Saturday, April 01, 2017

Use Website to Communicate Youth Program Design

 I point to nearly 200 Chicago youth serving programs in the links section of the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site.  On many web sites there is a list of services, and tutoring and/or mentoring might be included. On others there is a page on the web site with a message something like this.
School-Age is a program that provides educational support, cultural enrichment, and recreational development activities to student ages 6 - 12. It’s open five-days-a-week and full-time during the summer and on school holidays. The program is for low-income parents who are either working, in school, or job training.
Other web sites seem more fully devoted to youth tutoring and mentoring, and the first page on the web site uses photographs of youth and volunteers to signal this purpose. Some provide a great deal of information showing program design, history, alumni, etc. Others show far less information.

What I see frequently in the youth development field, and on Chicago programs' web sites,  is an emphasis on the act of "tutoring" or "mentoring" or arts, technology and/or video making,  but not a strategy that weaves those acts into a long-term web of support that helps kids in poverty areas move through school and into careers.

I think of non-school volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs as a potential "learning distribution system", like a retail store, with a wide range of age-appropriate mentoring and tutoring and experiential activities, made possible by volunteers from different work/life backgrounds and a consistent flow of flexible operating dollars.  Such programs are needed in every high poverty neighborhood.

A few years ago I created a presentation that I titled "shoppers guide" to show some things that I think parents, volunteers and donors might want to see on a youth tutor/mentor program's web site, to help them decide whether or not to get involved with that program.  Here's the presentation:

I created another presentation, titled "Virtual Corporate Office", to show how volunteers from different industries, trade associations and universities could help programs build a mentor-rich program design, and communicate it effectively on their web sites.

In most of my presentations and many of my blog articles I use GIS maps, showing where comprehensive, long-term, tutor, mentor and learning organizations are needed, based on high rates of  poverty, segregation, crime and violence, etc.  While there are a few really well designed programs doing great work, programs in every poverty neighborhood need to be great, and constantly getting better.

For that to happen businesses and other assets in a neighborhood, and in the city, need to form teams of volunteers who work to help programs become great, by working to help employee volunteers and corporate dollars become involved as long-term support systems.

I attended a presentation yesterday where the President of a Chicago business emphasized the importance of leadership commitment to partnerships with youth serving organizations.  In this Role of Leaders presentation I emphasize that commitment, but also show how this can lead to the growth of an employee led team of volunteers who work to engage the company, and its industry, effectively in support of youth programs that have long-term career-focused strategies.

In many past articles I've focused on the need for leaders in every industry, university, hospital and faith group to make a long-term commitment to help kids move through school and into careers.

A version of this concept map should be shown on the web site of every leader who makes this type of long-term commitment, and supports the four-part strategy needed to make great programs available in more places.

The Mayor of a city, and Governor of a state, should be the number one cheerleaders, recognizing leaders who make this commitment and show it on their web site, and arm-twisting others who don't take a similar role.

Hosting a list of youth serving programs is a huge challenge, but it's really only the first step of building an information base that helps us understand the different types of youth serving programs available to youth at different age levels, in different zip codes.  I've reached out to people in business and  universities over and over for many years, seeking others who would dig into the list of youth programs I host, and build a deeper level of understanding about what's available in Chicago (or other cities) and what more is needed.

That type of research is still needed, in Chicago, and in other cities. 

I'd be happy to help you walk through the ideas I share on my web sites.  If more leaders take the roles shown, more youth program web sites will begin to show a comprehensive theory of change, a long-term program design, and alumni who are now working as a result of support the program provided during k-16 years.

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