Sunday, July 05, 2020

Navigate the Tutor/Mentor Library

I've been building a web library since 1990s with one big question in mind. "What are all the things we need to know, and do, to assure that all kids born in poverty in one year are starting jobs/careers 25 years later?

The links in the library point to research, youth programs in Chicago and around the country, and resources needed to build and sustain high quality volunteer-based youth tutor, mentor and learning programs in more places.

In March I was informed that the platform  hosting the web library was corrupted and a new format for the links library needed to be built. That involved manually moving over 2000 links from one format to a new one, then updating my concept maps and library blog to point to the new link addresses.

Today I finished the main part of the job.  I'll never be able to go back through past articles and update links, but fortunately, the two main links, embedded in many past articles, did not change.

Thus, to visit the Chicago area program links section, click here.

To visit t he main library, where you will see a list of categories, click here.

A few years ago I created an article on this blog where I listed all the sections of the library, and provided short TINYURL links to each. I also listed concept maps and PDF presentations that I referred to often and that I had created short links for.  By using this as a reference you can find resources I point to often and I can keep repeating the same short link when ever I refer to a specific resource.  I don't need to keep re-creating short links.

Below is a screen shot of just one section of that article, which points to the short links I've created for the Chicago area tutor and/or mentor programs list that I maintain.

This section of the Tutor/Mentor Library blog shows links to Chicago area tutor and/or mentor programs.
There's a huge amount of information in this library which means you need to spend time regularly visiting and getting to know what's there and what's useful to you.  I wish I could say there was a section with quick solutions to ending urban violence, or ending racial injustices and income/wealth gaps. They don't exist.  What you will find are ideas that can be part of comprehensive long-term solutions.

I keep adding links and I fix broken ones when they are reported to me.  At least once every two years I go through every section of the library, opening every link, to make sure they work, fix or remove broken links, and refresh my memory on why I added the resource to the library in the first place.

As I do this I often will share the links on Twitter.  Below is an example.

Anyone can do the same. As you look through the library share via Tweets, FB posts, Instagram, etc. what you are finding. That way you help other people find these resources, too.

Thank you to Nathan Bryer for continuing to host the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute, LLC library and to the small group of donors who continue to send annual contributions to help me keep this information available to everyone in the world.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Helping Youth Tutor/Mentor Programs Grow

Below is a map of the central part of Chicago on which I've plotted locations of a few youth tutor and/or mentor programs. I've combined it with a graphic showing Twitter accounts of a few Chicago programs. You can find my list of programs and the map platform I used at this link.

I've posted this to illustrate my 25 year commitment to helping volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in all high poverty areas of the Chicago region.

Yesterday I included the concept map shown below in an article on the MappingforJustice blog, showing the layers of information that were included in a Chicago tutor/mentor programs directory that we started building in the 1990s and put online in 2004.

Layers of information needed on a program locator - click here
Today I had a short ZOOM meeting with someone from the World Economic Forum in Zurich, Switzerland in which I described the program locator layers and how a platform like this can be used in cities throughout the world.  I also told of my goal of finding developers to help rebuild the Program Locator, as open source technology, so the template could be adopted in more places.

Take a look at yesterday's article and look at other articles on this blog, and the MappingforJustice blog showing uses of maps that could be duplicated in thousands of locations.

You can connect with me on any of these social media platforms.  I'd like to hear from you.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Creating Economic Justice - Time Right for Greater Business Involvement?

Chicago Sun Times, 1992
In the past month the protests following a series of high profile police murders of Black and Brown men and women have mobilized millions across the world.  Will this finally lead to the type of involvement that creates social, racial and economic justice in America?

I've been pointing to this 1992 Chicago SunTimes front page for the past 27 years, in an on-going effort to get business, professional and political leaders more strategically involved in building and sustaining youth tutor, mentor and learning programs that help kids in poverty areas move through school and into jobs and careers.

My belief in the potential of well-organized programs comes from my own leadership of tutor/mentor programs between 1992 and 2011. I'm now connected to many alumni on Facebook and seeing them post pictures showing their own kids finishing high school and/or college.  That's the long term impact that's possible.

Service-Learning - click here
I also believe that such programs can educate volunteers about the reasons tutor/mentor programs are needed in the first place, and that some of these volunteers will become deeply involved in creating systems level solutions...if they are well supported and stay involved for multiple years. 

I'm now seeing a growing number of Chicago youth programs sharing reading materials with their volunteers, encouraging them to learn more about racial justice history in America. That's a step in the right direction.

Since 2000 I've been sharing a set of strategic plan templates, first developed by a team of students from DePaul University, that can be used by business and professional leaders to jump-start strategic involvement initiatives.  These can be applied in any city. They are shown below.

Tutor/Mentor University Connection - View the presentation below. Download and create your own version. Apply in any university, in any city.  Read articles showing university involvement.

Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection.  Any hospital could apply this strategy to support poverty-reduction efforts in the geography surrounding a hospital. It could be a strategy to reduce the cost-of-poverty at the hospital and to create jobs and career opportunities for youth and adults in the hospital trade area.

Tutor/Mentor Lawyer Connection (PDF). This strategy mirrors the first two, but also draws from a partnership my organization formed with the Lawyers Lend A Hand Program at the Chicago Bar Foundation in 1994 and continued through 2007.  Read Lend A Hand articles on this blog.

Tutor/Mentor Lawyer Connection PDF - click here

Role of Leaders.  For any organization to build and sustain a long-term strategy such as those suggested in the above presentations, the CEO and top leaders need to be personally committed.  That does not mean they do all the work. It means they make it important and appoint a "get it done" person from their organization to lead the effort.  That's what the presentation shown below outlines.

Almost all of the articles on this blog support these strategies.  Evidence that any organization is adopting the strategy would be a blog on the organization website that in five and 10 years from now shows similar stories, posted weekly, for five to 10 consecutive years.

Furthermore, you'd find a version of this concept map, with the company CEO in the blue box, or the company logo, showing a commitment to helping kids in poverty move through school and into jobs and careers.

Make this commitment. Put  your name in the blue box at the top. 

The long-term impact of such a strategy would be more programs reaching k-12 youth in more places with on-going support that helps kids through school and into jobs and careers, free of poverty, and free of racial discrimination.

This visualizes the goal. Kids that join a program while in elementary or middle school and now finishing high school or college. 

I'm seeing many youth organizations post stories of students graduating and going to college. I don't find many using a graphic like this on their website or blog to visualize the program design that helped achieve these outcomes.

How do you start?  Do your own reading. 

Create a research and planning team of people within your organization who spend time reading and reflecting on the ideas I've been sharing. In a high school or college this team could include students and alumni.  Share what they learn, as they learn, encouraging others to get involved and build their own understanding.

I'd be happy to help anyone think through this strategy.  I'm available on any of these social media platforms.

If you value what I'm sharing, send a contribution to help fund my work. Visit this page

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Navigating Yourself Through Information Libraries

Facilitating understanding
I started building the Tutor/Mentor information library in the 1970s long before I knew of the Internet. At the tutoring program hosted by Montgomery Ward from 1970s-1999 the library started as four metal file cabinets, then expanded to a wall of shelves. When we moved to the 20th floor of the Montgomery Ward HQ tower in 1993 we had about 400 sq ft of space, just devoted to our library.

That physical library now is down to a few books on my shelves. It's all on-line, which has been happening since 1998, while the space (and funds) available to operate began to shrink.  There's some sadness there, but to me, this is a blessing. The information is available to far more people now than it ever was in the 1990s.

From 1993 to 2000 I used printed newsletters to tell people about some of this information and encouraged them to visit the library at our Wards location.  Many of the tutor/mentor programs launched in the mid 1990s borrowed ideas from that library.  I hosted conferences every six months in Chicago and these became a place to gather new information and to help people understand the information and ideas within the library.

Home Page T/MC website - 1998
We started moving all this on-line in 1998 when one of the volunteers at the tutor/mentor program I was leading offered to build a website for us. We developed the graphic at the right for this first website to show our goal of connecting people from different backgrounds to the information, to each other, and to the Tutor/Mentor Connection. The page design was used help people navigate the information on the site. You could click on any of the blue circles and go to a section where we hosted lists of information/links to other people's websites.

Between 1998 and 2004 I saw a few examples where graphics like this were interactive, meaning if you clicked on one of the blue circles it would move to the center of the wheel, and the spokes would be filled with new circles, showing sub categories of information related to that topic.  The Hub of Creativity and the early version of the Boston Indicators Project (both no longer available) were examples that I hoped to duplicate (but never was able to).

As the library continued to grow between 2000 and today the number of links grew and that made it more and more difficult for people to navigate the library.  In 2011 I worked with Debategraph and created an interactive site that shows the vision and strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection / Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Mentoring Kids to Careers on Debategraph - click here
When you click on any of the spokes it moves to the center of the wheel and new spokes appear. A narration at the right side of the page explains what that particular strategy focuses on.  This was a good example of the type of navigation tool I was envisioning in the late 1990s, but still did not focus on the various sections of the Tutor/Mentor web library.

Since 2005 I've used concept maps, created with cMapTools, to show the library.  

4 sections of web library
These are static, but they have layers of information. You can link from the cMap to sections of the library.  This map shows the four main sections. Thus, if you click on the small box at the bottom of each node, a new map appears.

In the late 2000s two interns from South Korea/IIT in Chicago built an animated version of the map.  This work was actually done by two different teams. One built it in the winter and the second updated links and added a voice narration in the spring of 2009.  You can see it below.

Resource Map - video

This was created in Flash animation which is no longer supported on many platforms. I created a YouTube video a couple of years ago so that it could still be viewed. It was really creative work.

The Debategraph map, cMaps and this animation all were a form of interactive navigation, intended to help people find, understand, and apply the ideas in the library to help kids in all poverty areas move through school and into adult lives.

This week if found a version of what I have been imagining for so long, on the World Economic Forum web site. This is a "strategic intelligence" map.  View this short video to understand its scope.

World Economic Forum - Strategic Intelligence 
Here's how this works.  On the home page of the WEF website are dozens of categories. Click on any one of these and a map like the one above opens. On this the hub of the wheel starts out stating the global issue, in this case "workforce and development". The spokes show a wide range of related issues. Click on any of those, and that becomes the center, with new spokes.  Notice the inner ring of circles. Click on any of these and related spokes on the outer ring will show up in blue.  Every time you refresh the map a list of resources appears in the box on the right side of the page.

I can't imagine what it costs to build and  maintain this.  I'd love to have someone step forward and build a similar platform to point to all the sections of my library.  This might be organized in several ways. For instance, I wrote a "War on Poverty" article several years ago and created the graphic below.

View PDF that describes this. 
The hub of the wheel might be "What are all the things we need to know and do to assure every youth born in a poverty area today is in a job, free of poverty, by his/her mid 20s?"  The spokes would be points 1 to 7 on this graphic, with an 8th being "using maps".

This same hub could be used with a different version, where the outer spokes would be all the sections and sub sections of the Tutor/Mentor library, and the inner spokes would be the four major categories shown in the cMap above.

Why is this important? Below are screenshots from today's Chicago Tribune, talking about the tragic killing of another child, and pointing out that we've been here in the past, and nothing  has changed.

I could have just as reasonably put in an image from the murder of George Floyd, or the Black Lives Matter Movement.  Both are related.

An information map, like the one the World Economic Forum built, should be created, with "How do we assure that all Black Lives Matter"  or "How do we end these killings?"   The outer circle would be created by people much more deeply informed than myself, but needs to be an exhaustive representation of "everything:"we need to know, and do, to reach a future where all Black Lives do Matter, and we have a much better world for every one to live and raise their kids.

I wrote this article earlier today, saying a Black Lives Matter information hub should be built. Maybe it already has been.  Here's another page from the WEF Strategic Intelligence site, focused on Systemic Racism.

Systemic Racism - click here
I'm not yet certain about what information is hosted, here, but I encourage you to take time to look.

I think the sub sections of the Tutor/Mentor library would be a useful resource for these platforms.

Getting "Everyone" involved

I think the 4-part strategy that I started following in 1994 would be useful, too.  The library I've built, that the World Economic Forum built, and that others, like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals organizers have created, all represent "STEP 1", which is the information gathering, organizing, and sharing step.

In the War on Poverty graphic, STEP 7 focuses on "building and sustaining public will".  I feel this is where we have failed, over and over, for the past 30 years.  Too few spend time trying to figure ways to do this and too fee provide the on-going funding needed.

STEP 2 of the 4-part strategy focuses on building public interest and drawing more people to the information in the library, while STEP 3 involves an on-going process of facilitation, or helping people find, understand and learn ways to apply the information.

I'm doing STEP 2 and STEP 3 right now.

STEP 4 involves the use of maps, which are also part of STEP 1.  We must know where people need help and we must build tools that show the distribution of needed programs and resources, to assure that we're reaching ALL of those places.


What makes the Tutor/Mentor strategy unique is that in STEP 1 I've been building a list of Chicago and national Tutor and/or Mentor programs.  The result of more people looking at this information and learning ways to help is that more are looking at maps to determine what organizations in specific areas are doing needed work. Then they are looking in their own personal mirror and deciding how, and how much, to help.

They don't way for a proposal. They have used the information in STEP 1 to know what types of programs work and they look on program websites to determine what these programs do and how to help them.

Educating more people to take various roles that sustain needed work in thousands of locations is work that must be included in any knowledge map.

I've been writing about this since 2005, so there are many related articles that you can find by clicking on the tabs at the left side of this blog.  This article about systems thinking would be a good start.

I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN and Instagram (find links here).

If you value the ideas I'm sharing, a small contribution to help fund me would be welcome. Visit this page and use PayPal to send your help.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Where I've been connecting with others

Spend time learning
Over the past eight years I've worked largely from my home and have had fewer and fewer one-on-one meetings, or events to fill my schedule.  That's changed with the Covid19 lockdown. I can attend one, or two, ZOOM meetings daily where I'm learning new information, meeting new people and/or reconnecting with people who I've not been able to meet in traditional meetings.

Below are a few Tweets that show the range of events I've been following.  You're invited to join any of these.

I started meeting a few weeks ago with a few educators who use the #learning2pivot hashtag. Members have been writing blog articles to show their thinking about school re-opening. I added them to my Inoreader library where I've been pointing to educators who I've met over the past 10 years via the #clmooc, #etmooc and similar educator communities.

Here are links to three of the blog articles that were shared this week:

- from Geoffrey Winship, educator in Toronto - "Getting Back to Normal"
- Dr. Bryan P. Sanders, educator from Los Angeles, "Take away the campus, but put back the computer"
- from Ihor Charischak, A career mathematics educator, "My Trip to Number Town" (watch the video)
- from Gary Stager, education consultant - "Big ideas" and "Time for Optimism"
- from Susan Spellman, school counselor - Re -Entry from a School Counsellor Lens

Last week I visited the #PovertyNarrative conference hosted by the University of Michigan. I looked at the archive of an event held on June 11, watched one live on June 16, then watched a second. I posted Tweets as I did. There will be another session on Thursday, June 18, then more the following week.  Below is one of my Tweets.

The list of recommendations for solutions journalists is similar to the goals I've had since 1993 when I began creating my list of Chicago tutor and/or mentor programs. My goal was that programs would share information on their web sites showing what they do, why they do it, where, how, and what's working, or not working, and why. Such information would be valuable to anyone trying to understand them, or trying to do similar work in different places. Sadly, few programs provide this range of information.

One of the #clmooc educator blogs I follow is written by Kevin Hodgson, a middle grade teacher in Massachusetts. He posted blog article sharing cartoons he's created since schools closed in March. I encourage you to take a look.

I also watched this ZOOM presentation

On Sunday evening I watched the segment on 60 minutes where they told the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre that took place 100 years ago. This is a huge reminder of why the history of slavery and racism in America should be taught in every school.

I went to Instagram to listen to this presentation. I love the graphic.

From June 10-12 I followed the National Points of Light Conference, which was a virtual event this year. I've attended twice in the past, but not recently. You can follow that event using #pointsoflight20

I find some Twitter threads to be worth reading. Here's one that shows how the Confederacy survived the Civil War. As I said about the Tulsa Massacre, this history has not been taught.

I also took a look at the #HowWeRise blog launched by the Brookings Institute. I added a link to that in my monthly eNews, which I'm sending today.

Since last October I've been encouraging Mayor Lightfoot's MyChiMyFuture youth programs team to share info on Twitter and to try to build community there. Last week they began to do that.

I keep checking my TMPrograms list on Twitter every day, looking for posts from Chicago area tutor and/or mentor programs.  Too few are using Twitter.  Many are posting on Facebook and/or LinkedIN or Instagram.  However, I find it more difficult to see a list of programs on these platforms. I'm just seeing single programs as they show up in my feed, which is an inefficient use of my time.

The Tweets I've shared are just a few examples of my past couple of weeks on Twitter. You can follow me at @tutormentorteam and see the same things I'm looking at. You can even post a Tweet sharing a link to your own website and blog.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

ENOUGH - Maybe This Time?

Like many of you, I'm angered by the death of another Black man, and another Black woman, and countless others, as a result of police actions.  More so, I'm angered that we've had reminders of our racial injustices for more than 30 years and far too little has been done to fix the problems.  I'm heartened to see some of the actions coming as a result of the protests marches, but this fight is not one that will be won overnight. It's a long-term battle.

That's what I've been focusing on for the past 25 years.

The front page of the October 15, 1992 Chicago SunTimes was the catalyst that led me to create the Tutor/Mentor Connection in late 1992, with the help of 6 other volunteers.

I had seen media stories like this in previous years, such as after the killing of Ben Wilson in the mid 1980s, and realized that unless the city had a master database of youth serving organizations it would never be able to build a marketing plan to help each of those programs constantly improve what they were doing to help k-12 youth move through school and into adult lives ... with jobs....that enable them to safely raise their own kids.

Support youth programs in
EVERY high poverty area.
Furthermore, by mapping locations of programs and slicing the database to know what age group was being served, by what type of program, we could provide resources people in different areas could use to determine if they had enough programs, or needed more.  And by building a library of information and bringing people together to learn from each other, we could help programs grow in more places.

I had led a volunteer based tutor/mentor program since 1975 so I had a strong belief in the potential of these programs to have a positive influence on the lives of kids who participated, as well as the volunteers.  The program I had led only served kids until the end of 6th grade, so in 1992 as we were generating the idea of a Tutor/Mentor Connection, we created the Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program, to help 7th graders from the original program move through high school and on to college and careers. (That program is now Chicago Tutoring Connection (CC), while the original is now Tutoring Chicago,)

CC alumni w next
generation  HS grad.
I led that program for 18 years and more than 700 teens participated, many for 4 to 6 years.  Now in 2020 I'm still connected to many former CC students, as well as to many who were in the earlier program in the 1970s and 1980s.  I'm delighted when I see people posting stories of their own kids now finishing high school and/or college. The photo at the right was posted on Facebook in the past week.

However, I'm also saddened when they post stories of losing a child to gun violence.

Yesterday I watched a panel discussion titled "Poverty Narrative" where media people talked about how they tell the story of race and poverty in America and how important it is to keep the story alive for a long time. This is an on-going event that will continue through June 2020 so I encourage you to join in.

Near the end of the 90 minute session one of the panel members, Darrick Hamilton said "Political Rights and Civil Rights are not enough without Economic Rights."

I support volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs because they can help youth through school with a network of support that helps them thrive economically.  However, they also draw volunteers from non-poverty backgrounds into the lives of urban youth, where many begin learning about political rights and civil rights issues, and become part of the mobilization needed to make change happen.

During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as I led a tutor/mentor program I began to focus on one big question. What are all the things we need to know and do to assure that all youth living in high poverty areas are entering jobs and careers by their mid 20's.

What are all the things we need to know and do?
Surprise. This requires learning much more than how to be an effective volunteer tutor or mentor. 

These two graphics visualize the same 4-part strategy that I launched through the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.  It's an on-going, information-based, problem solving strategy.  I encourage others to adopt it to address the "Political Rights, Civil Rights and Economic Rights" challenges Derrick Hamilton spoke of.

View at 

The database of Chicago youth Tutor and/or Mentor programs that I've maintained since 1993 is only one part of the library of information I've been aggregating for the past 25 years,which is Step 1 of the strategy.  There's an entire section on black history and another on race, poverty and inequality, and another showing ways to take political action.

Four sections of web library
This concept map shows the four sections of the library. Click on the link under each node and another maps opens. Click on the links under these and enter the library and find a list of links to other websites.

Step 2 of the strategy involves creating greater awareness and use of this library, and Step 3 focuses on helping people understand the information and build personal and/or organizational strategies to use it.  Step 2 is where our efforts usually fail. Few have consistent funding to keep a movement alive for 20 years or longer. This is especially difficult since so many people and organizations in so many places need to be involved.

Step 4 is the result of the first three. Better information, seen and understood by more people,  results in more actions that draw visitors to websites of each tutor/mentor program in Chicago, where people make decisions on who to help, and how to  help, including "how much" to help.  Step 4 is the second place where we fail.  Non-profits rely on financial support from donors who are inconsistent, and often short term, in their giving. Few non profits have the marketing or celebrity power to attract needed support, yet many are needed, especially in big cities like Chicago.  The strategies the T/MC has piloted intended to  help solve this problem, by using maps and pointing to a directory of nearly 200 youth serving programs in the Chicago region. 

There are many involved in Step 1, and many making a good living doing research and writing books about race, poverty, inequality, etc.  However, far fewer are involved in Step 2 or Step 3. The media have been writing stories about race and  poverty in Chicago for 30 years. However, it's not been part of an on-going campaign, and has not worked like retail advertising, which ends every message with "come to our store and buy our products".   

Link to maps and lists of
tutor/mentor programs in areas
featured in negative news.
A link to tutor/mentor programs or to research libraries at the end of every story, pointing to lists of tutor/mentor programs or other needed services, and to research libraries that enable deeper learning, would have been a simple thing for media to have been doing for the past 25 years (since the Internet), but they have not done that.

Read about the Rest of the Story strategy described in this 2014 article.

Such a strategy has intended to constantly expand the number of people from the Chicago region, and from other cities of the US and the world in learning, innovation and actions that address the "Political Rights, Civil Rights and Economic Rights" of people of color in every zip code of America.

I've never had significant or consistent, resources to invest in doing this work, thus it's impact is far less than I had hoped it would be and the problems of the early 1990s are still with us today, compounded by a pandemic and civil polarization, fueled over the past few decades by 24-hour a day talk radio and TV, plus the growth of the Internet.

New leaders are now stepping into this effort, including thousands of young people. As you do your marches and protests, I encourage you to read articles I've posted on this blog for the past 15 years and build an information based, network-building strategy modeled after the one I've piloted.

Collect information about youth programs
and assets. Point to them in every
media story.
Identify the organizations in each zip code that are already working to solve these problems, along with assets (banks, universities, hospitals, faith group, other businesses, etc.) who should be consistently supporting those efforts.

Use concept maps to visualize the information you're collecting, the problems you're trying to solve, and strategies of mobilizing people, attention and resources to support long-term solutions.

Then use social media, traditional media, video and other networking tools to connect volunteers, donors and learners to those organizations on a consistent basis.  Help them all be great at the work they do.

Share your strategies with others so they can borrow ideas from you, and spend time looking a work being done elsewhere, so you can borrow good ideas, too.

Too few have made it a life-long commitment to help reduce poverty and inequality by creating systems of support that help kids through school and into adult lives.

Be someone who does.

I'm on social media at Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook. Join me there.

I've a "fund me" page too, on my own website. Help if you can.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Athletes Can Take The Lead

Last Sunday I posted a "do the planning" article after watching protest marches take place across the country and around the world. I emphasized that long-term leadership is required to solve the problems we face. Today's Chicago SunTimes provides the inspiration for this week's article.

Below is a photo from the sports section, showing athletes from Chicago pro sports teams who met with youth in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago last week.

See photos in 6/8/2020 Chicago SunTimes - click here
I have posted 35 articles over past decade showing a greater role that athletes and celebrities can take to motivate their fans to give time, talent and dollars to support youth-serving organizations in different neighborhoods of Chicago. This will be number 36.

My articles focus on the mental part of building a great team and the consistent long-term work required.  Most sports teams have thick play-books that coaches use to train athletes to work together to defeat opponents.

Build a game plan for ending racism & fighting poverty. 
In my articles I urge the development of a game plan, with blueprints showing work needed to support youth at every age level, as they move from birth to adult lives, jobs and the freedom to live anywhere, without worry for the safety of themselves or their kids.

Adopt a Neighborhood

The map at the left visualizes my goal that athletes adopt specific neighborhoods for one year of support (which can repeat in future years).

During that year they will use media opportunities to talk about their neighborhood, it's needs, and how fans can  help every youth serving organization become great, by having the support needed to build great youth development, tutoring and mentoring teams.

Instead of supporting a single program in one area, they draw attention to every program within their adopted neighborhood, and lead planning efforts that determine if there is a need for more programs in that area, or for more of specific types of programs.
Youth need support at
every age level

What if every athlete in the SunTimes photo at the top of this article had a blog, and on that blog they were writing their own versions of articles I've posted for the past 15 years on this blog? Would more people be reading them? Would more be inspired to act?

Every athlete could be talking about the many years of hard work needed to reach a pro career, and the coaches who helped them along the way.  They could also do more reflection, asking "Who paid the bills, and raised the money, so these coaches could be a consistent part of their lives for many years, and so there would be high schools, colleges and pro sports franchises where they could grow their careers?"

Below is another graphic they could write about. It's included in this article. Every athlete could create their own version of this, and share it in a variety of formats. Then they could meet and share ideas, in "coaching clinics" so each builds better game plans from year-to-year.

Inspire volunteers from different industries to support growth of programs in every zip code.
My articles and graphics emphasize the 20-25 years it takes for a child to grow from birth to work, and how programs supporting this growth need to be available in every high poverty area of Chicago and other cities and zip codes.

Athletes could create their own versions of these articles. They could also inspire fans to create new versions. They could inspire (and fund) programs that encourage youth to dig into my articles then create their own interpretations (see how interns did this from 2006 to 2016).

Right now athletes and coaches are meeting via ZOOM and athletes are studying playbooks from the safety of their homes.

My blog is a playbook! So is my website

adopt a neighborhood

Finally, what if there were an end-of-year awards event, hosted by President Obama, Oprah, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and other leaders, to recognize the work athletes did during the past year to support neighborhoods and help youth programs grow.  Give athletes the stage and let them boast of their work.  Aggregate websites that show game plans, so that as the event draws millions of viewers it also provides fuel to support a new year of the same work, done better because each athlete is learning from the work done by others.

If you read this, share it with athletes and sports writers. Maybe one will pick up this challenge and provide the leadership to get others to adopt it.

Keeping attention focused on the problem and on solutions that need to be applied in thousands of places is the challenge we have failed to meet for the past 60 years. This is a strategy to meet that challenge.

NOTE: as you begin to think of visualizing current problems and solutions I suggest you read this article by Steve Whitla. 

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

After the Riots, Do the Planning.

People across the country are marching to protest police violence following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis.  Millions more are following on TV.  My wife and I watched several hours of CNN reporting yesterday.

One interview resonated with me. It was Bakari Sellers who wrote a book titled My Vanishing Country. A Memoir.  

This Tweet captures the spirit of what I heard Mr. Sellers say about needing to do the planning after the riots.

Above you can find the link to Bakari Sellers' Twitter feed and read the posts yourself. It's one way to get informed. You can also order the book and read it yourself. I placed my order this morning.

Unfortunately these marches and protest riots are not new in America.  Below is a segment of an article I posted in April 2015.

From April 27, 2015 blog - read article

Included in that article was this graphic, pointing to the lack of solutions following the LA Riots in 1992.  This included a Chicago SunTimes article from 1993, talking about the lack of progress on reducing poverty in Chicago over the previous 20 years.

From April 27, 2015 blog - read article

In today's New York Times the map below shows that protest marches, and riots, were taking place in cities across the United States.

From May 31, 2020 New York Times

One piece of advice I am reading from many activist is that White people need to make the effort to educate themselves.  It's not the responsibility of Black people to do this for us.  I've been building a library of articles since the late 1990s to support that learning.  Open this concept map, then click on the nodes at the bottom of each category, and you are taken to a list of links.  Many of those I point to are libraries themselves, opening you to much deeper learning.

Use this map as door to a library of learning 
The concern of many is that after the marches and riots are over, nothing will change. Too many other issues will occupy people's attention. Too few will provide consistent encouragement to "do the learning".

Enough - educate yourself
I used the ENOUGH is ENOUGH statement to create this list of actions anyone can take.  I've used it since 2007, as you can see from these articles.

As my wife watched CNN last night she said "someone needs to create a really simple, inspiring, message that can be repeated over and over, to draw a growing number of people into needed actions.

She did not know what that message would be, who would create it, or what those actions would be, but I think she reflected the desire for simple solutions that many want for what I see as a complex problem that will require the involvement of many people, for many years to solve.

Leaders needed.
Yet, she's right. We need high profile leaders from every sector drawing attention to racism in America and this library of information and ideas, every day, in many ways, for many years.  I saw LaBron James provide leadership during the recent 2020 graduation event.  I've seen NFL quarterbacks post Tweets calling for action and involvement.  I've posted more than 30 sports related articles on this blog suggesting roles athletes and celebrities can take on a regular basis to get their fans involved.

This is not something that can be delegated just to high profile people. It's a role anyone can I am in writing this article, and many like it since 2005.

Below is a graphic I created in the 1990s to show how any person can be reaching to his or her network and pointing them to information they can use to become more informed, and involved, in providing solutions to poverty and racism in neighborhoods across America.   I started my blog in May 2005. In October 2005 I wrote this article about "doing the planning" after the marches.

Anyone can be the YOU in this graphic.
The only thing wrong with my graphic is that I highlight poverty areas on my map, showing where kids and families need extra help.  What we need to be thinking about is all those areas of the Chicago region that are NOT high poverty. It is in these areas that learning circles need to grow, showing more and more White people are digging into this information and learning the history of racial injustice in America, and the long list or laws that  have been enacted over the past 150 years to keep Black and Latino and Asian people from having equal opportunities and freedom from worry for the safety of their children or themselves every time they leave their home.

When I look at the New York Times map showing cities where protests & riots took place yesterday I ask "How can we connect these people to information, and to each other, and grow those connections into a deeper understanding along with a wide range of solutions that can be implemented across the country?"   

This graphic shows many of the tags that you can find on the left side of this blog. Many like After-the-Riots, Racism, Violence, open to more articles that I encourage you to read.

Get informed. Get involved. Stay involved. 

If you're in the streets today or tomorrow, stay safe. Be peaceful. If there are people bringing bricks, bats or even firearms to the protests, report them to the police. Don't let the protests turn into looting, burning and killing. That's not the solution.

If you're in law enforcement or the National Guard. Keep your cool. Don't escalate the anger and violence. Don't shoot. Lead the conversations and the research after the marches.

Let's end with this

and read this:

Update 6-2-2020 - Thanks to article by Heidi Stevens for these links:

* Read Jennifer White's thread on Twitter. 
* Read about William Lee's look at Chicago's 1919 riots in Chicago Tribune
* Read about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
* Read about the Freedom Riders in 1961

After the marches die down, do the planning.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Looking back over 45 years of Tutor/Mentor Program Involvement

Dan Bassill - year end graduation
program - 1970s
I've spent the majority of my adult years working to help inner city youth have networks of support similar to what more affluent kids take for granted.  Below you can read about my journey.

I came to Chicago in 1973 to start a retail advertising career with the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters in Chicago.

I started volunteering in a company-sponsored tutor/mentor program during that first year and was matched with a 4th grade boy named Leo Hall.  We met for an hour ever Tuesday night during the school year. At the end of the first year Leo's Mom said "He talks about you all the time. You've got to be his tutor again next year." So I did.  We're still connected on Facebook, 47 years later! 

After that first year I was recruited to be on the committee of volunteers who led the program, and at the end of that second year I was pulled into the role of program leader. That was the summer of 1975.

I continued being directly involved, leading a non-school tutor/mentor program in Chicago, until mid 2011 when that was suddenly taken away from me. That's over 35 years. Probably longer than most people in the country!

Leo Hall & Dan Bassill
We're still connected 47 yrs later!
Leo needs Kidney donor.
I had no teaching or tutoring experience in 1973 when I first joined the program at Montgomery Ward, so I drew upon my history degree at Illinois Wesleyan and my three years in US Army Intelligence, and began looking for ideas of what to do each week when Leo and I met.

Then, when I joined the program leadership committee in 1974, I began to ask, "How do others do this?" and started to reach out to find other programs in Chicago who I could learn from.

When I became program's volunteer leader in 1975 the program already had been recruiting 100 pairs of kids and volunteers to start the school year for the previous two years. However, nearly half dropped out during the year due to lack of organization and structure, and were not replaced by on-going recruiting.  Thus, I accelerated my learning process, seeking out other tutor/mentor program leaders in Chicago and inviting them to a monthly lunch & learn session at Wards.

While I continued meeting weekly with Leo, as his tutor and mentor, for another two years, more and more of my time focused on mentoring 100 pairs of kids and volunteers, as well as nurturing a small group of other volunteer leaders to help me.  Leo stayed involved as a student assistant after he finished 6th grade, and I stayed involved with his life through high school, college and we're still connected today, in 2020.

Note: Leo needs a kidney donor. If you want to help, email me at tutormentor 2 at earthlink dot net and I'll connect you to Leo.

View Systems Thinking
By 1980, my life begin to take on a cycle, similar to this problem solving loop. This repeated every year for 35 years.

In August, the focus was on recruiting volunteers and students from the previous year to return for another year. As we entered September, the focus expanded to recruiting new volunteers to replace those who dropped out, and to recruiting enough kids to match the number of volunteers we recruited.

During September the focus was on student and volunteer orientations (training was on-going) and on matching pairs so that by the last week of September most of our kids and volunteers were paired up and getting to know each other.

This matching process actually extended almost to November since we started the year with either more kids than volunteers, or more volunteers than kids, and spent the first few weeks trying to balance this out. By the end of October we'd matched all the volunteers we had on our waiting list, and then put any other kids still looking for tutors on a student waiting list.

While this matching was taking place, I had to provide a weekly framework for student and volunteer activities, provide one-on-one coaching to respond to questions, find substitutes for volunteers who did not show up, and assign kids to new volunteers when their volunteer stopped coming.

To aid this process we took attendance weekly, with me sitting at a table at the entry to the Montgomery Ward cafeteria where tutoring took place, and checking off names of kids and volunteers as they came in. Usually another volunteer helped me.

Once the session was over I reviewed the attendance and determined which kids and/or volunteers would need follow up during the coming week. By 1979 or 1980 I was using computers and Excel spreadsheets to enter weekly attendance data into a tracking system that enabled me to see attendance patterns, enabling a focused follow up on those who had missed two or three weeks in a row. During the mid 70s the Chicago  Housing Authority was the intermediary who had contact with families. While we called volunteers directly, we had to call the CHA rep, and they contacted the families, if we needed to follow up on attendance or any other issues. By the late 70's we were contacting the families directly.

We provided a framework for weekly youth and volunteer activities and communicated this via verbal announcements and one page newsletters created on a duplicating machine. I  had to write these and get copies made every week.   As we started the year we pointed to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and then spring events as learning and writing activities.  These provide conversation topics and work activities for volunteers to build relationships with kids and provided something to "look forward to".

Indiana Dunes field
trip - 1980s
As incentives for student attendance we began to offer quarterly field trips for perfect attendance. These photos are from trips to the Indiana Dunes.  Planning these trips was another on-going role.

By 1980 the enrollment was up to 125 pairs and we convinced Wards to give money for us to hire a part time college student to work a few hours a week to help  us.  Throughout the 80's this number grew to three students, with none working more than 20 hours a week. However, they took a huge load off the weekly work I was doing.

This was org chart of
Tutoring Program in 1980s.
A big change in organizational structure was made in 1980 or 81. I changed from having a small  committee of leaders that I recruited each spring to building an larger group of leaders, focused on all of the functional areas involved with operating the program.  The program grew, and grew, and by 1990 we were up to 300 pairs of kids and volunteers....and we still had only 3 part time college students working 15-20 hours a week helping do the administrative work.

As we moved through the year, from September to June the challenges changed from recruiting and retaining, training and on-going support, to celebrating work done during the year and recruiting new leaders to help repeat the cycle again in the following year.  I did this over, and over, for 35 consecutive years!

My job responsibilities with Montgomery Ward grew throughout this time. By 1980 I was in charge of the creative print development for all of their national advertising and throughout the decade I took on other management and planning responsibilities. Yet, I also devoted huge amounts of time on weekends, evenings and lunch breaks to the work of leading the tutoring program.

I met my wife through
the tutoring program.
I met my future wife Emily in the early 1980s when she became a volunteer tutor and much of our social life was centered around tutoring program activities and volunteers.  We were married in 1986 and while she took evening college classes I spent time in my office either doing my advertising work, or my tutoring program work.

Things changed in 1990 when I was given the opportunity to leave Wards (or be fired) and I turned that into an opportunity to convert the tutoring program to a non profit where I could provide full time leadership and get paid at the same time.  Things really changed when our daughter Amanda was born in October 1990, about the same time as we received our 501-c-3 papers.

With the birth of our daughter Emily was no longer involved with the tutoring program, but with the day-to-day work of raising a child, and holding her own job.  Our time to socialize together with the volunteers in the program was greatly reduced in the 1990s, and 2000s.

The new non profit, which we named Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc., was an artistic and financial success. We grew to 440 students and 550 volunteers by June 1992 and raised over $100,000 to fund our operations. However, I misjudged what it would be like to have a governing board overseeing my work, and the frictions  that grew over those two years led the board to fire me without notice in October 1992.

Oct. 15, 1992
Of course they did not consult with the volunteers, students or parents when they made that decision. As a result many volunteers rallied to my defense and wanted to fight my firing.  However, as this was happening, something else happened that changed everything.  A 7-year-old boy named Dantrell Davis was shot and killed in Cabrini-Green. He was related to many of  the kids in the tutoring program.

I was driving home as I listened to this news on the radio, and the thought  popped into my mind "I don't need to lead an under-funded program with 900 people involved, and with a dysfunctional board, to share what I've learned over the past 17 years to help tutoring programs grow in all poverty areas of Chicago."

I immediately stopped looking backwards to regain what was lost and began looking forward to build what needed to be built.

At the same time, I recognized an opportunity to fill two voids. Parents had been asking for a program for kids beyond 6th grade, and I'd begun to develop an expanded Junior Assistant program in 1990 and 1991.

Great programs needed
in all high poverty areas.
With the help of six other volunteers, I created a new volunteer-based tutor/mentor program aimed at helping kids move from 7th grade through high school and beyond and named that Cabrini Connections. That filled the first void.

To fill the second, and larger void, we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection to help similar programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago,  including our own Cabrini Connections program and the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc.

The Cabrini Connections program launched in January 1993 with seven volunteers and five teens meeting in the day-room at St. Joseph's Church. In the fall of 1993 Wards donated space on the 16th floor of the corporate tower on Chicago Avenue, and $40,000 a year, and we move our operations there and started to add new 7th and 8th graders each year. By 1997  we were serving about 80 pairs of kids and volunteers and by 1999 the first 7th graders were finishing high school. By 2003 some of these were finishing college.

this printed directory published from
1994 through 2002

We spent 1993 planning the Tutor/Mentor Connection and launched our first program survey in January 1994.  120 programs responded and we printed the first Tutor/Mentor Programs Directory and held the first Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in May 1994. Over the next few years we created an information based strategy and quarterly events to draw attention to tutor/mentor programs throughout the city of Chicago.

My daughter Amanda was
enlisted to help with newsletter
mailings  in 1990s.
With the first 1993 grant of $40k from Montgomery Ward we hired two veteran tutoring program volunteers (Gena Schoen and Claudia Crilly Bellucci) to work part time as leaders of the Cabrini Connections program. Working together we created a structure for the tutor/mentor program and from that point forward my role as President was to overview that work, provide ideas, fill in during transitions of staff, and raise money to pay the bills.   I also did much of the work involved in building the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

We never had enough money, or enough staff do do all this work, which meant that I spent countless hours, weekends included, doing program work.   I often brought our quarterly newsletters home and my daughter, Amanda, would help me put mail labels on them.

We had a wide range of volunteer and pro bono help building the Tutor/Mentor Connection in the 1990s and 2000s. Read this article to see a list of many who helped. 

Honored by IWU in 2001
Our son Jacob was born in 1998.  It's his 23rd birthday today!  The responsibilities of being a parent grew, but the responsibilities of leading a small non profit with more than 200 people depending on me to keep the doors open, also grew.

My daughter once said to me "Daddy, you love those kids more than you love us."

War on Poverty planning
That hurt.  Yet over the years I've talked about the work I was doing as part of a "War on Poverty."  I realized that I could do little to change the education system, or change the  habits and behaviors of parents living in high poverty areas. But through the tutoring program I felt we could help kids escape the cycle of poverty by helping them through school and into college and careers.  Connect with me on Facebook and you can follow the lives of many of these former students, and see how they are now celebrating their own kids finishing high school and college.

I realized that one small program could be life changing for a few kids, but would have little impact on the couple hundred thousand kids living in poverty in Chicago. I also believe that if I could help build a world that creates safety and opportunities for every child, then I'd be also building that world for my own kids. 

That's why I have been so passionate about the Tutor/Mentor Connection and its goals.

Youth in every high poverty zip code, and their parents, need a system of supports.  This map visualizes some of the supports that are needed.

System of support needed

Over the past 25 years I have found very few leaders in Chicago, or the country, using maps and visualizations and thinking of ways to support an entire ecosystem of youth serving organizations, using the same strategies that teams in corporate headquarters of big companies like Wards were using to support multiple stories all over the country.  Thus, just getting the attention and participation of youth, volunteers and donors in a single program, and support for the intermediary role of the Tutor/Mentor Connection often seemed like a Marine battalion's efforts to land on a fortified beach. You took a lot of casualties before you were able to get a foothold, then move inland.

In my case, imagine sending troops into battle without ammunition for their weapons, or with no weapons.  Leading an inconsistently funded, and  under-funded nonprofit feels that way.

In many ways I think I'm still fighting that battle in 2020.

I recognized that I was neglecting my own kids to help other kids who lived in high poverty neighborhoods and did not have the support my kids enjoyed where we lived.  I rationalized, that in war, soldiers leave home for years on end, and some never come home, or when they do come home they are severely injured. We accept that as a price of freedom.

I said to myself,  "If I can help make a world that is better for kids born in poverty, then I'd be creating a better world for my own kids and grandkids, too."

Merri Dee - at 1995
Tutor/Mentor Conference
I met Merri Dee of WGN TV in the early 1990s and she supported my work through the early 2000s. She gave me a slogan that I took to heart.

If it is to be, it is up to me (and you).

In 2011 the board of Directors at Cabrini Connections asked me to resign, as a result of the financial crisis that had started in 2008. They gave me ownership of the Tutor/Mentor Connection as part of the deal, since they did not want to continue supporting that strategy.

I created Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC since I did not have a group of volunteers to help me create a new non profit structure. I've continued to lead the T/MC since then, but without any source of revenue other than my own savings and social security and a few continued annual contributions from a small group of supporters....many from my college fraternity at Illinois Wesleyan..

In many ways I've had more time since 2011 than ever before to focus on the work of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, because I've not had responsibility for the weekly operations of the entire organization and the kids' program.

Yet, I recognized that I have had a huge void in my life for the past 9 years. I spent almost every day for 35 years thinking of what needed to be done to connect youth and volunteers in a single tutor/mentor program. I got to know the kids who came to the center as they kept coming back from 7th grade through 12th grade. I got to know the volunteers, too, and some of them had a huge impact on helping get the Tutor/Mentor Connection started.

That involvement with the youth program was a big part of my identity. It gave me daily reinforcement for why the Tutor/Mentor Connection was so needed.

I've not had that anchor in my life and that is a big void.

At the same time, my own kids are now adults, and the world I hoped to build for them is still just a dream. My focus now is finding institutions, like universities, to take ownership of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, the history, archives and ideas, and rebuild it to achieve more in the future.

Want to know more?  

View History and Awards 
View timeline - 1965-1990 - click here
View timeline of Tutor/Mentor Connection - 1990-2016 - click here
Read "Tutor/Mentor Business" written in 1997 by Sara Caldwell
Read "How Social Sector Leaders are Created, on I-Open blog - click here

I have archives of many planning documents, yearbooks and weekly newsletters from the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, 1975-1990.  If you'd like access for learning and research purposes, let's start a conversation.

Want to help? Connect with me on any of these social media platforms - click here.

And....A financial contribution would be welcome. click here