using an on-line tool title 'Diigio". 

So I signed up and marked up the article this afternoon.  Here's the link.

I hope readers will share this article with hospital and university leaders in their own community, who will read the article by Community, but also read my comments, and follow the links.  I think they can also add their own notes, and share it with others.

If you look at the map above, and draw a circle around each hospital, you create a network of circles, or influence areas,  This graphic is from a set of articles I've written showing my goal of influencing what others do to support the growth of high quality non-school tutoring, mentoring and learning programs in  high poverty neighborhoods. 

If this strategy were adopted by CEOs of some of Chicago's biggest hospitals it could have a much, much greater impact than what I've had thus far.

That's the goal.

Monday, December 14, 2015

What Do We Need to be Thinking About: Helping Urban Youth

Last week I posted an article with the question "What are all the things we need to be doing to assure that  youth born or living in poverty are starting jobs and careers by age 25?"  My goal in this and other blog articles is to stimulate this thinking in thousands of places. 

I named the middle panel on this graphic "the Edison affect". That means there is no silver bullet, or single way, to help kids grow up.  Every parent starts from scratch, once their first child is born.  Every school and non-school organization is working with kids who are all different and constantly changing. Volunteer-based organizations also need to know how to engage and influence the talents of volunteers....who also are all different and constantly changing.

We're all constantly learning and innovating. We do better the longer we stay involved, and the more we learn from the collected experiences of others.  

I've aggregated a large number of articles that show how poverty and place influence how kids grow up. These are recommended reading to anyone doing research on this "what do we need to know" question.   

Here's another article, that I found last week, titled "The Keys to Helping Youth in Poverty Thrive, written by Wendy Foster is the president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay."

That middle panel also includes a map, showing high poverty concentrations in Chicago. Since my question focuses on helping kids "born or living in poverty" then some of the questions we need to be asking are "how do we fill all of these neighborhoods with age-appropriate learning, mentoring and tutoring programs?"

When I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 my goal was to identify as many of the existing non-school tutor/mentor programs as I could find in the Chicago region, then find ways to draw more attention to those programs on a daily basis, in order to help each program attract the volunteers, talent, ideas and dollars each needs to build and sustain strong organizations helping kids grow up. Here's my list of Chicago programs.

In this Logic Model graphic (see presentation) I talk about the challenges of helping youth and volunteers from diverse business and work backgrounds connect on a regular basis in cities as large as Chicago.

One of the challenges we face is that people in smaller cities don't experience the problem the same way it presents itself in big cities. Thus, understanding of the problem, and solutions, will be different. 

For mentoring to have an impact volunteers need to connect regularly for multiple years.  For this to happen in many neighborhood programs need to operate in a time frame where workplace volunteers are able to participate regularly. That means creating programs that operate in the time frame right after work or on weekends.

I feel that many of the local and national leaders focus primarily on the act of mentoring or tutoring, or ways that the volunteer can have a growing influence on the learning and behavior habits of a young person.

I focus on what it takes to make strong programs available  in all high poverty neighborhoods. Without strong, on-going programs too few volunteers will connect, or stay connected with the many youth who need such support systems.  

This graphic focuses on the infrastructure needed at every single organization who provides long-term connections. 

The presentation below includes charts that illustrate the talent needed in big and small businesses and in non profit organizations that need to sustain and constantly improve their impact over many years.

So, the questions I'm  hoping a growing number of people will begin asking focuses on how communities can support the growth of strong youth serving organizations in multiple locations, when the public will, and funding, are currently inadequate to pay for such organizations spread throughout all  high poverty areas of big cities and rural areas of the country.

I don't have the answer. What I do propose is that we constantly seek those who are searching for such answers, or who seem to be doing a little bit better than others.  Encourage them to share what they do on their web sites, and how they do it, then put links to their sites in web libraries like the one I've been building (click here).

Here's a presentation that shows how information we collect might stimulate the innovation and constant improvement others do to solve the same problem.

In response to last week's article some of the educators I've met in on-line cMOOCs have begun to look at this question.  Here's a twitter post by Kevin Hodgsin, a 6th grade teacher in Western Mass.

Here's a Tweet from Terry Elliott, an educator from Central Kentucky

Here's a blog article Terry wrote, pointing to the ideas I'm sharing on this blog. 

Finally, here's a Tweet by Betsey Merkel, who leads the I-Open group in Cleveland, Ohio.

I hope that over the holidays and throughout 2016 more people will begin to share their own thinking about this question and their solutions.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What are all the things we need to do to help kids move from birth to work?

Below I've posted one of my presentations, that starts with the question "What Will it Take to Assure that all Youth Born or Living in High Poverty are Starting Jobs and Careers by Age 25?"

Over the past few years I've connected with a variety of educators via on-line cMOOCs where the ideas exchanged by participants, and the relationships created, are as important as the learning that takes place.  Through this I was introduced to a web platform called EdTalkTech, where educators are connecting and sharing ideas with each other on an on-going basis, via many formats, including Google Hangouts. Last night the hangout focused on a platform called Youth Voices, where youth from around the country are connecting and sharing ideas and reflections. 

I'm currently following the Digital Writing Month cMOOC and through that I connected with Simon Ensor, who shared this Tweet with me:

I visited  his blog and saw how he had turned his own free-hand notes into an info-graphic and wanted to encourage him to use concept mapping tools like Kumu to do that.  So I visited Brian Dowling's G+ page to get a link to one of the Kumu maps he has been creating and writing about in his blog.  I found one under the topic of "How Can We Reduce Costs and Still Get the Care We Need?"  

My goal in telling this story is that I think youth in organized non-school programs, along with youth in junior high, high school and college could be asking questions like the one Brian is asking, or the one I posed at the top of this article. They could be connecting on platforms like Youth Voices. They could be mentored by a variety of adults.  The could be sharing ideas on blogs, in videos and in public presentations.  They could be learning many new skills and habits (see article about passionate employee). 

They could be taking an active role in helping all youth have robust and creative support systems helping them overcome obstacles, like poverty, as they moved through school and into careers, with a growing network of adults who are part of their own personal learning and support networks (see article).

This process could engage youth in thousands of locations, focusing on many complex problems, not just health care or poverty.

I also think this process could attract the attention and support of a wide range of funders, ranging from business leaders concerned about the quality of their workforce, to philanthropy leaders who want to stimulate collaboration and information sharing, as well as youth engagement and empowerment.

I hope my ideas inspire others to engage their students in such activities.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Turn your Tutor/Mentor org into a Learning Organization: What's that Mean?

On several posts I've focused on "learning", not from the view point of a third grade teacher, but from the perspective of a country with complex problems where everyone needs to spend time digging into information to understand the problems, the solutions, and what roles they can take. 

Last year I wrote about the Passionate Employee, after reading an article from the Deloitte University Press. I saw a follow up article today. Here's the link to my article. Look for the link to the current Deloitte article in the comments section.  As you read these articles imagine how volunteer involvement in tutor/mentor programs and other types of volunteer-based organizations could inspire employees to become seekers of knowledge and solutions on an on-going basis, and how much more valuable they would be to their employers. Imagine how the volunteers who are part of your organization could be mentoring these habits and skills to kids, starting as early as elementary school.

Over the past 10 years interns working with me have created two visualizations, that show how volunteers who are well supported, and stay multiple years in a tutor/mentor program, become motivated to do their own deeper learning, and take extra roles to help the kids they work with, and the organization they are part of. 

Here's one:  Click this link. Then put your mouse over the number (1). Listen to what's said, then click on (2), then (3) then (4). At that point, click on (1) again and the cycle repeats showing how a volunteer in his/her second year is learning more than in the first year. This animation has four cycles. It was created by a University of Michigan volunteer during a one week winter break period of service.  (2017 Note: you may need to view this animation in this video)

Next, look at the presentation below (video). It shows how a volunteer first hears a call to become a volunteer, then searches for a place to get involved. Once he/she begins to meet weekly with a youth, he begins to informally tell friends, family and co-workers about his involvement. Over time this results in more people also becoming involved, as additional tutors/mentors and/or as donors, or even policy makers.

This project was first created in 2006 by an intern from Hong Kong, then was updated in 2010 by an intern from South Korea, via IIT in Chicago.  

A learning organization is one where all participants are looking in information libraries, like the one I host, for ideas that make them more effective tutors, mentors, and make their organizations more effective at attracting kids and having a life-changing impact on their lives, as a result of multiple years of participation.  Read this article about Personal Learning Networks, and think of ways you can instill these habits in  your kids, volunteers and staff.

I have over 200 youth serving non-school tutoring and/or mentoring programs on this list of Chicago programs.  I don't know how many, if any, apply the learning and volunteer support strategy that I show in these two presentations.  In other cities around the country, I don't know how many, if any, programs apply this strategy.

However, I do believe that if more programs were applying this strategy, there would be a growing army of volunteers in each city, and in the country, working to assure that every program had the flow of talent, technology, operating dollars, ideas and other resources needed to support additional volunteers and youth and help more kids enter these programs in elementary or middle school and stay involved through high school, post  high school and into jobs and careers.

I hope you'll take some time over the holidays to view these and share them with your own organization's leadership team.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Building Personal Learning Habits - Solving Complex Problems

In many of my articles I've shown media stories from the 1990s that show the same problems facing Chicago 20 years ago are the same as we are facing now. My comments focus on the lack of consistent, long-term, strategy that engages people from throughout the region in solutions.

At the same time, I've used graphics like this to illustrate the constant learning and innovation needed to bring comprehensive learning supports to youth in all high poverty neighborhoods of urban areas like Chicago, and keep them in place for  many years.

In articles focused on learning, I point to the massive amount of information available, but the lack of time and motivation limiting most people from digging deeply into this information.

Others are thinking and writing of the same problems, so I was pleased to see an article on Twitter yesterday, titled "Personal Learning Networks: Learning in a Connected World".  I read it, and added it to this section of my web library, so others could find it and read it, too.  The article emphasizes the importance of building your own PLN (personal learning network), saying,

"Social learning and collaboration is a mindset, an attitude and not just a set of tools."

While I led the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program from 1992-2011, I tried to create a culture of learning, engaging youth, volunteers, staff, board members and donors. I started doing this in the 1970s when I was a volunteer leading a tutor/mentor program that grew from 100 pairs of youth/volunteers in 1975 to 300 pairs by 1990, while holding a full time advertising job at the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headquarters in Chicago. I could not teach each volunteer everything they need to know so began to build a library of information and started using my weekly newsletters to encourage them to visit and draw ideas from the library. I also encouraged social activities, including field trips with youth, so volunteers would begin to network and build relationships with other volunteers, encouraging the relationships necessary for social learning to occur.

When the Internet became a tool in 1998 I moved my library to the web, and expanded it as I found new ideas that interested me, and which I thought might interest my own organization, and in any other tutor/mentor organization in the country. I added the PLN article to the library today.

As the Internet library grew, the habits of personal learning did not grow nearly as fast as I hoped. Adults who have grown up without the internet, and without learning habits of Personal and Social Learning, are slow and resistant to spending time in on-line learning.

I created the graphic below in 2006 or 2007 to visualize the goal I hoped leaders at the tutor/mentor program I was leading would adopt and that donors would support. You can find it here.

Make  your web site a destination for youth, volunteers, donors, leaders, etc.

I think this strategy could be supported in many formats, ranging from public school, to non-school tutoring/mentoring and learning, to home and to work. Some of the links I point to in my web library show that this is already happening in many places.

However, if we want to solve complex problems, I feel we need to teach learners to dig into web libraries, like the one I've been building, so that we're all looking at the same maps, and same range of information. If such libraries are supported by cMOOCs and other formats that encourage people to connect and share ideas with each other, I feel they can accelerate the relationship-building among people who already are concerned about the same issues...because they made the effort to enter the MOOC or the library in the first place.

While I've been collecting and sharing these ideas for nearly 20 years, this work is far too large for any single person. The problems we face are complex, and will take decades of consistent effort to be reduced. Thus, while I seek partners, volunteers and donors to help me maintain my own web platform, I also seek philanthropists who might bring the Tutor/Mentor Institute into one or more universities, where more people can do the work I've been doing, in many more ways.

If you're interested in these ideas connect with me on Twitter, Linked In or Facebook and make me part of your own PLN. I keep reaching out through the same network to find others who I can learn from.