Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Understanding Changing Chicago Demographics

I've spent the past 35 years connecting volunteers from middle class and more affluent parts of Chicago with kids living in high poverty areas, via organized tutor/mentor programs.  The goal was to create some of the learning experiences and opportunities and social networks available to some that are not available to others.  I've used maps to show where programs are located, where they are most needed, and to help volunteers, donors and parents find existing programs, or help new once grow.

However, the map of Chicago has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, making this goal much more difficult.

Below is are two maps from a WBEZ article titled "The Middle Class is Shrinking Everywhere. In Chicago, It's Almost Gone."

read WBEZ article
Follow the links in the WBEZ article to a) article by Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at UIC, which is the original source of the maps used in the WBEZ article; and b) Pew Research article titled America’s Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas, which focuses on metropolitan areas throughout the entire USA.

You can see a dramatic change in Chicago demographics, creating two Chicagos, one rich, and one poor, with few in the middle.  I've been trying to bridge these divides by helping youth tutor/mentor programs grow in different parts of Chicago.  It's been difficult.

At the left is my map showing non-school tutor and/or mentor programs in Chicago.  I circled areas of very high income, showing that there are many youth programs in this area, or on the fringes.

You can view this map on the MappingforJustice blog, along with many other articles showing uses of maps. The article also includes a link to my list of Chicago area tutor/mentor programs.

If you look at some of my Tweets @tutormentorteam, and articles I've posted in the past few weeks, you can see how I work to keep this list updated, and how I try to draw attention to programs.  You'll also see a concern that some programs are very well organized with a lot of information on their web sites, while others have less formal organization and less information on the web site.

Below is a graphic I've used for 20 years to visualize the design of a mentor-rich youth program, with volunteers from different work and college backgrounds sharing their experiences and opening doors to career opportunities for kids who don't have many people living near them who model these experiences.

View Total Quality Mentoring PDF 
Note that on this graphic the arrows from the hub to the spokes on the wheel go both ways.  That's because volunteers who enter these programs can learn much about poverty and inequality and share what they learn with people in their workplace, family and faith networks.  That's always been the goal because unless more people are getting personally involved in providing opportunities for urban youth, little will change.

view video
At the right is a graphic from a "service learning LOOP" animation created by interns between 2007 and 2010, to show how volunteers who get involved in a tutor/mentor program begin to share what they are learning with others. See it in this article.

Another version can be seen here.

With the changing demographics, concentrating high income people along the Northeast lakefront of Chicago, and dramatically reducing the middle class, how will we create places for youth and volunteers to connect in the types of organized, on-going, programs that build trust, relationships, empathy and understanding?

eMentoring programs are emerging as a way to make connections between volunteers who don't live in poverty areas and with youth who do.  I point to a few in this section of the Tutor/Mentor library.  I'm not yet confident in the ability of these programs to build the depth of relationship that is possible from meeting face to face two to three times every month.

One reason I'm concerned is shown by another WBEZ map, which shows the Digital Divide in Chicago. If kids don't have a place to access the internet, how can they form regular relationships with eMentors? Maybe using phones?

I've collected some Digital Divide articles on this site.

Unless more people become motivated to dig into these articles, or read my blog, those articles will be seen by too few people. Too few will be involved in building solutions to these problems.

One of my frustrations is that I've not been able to maintain the interactive tutor/mentor program locator which the Tutor/Mentor Connection built between 2004 and 2008.  At the right is a screen shot from the current version.

I show poverty levels, just like the WBEZ maps, with overlays that show locations of tutor/mentor programs, and other overlays that show indicators of need, such as poorly performing schools, and assets, such as businesses, faith groups, hospitals and  universities, located in different parts of the city.

Unfortunately this has not been updated since 2010 so the demographics are from 2000 and other data is out of date.  I keep looking for partners who would help update this and/or rebuild it, then use it in efforts to build connections between rich and poor in cities like Chicago.

Want to help?  Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIN, and share my articles with others. That's one way.  Start a conversation about other ways to help. That's another way.

Another is to send a small contribution to help me keep writing these stories and maintaining the web library.

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