Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Network Building - Mapping Event Participation

The first time someone from IUPUI came to a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference was in 2000 or 2001. After that someone came each year and by 2004 we were talking about ways to help IUPUI duplicate the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Indianapolis, in exchange for a small annual consulting fee.  That did not happen, but one outcome was that the tech department at IUPUI re-built the web site, which has been first created by one of my volunteers in 1998.  IUPUI hosted that site until 2014 and it's been hosted by a friend from IUPUI since then.

Thus, we've been connected for nearly 16 years.

In January 2014 a team of students in an information visualization MOOC hosted by Indiana University took a look at the Excel attendance records of each of the conferences that I've hosted since 1994.  Their final report is in this blog article, along with a map of participation that they created. 

A couple of months ago my friend from IUPUI asked to look at this same information, in his own efforts to build his skills at using another mapping platform, called Tableau.  He and I have been working on this since then, and he sent me this link a few days ago, showing the map you see below.

I embedded the map on one of my web sites.  By looking at this, you can see that the Tutor/Mentor Conference that I've hosted since 1994 has drawn people from all over the country.  You can zoom into the map down to the Chicago zip code level, and see the number of participants from each Chicago zip code. You can also look at participation in individual conferences. Between 1997 and 2002 we were drawing 200 to 300 to each conference. That tailed off to 100-150 by 2010, then has been 70-90 since then. The decline parallels the financial challenges since 2001 of small non profits, the rise of the internet, making it easier to find ideas and connect with others on-line, and the rise of other intermediaries in Chicago who are also inviting people working with youth to come to their events and their training sessions. 

If you look at the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Conference, you'll see that its

part of an ongoing strategy aimed at building connections between the people leading tutor/mentor programs, the people who are volunteers, and the people who provide the money so that high quality tutor/mentor programs can reach more K-12 youth in high poverty neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities.

The conferences was not only intended to draw people from tutor/mentor programs together to share ideas and build relationships, but to build public awareness that would draw more consistent support from people in business, philanthropy, media, faith groups politics and other sectors to the conference and into support of tutor/mentor programs in different parts of the city.

I've been trying to map participation for several years to show who has been attending (tutor/mentor programs people) and who has not been attending (everyone else who needs to be involved!).  The categories on the top map, are the same as the categories on the second map, shown above. This is the November 1998 conference.  The orange icons are tutor/mentor programs. The other icons code for different sectors. You can see the interactive map, and several others, here

I've never had much money and little political or philanthropic support for the Tutor/Mentor Connection and the conferences and I've much less today than even before. The lack of consistent participation from business, faith groups, philanthropy, political leaders, etc. reflect that lack of support.

However, since the mid 2000s I've encouraged others who have much greater clout and financial muscle than I have to map participation in their own events, showing year to year participation, and using the map and on-line communities like Google+, to connect participants with each other, and keep them connected, and growing in their involvement, from year-to-year.

Hopefully, their maps would show more of the people who are not coming to my conferences, coming to their events. Hopefully we can find a way to connect those people to the vast on-line library of ideas I've created, as well as to the list of Chicago area non-school tutor/mentor programs that I've been hosting since 1994.

I don't need everyone coming to the conference I host. My goal is that a growing number of people adopt the commitment shown in this strategy map.

The conferences are part of a network-building strategy, which I've described in many articles on this blog.  In the presentation below I show how every one of us has the potential to be a "network builder" who responds to negative news with actions that draw more people together, into a movement of people who provide time, talent and dollars in many places and for many years.

While many can take the role of network-building, I hope that some also begin to map participation in their networks to show growth over a period of years and to identify gaps where participation is missing.  Building and sharing network maps publicly, and connecting communities via cMOOCs and other on-line communities, can encourage idea sharing across networks, and within networks, that stimulates involvement, innovation and leads to constant improvement in what the network, and its members, do to solve the problems they focus on.

While we're celebrating National Mentoring Month, and using images of minority youth, and stories of overcoming poverty, let's remember that there are thousands of such youth living in Chicago and every big city, and it will take many years for kids in first grade today to be starting their first job and building their careers when they are in their mid twenties.

I hope you'll read other articles I've written on this blog since 2005, and look at more of the ideas shared on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site.

If you'd like to use the conference data to create your own maps, or to create network analysis visualizations, or if you'd like to apply your talents in communications, web design, etc. to help build and maintain the platforms I describe on this page, I'd love to have your help. 

I have my PowerBall ticket in hand, and if I'm lucky enough to win, I'll plow that money back into the work I've been doing for the past 30 years.  If I'm one of the millions who don't see any of the winning numbers of their ticket, I hope articles like this will inspire one or more philanthropists or investors to support what I've been doing.

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