Monday, November 30, 2020

Violence in Chicago. The Rest of the Story

Below is a screen shot from today's Chicago SunTimes, of a story about the high homicide rate in the 11th Police District of Chicago. The map shows where this district is in the city and shows that high levels of violence are mostly in the SW and NE side of the district, along with a section just East of Garfield Park.

Since 1993 when starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC)  in Chicago I've tried to help comprehensive, non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs grow in all high poverty areas. I've maintained a database of such programs since then and developed what I call "The Rest of the Story" strategy to draw attention to programs in neighborhoods featured in local newspapers because of bad things that happen there.  

So today, I created a second graphic, using the SunTimes map, along with a screen shot from a Tutor/Mentor Program map that I launched in 2016.  It's shown below.

You can find my Chicago area map and my list of programs in this blog article.  I zoomed into the same area as shown on the SunTimes map, then created a screenshot.  On my map I show seven green icons, representing youth serving programs. Enlarge my graphic and you can see their names. 

It looks like there is only one youth organization, The Off The Street club in the lower left section and none in the upper right. There's a YMCA along Holman Avenue near Augusta, just outside of the high violence area in the NE corner of the map.  There are three programs in the SE part of the district and one to the far East.  

In 2018 I  used data from the Heartland Alliance to create a set of maps showing the number of high poverty youth age 6-17 living in each community area. The image below shows the West side of Chicago, including the 11th Police District.  There are about 9500 high poverty kids in the area  (and about 20,000 in total). The percent shown in the blue boxes represents what percent that number is of the total youth population in the area. 

I first created this report in 2011, so the numbers shown in yellow boxes are from then. The blue boxes are from 2018, thus you can see changes in population.

Last month I posted a story using the map at the left, emphasizing that commuters using Chicago's expressways or trains to come and go from the LOOP to the suburbs are riding right past high poverty neighborhoods.  

I've long encouraged people in these areas to work together to build public awareness campaigns that would motivate these people to spend time getting to know about the neighborhood, and its need for youth serving organizations, and showing the ones that already exist.  Then pick one or two and make a long-term commitment to help them be the best in the world at helping kids through school and into jobs.

Below is a map story created in the mid 1990s for a group on the West side of Chicago. I've highlighted in yellow the section where I encouraged them to set up a campaign along Grand Avenue that would attract commuter volunteers.  I've been preaching this story for many years.

However, too few have ever seen my map-stories or my blog.  Yet, youth from schools all over the Chicago region could be creating "Rest of the Story" strategy, following negative news they see in the local media.  In publishing their stories they could be adding their "call to action" to my own and those of others, resulting in greater visibility, and a greater flow of dollars to help youth programs grow where they are most needed.

The Mayor, the Police Department, local politicians, businesses, faith groups, universities, etc. all could have been doing this for the past 25 years.

If they had, maybe the story about the 11th Police District in today's paper would have been different.

If they start now, maybe those stories will be different in 10 or 20 years.

I'd be happy to help anyone think through this strategy.  I'm on Twitter and these social media platforms.  

If you value the stories and program list that I share please consider a small year-end contribution.  Click here to learn more. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 - Thoughts about Maps

I'll be at my computer on Thanksgiving 2020, just as I am today. I'm making an effort to connect people who can help with information and ideas they can use to help bridge the divides in America, to create greater opportunity for all. 

During the past year as Covid19 and the continued killings of Black men and women by police in America have exposed long-standing inequities, it's more important than ever to mobilize people's time, talent, dollars, votes and commitment to bringing solutions to every place where maps show inequality. 

In January 2019 I attended the Chicago Opportunity Zones event held at the new Malcolm X College in Chicago. I joined with a few others using Twitter to share what I was hearing, so visit  #LiveatUrban and scroll through the Tweets to learn more about the Opportunity Zones (Called "O-Zones" by one speaker. A term I use often below.)

The final speaker was the new President of The Chicago Community Trust, who in the Tweet I've posted below said “Now is the time of action. We can't let perfect be the enemy of good.”

To me, part of those actions is doing the research and learning, to identify places where people need help, and to offer time, talent, dollars and other types of support to organizations and businesses in those areas.

One panel was moderated by Derek R.B. Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago. In his remarks, he said, “The biggest thing we have to do when we leave this room is form the partnerships and connections to get to work.”

Since 1993 I've been trying using maps to help people form those "partnerships and connections". Maps can be used to focus attention on places where people in Chicago need extra help, so the first thing that came to my mind was “What neighborhoods are affected?” And, “What indicators were used to show these areas need this government supported capital investment?”

Below are some examples of how maps can be used. In this case I'm focusing on the Opportunity Zones announced in January 2019. 

The Opportunity Zone map is shown at the right in the following graphics. In the first map I've used a demographics mapping site  to show Chicago. The green color shows areas with a high density of African Americans. By comparing the O-Zone map with the one on the right, you can see that the Opportunity Zones are targeted to help this sector more than others.

This next map shows the Chicago Tribuneshootings tracker” site, which shows locations of Chicago shootings for past 365 days. There's a definite overlap with O-zones but there are other areas which also need investment.

The next map comes from the Casey Foundation's Community Opportunity Map which shows poverty levels in Chicago (and other parts of the country). Using the interactive map you can focus in on specific parts of the city, and generate tables of information. For instance, I created a view focused on the North Lawndale area.

This next set of maps shows non-school youth tutor and/or mentor programs in Chicago, based on a list I've been maintaining since 1994. While most of these are not-profit centers that would attract Opportunity Zone investment, they are part of the mix of youth and family support organizations needed to help bring a neighborhood out of deep poverty.

View Tutor/Mentor Programs map here

A closer inspection of my map would show the wide range of programs on the map, and the lack of these programs in many of the O-Zone areas.

So who are some of the potential stakeholders and resources already in these neighborhoods?

On the graphic below I've zoomed into the O-Zone map to focus on the North Lawndale area of Chicago's West side. Then, I used the Chicago Health Atlas Map to focus on North Lawndale, and show hospitals serving this area.

Hospitals can be employers, can be customers for products and services produced locally, can provide needed health services, and can be conveners who bring stakeholders together. They can also be leaders who help comprehensive youth tutor/mentor programs grow in the area. Using the Chicago Health Atlas you can also create maps showing health disparities, which are indicators of investments needed in different areas of Chicago.

There were only a few maps shown the January 2019 Opportunity Zones presentation. One showed investment flows in the Chicago region. That map is shown in this tweet. Notice how the areas with the greatest investment, are just the opposite of those the O-Zone focuses on, which  have the least investments flowing into them.

In the concept map below I point to the platforms I used to create the maps I've shown. These are just a few of the growing number of data mapping resources becoming available over the past few years.

Open map at this link

Creating, maintaining, and motivating others to use these platforms offer many challenges. Among these are:

a) Motivating and teaching people to use the various platforms to create maps that focus a story on specific places. That's what I did in the above maps.

b) Locating the different platforms with needed information can also be a challenge, at least from a time perspective. In many cases the data-maps are no longer on-line, so when I open a link it is a dead end. Unless people are really motivated, most won't do the digging needed to put together an effective map story.

c) Building public awareness so more people look at the maps, use them in planning and action steps that bring people together and drive needed resources to non profits and growing businesses in specific areas is also a challenge. People creating the map platforms usually don't have advertising dollars to do the communications needed to attract people to the maps, or to teach others to use the platforms to create on-gong map stories.

These data resources are not profit centers. Thus, they don't qualify for investment zone capital. One role of philanthropy, or other government resources, could be to support the development, constant maintenance and updating, and long-term use of platforms like this.

During the event one speaker said there are already community planning resources. Why not use them to guide investment? I Tweeted out LISC Chicago as an example of this.

Below is a screenshot is from one of 27 quality of life community plans developed under the lead of LISC Chicago. It shows the Austin Community area. All 27 can be downloaded at this link.

Download at this link.

I don't include it on my data map because it's in a PDF, and not an interactive, on-line map (according to LISC Chicago). Thus while it's a great map, it's only useful to those who have access to it. You can't add layers, or zoom in, to focus on specific areas, or turn it into stories. There may be other map platforms like this in Chicago, or in other cities. I'm always adding to my library and this concept map. Send me links if you have them.

In my own efforts between 1994 and 2011 I tried to build one platform that would provide many layers of information that could be used to support neighborhood based planning intended to make more and better youth serving programs available in high poverty neighborhoods.

Example of map view created using
Tutor/MentorProgram Locator

The map of the left was created using  the Interactive Tutor/Mentor Program Locator's Asset Map section.

It's no longer functioning properly, although still can be seen on-line.

While I've been collecting and mapping data since 1994, for most of those years I was dependent on volunteers and donated software. In 2007 a $50k anonymous gift, combined with a grant from HSBC North America, enabled me to re-build our in house mapping platform, and to build the on-line interactive platform.

Using ARC GIS software we could create maps showing layers of information and using the interactive platform, we enabled others to create similar maps. Below are two examples. You can see more like this in the MapGallery created in late 2010.

Unfortunately, the recession, starting in 2008, dried up funding for this by mid 2010.  I've not had funds to update this or create these maps since 2011, and it would take a significant investment to rebuild my capacity.

Yet, I feel it is needed because I don't find any other mapping platforms combining all the layers I was trying to combine, and building it into blogs and on-going communications, so community planners could show the need, show existing service providers (and/or businesses) and show assets in, and around, the community who should be involved in any planning process.

I wrote an article earlier this year showing the layers of information needed on a platform like the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator - read it here

I also added an interesting article about building relationship networks to support philanthropy. You can read it here.  Such networks could be using the mapping ideas I've been sharing.

Thus, if part of your Thanksgiving weekend involves researching places where you can make a difference, perhaps you can read some of the articles on my blogs then share them with others who might want to become the investor, partner or benefactor who rebuilds the Tutor/Mentor Connection and its on-line mapping, and makes it freely available for others to use in Chicago and cities around the world.  

Or, you might be a creative social entrepreneur who can figure out how to generate revenue and profit from this, so we could seek capital investors from programs like the Opportunity Zones program.

Maybe you can help me be part of some of those "partnerships and connections" Derek Douglas talked about or that you will read about in the philanthropy article I pointed to above.

Or maybe you'll make a contribution to my 74th birthday campaign or my annual fund the T/MI campaign.

I'm on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN. I'll look forward to connecting with you.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Thinking local. Fearing global.

Every day my daily newspapers and social media call attention to challenges to our democracy, to our health, and to the planet's health. Our next president has a huge set of challenges.  At the left is a cMap where I point to many of those.

Thinking local. Fearing global.
It's in the context of thinking of  these challenges that I re-examine my own long term efforts to help well-organized, volunteer-based, non-school tutor and/or mentor programs grow in high poverty areas of Chicago, where adults connect with youth when they are as young as elementary school, then stay connected through high school, and into adult lives.

Birth to Work goal
That's what the graphic at the right visualizes.

The kids in the upper left were in 7th and 8th grade when this photo was taken  in the mid 1990s. I'm pictured at the right in late 2000s photo when one of these kids came back to talk at the annual year end dinner. It's 2018. We're still connected on Facebook. That's what I mean by "long-term".

Below is a page from the February-March 2000 issue of the printed newsletter that I was able to mail to about 10,000 people three to four times a  year from 1994-2002.  After 2000 email newsletters, blogs, social media and web sites took the place of printed newsletters as I ran out of money to continue these.

Feb-March 2000 T/MC Report 

This article includes a map of Chicago, showing high poverty areas where organized tutor/mentor programs are most needed, as a way to expand the social capital, or network of people and experiences, for kids who have a limited based of work and career models, and people opening doors to opportunity, in their lives.

Connect your network to information
At the left is a graphic that communicates the same idea. On both graphics the large circle represents the information library that I have been building since I started leading a single tutor/mentor program in Chicago in 1975.

The circle also represents a meeting place, or community of people, who gather on a regular basis, like people in faith groups do, and people in classrooms do, to learn from a central library of information and ideas, and to innovate ways they could help tutor/mentor programs grow in different parts of the city and suburbs.

Here's another version of the same graphic, created by an intern from South Korea who worked with me in 2011.  I show more of these on this Pinterest page.  Anyone can do this. Just look at one of my blog articles, concept maps and/or other visualizations then create and share your own version. 

You can see more visualizations done by interns on this page

Anyone can take this role

I took this network-building and information collection to another level when starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993. In my 1973-1990 retail advertising career at Montgomery Ward's corporate headquarters in Chicago we supported 400 stores in 40 US states, through the work of various central office teams.  They could do that because they knew where existing stores were located, and where there were potential customers for new stores.

By building a library of information, and a directory of existing tutor/mentor programs, my goal was that people in these learning and planning groups would begin to think of ways they could help all youth tutor/mentor programs within a geographic area get the ideas, dollars, talent, technology and other things each program needs to be great at what they do.

Instead of every program constantly reaching into a small pool of resources for what they need to operate, my vision has that others who care about what these programs were trying to do, would use their own time and talent to help mobilize these resources and push them to programs in every part of the city...based on the list of programs I was hosting (and still do),

Below is another graphic created by an intern to communicate this idea.

My success over the past 27 years has been hindered by disasters like Montgomery Ward, our main sponsor, going out of business in 2000, and by the 9/11 terror attack, the following wars, natural disasters, then the financial melt-down of 2008.  The Covid19 pandemic is just the latest crisis. 

Mayor Daley at 1997 T/MC Conference
However, I also was never able to get consistent, in-depth, support from Mayor Daley, major foundations, or other civic leaders. I had one business person visit my office in the 1990s and after I walked him through the strategy he said "I love what you're doing, but I'll never support you....because I want to start my own thing."

Since 2011 I've not had an organizational structure to help me continue the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC with the hope that I could generate revenue through consulting or by finding partners to invest in this strategy. That has not happened.  As I write this I'm wondering where the money will come from to keep my bills paid for the rest of this year...and into 2021.

Yet the need for non-school youth serving organizations reaching k-12 youth in high poverty areas is as great today as it was in 1993.

Enough is Enough - link
That brings me back to the start of this article. Kids entering school today will take 12 years to finish high school and another four to eight years to be starting stable jobs and careers.

That's 20 years.

What will the world look like in 20 years? Will people of color, people of different faiths or different gender identities, or who are fleeing conflict in their own countries, be seeking a refuge from the terror in America by then?

Or will we have gone through a third World War, fueled by nationalist leaders in different countries? Will there have been civil wars within the US and other countries, pitting extremist ideologies against each other?

Knowledge base needed - link

Local-Global Strategy.
While my local focus has been to help youth tutor/mentor programs grow in Chicago neighborhoods, the process I've piloted is knowledge-based problem solving. If someone aggregates information about a problem others can use that information to innovate solutions.

With this in mind, a few years ago I began to expand the knowledge base I host, pointing to articles about social justice, inequality, poverty, etc. I also point to articles about the climate crisis and about some of the political issues that I feel need to be better understood by more people.

To help people navigate the information I've been collecting, I created this article, which has a list of links to various sections of my web library.

Using this, anyone can start to do their own learning, and can begin to form a circle of friends, family, co-workers and faith group, who dig deeper into this information and try to create a different future than the one we seem to speeding into.

Is it enough? I feel that I'm pushing a huge rock up a steep mountain, with too little help, and too many other issues competing for attention. With the growth of right wing governments I fear the mountain itself will collapse, and what we do to build systems of support for disadvantaged youth will have no benefit.

I pointed to this graphic in a recent Facebook article and received this comment: "You deserve some hurrahs and applause for your good works💕! It does feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill when you’re working on it. And it’s hard to get sustained community support for these efforts "

Will this be the only thing that matters? Even if the entire world is in flames, our will to survive will continue to burn brightly, and our need to provide systems of support for our kids, and each other, will still be with us.

If you can help me keep this information resource available, visit my FundMe page

While I seek help, I also seek partners or a way to make the resources and ideas I've aggregated since 1993 a part of the work others are doing.  Read about the "do-over" ideas I've shared, and ways universities might  adopt the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC as one of its focus areas.

This has been a long article. Thank you for reading.  I look forward to connecting with you on Twitter @tutormentorteam or one of these other social media platforms

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Information-based problem solving libraries

If you've followed any of my articles for a while you'll see that this blog is part of an information collection/sharing strategy that I started almost 40 years ago in an effort to support the youth and volunteers in the tutor/mentor program I led in Chicago.

From 1975 to the mid 1990s this library was housed at our tutoring program location within the heart of the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headquarters complex in Chicago.  Each spring I produced a yearbook showing kids, volunteers, activities and the team of volunteer leaders.  This link points to a page where I host these, plus links to newsletters I sent in the 1990s.

The graphic below shows the volunteer leaders who helped me organize and lead the program during the  1976-77 school year when student/volunteer enrollment was around 125 pairs of elementary school kids and workplace volunteers.. 

This second graphic show the volunteer committee 15 years later, in 1991-92 when enrollment had grown to 440 kids and nearly 550 volunteers.  Up until spring 1990 I held full time advertising management jobs with Montgomery Ward, so had very little time to lead a program of this size. That's why the involvement of other volunteers was so important, and why the number of volunteers helping grew as the size of the program grew.

From my first year of leading the program through 2011 when I last led a tutor/mentor program I realized that I could never provide one-on-one, or group training, that would satisfy the needs of every volunteer. Thus I began building a library of manuals, "how to" books, research on poverty, etc. and used weekly newsletters to encourage volunteers to do their own learning and to help other volunteers do the same.

In 1993 when we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (which I now lead via Tutor/Mentor Institute,LLC ), we expanded the library to include information about other  Chicago area tutor/mentor programs and a larger body of research showing why they were needed, and ways leaders could raise money and recruit volunteers.  We started sharing that via printed newsletters sent to 300 people in 1993 and over 12,000 by 2002, and a May and November networking conference, which I continued to offer until 2015. 

In 1998 we began putting the library on a web site so we could share it with more people. When we lost our donated space at Montgomery Ward in 1999, the use of the Internet as a library became much more important.

I've always organized information in the library by topic, just like any other library. When we went on line I tried to create visual tools to help people find specific types of information. This graphic was on the home page of our first website built in 1998 by a volunteer tutor in the Cabrini Connections program. It uses a hub and spoke design that shows the range of information available in the library to support youth and volunteers and the programs I was leading, and that was also available to support every other tutor/mentor program in Chicago and in other places.  I've continued to add to this library through 2020.

I often saw libraries on other websites where the links on this graphic were interactive, meaning, if you clicked on the Hot Links circle, it would go to a page with a list of website links related to that topic.

However, I never could find consistent talent and funding to do this as well as needed.

I was reminded of this goal in the past couple of months as I saw two examples of visual organization of libraries on Twitter.

The first was a Stanford University Basic Income (UBI) Lab website. At the left I show an interactive concept map on their website. Click on any of the nodes and a new page opens with information specific to that node.  A second page shows a geographic map of the world and places where UBI experiments are taking place.

The World Economic Forum has also created an interactive guide to help people find information in their web library. At the right you see a screen shot of one sub section. I wrote about this in a previous article

At the left is another interactive graphic that points visitors to a vast library.  This is the Digital Promise Challenges Map, showing the highest priorities of education leaders.  I pointed to this in a 2019 article

Yesterday I watched one of the panel discussions of the College Promise Careers Institute, featuring Stan Litow, President Emeritus, IBM Foundation, Chuck Ambrose, President and CEO of KnowledgeWorks and Lisa Petrides, president of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education. 

As I listened to Stan and Chuck point out challenges of preparing K-12 students for a changing workforce, I wished someone who was also listening would creating a diagram and concept map, outlining the many points they raised, so that it would might guide more people through this thinking and into action stages that actually solve the problems they are describing. 

The examples I've pointed to show ways to help visualize information in a library, to help more people find and use it.  

As you look at these I urge you to look at the articles I've posted showing the four part problem-solving strategy that the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute has followed since creating it in 1993.  All of the information in these libraries is only part of STEP 1.  Step 2 and 3 involve actions that get more people to look at the information, help them understand it, then (STEP 4) apply what they learn in one or more places where the research shows more help is needed.

This is on-going work and the information I've been collecting, and that others are collecting, needs to be constantly updated and made consistently available.  I keep looking for institutional and/or university partners who will step forward to help me make the Tutor/Mentor library and resources more easily to access and understand, and to keep them available in future years when I'm no longer around (I'll be 74 in December ..  see my birthday fund me page).

Look again at the two graphics that I posted above, showing teams of volunteers helping me lead tutoring programs in Chicago. Then look at the graphic at the right.  Versions of those teams need to be supporting youth tutor, mentor and learning opportunities in every high poverty neighborhood of the Chicago region (and other places) for many years.

The information we host in our libraries can help such teams learn and grow.  It can also show challenges, such as funding, that must be met, if we're to ever reach more than a small percent of all the kids who need extra help.  

This blog, and the MappingforJustice blog are parts of the library.  Together they include more than 2000 articles like this one, many with links to external resources or to resources within the Tutor/Mentor library.  No one is able to digest this information in just a few days. It needs to be part of on-going curriculum and learning, building greater understanding over many years.  

I'm on Twitter @tutormentorteam. I hope you'll connect with me there to share your own ideas and let me help you understand what I've been writing about. I'm on Linkedin and Facebook, too.  See my social media web addresses on this page

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Calling all Veterans. Continue To Serve.

This is me, in the fall of 1968 during basic training at Ft. Polk, LA which was the home of infantry being trained to go to Viet Nam.

Lucky for me, I joined the Army in the summer of 1968 after getting a degree in history from Illinois Wesleyan University. I enlisted with a guarantee to be trained to be a SPY! Instead of the infantry I went into Army Intelligence. I never was called upon to carry a rifle into combat.

I spent a year in Baltimore and Washington, DC and then a year in Korea. It expanded my vision of the world and set the groundwork for what I've been doing in the 40 years since then. I was one of the fortunate ones who did not get wounded or killed by the conflict in Viet Nam.

In 2001 I was given an honorary PhD from Illinois Wesleyan, in recognition of the work I had been doing to help inner-city youth connect with tutors/mentors and experiences beyond the high poverty neighborhoods they were living in. 

This work has continued to develop over the past 20 years even as the resources to do it has continued to shrink. I've combined my passion for history and my experiences in Army Intelligence and 17 years of Retail Advertising with the Montgomery Ward Corporation into a market-based strategy aimed at helping mentor-rich non-school organizations reach youth in all high poverty areas of Chicago. 

This is one of the graphics I've created to illustrate the ideas I'm sharing. In the military every General knows that the troops in the field are only as strong as the supply chain that makes sure they are well trained, well armed and well fed...and in the right location. See the story I wrote about this in June 2008.

In business leaders use this thinking all the time to put stores in places where customers can easily reach them. They make sure stores have well-trained staff, merchandise that people want, and they use massive advertising to prompt people to shop on a regular basis.

No such system exists in the tutor/mentor world or in most of the social sector. The "intelligence" needed to gather and analyze data about what programs exist and where they are needed is not funded in any consistent way. The work needed to train young people to be leaders of tutor/mentor programs is not being done at any major college (that I know of). The millions of dollars of advertising needed to draw volunteers and donors to individual programs on a regular basis does not exist.

Thus, the battle-plan needed to win the "war on poverty" is still needed in cities throughout the world.

I would like to encourage Veterans and those who support our men and women in service to spend time today reflecting on what I've just written.
Do you have a "battle plan" to reach youth in your community with long-term, mentor-rich programs that assure that more of them will be in jobs and careers and capable of adult responsibilities by the time they are in their mid to late 20s?

Who is doing the "intelligence" gathering for you? Who is doing the advertising? Who is paying for this?

I've been sharing this idea on this blog since the late 2000s when social media was just emerging.  Since then I've formed active networks on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook (see links here).  I've pointed to the #clmooc group often as a model for how people with a common interest (education) who live in different parts of the US and the world, to connect regularly on Twitter and Facebook. 

So far I've not been able to connect the people in my network, including my former Army buddies, in a similar on-going social media interaction.  I keep trying. That's what service to America requires.

Like many, I depend on contributions to continue sharing ideas and hosting a library of resources.  Please visit this page and send a small contribution if you are able. 

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Helping Youth in Low Status Communities

Since March 2020 I've been watching a series of #PovertySolutions events, hosted by a group at the University of Michigan.  Last Friday's was titled "Talent Retention in Low Status America" and featured Majora Carter (

In her introduction (during first 10 minutes of the presentation) Majora said:

“I use the term 'Low Status Communities' vs low income, communities where there are more environmental burdens, higher rates of poverty, low educational attainment, higher rates of health problems, higher rates of people involved in the justice system, but most importantly there is a lack of hope, an assumption that inequality is just assumed, by both people inside and outside of the community. 

In our communities (low status) we're taught to measure success by how far we get away from them. No matter what type of low status community you were raised in, you're taught to measure success by how far you get away from them. 

These are the kind of things that repel people from a low status community. If they can find a way to leave, they do. 

There is no shortage of talent coming from low status communities. The challenge is to retain it and reinvest it in making those communities places where people would want to live."

Watch the full video at

I've not heard the term “low status communities” used this way, describing communities like the ones on the West and South side of Chicago, and pockets like the Cabrini Green housing projects on the Near North side of Chicago, where I led youth tutor, mentor and learning programs from 1975 to 2011.

I've used maps for 25 years to point to low-status communities in Chicago with the goal of helping well-organized, long-term, tutor/mentor programs, like the ones I led, grow in these areas.  View this concept map to see a collection of platforms that map indicators of low status communities. 

I understand what she was talking about. As I listened to Majora, I thought about how the programs I led were focused on helping our inner-city students get the education and adult support they need to move through high school, college then they could live where ever they wanted, free from poverty. That means outside of the neighborhoods where they were living. 

As I listened to Majora I posted a few Tweets at #PovertySolutions to share my thinking.
The concept map I shared in that Tweet shows many of the challenges facing youth and families in low status communities. Until low status communities offer more reasons for their youth to live there, by reducing many of these challenges, those kids, like any other people, will choose to find other places to live where they are more comfortable, safer, with better schools.

I've written often of the challenges of operating a non-profit tutor/mentor program that depends on volunteer talent and inconsistent donor support. During my first 15 years leading a program that grew from 100 pairs of elementary school kids to 300 pairs, I also held a full time advertising job, with management responsibilities. Just keeping the program running and growing was a huge job.

The parents kept telling me they needed programs helping kids beyond elementary school, so in 1992 I created Cabrini Connections to do that. Over the next 18 years we helped many kids finish high school and move on to jobs. I'm now connected to many on Facebook and seeing them post stories showing the success of their own kids.

As with in my earlier years, just keeping the program in business during the ups and downs of the economy was a huge challenge.

However, we compounded that by launching the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to help all programs in Chicago get greater visibility and a more consistent flow of operating dollars. Helping everyone else, also was helping our own program.

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection I began building a library that showed the conditions Majora described in her talk. I created concept maps showing that youth and families needed many other types of support, beyond tutoring/mentoring. 

However, I also attempted to show how recruiting adults from the workplace and beyond the geography of low status communities, created social capital ties that encouraged more people to take an interest in the conditions of these communities.  Doing so was intended to influence the growth of investors and innovators who would help re-build these communities to make them places the kids we were helping want to invest their own talent and lives.

Without  help from others, we're not able to offer long-term tutor/mentor programs. Without help from others, I think it will be pretty difficult for people like Majora to rebuild low status communities, wich are spread throughout the country.

The work of re-building communities takes decades. The work of helping a youth from first grade through high school also takes many years. But various tutor/mentor program strategies can reach kids in middle school and/or high school, to help influence that journey, in a shorter period of involvement.

In watching the Poverty Solutions session with Majora Carter I was reminded that those of us working directly with youth need to show our volunteers and supporters a larger strategy that might someday reduce the need for so many volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs.  

We need thousands of people filling the blue box in the middle of the graphic above, writing blog articles like mine, creating videos, Tweets and movies, to motivate more and more people to get informed, then get involved.  

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Monday, November 02, 2020

Why Non-School Volunteer-Based Programs?

Below is a graphic I've used since mid 1990s to visualize the design of a volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning program.
In programs like this volunteers from different work, life, education, age, race and religious backgrounds become connected to inner city kids, through organized k-12 youth-serving programs.  Over time, multiple years, many of those volunteers build strong bonds, and many take multiple actions that help the youth they are matched with.  Such programs are a form of bridging social capital.

I focus on non-school programs, or those that hold sessions after 5pm, or the weekends, or via the Internet, because in a big city like Chicago, poverty and segregated neighborhoods are measured by miles, making it very difficult for people working full-time day jobs to leave work and go to a school during the school day, or right after school, to serve as a tutor, mentor, coach, etc. The distances are too far and too much time would be taken from the work day. A few might do this, but too few can do it weekly for multiple years.

Yet, as this map shows Chicago has expressways cutting through every poverty neighborhood, linking people to jobs in the city to homes in the suburbs, or the opposite.  These can be access lines enabling workers to connect with kids on their way home from work, in organized tutor, mentor and learning programs....if they are available.

My thinking has been influenced by my own leadership of such a program, from 1975 to 2011, where several thousand workplace volunteers, from more than 100 different companies, spent time weekly with kids living in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, who came to our program sites in the Montgomery Ward Corporate Headquarters (until 1999) and neighborhood locations after that.

I've built a huge research library over the past 40 years but two writers stand out as influence on my thinking. One is Robert D. Putnam, who started writing about social capital in the late 1990s.  Then a few years ago he wrote the book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis".  View some of the articles I wrote about Dr. Putnam and social capital.

I was influenced by an earlier book that I read in the mid 1990s , titled American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass, by Douglas Massey.  This book emphasized how disconnected people living in highly segregated, high poverty, neighborhoods were from the resources that might make lives in those communities better for residents.

If you look at the graphic I posted at the top of this article, imagine places around Chicago or other cities where volunteers and kids might be sitting at a computer, looking for homework help, job opportunities, college information or just fun activities.  Volunteers in such programs can become people who build a deeper understanding of poverty from their experiences and from the kids they mentor and tutor. They can become advocates for the programs they are part of, helping draw other volunteers and donors.  I visualize this process here

They can also become advocates for greater changes, through their civic engagement and their votes.  During this week's election, how many of the volunteers will be people who have connected with high poverty through organized tutor/mentor programs?  I call this a form of "adult service learning" which is visualized in this video.

Below is a PDF that I created in 1990s to describe the idea of a "Total Quality Mentoring" program, where volunteers from different backgrounds connect with youth in long-term programs.  

Many programs support long-term connections though I find few who use PPT essays and graphics they way I do to communicate purpose and program design.  I share these ideas with the goal that others are influenced, including donors and policy-makers, so more programs with this purpose do grow in Chicago and other places.

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