Saturday, May 28, 2016

Honoring Fallen Soldiers by the Efforts of the Living

During this weekend America honors the sacrifice of those who have given their lives to defend and preserve our freedom and way of life.  

I've written blog articles on this weekend almost every year since 2005. Rather than repeat the same song, I invite you to read the messages from past years. 

Just click on this link, then scroll backward from 2015 to 2005.  

Friday, May 27, 2016

Connecting with Universities - Mentor Research Summit

I attended a Research Symposium yesterday in the Chicago area, hosted by the Illinois Mentoring Partnership. I shared some live posts on Twitter,  using the hashtag #ILmentoring. At the same time I continued my involvement with an on-line MOOC hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) by tweeting using the hashtag #CuriousCoLab.

I posted an article this morning on a new Tutor/Mentor Exchange blog that I've started on Wordpress.  This article shows that I've been reaching out to universities for many years to try to build strategic support for strategies I've piloted, that I feel will benefit the university, its students and the surrounding community.

In the article I showed how I've been trying to map participation in conferences and events. In the Tweet below, I point to a Storymap tool used by the #CuriousCoLab people to show places they had connected with in the past year.

I'd like to use the same tool to show where Tutor/Mentor Conferences have been hosted since 1994, to emphasize how I've been reaching out to universities with an invitation to incorporate the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy.  While I could learn to do this work myself, my goal is to recruit volunteers, students, or others, who will do the work, as part of their own learning.

Below is an example of what I'm describing.  This is a PDF created by an intern from South Korea during a 7 week internship with me a few years ago. In it she's pointing to work done by a second intern to map participation growth in the Tutor/Mentor Connection Ning forum from 2007 till 2012.   Both learned new talents in doing this work and I obtained an analysis that I would not have been able to create by myself.

This is one of many projects done by interns that you can view on this page.   

Since the  people I usually connect with are busy people, with little time to investigate the ideas I'm sharing, I continue to propose that they enlist students to do the "market research" to understand what the Tutor/Mentor Connection is and what opportunities and value it might offer to a university.   I outline these steps on this wiki page.

If you're interested, let's connect.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Poverty data for each Illinois Political District - just released

A few years ago the Heartland Alliance provided poverty data for community areas of Chicago, which enabled me to create maps showing this information, which I have shared in this pdf presentation.

Today they released a new set of data, showing poverty levels for every Illinois House and Senate district in Illinois. You can see that here

I hope you'll browse map based articles on this blog, and the MappingforJustice blog, that show how this data can be used by community organizers, non profits, youth leaders and others to build and sustain a resource flow needed to fill each poverty district with age-appropriate programs that help youth in the district move from birth to work.

This pdf presentation illustrates how such maps can be used in stories following incidents of violence in different neighborhoods. While my articles model the type of articles many other could be writing, until more people are actually creating and sharing map-stories like this on a regular basis we're not likely to generate the political accountability, as well as the philanthropic and business support, needed to build and sustain long-term solutions in all the places where they are most needed.

Thank you Heartland Alliance for continuing to provide this data.

On a related note, I started participation yesterday in a connected learning course called Collaborative Curiosity, hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).  I'll be Tweeting the event using #CuriousCoLab.  It's free. I encourage you to join in. I'll be learning from others new ways to collect, curate and share ideas while also pointing to the work I've been doing for the past 20 years. 

I hope to find some new friends, supporters and even partners.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mentoring Research Symposium this Thursday - Reasons to Attend

I'm part of an email list serve that connects mentoring researchers and evaluators from around the world. Dr. David DuBois, host of the group, posted this message today to encourage participation in a Research Symposium that is being held this Thursday, May 26.

For those within manageable travel distance to the Chicago area, I hope you will consider attending the Illinois Mentoring Partnership’s 2016 Research Symposium on Positive Youth Development and Youth Mentoring this Thursday, May 26 from 9:am till 3:pm in Matteson, Illinois at the Holiday Inn Chicago Matteson Conference Center.  

Leading researchers from around the state will share their cutting- edge studies and engage in conversations to support program practices that are evidence-informed. The event agenda with full details is attached. For what it’s worth, affording staff this type of opportunity is invariably a win-win for mentoring programs, as it improves staff perceptions of organizational support for their professional development and their sense of community with the broader field while at the same time providing a highly cost-efficient and stimulating opportunity for the organization to remain current with the latest research and scholarly work.

All participants will attend the opening presentation on Closing the Opportunity Gap for Youth, led by Dr. David DuBois from UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy, as well as our lunchtime panel on Translating Research into Practice to Promote Youth Outcomes.

In addition, attendees may choose 2 of the following 7 Breakout Sessions:

Advancing Attunement: Results from Attunement Training with Mentoring Staff Presented by Julia Pryce, Ph.D., LCSW Essential Group Processes in Forming Close Peer Mentoring Relationships Among Boys of Color Presented by Kevin Pinkston, Ph.D., Bernadette Sánchez, Ph.D., and Shelby Wyatt, Ph.D.

Incorporating Youth Voice in Positive Youth Development and Mentoring Programs Presented by Jill Bowers, Ph.D., CFSLE Mentoring When It Matters: Exploring Trauma-Informed and Restorative Mentoring Practices That Develop Youth Empowerment and Leadership Presented by Troy Harden, Ph.D.

Nurturing Resiliency Among Low-Income Urban Youth Living in Chicago: Results from a Cross-Age Peer Mentoring Program Presented by Maryse Richards, Ph.D. and Katherine Tyson McCrea, Ph.D.

with Cordelia Grimes, Mirinda Morency, Amzie Moore, and Darrick Scott Program Evaluation: A Case Study of the Randomized Control Trial Process Presented by Michelle Morrison, LCSW, Wendy Fine, and John Wolf, MAT Top 5 Lessons from School-Based Prevention Literature for Mentoring Presented by Michael Kelly, Ph.D.

Use discount code MENTOR for $50 tickets on Eventbrite:

Further information is also available on the IMP website at<>

For those who need to take public transportation, you can get a Metra train out of Mellinium Station, that leaves at 7:48 am.  A shuttle is available to provide transportation to the Holiday Inn.

For those who cannot attend, I encourage you to browse the different sections of this concept map, showing research articles hosted in my Tutor/Mentor web library. 

I'll be at the Summit Thursday, and look forward to connecting with people who want to build and sustain mentor-rich programs that reach k-12 youth in all high poverty areas of the Chicago region.   Connect with me there, or on Twitter, Facebook, Linked IN, or in the Tutor/Mentor Forum that I've hosted since 2007.  See links to these sites here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Letter to Billionaire from 1999 - Imagine What Might Have Resulted If He had Responded

I'm going through my archives while working on a two-page letter that I'm sending to an organization in Chicago, asking for their support of the work I've been doing since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago in 1993.

I found this letter, written to a member of one of Chicago's wealthy families, in 1999.  The issues I describe are highlighted. They still persist today, in 2016.  They may still be with us in 2036 if we can't build high level financial and civic support for a strategy like the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Here's the letter:

May 4, 1999

To: Highly Visible Billionaire in Chicago

Dear ……,

I read an article recently which recognized the $15 million donation being made by your family to commemorate the new millennium. I congratulate you on having the generosity of spirit to offer such a gift to the city of Chicago.

I’m writing to introduce the Tutor/Mentor Connection to you and your family and to invite you to appoint a representative to get to know us and to become one of our leaders. The major issues of the new millennium will be education, poverty, violence, welfare reform, social capital, and public health, all of which will have significant positive or negative impacts on our economic vitality, whichever way we go on these issues in the next few years.

I included social capital in that string of issues because it is a unifying issue. We live in a country where people are becoming more and more isolated; while new research is showing that it is communities which have vast amounts of social capital which enjoy the best forms of government. I believe that efforts to connect large number of adults with large numbers of at-risk children, and with each other, have unlimited potential for successfully addressing each of these issues. I also believe that while we need to find places in neighborhoods throughout America to provide hands-on connections between adults and children, it is through the internet that we will be able to meet often enough to understand the vast complexities which must be understood for unified visions to evolve which will change the “riot of fragmented social contributions of the 20th century” into a revolution of social improvement in the 21st century.

Finally, I believe that the Tutor/Mentor Connection, formed in 1993 as part of a new site based tutor/mentor program called Cabrini Connections, is one of the few organizations who actually are integrating some of these visions into a strategy, with a history of growth which is ripe for the involvement of a family with your own vision, history and generosity. I hope you will review these materials and then will want to meet and begin to become a part of this movement.

What is Cabrini Connections?
(Writer Note: I wrote this letter in 1999 while I was still leading the Cabrini Connections program. While this program still operates in Chicago, I've not been involved since 2011, when I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to support the continued work of the T/MC in Chicago and to help similar intermediaries grow in other cities. The information shown below describes the Cabrini Connections program as it was in 1999.)

Cabrini Connections is a small non-profit concerned about the large number of American children who fail to obtain the basic skills and experience that will be necessary to compete for employment in the global economy of the 21st Century. For six years, this organization has helped create school-to-work opportunities for inner-city children by recruiting volunteers to contribute time and energy to provide quality after-school tutoring and mentoring to teens living in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago. Miiri Shin, an Abbott Laboratories employee and 3nd year volunteer wrote ”What a wonderful job the program has done with the kids. I am very pleased to be a part of it.” Cabrini Connections believes that after-school tutoring, mentoring and school-to-work programs like its own can make a significant difference in whether a young person finishes high school and enters the work force or drops out and becomes part of the next generation on welfare.

Cabrini Connections serves nearly 110 teens in its own program, and several participate in the ACI College Bridge Program. However research done by Voices for Illinois Children shows that nearly 200,000 children in Chicago alone could benefit from such programs. And, a 1997 study funded by ACI and conducted by Human Capital Research Corporation in partnership with the Tutor/Mentor Connection, shows that fewer than 6% of Chicago’s school-aged children participate in any of 272 afterschool programs which indicate that tutoring and/or mentoring are part of their mix of services. The maps included in this study show that the areas of Chicago that most desperately need school reform and after-school programs tend to be the same areas plagued by poverty, violence, segregation and neglect.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC)

While many organizations and efforts —including the 1997 Presidents’ Summit — have recognized these problems, Cabrini Connections believes it is the only organization with a working action plan that can increase the overall availability and quality of afterschool tutor/mentor programs throughout an entire geographic area.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) is Cabrini Connections’ detailed action plan aimed at expanding and sustaining the availability and quality of after-school programs throughout Chicago. Although the strategy of the plan appears complex, its message is quite simple: There must be safe places where children can connect with a broad spectrum of adults committed to their future well-being. These places must have support from businesses, universities, hospitals and churches to last for the time it takes for a child to move from first grade to the first job. These places must also be available in every neighborhood that needs them—not just in a few high-profile areas. It is every American’s responsibility to make this happen.

The T/MC approaches this as a marketing and distribution problem, not an education problem. There is not an adequate distribution of resources, volunteers, mentors, youth apprentice programs, ACI College-bridge-type programs, leadership or operating dollars into every neighborhood where help is most needed in any city. Nor is their a long-term commitment to keep these resources flowing, and the quality constantly improving, to the point that the outcomes documented would be children born to poverty landing in careers....some 25 years later.

The T/MC already has created a structure of events, conferences, newsletters and Web site to support the efforts of teams of volunteers such as these. Now it is working to develop an Internet Based Learning Network to provide on-line training, and action plan facilitation, to teams of volunteers and leaders of tutor/mentor programs anywhere in the world, drawing from a world-wide range of “experts” who will be connected via linked web sites to deliver on-line instruction, as well as to provide facilitated discussion-groups, integrating T/MC Directories and GIS computer aided mapping, within each competency to help a learner turn what they learn into constantly improving and expanding actions in their own community.

While we are applying for a five year federal grant to launch this Learning Network (Not received), we seek business and foundation support, to give us the start-up capital needed to get this program off the ground and to help us keep it growing and constantly improving.

The needs of young children are not limited to Chicago. Your family empire is also not limited to Chicago. The many businesses your family leads would be a beneficiary and ideal partner of such a learning network, because of its opportunities for employees, funded agencies and business partners from throughout the world to meet on-line, and in different time, different place facilitated meeting formats to build relationships, shared understanding of common problems, and shared commitment to collective action which would benefit each program and organization.

I have attached the Learning Network Proposal for your review.
Editor Note: This proposal is now archived (here) in a Planning Wiki at, that outlines goals, challenges, and work that needs to be done to re-energize the T/MC, while also adding features that do more to connect people and ideas and help youth serving programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods where they are most needed.)

These ideas and strategies demonstrate the vision that leaders from different states or continents can become a team, share ideas and create actions which give benefit to each partner and to the communities and geographic regions where they live and do business. With the internet, we only need a few visionary leaders to be bold enough to outline a business plan for moving children from school to work, and to provide the leadership to put that plan to work. The T/MC already has this in place and has a wealth of business and non-profit partners who’ve contributed to our success, including the Chicago Bar Association/Foundation, Montgomery Ward & Co. and Illinois Wesleyan University.

With the many different networks you and your family are involved with, or leading, I think it would be very likely that your efforts could result in leaders from every industry and sector of service soon joining you in this coordinated and comprehensive vision.

I hope you’ll review the and web sites, which further demonstrates the work we do and the use of the internet to gather and share best practices and action plans.

Then, I hope you, or one of your representatives, will want to meet with me and become a leader of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Such involvement can be of far greater value and benefit to the next millennium than any gift which has yet been given.

If I can provide additional information for your consideration, please call or email me at

Thank You.

(end of letter)

If you read articles like this, which I wrote in 2016, you can see how writers, such as Robert Putnam, are drawing new attention to problems I was describing in 1999 and earlier. 

With millions of dollars being spent by wealthy people and corporations to get people elected to city, state and national political offices, there must be one or two people who would invest in strategies that I have piloted over the past 20 years.  If you share my blogs and letters like this with people you know, and they share it with people they know, we can reach people who have the resources needed to re-energize the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy and make it available at low, or no-cost to leaders in cities throughout the world.

Friday, May 13, 2016

What are youth orgs doing to help fill all needs of youth they serve?

I've been creating maps like this for nearly 20 years.  It shows a small area in Chicago, the level of poverty in the area, and is centered around a single youth serving organization, which in this map is Family Outreach and Educational Center. 

This map was created in the mid-1990s so demographics have changed and I'm not sure this organization still operates at this location.

Let's just use this as an example.  

I'm passionate about maps because they focus attention on all of the places in Chicago where youth and families need a wide range of extra help. In many stories on this blog, and on the MappingforJustice blog, I show many uses of maps.

I'm also a fan of concept maps. They work like blueprints, to show the many different actions needed, in sequence, to help a youth born today be starting a job and career by his/her mid 20's.

Below I'll show two concept maps that illustrate the range of extra help needed.

This "mentoring to kids to careers" map shows that kids living in high poverty areas often need  help from first grade all the way till they are in their first jobs.  If you look closely at the map, you'll see that at each age level kids need a range of supports to help them move safely and successfully to the next level, and over 12 years, through high school.

Volunteer tutors/mentors can be extra people to help kids get those extra supports. That's what I'm describing in this pdf essay

However, kids and families face many other challenges beyond those related to education and learning. 

This map shows that affluent families face many of the same challenges as do poor families. They just have far greater resources to help overcome their challenges.  

Thus, if you lead a youth serving organization in a neighborhood, and you focus on serving kids in 1st to 6th grade, or you offer STEM, or character education, or you serve 50 kids in a community area with 1,000 or more, what are you doing to draw people together to focus on the other support kids need, beyond what you provide?

This is a different version of the top concept map, showing the time line every child grows through as they move through school and into jobs. It shows three time frames when support needs to be available.  It suggests that just providing a specific service for a few years may not be enough to overcome the tremendous negative impact of concentrated poverty.

This is a graphic that could be produced by any of the organizations operating in a specific community area, or by a team of youth studying this problem and visualizing solutions. You could highlight the age group you serve, and show the type of supports you offer. Then you could invite others to help provide the additional needed support.

The two concept maps I show here are part of a library of concept maps. Any team of students,  volunteers and/or professionals could create their own version of these....or you could invite me to work with you. 

The graphics are included in a library of PDF essays that I've created since the mid 1990s. Anyone could create new versions of these, just as interns have done since 2005. 

Below are two more maps, showing the neighborhood around Brownell School, on the South side of Chicago. 

The top map shows poverty levels (based on 2000 census data) and the number of kids age 6-17 living in the area who are below poverty levels (from Social Impact Research Center of Heartland Alliance).   The bottom map shows some of the faith groups, hospitals and banks in the area. 

Any of these could be inviting people to come together to talk about the needs of youth and families in the area, and to develop on-going strategies to support existing programs and create new programs where they are needed.  

My maps can be a starting point.  You can copy these to PowerPoint and then add additional information showing police, library, fire department, and/or other organizations who occupy real estate in the map area who could either be providing direct service, or supporting those who do.

Ultimately, each neighborhood needs to be creating their own unique set of maps. 

When events like #OntheTable2016 are organized, I'd love to see people supplied with maps and graphics like I show here and on other pages of this blog and the MappngforJustice blog, so they could talk about what's needed, what's available, and what they can do to help.

Perhaps funding from The Community Trust could support such map building, in preparation, or follow up, to each community gathering. 

Furthermore, I'd like to see these maps used from  year-to-year, along with network analysis and participation maps, so that such events support ongoing growth and nut constant start up of new ideas aimed at solving old problems.

This is the fourth of four articles I've posted related to this week's #OnTheTable2016 event. Others were posted on May 10, May 11 and May 12

This is not easy work.

Getting people to adopt these ideas, provide leadership, funding, and on-going actions that bring people out of their silos to focus on more comprehensive, long-term strategies is not an easy task. Some might say, "IT IS IMPOSSIBLE".  

Yet, unless a few people say "BUT WE MUST TRY" and then spend time thinking about solutions and sharing ideas, as I have for the past 20 years, we'll still be talking about the same problems, or maybe worse, 20 years from now.

I look forward to connecting with those who are trying.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

OnTheTable2016 participation map

I asked Marc Smith to create a Node XL map showing participation in May 10th OnTheTable2016 which I wrote about yesterday.

This Tweet was created about 4pm on May 10 showing participation up to that point.

This tweet includes the map produced mid-afternoon, May 11.

Compare the two maps and see the increased participation resulting from another 24 hours of gatherings and social media reporting.  To help leaders learn to use network analysis maps, I created this blog article as a tutorial for using NodeXL.

It will take quite a bit of work on the part of volunteers, interns or staff to draw information out of this map and make sense of it. However, my goal in sharing this is to encourage event organizers to find ways to engage people over and over for many years, so there is deeper engagement and more commitment to providing time, talent and dollars to solve complex problems.  The graphic below is from this page on my web site where I talk about network building and network analysis.

I've been focusing on network building for over 20 years. I started writing this blog in 2005, so if you look at the tags to the left, you can find categories like network building, network analysis, learning, complex problems, etc.

In many articles I read about education reform and poverty fighting, as well as challenges facing non-profits, I see a frequent criticism that resources are not applied long enough for an idea to take root and have impact. In my 35 year leadership of a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program I realized that it takes many years for a program to recruit and build an army of volunteers and a tradition and learning culture. It takes eight years of continuous support for a youth in 3rd grade today to be finishing high school eight years later, or finishing college and/or entering the workforce, 4 to 6 years after that.  

Few donors, media or other public figures support single organizations for that length of years, and if you look at the map of the Chicago region, or the large numbers of youth living in poverty, you'll realize that the city needs hundreds of programs providing long-term support, spread throughout the region. 

Thus, I write articles focused on building and sustaining public will

I write other articles focused on building and sustaining funding support for programs in different poverty neighborhoods....because this needs to be part of any conversation about reducing violence, poverty and inequality.  

My efforts for over 20 years, since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection, have been to provide information that leaders could use to make the commitment shown in the strategy map below, then sustain that commitment for a decade or longer.

When you look at one of the NodeXL maps in the future, you should be able to click into web sites for a growing percent of people, representing all parts of the region, and everyone who we consider "part of the village" and see a version of this map, indicating their commitment to the strategy.

I can't make that happen by myself, but leadership from The Chicago Community Trust, a series of mayors, and leaders of business, sports and media, could, if they focused part of their weekly attention and resources on this goal.

If you spend time reading the articles on my blog and web sites, and using the ideas in your own efforts, perhaps we will see evidence of network mapping and network building being applied in 2017 and beyond.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Chicago OnTheTable2016 event - Follow Up Thoughts

I was one of nearly 50,000 Chicago area residents who met with others in small groups yesterday to discuss issues important to us, our neighborhoods, our city and our region.  This was the third annual OnTheTable event, organized by the Chicago Community Trust.  

I participated with a group of civic technologists, data scientists, web developers, communicators, etc. who meet weekly at the ChiHackNight event, which meets at the Merchandise Mart.  Last night's gathering was their 204th weekly gathering, stretching back a few years. Every week an effort is made to introduce everyone to each other, and to introduce an organization doing some interesting wok with civic technology.  

Last night, for instance, the Invisible Institute introduced a new data portal that communicates police misconduct information. This is incredibly important information bringing to light a problem that has been allowed to persist in Chicago for decades.

It's the exact type of information that would make a great starting point for an OnTheTable discussion, not in one place, but in dozens of places.  However, that was not how the discussion was organized, so instead we covered a lot of territory. Fortunately, a Google Doc had been created so that comments from participants could be recorded by a scribe, or individuals could go directly to the document to add their comments. 

"How can we keep attention focused on issues once the scandals have blown over. Can civic tech people help develop strategy to do this?"

One of the recommendations, and one of the potential outcomes, is that people who attended this session, or who did not, will find the Google Doc and read it, and even add their own ideas.  The ChiHackNight group has an online community on Slack, open to people who attend their events, or who are interested in civic technology, so it's hoped that people will read the GoogleDoc and then organize new discussions around some of the ideas generated last night.  Perhaps some of the other groups that met in the Chicago region also used Google docs to capture ideas. These could be aggregated, and organized by issue, perhaps using concept maps like the one below.

I've been using concept maps for about 10 years. Here's a page with my entire collection. On each map the nodes are connected and there are links in many nodes that lead to other pages, or to sections of my web library. This type of organization of ideas could be duplicated by organizers of the OnTheTable event, or others who are trying to support community-wide problem solving.

Here's another recommendation, based on my own work. 

When I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993, one of its goals was to increase attention focused on volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in the Chicago region. This story was included in the Chicago Tribune in 1994. 

Part of this strategy centered around events that I organized quarterly, such as the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences and the August/September Chicago Area Volunteer Recruitment Campaign.  Another strategy was to create "map stories" telling "The Rest of the Story" after media used front page, or half page stories to draw attention to violence and/or poorly performing schools in Chicago. The maps story below is from 1996.

If you browse the maps or violence section of this blog, you'll see stories like this, where I illustrate that youth and volunteers in different neighborhoods could be using map platforms to create their own follow up stories, which they now can communicate on social media, blogs, YouTube videos and in presentations to big or small groups.  

I'm not doing as much of this as in the past because I don't have the funds, or organizational structure to keep my map platform updated or to do regular stories myself. I've not convinced any university or potential sponsor to adopt and support this strategy.  

I attend events like the OnTheTable2016 and share ideas on this blog and social media as part of my own effort to support problem solving in Chicago and other cities.  I'll keep trying.

This is getting a bit long.  Over the next couple of days I'll post a couple more articles with recommendations for next steps in community building and collaborative problem solving, based on the OnTheTable2016 event.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Chicagoans connecting today via OnTheTable networking events

The Chicago Community Trust is hosting its 3rd Annual OnTheTable event tonight, expecting 10- to 15-thousand Chicago area residents to connect and talk about ways to make Chicago an even better place than it already is for most, and to improve how it is for those isolated, and left behind, because of poverty or personal issues.  I'll be participating in a session tonight as part of the weekly ChiHackNight technology networking event. 

I wrote about the OnTheTable event in 2014 and again in 2015.  My goals will be the same now in 2016.  I think technologists and data scientists can take important roles, as volunteers helping individual non-profits become more and more effective, and as volunteers connecting people who don't live in poverty with people who do. 

I've used GIS maps to show places in the Chicago region where poverty is concentrated and where people need more help, and have been dependent on volunteers with tech skills to build the map platforms and create the maps that I show on this blog and the MappingforJustice blog. In addition, I point to mapping platforms hosted by others, which provide usable resources, and demonstrate more innovative and newer uses of technology than what I've had available.

I've depended on volunteers and limited amounts of paid staff to help create network analysis maps to show participation in Tutor/Mentor Conferences, or connections being made on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN. 

Even the web sites I use were created by volunteers.  

All of this work could be done better, and could be applied to how others connect people and ideas and resources in on-going efforts to solve complex problems facing Chicago and other cities.

I created this graphic many years ago to illustrate that everyone in every neighborhood who is working to help kids move safely through school and into adult roles and responsibilities requires the same resources on a continuous basis.

Innovating ways to generate these resources and point them to all the places where they are needed, and to measure and report where programs and resources are landing, or where more are needed, is work that technologists, data scientists and communications volunteers and professionals can do well, but they can't do it continuously as volunteers. 

Innovating ways to aggregate the conversations and ideas of thousands of people into on-going idea and action planning is a challenge that technologists and collaboration experts need to solve if the result of thousands of people meeting today will lead to an improvement in the lives of thousands of others living in Chicago and other cities. 

One of the challenges to be discussed has to be how to generate a flow of operating and innovation resources to the intermediaries who need to be involved in this work.

I hope some of these ideas are topics of discussion today and in future days.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis - follow up to Putnam talk in Chicago

Dr. Robert Putnam was in Chicago again last week to talk about his book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, and to  point people to a new publication titled, The Opportunity Gap, which contains the ideas of many deep thinkers who were gathered over the past year by Dr.  Putnam and The Saguaro Seminar, which he leads at Harvard  University.

I heard Dr. Putnam speak in Chicago a couple times in early 2015 and wrote a series of blog articles, starting with this one

I have been using maps since 1993 to focus attention on all the places in Chicago where poverty creates unequal opportunities for the American Dream so the case made in Dr. Putnam's book is nothing new to me.  

I spent time in the past week reading through The Opportunity Gap, to see what ideas were being suggested for closing the gap.  It's over 70 pages of text with lots of ideas.  My first thought was "Who's going to read this?"

A few years ago I read a book titled "Uncharitable" by Dan Pallotta, which challenges the way non profits are funded and offers suggestions of different paths. I spent some time creating a concept map, to outline chapters in the book, hoping people would use this as a study guide. I also wrote a series of blog articles, applying these ideas to the youth tutor/mentor sector, which I feel is a strategy that should be considered not just for the impact well-organized tutor/mentor programs can have on kids, but on how they might involve more adults. After his TED talk, I updated the concept map to point to places where people were talking about his ideas. 

I sent an introduction to The Saguaro Seminar, and posted a message on Dr. Putnam's Facebook page, encouraging them to do the same to help people dig through the book and the ideas in The Opportunity Gap white paper.

Then, I went ahead and created a concept map, that I'm showing below.

This map is a starting point, that people at Harvard, or any other university, high school and/or civic organization, could use to build their own study guide as part of an on-going effort to get more people involved in actions that make opportunities available to k-12 youth and families now living in the high poverty places that Putnam and others describe in their writing and research.

On the left side of the map I focus on the book, and the white paper. I don't know of a place that I could point to with links to specific chapters, but someone else could provide this. 

On the right site of the map I point to sections of my own web library, with links to hundreds of other web sites with information that learners should look at, including information about challenges facing non profits who we're asking to do much of the work.  I also show examples of data maps, and of ways maps and network analysis could be used to show who is joining in this effort.

One of the organizations I point to is the Community Commons web site, which is a resource many could use, and a model of telling map stories and focusing attention on others,  that I feel many could duplicate.  They create maps such as the one at the left, showing faith groups in the Chicago region.  And they create map stories, such as this, showing how leaders in the St. Louis area are responding to the 2014 Ferguson riots. 

I dug a bit deeper into this story, and took a look at the web site of For The Sake of All, which is a  multi-disciplinary project focused on the health and well-being of African Americans in St. Louis.  I really like the ways that they are breaking down segments of their report and featuring them on the web site.  I think others could duplicate this to help learners dig deeper into their own publications.

On pages 56 and 56 of The Opportunity Gap, I found this message:

Page 51

We agreed that any policy agenda designed to reduce segregation and its consequences should begin with several principles.

First, it must be place conscious. Community experts have long debated whether to invest in places or the people within them. We argue for a place-conscious approach that recognizes how inequality is organized along spatial lines, and includes investments both in places and the people within them.6

Second, the policy agenda must consider both structure and choice.7 To close the opportunity gap for children, we must reduce structural barriers that shape neighborhood inequality and block their success while encouraging individuals to make choices that will facilitate their own mobility.

Third, a community agenda must include multi-level and cross-sectoral interventions. Confronting the decline of communities requires policy from multiple sectors operating at multiple levels, from the nonprofit and private sectors to local, state, and national government.8

Fourth, dosage matters. Over the past several decades many exciting community-rebuilding policies have been diluted in the political process or abandoned before they could realistically transform communities.9 Any place-conscious policy should be assessed for its long term sustainability so it can forge durable change in families’ lives and their communities.

Page 56

We shouldn’t kid ourselves about quick neighborhood turnarounds. It takes time to create stable communities, establish partnerships, and change accountability. Organizations often resist the call to broaden their efforts to reach the community as a whole, claiming that a broader agenda will dilute their focus or make their task too hard.

The truth is that the stakes are too high for business as usual. We must begin by identifying actors within and outside of a community, core anchor institutions, and funders and policymakers willing to plan for long-term change, agree on these broader metrics and the importance of working together to achieve them, and have the public or private sector support this collaboration and the data systems that enable communities to track their progress.  

Can this have greater long-term impact than similar initiatives in the past?

I've pointed to past news stories, like the one below from 1993, to reinforce what is being said in The Opportunity Gap report.  

I've also attempted to fill an intermediary role, collecting, organizing and sharing information, that others can use in their own efforts, and long-term commitments, to help close this gap, in Chicago, or in any other part of the USA, or the world.

I hope that role is appreciated, and that the ideas and resources are used and applied.  I started doing this in 1975 when I began to draw volunteers together to support youth  in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago, then expanded my role in 1976 and 1977 when I began to invite leaders from other programs in Chicago to gather and share ideas and resources.  I formalized this information collection and public awareness campaign in 1993 when the Tutor/Mentor Connection was created. I continue this effort under the structure of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, created in 2011.

This timeline shows some of the actions taken since 1992.  

I'd be happy to share my ideas and experiences with any of those who are also focusing on this problem. I'd love to have help to communicate these ideas more effective, more consistently, and to more people. I keep looking for a benefactor who would put his/her name on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, either as a stand-alone think tank, or as a policy/action center on a university campus.

Let's connect if you want to use the ideas or want to help.