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

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day: Just Don't Forget

They had the courage to
fight and die for their country.
This is Memorial Day 2020. In the paragraphs below I'm reposting an article I wrote in May 2005, the year I started this blog. I've used italics to annotate this with updated comments.

----begin 2005 article ----

This weekend is going to provide a visible opportunity for those who are elected leaders, and those who want to be elected leaders, to use the memory of those who died to preserve democracy to once again show what hypocrites they all are.

Why do I believe this? Because while public figures and media honor those who fought and died in traditional wars, few encourage this same degree of personal sacrifice in the war on poverty, racism, and inequality in America.

Why do I believe this? Because few will use their daily visibility to encourage citizens and corporations to be involved in community service. The volunteer button and donate button on the web sites of most politicians points to a place where you can learn how to help them get elected or stay elected, not to a place where your time, talent and dollars help a youth born in poverty have a pipeline of adult and business support that assures that he will be in a job/career by age 25.

On Monday evening, almost every TV station in America will have a few video clips of local parades and local celebrities who march in these parades. Yet few will point to a place on their own web site where citizens are encouraged to learn about the issues of poverty, or where they can become a volunteer, leader, donor or business partner with a community organization working to help a young person move to a career.

Yet, during the year there will be many occasions where newspapers, TV and/or radio, write stories with headlines like (These were stories from 2005 and earlier. Don't they sound like stories from 2020?):

These are our children, By JOSEPH R. WALL

Locked Out at a Young Age, By BOB HERBERT, New York Times

Seldom do these stories include web site address where you can read research posted on the Internet by organizations like Chapin Hall Center for Children, Public/Private Ventures or Voices 4 Illinois Kids. Here are the titles of just a few recent publications that I have links to on T/MC web sites:

Leaving the Street: Young Fathers Move from Hustling to Legitimate Work. by Lauren J. Kotloff

One Child Many Needs
A growing number of people understand that, if we want to improve children's education, we must reform the inadequacy and unfairness of our state's school-funding system. But that's only half the work necessary to do the job right, according to a new report by Voices for Illinois Children.

A Shared Agenda: A Leadership Challenge to Improve College Access and Success, on the Pathways to College Network web site.

These are just a few articles and research reports that can be found in the LINKS and Resources sections of and
(I've added many more in the 15 years since 2005)

Why we should get involved, only leads to questions of where?, and to how?. Poverty is not something that ends with a sound byte. It takes 25 years for a youth born in poverty today to reach age 25. Statistics show that many inner city kids won't be alive then, many will be in jail, and too many will have dropped out of school and have little hope for a positive future...all because too few leaders today and in the past have been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to create a system that reaches these kids and sustains consistent support until they are out of poverty and in careers. You can read some of these statistics on the web site of the Alternative Schools Network of Chicago (

Thus, we need to also point to web sites where complex ideas are being discussed and broken down to components, like job responsibilities are broken down among thousands of contractors who will be building the new Trump Tower in Chicago.

Raising kids is like building
a tall building. 
The engineers building the Trump Tower know that first you need a vision, second you need a plan, third you need financing (maybe this comes second), fourth you need a blueprint, and fifth, you start at the foundation, then build the project a floor at a time. In raising kids or ending poverty, the nation has no vision, no plan, no financing, no blueprint, and we're starting all over the place and wondering why we're not being successful.

Random acts of kindness don't build a building and don't raise a child.

Change will only occur when people learn to get involved and stay involved, often repeating the same actions over and over for many years. For instance, giving money to a tutor/mentor program is an action that needs to repeat from year to year. Foundations that provide seed money then expect someone else to sustain the project are wasting money when no donors come forward to build the next stages of the project. Corporations who want better educated workers, or a more diverse workforce, need to fund the pipeline, from preschool all the way to employment. Focusing workplace payroll deduction fund raising on tutor/mentor programs would be one way to provide a consistent flow of dollars into youth serving organizations.

What does this mean to the leaders walking in Monday's parades (sadly,  no parades during 2020 Covid19 pandemic), or to the media covering them? It means we need to find ways to draw attention to this work every day of the year, not just one day of the year. And we need to use the Internet as a place to host information and connect those who want to help with places where they can be reinforcements. We need to teach reporters, editors, columnist to put web links at the end of each story, so that each story leads to a path of involvement.

October 15, 1992
In October 1992 when six other volunteers and I created Cabrini Connections (which I led until 2011) and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (which I still lead via Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC) a little boy named Dantrell Davis had just been shot and killed while walking to school in Cabrini Green.

This led to public outrage and full-page stories in Chicago's major newspapers. On the front page of the October 15, 1992 Chicago Sun-Times, the headline was "THE KILLING GROUND". The sub head was "7-Year-Old's Death at Cabrini Requires Action"

In this front page editorial, the Editor of the Sun-Times wrote, "This isn't something you can let the other guy be indignant over. It's past time for you to take responsibility for solving the problems of Chicago. Please don't let this be someone else's problem. It's yours. It's mine. Let's retake our city and begin working to solve the horribly destructive problems of poverty, hopelessness and racism."

I have this front page posted on the wall outside of my office so that myself and everyone in our organization is reminded of this responsibility every day. Once a year I send this to the Sun-Times to encourage them not to forget.

Yet, I'm disappointed that our media and so few of our leaders are using Memorial Day and other public occasions to keep this memory and this challenge alive. I'm disappointed that our leaders and celebrities are not yet using the potential of the Internet to connect those who can help with information that shows why they are needed, where they are needed, how long they need to stay involved, and ways they can contribute time, talent, dollars, to win the war on poverty.

I want to think that at some parade in the future, some of the heroes that we remember on Memorial Day will be people who dedicated their lives to winning the war on poverty in America and in the world.

Maybe if we do that we won't have to have so many young men and women fighting and dying in wars that have their roots in poverty, racism and hopelessness.

What do you think?

----- end 2005 article -----

Planning needed to win war on poverty. 
In the 15 years, and 15 Memorial Days, since I wrote this article I've posted more than 1000 additional articles with similar goals.  In 2005 I was not yet embedding graphics into my articles. I had not yet started using concept maps.

We had not yet built the interactive, map-base Chicago tutor/mentor programs locator.

Interns had not yet begun to study the ideas I was sharing and then create their own interpretations, using flash animation, blogs, videos and Prezi to communicate their ideas.

We've had three Presidential elections since then and have had three Mayors in Chicago. Yet, inequality and poverty are as entrenched in America as they ever were in the past.

One of the challenges that prevents more people from embracing these ideas is that there's too much information.  1000 blog articles over 15 years is too much to digest. 2000 links in a web library is too much. I wrote this "information overload" article in 2012 and updated it in 2019. 

And I wrote this "Engaging youth in time of Covid19" article just a few weeks ago.  The solution to information overload is life-long learning, starting when adults are kids entering first grade.

How do we reach more places?
I included the graphic at the right in an article I titled "Tipping Point - Growing and Supporting Future Leaders"   It uses a map to visualize the need to embed the learning strategies I'm describing in thousands of locations, with many groups thinking about these ideas and writing articles like mine.

The best way to honor the memory of the lives sacrificed in past wars is to do the work that ends poverty and prevents future wars.

I'm on social media at these sites. I look forward to connecting with you and your networks.

If you want to contribute to help me pay the bills, visit this page.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

How do we turn a participation map into a “collective impact” map?

See article
Last week I used the graphic at the right in an article about systems thinking. After writing it I shared it on Linkedin and so far it's recorded 3593 views and some great comments.

Yesterday I was updating links in my web library and found several that I added in 2013 while I was participating in the Education, Technology MOOC, or #ETMOOC.  Then a couple of hours later I was mentioned in a Tweet by Alan Levine, talking about the 2013 ETMOOC.

This prompted me to do a search for ETMOOC to see what I've posted about it. The first article on the list was from January 22, 2013, titled "Connected Learning. Collective Action".

I going to re-post that article here, with just a few updates and annotations, showing that the vision I had in 2013, and 20 years before that, is still live and kicking during Covid19 in 2020.

---- start of article ----
ETMOOC participants 2013
I’m one of more than 1600 people who have joined the Education Technology Mooc (#ETMOOC) since last Monday. I’ll be participating in the National Mentoring Summit in Washington, DC this Thursday and Friday where more than 500 people will be connected in the same building and for the same purpose.

This article aims to tie the two events together.

I have participated in several ETMOOC events since last Monday, including a session Sunday morning hosted by Dave Cormier, one of the first people to use the term MOOC. Visit this page to find the recording of Dave’s session, along with additional links to his ideas. (The site I originally pointed to is no longer on-line, but click here to read blogs by Dave, from 2006 till 2020) 

As part of the #ETMOOC, participants have written more than 850 blog articles and posted over 1000 Tweets. Most of these have focused on how MOOCs enable personal learning and introduce members and their ideas to each other. You can follow what you want. You can spend as much time reading blogs and taking part in live sessions as you want. You can share your own ideas and you can interact with others. Each participant controls their own learning experience. You can follow some of the blogs at this link.

This is complex problem
that I've focused on.
I’m interested in going beyond personal learning. My goal is to help build and sustain networks that use their learning, and the network, to innovate new ways to solve complex problems.

The ETMOOC network analysis map shows “who’s involved” based on history of participation. If you’ve followed previous articles on this blog you can see how I’ve been trying to map participation in Tutor/Mentor Conferences, the Ning group, and my Facebook and Linked in groups.

You’ll see how I focus on actions that grow the network, while growing the composition of the network at the same time. If we agree that It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, we need to get the business community strategically involved.

With this post I hope to stimulate a couple of different streams of thought.

1) How do we connect people participating in MOOCs with places where they become volunteers, donors, leaders who work together to solve complex social problems? (I'm still trying to do  this.)

2) How do we know if people from all sectors – e.g. business, philanthropy, government, community, religion, youth, etc. – are participating in our MOOCs or community of practice? (We still don't know, and I can't find many who are trying to find out.)

When I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I could have just focused on sharing ideas I had developed since 1975 when I first started leading a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago. However, I did something different. I made a commitment to try to collect, organize and share experiences of others involved in this work. My goal was to collect “all that was known” about volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring, where such programs are needed, why they are needed, what it takes for them to have long term impact, how to support them, how to connect business and philanthropy to them, etc. This represents a vast library of knowledge and literally millions of people.

If you read the systems thinking article I wrote last week you can see this same thought. 

I’ve used Concept Maps to diagram my strategies, and the sections of my library. The diagram below shows the research section of the Tutor/Mentor Connection links library.

Open link to see current version of this cMap
If you click on any of the nodes you’ll go to a specific section of the web library which points to a variety of web sites with information related to that topic. Many of the web sites I point to have similar lists of web sites they point to. The collective knowledge that this represents is constantly expanding.

Every conversation uncovers
new ideas.
Every time I’m in a conversation, conference, or MOOC, I add sites I’m interested in to the library, which makes them immediately available to anyone else who visits the site. There’s an entire section of links in the Library to Knowledge Management articles, which is what I’m doing.

2020 --- I've been thinking about how to describe this lately. How many times are you in a conversation and someone says "Do you know about this or that piece of information?" It could be really valuable. Not just to me, but to others. Most of the time you leave the conversation and the information shared is lost. I've made a habit of taking notes, then adding links to what we talked about to the web library, so others could learn from it, too.

I realize I’ll never have “all that is known” but with 2000+ links, the library offers a massive pool of content for that could support a variety of MOOCs (and/or systems thinking projects).

By participating in ETMOOC and events like the Mentor Summit I hope to connect with others who will help with this process. I hope to find partners who will help organize future “tutor/mentor” MOOCs that draw people from the many different sites in my library into an on-line community that offers all of the personal learning and relationship building values that Dave Comier is describing in his presentation.

This is still not happening.

I hope to focus on strategies and actions that make mentor-rich programs available in more of the neighborhoods where they are most needed.

Tutor/Mentor Conference map

As that is happening, network analysis can show who’s participating and geographic maps can show what parts of the geography are represented. Such maps could demonstrate the growth of the network over a period of years, while enabling people from different sections of the library and/or different parts of the country or a big city like Chicago, to connect more easily with each other.
View articles
w this map. 

In one of the ETMOOC blogs I read last week the author told of how he feels others do a much better job of communicating ideas than he does. Then one day someone said “gee that’s really unique”.

I think others can communicate what I’m describing far better than I can. That’s one role interns have been taking. You can see some of their work here.

2020 - As people reach out and ask how can I help I invite them to read my blog articles, then create their own blog, or video, to share their  understanding of what I'm saying. Here's a concept map where I aggregate links to blogs where some people are doing that.

In this 2020 article I encourage students to take on this role, while doing learning from home. Any of the educators who I've met via cMOOCs could engage some of their students in this process, focusing on their own communities, not Chicago (unless they live in this area).

I hope that through the MOOCs and conferences I attend I’ll not only find people who share the same vision and strategy, but who will use their talent to help communicate these ideas in more creative, thoughtful and meaningful ways.

I’ll write more about this tomorrow before I head to the airport. I think this post is long enough already.

----- end rewrite of 2013 article -----

View at this link
Following the ETMOOC in 2013 I joined the CLMOOC and that has continued each year since then.  I've posted 61 articles that point to my participation in the CLMOOC including this article where I show my learning journey.

At the left is the most recent example of how we spark creativity among each other. I had posted an article about network building and Wendy Taleo from Australia included it in a visual poem she was working on with several others. See it here.  I circled where I show up on her journey map.

2020 EndPoverty Summit
in Chicago
At the right is a photo that shows participants at an EndPoverty Summit held in Chicago before Covid19 and hosted by Mayor Lightfoot. I wrote about it here and asked why we can't get non-profit youth program leaders, funders, researchers, volunteers and business partners....and youth/alumni, into on-going cMOOC type on-line conversations.

Covid19 has changed how people connect and communicate. #LearnAtHome and #WorkatHome are now becoming habits. Maybe it's time to make a new push to bring the youth and workforce development ecosystem into more integrated cMOOC-like engagement. 

For that to happen one or more visible leaders needs to step forward and champion the vision. And fund the work.

Today I was one of nearly 100 in a ZOOM meeting led by the Mayor's MyChiMyFuture youth initiative. The Mayor joined in for a few minutes. Maybe someone from that planning team will read this and begin to imagine ways to connect participants in this ecosystem, the same way the ETMOOC and CLMOOC people have been connecting and sharing ideas for many years.

Maybe someone will understand the need to  be mapping participation to show who's there, and who's missing.

If you're reading this and you want to help, create your own version and share it. Maybe you'll be the one that some big shots listen to and provide the funds to do this work.

Connect with me on these social media channels.

If you can, make a contribution to help me pay the bills. Visit this page to use the PayPal button.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Covid19 draws new attention to Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking see here
This graphic shows a systems thinking planning cycle. You can see it and learn the steps involved, in an article titled, Covid-19 means systems thinking is no longer optional, written by Seth Reynolds, who's part of the team at NPC, a nonprofit consulting firm.

The author writes: 
Coronavirus illustrates the need to bring systems thinking out of the clouds and into the mainstream. We must learn to think, act, and organise systemically, and develop processes, tools and technologies to help us. We don’t claim that it’s simple. But what is clear from recent weeks is that ‘business as usual’ is no longer available and systems approaches are no longer optional.

I  have been writing about systems thinking for many years, as part of an information-based problem solving strategy that I launched in 1993 when creating the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Below is a concept map that includes a graphic from Gene Bellinger, a systems thinking expert. The cycle is the same.

View this map at this link

I wrote a long article in April 2015 where I explained my systems thinking ideas. Below I've posted just the first few paragraphs. Read the entire article at this link.

SunTimes front page
October 15, 1992
---begin 2015 article ----

Next week Chicago will elect a new mayor (or re-elect the incumbent) and will also elect some new aldermen. One of the issues is violence in Chicago. Shootings are up over the past year. They've been up and down for the past 25 years, as this front page from the 1992 Chicago SunTimes illustrates. In July 2014, the front page of both major newspapers featured “Violence in Chicago” stories. It's been an ongoing theme for a few years. In fact, This problem has been in the news off and on for over 20 years.

However, not much has changed.
Perhaps if elected officials were leading a “systems thinking” approach to draw stakeholders together, more people might become informed, and involved in solutions. We might find ways to keep people involved for many years.

Business and philanthropic leaders might apply the same process. For instance as The Chicago Community Trust celebrates it's 100th year anniversary, and holds its second annual On The Table event in May, they might have teams facilitating a systems thinking approach to reducing poverty in Chicago areas neighborhoods.

Problem solving is a cyclical process. A group of people get together to solve a problem and the solution leads to new problems that need to be solved, or new learning that leads to year-to-year growth in how the problem is being solved.

Here’s a graphic that I’ve borrowed from a video created by Gene Bellinger, who I met in a Systems Thinking discussion group on Linked-in.

As I view Gene’s videos, my wish is that someone were doing exactly the same presentation, but focused on bringing people together to solve some of the problems we face in Chicago, which are deeply rooted in poverty, income inequality, political power, etc.

I've hacked Gene's video to copy this graphic, then to create views of each element.

I'm using them to communicate an idea that I launched over seven years ago in a blog post focused on comparing the thinking and planning process that General's use to fight wars to what we need to be doing in Chicago to fight poverty and violence by providing stronger, on-going birth-to-work support systems for youth living in high poverty areas. Click on the graphic to enlarge it. Read this article for a full explanation of each step.

--- read the rest of this article at this link -----

Information based
Seth Reynolds is showing that the impact of #covid19 will reach into all sectors and all parts of the world and that it's time for a systems thinking approach that "must now be mainstreamed – individually, organisationally, societally, across public, private and charity sectors."

This process is based on an aggregation of information/data that is used to a) create a shared understanding of the problem; b) and a shared understanding of solutions that are being tried in different places that can inspire innovations in other places.

In the T/MC 4-part strategy
information collection is Step 1
In the 4-part strategy that the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) began using in 1993, Step 1 focuses on collecting "all that is known" about poverty, inequality, and youth serving, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning organizations, including funding streams, so that people everywhere can use this information to build and sustain needed k-12 programs in all places where they are needed.

It requires the same systems thinking approaches as Seth Reynolds outlines for this information to be used the way it was intended.

What I want people to think about is a) the work involved in aggregating knowledge from all over the world, sharing it via some technology platform (more than one), keeping it up-dated, then b) drawing more people to the information, and c)  helping them understand it.

Step 2 is a communications and marketing process that requires talented people and, ideally, a lot of money.  Step 3 is an education and learning support process.  Step 4 uses geographic maps to point people to places where solutions are needed.  Imagine thousands of small groups getting together to read my blog articles, or Seth's article, or information shared  on any of the  2000 links I point to in my web library. In Covid19, imagine people being asked to read a certain article, then meet on ZOOM to share their ideas, then write a blog article sharing their own understanding.

Information is at base of
this pyramid - view article
This work is not clearly itemized in Seth's article, nor in many of  the other systems thinking articles I've read. Yet it is fundamental to the success of any problem solving strategy.

At the left is a graphic that shows information at the base of a problem-solving process where the shared goal is that "more youth stay in school, are safe in non-school hours, graduate and move on to careers".

For this to be a reality in thousands of  high poverty places many need to be involved in the type of systems thinking process Seth has outlined in his article.  And there needs to be a web library, like the one the Tutor/Mentor Connection started building in the late 1990s, to support this process.

Read other Systems Thinking articles from this blog - click here.

Read how students in universities and high schools can take on the same role as I do in the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute, LLC.  click here

If this interests you let's connect on one of these social media sites.

5-15-2020 update - Thinking of the future after Covid19. On this website "IFTF offers the public—communities, policymakers, civic and business organizations—a guide to creating new visions of the common future." Apply this thinking along with the systems thinking process.

6-9-2020 update - Here's a Forbes article outlining some characteristics leaders of the future will need. These are "essential traits that enable systems thinking".  Click here to read.

6-22-2020 update - I've followed systems thinking articles by Brian G. Dowling for nearly 10 years. None are short, or easy to read, but if you take the time, you'll better understand the complexity of this work. Below is a Tweet posted this week, pointing to this presentation.
8-10-2020 update - SSIR article on "systems leadership" describes type of leadership needed to draw people together to solve complex problems.  click here to read.

6-11-2021 update - Map the System even, June 7-11.  Global conversation.  click here

12-14-2021 update - RSA article titled "What does regenerative thinking mean?click here

9-15-2023 update - Gene Bellinger shared three systems thinking models that he finds useful.  1) Kumu Community -; 2) Insight Maker -  ; 3) The System Thinker -  

9-15-2023 update - "How to Embed Systems Thinking in Education. Here's How".  The authors write "The recommendations from this pilot could help reignite imagination, creativity and innovation in the classroom, making learning more enjoyable and fulfilling for students."  click here

7-7-2024 update - here are two examples of mapping a network, using and  using Both show a "Better Together America Ecosystem".   a) the Kumu version: ; b) the version:

Want to help cover my costs of maintaining the Tutor/Mentor Library and making it freely available to all?  Click here and use PayPal to send a contribution.