Monday, August 31, 2020

Call goes out for Volunteers

 Below is a column from the 1997 Chicago SunTimes, telling about the Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign that my organization (the Tutor/Mentor Connection) launched as an annual event in 1995.  From 1998 to 2002 we grew the campaign to include more than 100 youth programs who were recruiting volunteers at more than 30 sites throughout the Chicago region during the first week of September.

Visit this page and see media stories from 1990s.

It's now almost September 2020 and once again volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in Chicago and throughout the country are searching for volunteers. This year is different. Most of those calls now seek virtual volunteers who can support youth via ZOOM and other remote platforms, until face-to-face contact can safely return.

What always made my efforts unique is that while I led a single tutor/mentor program reaching youth in one neighborhood of Chicago, the campaign organized through the Tutor/Mentor Connection intended to draw volunteers to every youth tutor, mentor and learning program in the Chicago region.

We supported the volunteer recruitment campaign in the 1990s with a printed directory listing more than 100 different youth serving organizations. We started putting this list on the Internet in 1998 and in 2004 we launched a map-based program locator, that enabled people to find programs in different parts of Chicago by searching for type of program, age group served and location.

In 2008-9 we created a map-based version of this Chicago Program Locator, which you can see at this link. That site has not been updated since 2013 due to lack of funding and talent and is now only available as an archive. Yet it still serves as a model of what communities might create to help services required in multiple places get the resources needed to grow and thrive, such as youth tutor and/or mentor programs.

We never had consistent funding to do this work, although from 1998-2002 we were well supported by several foundations.  Yet the work of helping youth through school, by helping organized volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs be part of their lives, is on-going work. These programs need help to grow in 2020 more than in the past.

Because I've created a program locator template and a Chicago Programs Database anyone can use their own voice to draw attention and support to all youth programs in a geographic area.

Below is a recent Tweet from NBA Basketball star LeBron James:  

He and other athletes are now taking a lead in calling attention and response to social justice issues. They are focusing on get-out-the-vote strategies, and supporting youth development programs in different places. 

Let's invite them to use those voices to help youth tutor, mentor and learning programs grow throughout Chicago and other cities.

I've posted several articles in past years featuring this image of LeBron James, focused on roles athletes and other celebrities can take to help tutor/mentor programs grow in cities where they play or where they grew up.

Please read them. Share them with athletes you know.

Here's what they can do:
a) they can support efforts to build comprehensive youth program databases, segmented by type of program, age group served and location

b) they can support efforts to build interactive program locators, borrowing from my example (and others if they can find them)

c) they can use social media, traditional interviews and public speaking opportunities to urge people to look at these databases, locate programs in specific areas, and donate time, talent and dollars to help each program become the very best at helping kids through school and into adult lives.

Athletes know that it takes many years of hard work to build great sports teams, and it takes many years of individual effort, along with support from coaches, friends, family and others to reach an elite level of performance.

That's the same range of on-going support needed to help single youth tutor/mentor programs become great, then stay great.  Instead of supporting just one program, athletes like LeBron have the abilityto draw support to every one of these programs.  However, without the database, a search engine and on-going effort, that won't happen.

Imagine this. Look at my website and the articles on this Tutor/Mentor blog, which I started in 2005. What if one of the Chicago sports stars, from the Bears, Bulls, White Sox or Cubs were the author of all of these articles? How many more people might have responded and how many more youth might have been helped through school and into adult lives?

Please share this knowledge and help great youth development and birth-to-work mentoring programs be available in every low income area of Chicago and the rest of the world.

I'm on social media at these sites. Let's connect.

If you value my articles and web library, please help fund Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. Click here to learn more. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Help build the Chicago Tutor/Mentor Knowledge Base

Below is a graphic that visualizes almost all that the Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (2011-present) have been trying to do for the past 25+ years to support volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs in every high poverty area of Chicago.

In this post I'm going to show a role that volunteers, including students, can take to help me collect and maintain information that others can use to help youth in every poverty area of the Chicago region. 

The blue box in the middle of this graphic is where I've operated for almost 45 years. Initially I was connecting workplace volunteers with 2nd to 6th grade youth living in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago in weekly one-on-one tutor/mentor sessions held at the Montgomery Ward Headquarters in Chicago.

In 1993 I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) to try to help volunteers and donors connect with youth in all high poverty areas of Chicago, through organized non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs like the one I was leading. Since 2011 I've led the T/MC via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

If the blue box on that graphic were a live link it would connect you to a vast library of information which I've been collecting formally since 1993.  The graphic at the right visualizes part of what's in the library.  It contains information about Chicago youth programs, including age group served, type of program, time of day, role of volunteers and location where services are provided.

Between 2004 and 2008 we built an interactive on-line program locator, which anyone could search to find specific programs in different zip codes of Chicago.  

Using this information anyone (see list at the right side of top graphic) can find places where they offer time, talent and/or dollars to help formal programs grow and help more kids and volunteers connect. Anyone, including program leaders and volunteers can draw from information in the web library to learn ways to constantly improve what they do to help kids.

While the library is vast (you can use this blog article to see various sections), I seek help in maintaining my list of Chicago area programs.  You can find this list in these places:

a) Chicago programs links in web library - click here. You can also see those programs on the map at this site

b) List of Chicago programs on Facebook - click here

c) Chicago programs list on Twitter - click here 

d) Chicago youth programs using Instagram - click here

My lists are organized by sections of the city (North, Central, South Central, South).  In the graphic at the top of this article you can see how I've created a grid, dividing the city into smaller sections.

My invitation is that groups in each section of Chicago will take on the role of reviewing links in my library to determine if those programs are still active.  If not, they will email me and I can remove those programs from my lists.  At the same time they will survey the neighborhood to determine if there are other programs that I should include in my lists.

NOTE: I'm not looking for every type of youth program in Chicago. I'm trying to find those who have a strategy that involves volunteers as tutors and/or mentors.  In the larger web library I have other sections where I point to other youth programs in Chicago and to others who are maintaining their own directories.

Anyone can do this work. It could be a class from a local school, a church group, an existing youth program, a civic organization, a business-sponsored club, or a college group.  

It's a great virtual learning project. All you need is a computer and internet access. You can work alone, or gather in a ZOOM group with your peers or mentors and discuss how you are locating programs and what you are finding.  You can share ideas for ways to draw attention to the programs in your area, then share those ideas with groups doing similar work in different parts of the city.

 If you want to take this role email me at tutormentor2 at and let's set up a ZOOM call where I can point you to the list and help you understand what I'm asking for.  Once you commit, I'll pin your organization to my map. Ultimately I hope to have groups in every part of the Chicago region.

As you learn about programs by looking at their websites I want you to use social media to tell others about them, what they do, where they are, who they help and how others can help them.  

That's the role of the BLUE box in the middle of the top graphic. I'm connecting people who can help with programs who need help in making a difference in the lives of kids living in high poverty areas. If you learn to take that role, and practice it for a year or more, it will become something you might do often throughout your lifetime.

That would dramatically change how non-profits are supported and how well they are able to do their work.

Not in Chicago? You can build a Tutor/Mentor Connection type strategy and take on the same role, to help youth tutor/mentor and learning programs grow in your own community. 

If you'd like to support me with a contribution, please visit this page

Friday, August 21, 2020

Annotation as social learning

 Today I saw this post by my #clmooc friend Terry Elliott, a college professor from Western Kentucky. In it he's sharing a video that shows students in his college class how to use to annotate a class syllabus document.  I encourage you to take a look.

I learned about annotation a few years ago from Terry and Kevin Hodgson, another #clmooc educator.  I shared some of my thoughts in a few blog articles which I encourage you to read.

At the site-based tutor/mentor programs that I led in Chicago from 1975 to 2011 we began to add computers in the 1980s and continued to update this capacity in following years.

As the photo at the left shows, this normally led to students and volunteers surrounding a computer, to do various forms of engagement.

Since Covid19 closed schools and non-school program sites in March this face-to-face interaction has almost ceased, or has been severely limited.

In fact, this photo might be from any home in America, where the adult is a parent or older sibling, helping younger students or peers with on-line learning.

With ZOOM and other video conferencing those kids could be looking at a screen with fellow students and/or volunteer tutors and/or mentors.  I see stories from many programs showing that that has been happening over the past few months.

I'm sure it will continue, and grow, the longer students are prevented from attending classes at schools or non-school program sites.

So why not use and do shared reading, via remote learning.  Students and volunteers could each be looking at the same document, and highlighting and annotating, just as Terry shows in his video.  Using video conferencing they could not only be writing and adding thoughts in the margins, but they could be talking to each other, asking questions, and reading what each other is saying.

Above you can see a screen shot from one of my blog articles, which I've highlighted to illustrate annotation in action. Visit this in this blog article, and find a link to an annotated version in where you cab add your own comments.

Below I point to an article I wrote showing how some Chicago youth programs are adopting e-learning strategies. I'd love to write a story in the future showing uses of annotation in e-learning.

How are Chicago youth programs pivoting to e-Learning?
I posted this article a few weeks ago to share some stories showing how Chicago youth programs were adopting e-learning strategies. I updated it today to add this article from Midtown Educational Foundation. 

Reminder.  If you'd like to share how your organization is dealing with Covid-19, read this blog article and contact GrowthWorks directly. 

Thanks for reading. If you'd like to help me fund the work I do, click here and use PayPal to send a contribution. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Building Public Will to Invest in Racial Justice

Today I listened to an Instagram conversation hosted by the Schott Foundation, featuring their president, Dr. John Jackson ( @DrJohnHJackson ) and Keron Blair (@Keronblair). Below is a Tweet from that conversation. If you listen to this you'll see a focus on the political will needed to generate a sustained distribution of resources into all Black and Brown neighborhoods that lead to social justice over a period of many years.

In several past articles I wrote about "building public will".  Below I share what I wrote in 2015.

----- begin 2015 article -----

I scratched out the outline for this story a couple of days ago as I was riding the train and thinking about the challenges we face in solving complex problems like poverty. I hope you'll follow along with my thinking. 

This graphic is part of a strategy graphic that shows the planning steps needed to solve complex problems or role out a new business strategy. See the full graphic and explanation here

Every year, millions of dollars are spent by social benefit organizations trying to attract resource to support their work. The money is spent directly on fund raising, marketing and public education. It's spent indirectly on training programs and consultants.

Regardless of where an organization operates or what cause it focuses on, we're all competing for a slice of the same donor pie. That pie seems to be shrinking, either because of economic circumstances, or because of the rise in organizations competing for a share of the pie. Natural disasters that occur randomly around the world exert a huge pull on discretionary donor dollars every time they happen.  Covid19 has added a new level of challenges.

Thus, it's unlikely that great programs, doing similar work, but in different places, will be available in a large percent of the places where such programs are needed. Since 1993 I've piloted uses of maps to show where non-school tutor/mentor programs are most needed, then using the maps to influence donor support of programs in every place where the map shows programs are needed.

In recent years there is a growing application of mapping and data visualization (see blog). However, I still don't see many who are trying to create maps of all service providers doing similar work in areas where that work is needed. Such maps would show a poor distribution of needed programs. Over time it would show change as new programs launch and some go out of business.

It's also unlikely that many organizations will attract on-going dollars to enable them to provide long-term support. In youth development, this is a serious issue. Kids take 12 years to move from first grade to first job. If they are living in high poverty areas, the support system needs to reach them early and stay with them through school and even into work. Such support systems are needed in many, many places.

What's the solution?

Building public will is step 7 on this map. Each step is important in solving complex problems. However, until more people from different places, with different talents, and different levels of influence get involved in brainstorming ways to build public support and keep it growing, I don't see many long-term solutions emerging.

I created this graphic (see article) to illustrate that while we want to help social benefit organizations and clients use the resources available to achieve their missions and/or overcome challenges they face, we also need to influence what people who don't live in poverty do to help them. This can include direct support such as funding, or public policy. It can also include indirect support, such as removing barriers and obstacles. 

Some (but certainly not all) of the actions we need to be focusing on include:

a) constant education of the public so they have deeper understanding of the problems and places where strong, constantly improving, social benefit organizations are needed

b) innovation of on-going advertising-type campaigns to influence what resource providers do

c) build growing understanding of how current systems of philanthropic and government support are not working. 

Just a small growth of the resource pie every year could make a huge impact on the availability of needed social benefit organizations (including tutoring/mentoring organizations) in more of the places where they are most needed. 

Building public will requires champions and leaders from every sector, in every city of the world. I'm certain that this discussion is taking place. I'm just not sure where this is an on-line forum, a cMOOC, or part of a web library that points to a wide range of places where this is being discussed. 

Use the comment section to provide links to open, on-line forums, Google groups, or cMOOCs that you're aware of, where "building public will" is the focus of the group. Or introduce yourself to me on TwitterFacebook or Linkedin.

---- end 2015 article ------

Now we're in the middle of a global pandemic, and facing a highly contentious November election. We've a climate crisis that threatens major disruption over the next century.  

As I listened to Dr Jackson and Keron Blair this morning I thought of this concept map. It shows the need for long term investments to help kids move from birth to work and shows many different issues that need to be addressed in every high poverty area of the country.  This requires a massive investment. Finding ways to build the public and political will needed will require finding ways to connect people from each of these sectors and innovate ways to cut through the noise of every other issue to draw daily attention to this challenge.

I share these graphics here and on Twitter (knowing that only 22% of people actually use Twitter!) with the invitation that others who are more appropriate, or more visible, spokespeople will borrow them for their own leadership.  

If you'd like my help understanding the meaning of these or any or my articles just reach out to me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

How Is Covid-19 Affecting your Youth Program?

 We're  now six months into the Covid-19 pandemic with no end in sight. School is starting in a few weeks, with many opting for continued on-line virtual learning.  How is this affecting youth serving organizations in Chicago and beyond?

I'm pleased to introduce the team at GrowthWorks, a Michigan based consulting group, led by Phil Roos, who is a former volunteer from the 1980s tutor/mentor program I led.  . 

The GrowthWorks team has expanded their consulting during the pandemic, to launch conversations with a variety of people, to learn how they are doing.  Now they would like to extend that, reaching out to leaders of youth serving non-profits to understand how they are coping and what their plans are for the coming year.

They describe their goal in this blog article. I encourage you to read and share it.

I'll be sharing this on my social media channels and my email newsletter and will reach out to a few Chicago programs to encourage them to take part in these conversations.  However, if you are interested please contact GrowthWorks directly, at

8-13-2020 update:  GrowthWorks sent this information out in an email newsletter today, which you can read at this link

3-15-2021 update:  GrowthWorks published this article today summarizing it's conversations with youth program leaders. 

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Investments needed in birth to work strategies

 View the graphics below and click into links to find more information. 

I included this graphic in this July 2018 article titled "After the march, do the planning".   It's one of more than 200 articles posted on this blog that focus on "violence" prevention and "planning".  My goal is that youth and adults from around the USA are are reading these articles and sharing their interpretations with friends, family and co-workers to help mentor-rich birth-to-work programs grow in every high poverty area of Chicago and other parts of the country.

You can look at the graphic above in several ways.

1) It includes a map, showing high poverty areas of Chicago. Programs that help kids through school and into adult lives need to be in every one of these zip codes.

2) The horizontal arrow shows the #birth-to-work timeline, which takes 20-25 years for EVERY  youth. Those in high poverty areas don't have the same range of natural support that kids in more affluent areas have, so those supports need to be made available through school and no-school hours programming.  I wrote an article last week focusing on some of the needed programming. 

3) You can also think of the graphic as a guide to investments needed.  Since the arrow, and the graphic above, shows stages kids grow through as they move from #birth-to-work, communities need to innovate ways to drive needed operating dollars, technology, talent and ideas into every high poverty neighborhood, making age appropriate programs available at each stage on the timeline.  Furthermore, at the right end of the arrow these supports need to be job training, interviews and JOBS!

aps need to be use for multiple purposes. They can show demographic and poverty data as layers of information, pointing to places where people need extra help. 

They can show access routes through neighborhoods which might help volunteers see more places where they can connect with youth in organized programs.

They can show locations of programs, and potential support, such as banks, colleges, hospitals, faith groups, etc. We created the Program Locator in 2004 and updated it in 2008 to enable people to create map view showing small sections of the city, that could be used in planning.  

Maps can also show who's involved, as these conference maps demonstrate.  

Most importantly, maps can show a distribution of dollars and involvement.  Foundations,  companies and government programs have the ability to create maps that show where their dollars are landing, and/or where company volunteers are involved as board members, or volunteers serving as tutors, mentors, tech support or marketing and fund raising support.  

So far I can find almost no examples of maps being used this way, thus, there is little accountability assuring that funds and resources support all stages of the #birth-to-work timeline, in every zip code where such programs are needed.

I no longer have the organizational capacity to update the program locator and implement these ideas. Instead, I want to be part of planning teams who read these articles and are trying to innovate ways to implement them in different locations.

I'm on these social media channels. If you're interested in knowing more and starting a conversation, just reach out to me.

If you want to help fund the work I'm doing, just go to this page and use PayPal to send your support. 

Thank you for reading.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

What's Included in Birth-to-Work?

Programs needed in every
high poverty area
I've used this graphic for many years to visualize #birthtowork support needed to help youth in every high poverty area of Chicago. It uses a map to show a wide range of places where programs are needed. It uses a "village" graphic, to show that teams with a wide range of talents and skills need to be working daily to make such programs available and help them connect to ideas and resources that enable them to constantly improve.

On the graphic I use an oil well icon to convey the idea of a growing birth-to-work programs anchored in every poverty area shown on the map. Below is another graphic that visualizes this differently.

age level support needed

The arrow and the "staircase" both signal the need to help youth move through school and into adult lives.  If you click and enlarge the graphic you'll see suggested mentoring and learning opportunities that need to be available at each grade level.

Within the horizontal arrow I list some of these:

* Reading help (elementary school level)

* Enrichment, Mentoring, Tutoring (starting in elementary school and continuing through high school)

* Job shadowing, leadership clubs (starting in middle school and continuing through high school)

* Summer Jobs, Internships, Apprenticeships (starting in high school and continuing through college)

* Jobs, career networking (starting in high school and continuing through lifetime)

Each site based program could
include many of these activities
The graphic at the left visualizes how many of these activities, including technology and STEM learning, could be part of many site-based non-school programs.  Such programs need to be available to k-12 youth in every high poverty neighborhood.

The website of a program should show that they have a strategy to involve youth and keep them involved in age-appropriate learning for many years.

If you look at the websites of Chicago area youth tutor and/or mentor programs that I include in my library, you'll find that very few show this strategy.  That may not mean they don't do it. It may mean they don't have the talent/time on their staff to communicate their strategies effectively on their websites.

strategic business support

The strategy of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, launched in 1993, was a) build a list of existing programs; b) increase public attention for each program; c) try to help programs recruit business volunteers; and d) educate these volunteers so they'd go back to their companies and networks to recruit other volunteers; so e) they could bring these needed learning opportunities to programs in more places.

For that to happen people need to be looking at these ideas, and then starting conversations within their peer group, their business group, their family and alumni networks, asking "How can we help programs in different zip codes become mentor-rich programs with a wide range of learning that helps more kids through school and into adult lives?   How can our volunteers be there to help kids as they grow through this journey and be there to help when they begin looking for jobs and/or career advice?

create learning circles
That's what this graphic represents.  Learning circles, composed of people from the same industry (tech, finance, legal, arts, etc), faith group and/or alumni group, could be meeting regularly to innovate ways to create and distribute learning opportunities that help kids aspire to jobs in their industries, or areas of expertise. They then could be doing the work of embedding these activities in programs throughout Chicago and many other places. As kids get old enough they could be providing part time jobs, internships, college and career advice, and then interviews to jobs in their companies.

During the #Covid19 pandemic these conversations need to focus on ways to create virtual learning and mentoring that reaches youth in all high poverty places, as well as ways to help programs re-open safely as the pandemic receeds.

I'm sure some of this is happening, but have had no ability to do the research and aggregate links to places where people show how they are doing this work.

Tutor/Mentor Conferences 1994-2015

Between May 1994 and May 2015 I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference every six months in Chicago. These were intended to draw program leaders and staff together to share ideas, and draw media, philanthropy, educators and business partners together to connect with program leaders. They also were part of the strategy of building media attention for Chicago tutor/mentor programs.  I've not done this since 2015 due to lack of funds and too many competing organizations who decided to "do their own thing" rather than "help build what was already in place".

web library
As we launched the Tutor/Mentor Connection and began to build a library of Chicago area tutor/mentor programs we also began to collect articles the people could use to learn ways to build better programs. We started putting this on-line in 2008 and I still maintain it, now as Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

I had support from Illinois Wesleyan University as we launched the T/MC in 1993/4 and have had interns from various universities working with me at different times through 2015.  However, I've never found a department within a university that would adopt the T/MC strategy and lead it through the university. We came close with IWU between 1993-1996, and in 2004-5, when IUPUI was interested, but while that led to rebuilding the T/MC web site in 2006, it did not result in ownership of the strategy. This "Explore Chicago"class for first-year students at DePaul is another example of a promising start that did not continue.

Create university T/MC
This graphic is one of many that I've used to invite universities to create a student-led Tutor/Mentor Connection and that might motivate a wealthy donor to provide the money needed to make this happen.

Read these articles to learn more about a Virtual Corporate Office

Read these articles to learn about university involvement

Read these articles to see invitations to billionaires in Chicago. This Tweet shows that MacKenzie Scott ( fortune) is making major contributions to universities.  If you have her attention, please share this idea with her.

I've been sharing ideas like this for more than 25 years (on this blog since 2005).  Please share them if you're concerned about creating birth-to-work learning and career opportunities for kids in high poverty areas. Make this part of your own Black Lives Matter commitment.

I'm on social media at these places. Please connect with me. Share your ideas and strategies and let's draw more attention to work that needs to be done.

If you value the work I'm doing please consider a contribution to help fund it. Click here to find a page with a PayPal button you can use to send your support.