Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Data Visualization and Youth Tutor/Mentor. How Are they Related?

My friend Terry Elliott, a professor at Western Kentucky University, uses this graphic in this recent blog article. For the past year or so we've been using our blogs to expand the thinking of each other, and a few others who are part of our on-line networks.

I'm a big fan of visualization. I point to nearly 200 Chicago area youth serving programs on this list, and use maps to show where they are located. Very few of the organizations I'm pointing to use visualizations to diagram the supports they offer youth in their programs, or to show how long they stay connected to youth and volunteers. 

If you browse articles I've written since 2005 very few have a photo of a youth and volunteer meeting with each other. Many use maps, diagrams and other visualizations to show ideas and strategy for making mentor-rich programs available to young people in more places.

Many times I feel that the people I've connected with via the Tutor/Mentor Conferences I've hosted since 1994 don't really spend much time focusing on strategies, infrastructure, networking and learning. They are too busy meeting the daily needs of the kids and volunteers coming through their doors. Thus, what I'm writing about may not be reaching many of the people it's intended to help. 

So I re-purposed Terry's graphic, as you can see from the graphic below.

In this graphic, the new buds at the end of each stem represent multiple tutor/mentor programs operating in the same city.  They may or may not have much connection with each other. The conferences I've hosted have brought staff from many of the programs in Chicago #1) on the chart) together consistently for 20 years.  Other intermediaries are also drawing programs together throughout the year.

However, there are many other clusters of buds, on different stems of the tree. If you look at the list on the right, these represent 2) similar youth serving organizations in different cities; 3) other youth serving organizations in the same city, or different cities, who focus on arts, STEM, music, sports, etc.; 4) public and private k-12 schools in a city; 5) colleges and universities in a city, and 6) in other cities.   They also represent 7) the vast amounts of research available to show what is working, and what elements would indicate an effective program, as well as 8) research showing where and why career-focused tutor/mentor programs are most needed.  In addition 9) they represent other anchor organizations, such as faith groups, hospitals and government agencies that are in a city and often have their own networks and activities focused on the well-being of young people.

In addition other bud-clusters represent 10) volunteer talent from many sources who seek involvement in youth serving organizations; and 11) resource providers (business, foundations, government, etc) within the same city, and 12) in other cities.  One cluster (13) represents media, celebrities and others who have the power to draw attention to the youth development sector, and to one, or all, of the tutor/mentor programs in a city.

I've placed some lines on the graphic above illustrating how some organizations from within each cluster are connecting to people from other within their cluster, or in other clusters, via  conferences, on-line networking, face-to-face meetings, etc. The graphic at the right is a different representation.  If there were a lot of interaction there would be many lines going back and forth.  So far I don't know anyone who is collecting such information within my sector.
The branches, or stems on this tree represent 14) intermediaries who are connecting groups within a cluster with each other, or who are connecting groups with each other via 15) online social media, MOOCs, traditional conferences, etc.  A good network analysis map would show how well the intermediaries are connecting with each other. 
My maps and networking graphics are crude compared to work I'm seeing being done by data scientists in Chicago and in other cities.  
On Monday I listened in to a webinar hosted by the White House, that focused on open data and data science and introduced The Opportunity Project.  

I have used the Mapping for Justice blog to highlight some of the visualization platforms I'm finding as I wander the Internet every day, in addition to showing how maps and visualizations can be used to communicate strategy and focus resources on all the neighborhoods where they are most needed.  I'm using concept maps, like the one above, to share this information with others. If you browse The Opportunity Project web site, you'll see even more data visualization projects that might inspire duplication in Chicago and other cities, or provide resources you can use in your own advocacy efforts.

I think that every youth serving program (and school) in Chicago or other cities could have a program teaching young people to search the internet for information and ideas and to teach them skills that enable them to share what they are seeing visually, or by learning to use the data that is being made available by the Census Bureau and city governments.

I created this graphic, and wrote about it here, to illustrate the process of learning from what other people are doing in different places, and applying that to needs in your own organization or community.  Having great, or constantly improving, youth development programs filling the non-school hours of every neighborhood in Chicago requires constant learning from what others are already doing along with an on-going effort to engage the talents, time and dollars of other people to help you put good ideas in place, and keep them in place for many years.

I don't think the graphics I've created are as good as they could be. I'm not sure they communicate the ideas I'm trying to communicate. That's why I've engaged interns for many years, to view what I've created then create their own interpretations. You can see some of their work here.
If you think you can communicate these ideas better, please try. If you think you can apply these ideas to communicate your own strategies, please try.  Just share a link to the work you're doing so I can share it with others, and apply your ideas to my own efforts. 

That's how all of this is related.


tellio said...

Dutiful, beautiful, and fruitiful--I really want to do a screencast on this. I have a real good feeling about this post but I am so time-strapped...I yearn to do serious and deep work but I have this little time sponge called a job so please forgive me if it takes awhile.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Thanks Terry. I'll look forward to sharing your screencast. Hope others see what you're doing and duplicate it.