Thursday, January 03, 2019

What the Heck Am I Trying to Do? Annual Reflection.

Every year I start out with a reflection, aimed at clarifying to myself, and others, “What the hell am I trying to do?” Why should anyone listen, or give me support?

Thus, this annual reflection is as much for my own reinforcement as for readers, but I hope you'll take the journey with me.

I found out more than 20 years ago that my words were not clearly communicating my ideas, in large part because too few others had the same background as I did, and too few others were thinking the same way. My college and Army background in history and intelligence gathering, and my corporate career in retail advertising for a company with 400 stores in 40 states, armed me with a commitment to collect and share best available information to support my decisions, and those of other people and to use daily communications to try to draw people to the ideas I was sharing...which focused on helping hundreds of big and small youth tutor and/or mentor programs grow, not just the single small program I was leading.

Thus, I started creating visualizations to share my ideas. I've been doing that for over 20 years. I'm going to post a few today.

Let's start with this one.

In this graphic, the photo on the left, from the mid 1990s, is a group of 7th and 8th graders. The photo on the right is one of those kids who came back in 2010 to speak at the annual year end dinner. I'm still connected to her and many former students and volunteers on Facebook.

From leading a youth tutor/mentor program that served 2nd to 6th grade kids (1975-1992) then became a 7th to 12th grade program (1993-2011), I began to think of volunteer mentors and tutors as people who give extra help to young people as they move from first grade through high school, and college or vocational school, and into jobs and adult lives.

This has led me to focus on the role of organized programs, that create a safe space, and an opportunity for youth to connect with a wide range of mentors and learning opportunities over a period of years. I created this Total Quality Mentoring graphic in the 1990s to communicate that idea.

Read TQM description.  Read Virtual Corporate Office pdf.

On Facebook and Twitter I'm finding stories from a few programs about alumni who are doing great things. However, too few programs are doing this. Too many may not have program designs that make long-term support possible.

In the next graphic, I then ask “If we want to help kids move from 1st grade to careers, what are all the things we need to be thinking about to make organized tutor/mentor programs available to k-12 kids in more of the places where they are most needed?” Open the map and read it from top left to right, as a circle of thinking. On the bottom row you see a focus on program infrastructure, funding and learning.

View cMap - click here

Kids need a lot of different supports. Organized programs, with a mix of volunteers from different business, education and age backgrounds can be people who help make these extra supports available, if they are encouraged to think beyond the “what do I do with my kid when I meet with them this week” question. The concept map below shows various supports kids in elementary school need. It is is part of a larger “mentoring kids to careers” cMap which shows that kids in middle school, and high school need similar supports, plus a fee more.

View Mentoring Kids to Careers cMap

As a volunteer in 1973, I started each week asking “What will I do with Leo, my mentee, when I meet with him on Tuesday evening?” I'm certain that every volunteer is asking the same questions. My goal has been to provide a library of information and ideas that volunteers could draw from, and to help programs build a talent pool of veteran volunteers and staff, who could provide answers to this weekly question, and many others that arise.

Dan Bassill - year end graduation, 1970s

I became the leader of that volunteer-based program in 1975 and from then until 2010, I started each August with “How do I recruit 100-300 volunteers and kids?” then moved on to “How do I keep them involved from the beginning of the school year till the end?” and “How do I recruit some to volunteer time to help me do this?” The questions kept growing as I formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. How do we help this happen at several hundred locations in Chicago, not just the single program I was leading?

Since becoming a non-profit in 1990 the questions expanded to “how do we find the money to pay for this?”

That's what this next graphic is focusing on.
Click on graphic to enlarge, and few in greater detail.

The questions keep growing and ultimately focus on “how do we build and sustain public and private sector support for hundreds of separate programs, and for intermediaries, like myself, who work to support the entire system, the same way people in the corporate office of big companies work to support a vast network of stores in different places, distribution centers, technology and logistics and an army of talented people?

How do we build and sustain the public will to support this?

Then I think of how helping kids grow up is just one of many many complex problems that people throughout Chicago and the world focus on every day. How do we find a few leaders who will give daily attention to the problem I focus on, while also helping leaders grow in other sectors and other places?

Open map - click here

I don't know all the answers to these questions. Heck, I don't know all the questions.

What I've been doing for the past 40 years is building a library of “other people's ideas” that I use to stimulate my own thinking, and that I share to help others become involved in this process. This PDF describes the graphic at the right.

This PDF describes the Tutor/Mentor Learning Network, which is what I've been trying to build through the leadership of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (2011-present)

So I think what I do has value.

I collect information others can use to build and sustain programs that connect kids and volunteers in places where they are needed. I also lead a communications effort to increase the number of people looking at that information and reaching out to support programs with time, talent and dollars. And I spend time trying to help other people make sense of all of this.

I don't find anyone else who is writing articles like mine, hosting a web library like mine, or using maps and visualizations the way I do. If you find such people, introduce me. That's what keeps me going every year. 

Four Part Strategy

This graphic visualizes that process, showing a 4-part strategy that I've been following since 1993. Open the link and dig deeper into this cMap.

Below are a couple of more graphics to think about.

We all want every child born today to grow up and have a great life, and be a contributor to the well-being of others and the planet.
Common Goal - read more

If we don't collect the knowledge showing how some people are already doing this, we will constantly be starting from scratch, rather than learning from others. We'll never had the best information available to innovate solutions that we're willing to commit support to for many years.

Influencing Actions

Furthermore, if we don't figure out a way to influence both resource providers and program leaders and volunteers, as well as young people, we'll never have enough of the resources needed to build long-term solutions, nor will we have enough program providers looking at ideas they can use each year to improve work they are doing.

Is that all? 

In this article I've shown just a few of hundreds of graphics I've created to share what I'm thinking and what I'm trying to influence. Thanks for reading along with me.

Visit my page on to see more.

Do a Google search for “tutor mentor” then look at the images, to see more.

Visit this article and find a list of links to all sections of my library, my cMaps and PDF presentations. Build these into a learning and planning curriculum in your community.

And for your viewing pleasure, I converted one of the power point files that I use when creating these graphics, into a pdf, which I posted on

There are 36 slides with a progression of ideas. I have several similar PPTs with additional graphics like these. If you browse articles I've posted, you can see how they have been used.

If you think what I'm doing is worth doing, and has value, then, do one or more of the following things

*) read my blog weekly and spend time looking at articles written in past years

*) join me in on-line learning groups such as the #clmooc group on Twitter, or in one of the many conversations I point to in this concept map.

*) share this and other blog articles regularly with people in your network

*) start a conversation with me to explore ways you, your company, your classroom, or your college can take a meaningful role in doing this work, now, and in future years..

*) make a contribution to help me pay the bills – here's my FUNDME page

Visit this page to find places to connect with me on social media.

Thank you again for reading.

I wish all of you to have a boat load of health, hope, happiness, peace and good news in the coming year.

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