Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Using Chicago Community Data Portal

In late July I wrote two articles (here and here) showing ways to use maps in a Chicago community area level analysis intending to determine how many non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs are needed based on the level of poverty and violence and the number of youth being served by existing programs.  

The data for my maps was provided by the Heartland Alliance, in 2011 and again in 2018.

Recently the Heartland Alliance released a new Chicago Community Data Portal which you can find at this link.   On October 5th representatives from the Heartland Alliance gave a presentation to the ChiHackNight community, providing an overview of the new dashboard.  I've embedded that below:

This is one of many data platforms I point people to as I encourage local groups to build a case for investment in many community supports, including non-school tutor/mentor programs, in areas where the data indicates a need.

In my July articles I encouraged people to do this type of analysis, then build a communications program that shares the information and draws attention and needed resources to the neighborhood on an on-going, multi year effort.

The dashboard is loaded with information, available for every community area in Chicago. As you look at the different data tables you can download an image, and embed it in your stories, just as I've done below.

You can find this table at this link.   Note that in the table at the right you can see demographic information for the entire city, and for this specific community area. 

The table has three categories.  At the top is shows the community area name and racial demographics.  In the  middle it shows age group and total population for the city and the specific community area. At the bottom it shows poverty level, extreme poverty level and child poverty percent.

Since the demographics are shown as percent levels you'd need to multiply a percent by the number of people in the community area to determine the number of people in a specific group.

In 2011 and 2018 the Heartland Alliance provided data to me, showing the number of kids age 6-17 in poverty, in each community area.  I put that into the presentation shown below.

Using the data provided by the Heartland Alliance and others community leaders in every neighborhood should be leading an effort that determines the need for non-school tutor/mentor programs, identifies existing programs and what age group they serve, what number of kids are served and what type of tutoring, mentoring and learning is offered, and  how many more programs are needed.

That's what the graphic at the left is showing. Teams of people with a wide range of talent are needed to help build great, on-going, tutor/mentor programs. They are also needed to help fill each community area with a wide range of programs helping kids from birth-to-work.  And they are needed at the city level,  mobilizing resources and assuring that they flow to every high-poverty area on an on-going basis,  not just to a few high profile places or programs.

Take some time to get familiar with the Heartland Alliance's  Chicago Community Data Portal. Then visit this page and get to know other data portals that might aid your analysis.  Learn to embed the data and maps into articles, just like this one!

Here's an article showing how you can follow negative news with map stories that are intended to draw attention, dollars and volunteers to tutor/mentor programs in areas featured in the negative news. 

Youth in local schools, faith groups and non-profit organizations could be creating and publishing these map-stories on a regular basis in an effort to improve their own opportunities. 

Thank you Heartland Alliance for the great resource.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Who have I helped?

 A friend asked recently, "Has anyone adopted the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy?"  I responded, "Not that I know of."  That's because I don't have documentation to show how people who attended conferences or who I've talked with, or who have visited my websites, have used the ideas.  

Here's an example.  In October 2006 I posted this article titled Nobel Prize, Giraffes and Tutor/Mentor. What's the Link?  

In the comments section one person posted: 

Thank you for what you do for the poor. Do you have any idea where to go or who to contact, to get some funds for a starting project: by means of grants or small loans? As you know most sponsors required a track record of success. This is yet entrepreneurial I left my job to commit 100% to this project and cause. Time is crucial for those that must wait in the cold.

I was once a homeless. I then worked for the homeless and now that I am closer to getting a PhD in Human Services- Health Services Administration I want to put my passion, talents and experience at the service of those brothers and sisters; specially the most vulnerable ones. Homeless in need of respite care.

I have an entrepreneurial idea that will work and will make a respite homeless shelter financially sustained in the long run. I am starting a project, a respite care facility for vulnerable homeless discharged from hospitals here in my city; Miami, Fl. where they have no place to go, but public shelters where they have minimum chances of getting an acceptable recovery if at all. I am well known among the underprivileged housing and healthcare providers in the community. 

My ambition is to house every discharged homeless patient in Miami for at least 60 days while experienced case managers work on transitional housing for them.

Here's what I posted in response:

I have a ppt in the Tutor/Mentor Institute that is titled "steps to start a tutor/mentor program". 

It would also apply to you and others. Doing your research and building a team are the first two steps. You're doing research by contacting me. In the LINKS section of the T/MC site are numerous links to fund raising research and sites. The links on my blog to Gift Hub and Non Profit Blog exchange, provide even more links to people who have more expertise in fund raising than I ever will have.

When I started Cabrini Connections-Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I had several assets that I could draw on

a) 25 years previous experience leading a Chicago tutor/mentor program, and a large network of volunteers who supported me

b) 17 years history working for the Montgomery Ward corporation in their Chicago headquarters, where I built a relationship with key leaders because of my leadership of the volunteer tutor/mentor program hosted in that facility. Wards provided free space and a $40,000 per year grant from my first year (1993) to 2000 when they went out of business.

c) a marketing/advertising background and mentality, which has enabled me to constantly expand my network of people who might be interested in what I'm doing and who might volunteer time or make a donation

d) momentum and ignorance - my transition from a full time job at Wards to a full time job leading the tutoring/mentor program as its first paid director was forced by people at Wards who decided they no longer wanted me working for them. This gave me the push to leave the company and make leading the tutor/mentor program my full time job, which is what my previous 17 years of involvement had been leading me to want to do. The ignorance part is that I had no idea how difficult it would be and how many sacrifices my family would have to make for me to lead a non profit, on the salary they could pay, and on the constant uncertainty that comes with building an organization from scratch

Thus, my advise to you is to build a team of people who share your passion, and who are willing, or able, to raise money, or provide money, to pay for the operations of your organization. Recruiting the right mix of volunteers for your board is essential to your success in raising money.

As a start up, finding someone to donate space for your operations is critically important if you don't have access to immediate funding for space and operations.

It's not enough to have a good idea. You need to be good at marketing the idea to donors, volunteers and others who must share your vision enough to provide the time and talent it takes to succeed.

Good luck to you.


I never heard back so don't know if this information was used, or was  useful. 

Below is a map showing participants of the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences that I hosted from May 1994 to May 2015.  You can find it here

I've been told by people from Long Beach, California, Detroit, Michigan and Indianapolis, Indiana that they started initiatives similar to the Tutor/Mentor Connection after attending these conferences.  

The Lawyers Lend A Hand Program at the Chicago Bar Association grew from 1994 to 2007 with my support.

Leaders of current Chicago programs like Kids Off the Block, Polished Pebbles and ProjectSyncere all met with me, or attended the conferences, early in their start-up stages.  

Here's a blog by a gentleman from Africa who contacted me in the early 2000s saying he wanted to duplicate the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Africa. We stayed connected until he passed away last year, but I don't think he ever was able to fully duplicate the T/MC.

Thus, I'm certain that I've helped influence many, but at the same time, I don't see any who fully duplicate the strategies share on the website. 

How would one know if this was happening?

Look at my site then look at leadership initiatives in your area. Do they use maps with layers of information showing where poverty is concentrated? Do they use concept maps and other visualizations to show a long-term commitment needed to helping kids from first grade, through high school, into the workforce? Do they share strategies via visual essays?  Do they host a list of programs, and a library of information showing where they are most needed, why they are needed and how people can build and sustain such programs?

Finally, this is most important. Do they work daily  to create public awareness that draws volunteers and donors directly to the programs they list in their library?  

If you've adopted these ideas, or been helped in any way by the work I've done, please post a message in the comment box and re-connect with me on one of these social media platforms.

The work's not completed.

10-12-2021  update - here's an article I posted in 2009 showing an example of how I've helped others. click here.  

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Building a Segmented Understanding of Youth-Serving Programs

Now that school has started, and most volunteer-based tutor and/or mentor programs are past the recruitment/orientation/matching stage, and volunteers are meeting with kids, I think it's a good time to dig deeper, to understand the different types of mentoring strategies that exists, and the different youth and adults who are the intended beneficiaries of mentoring. Furthermore, let's once again look at roles volunteers can take beyond being a mentor, or without being a mentor.

I'm going to share some graphics.   Let's look at this graphic first:

All youth and adults (represented by yellow circle) would benefit from mentors helping them journey through life. However, much research shows that youth living in high poverty, segregated, and/or isolated, areas need more help to move from first grade toward their adult lives.  Here's a concept map that illustrates this differently. People living in more affluent areas have more resources to help them overcome challenges.  

Below is another graphic, from a presentation titled "Defining Terms".  In this I show youth living in high poverty areas as the group I focus on, but recognize that system involved youth, youth with social, emotion, physical needs, youth with parents in the military, and LGBTG youth, all have unique needs. 

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection, started in 1993, and through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, started in 2011, I focus on youth living in high poverty areas of big cities like Chicago, where a wide range of mentoring, tutoring and learning supports are needed, in the lives of thousands of young people.  At you can find a library of information and ideas that anyone can use to help create programs that reach youth early and stay connected for many years, if the end result is a life out of poverty with a network of people to help achieve that goal.

Someone should be duplicating what I've been doing to support youth in each of the other categories shown on the above graphic, including building a web library similar to the one I've hosted since the late 1990s. 

The graphic shown below illustrates this long term commitment.  It shows kids I connected with when they were in middle school, who I'm still connected with nearly 25-30 years later. Several have college degrees, including advanced degrees. These are just a few of the youth who were part of the tutor/mentor programs I led between 1975 and 2011.

Not all youth serving programs have the same long-term commitment, or focus only on youth in high poverty areas.  Many mentoring formats focus on youth age  16-24 who have been involved in the juvenile justice system, or have dropped out of high school before graduation.  Such program require many different types of support to help a young person get his/her life back on track. 

Other mentoring formats, such as school based mentoring, are not structured for long-term connectivity. Many forms of involvement are "motivational speakers" or short duration classes. These are all part of a mix of needed services, but without at least one organization in a child's life offering a long-term support system, are the others enough to overcome the challenges poverty places in front of kids and families?

So who is doing the research to understand what types of programs are available? 

In 2013 I created the graphic below. I wrote about it here, with an invitation for technologists to help build a graphic that programs might be willing to put on their web sites. Imagine a common graphic showing what age you serve, what time of day, what part of the birth to work pipeline, etc.

Until we build a more segmented understanding of the different types of programs within a city, and who they are intended to serve, then use maps to better understand what neighborhoods are well-served and which are under-served, we'll never be able to build a marketing strategy that leads to great programs reaching k-12 youth in all places where such programs are most needed.

The question we should be asking ourselves is "How can we fill all high poverty neighborhoods with organized, age specific programs, that can build and sustain long-term connections with children as the grow to become adults?    How do we pay for it? Where do we attract and retain talented leaders? How do we keep volunteers involved for multiple years?  

Furthermore, who's providing the money and talent to collect, organize, analyze and share this information on a continuous basis?  

Every child is special. Every child deserves a support system that offers hope and opportunity. Some have this when they are born. 

Most kids live in neighborhoods with a wide range of adults modeling opportunity and helping kids through school and into adult lives.  However, kids in high poverty areas don't have such a diverse network of support. Most kids in these areas won't have this unless many adults who don't live in poverty make a consistent, heroic, on-going effort to make such supports available. 

If you're writing similar articles on your own blog, or host on-line forums where people are discussing these questions, use the comment box to share a link to your web sites or forums. I hope there are many leading this discussion.

I'm on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (see links here). I look forward to connecting with  you. 

There's one other page I'd like to call your attention to. It invites you and others to send small contributions to help me continue to do this work. 

Thank you to those who read and share my posts and to those who also send contributions! 

Friday, October 01, 2021

Keeping the Web Library Available

The website name was established around 1998 and I've used it since then, with three different versions of the website. The most recent was built in 2006 by tech volunteers at IUPUI, who I had met through the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences.

The site was rebuilt in 2011 and I've used that format for the past 10 years.  Last spring we had to move the web library to a new form of hosting since the site was attracting web viruses.  This week as I was trying to update links in the library we found that this function was no longer working.  In addition, the person who has been hosting the site at no cost no longer will have time to fix this. The site will close by January 2021.

Fortunately the site archive is available on the Wayback Machine site. This link takes you to a version from early in 2021. 

I have no money to invest in web developers, so I'm not certain what I will do.  For the past 10 years I've used the site as my main website and the primary value of the T/MC site was that it hosed my list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs and it hosted a web library with more than 2000 links.  

Below you can see how that was formatted.

A second benefit was that a Google search for the words "tutor mentor" still resulted in the site coming up first among the non-ad supported listings. I feel that's a value.

My first priority is saving the information in the library.  My friend in Indiana has a back-up of the site that can be provided to me as a data-base, but I'm not confident that I can draw information from that.

So I'm going through the library, category-by-category and copying the information to a MS Word doc. I did the Chicago Programs Links section a couple of days ago. I started on the main library yesterday. I think that I can complete this by mid November if I work on it every day.

Once that is done I have less fear of losing the information even if the website goes off-line. However, that's only step one. I need to find a new way to share the information, and to point the site to where I host the new library.

One option is to put this on the site. Below is a visualization showing my thinking. From the home page I could link to a page that looks like this, showing the four sections of the library, and listing the sub categories in each section.  Those would open to a new page where I'd list programs alphabetically.  

Each sub section would have it's on page of listings.  For instance in the Chicago Programs section is a sub category for Chicago Central area.  Below is an example of how that might look (with improved formatting).  I might create a version with only the name of the program and the website and not include the description paragraph. That would save space.

If I can redirect links from all places where I've pointed to the library and T/MC site for the past 15 years to the library page on the TME site, that might fix the problem of broken links. Once someone gets to the main library page, they could navigate to more specific information.

Update: 10/5/2021 - I've put the list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC website and updated links from a few key places that point to it. 

This would enable me to update my concept maps, such as the one below, with new links pointing to specific sub sections in the library.  (done as of 10/5/2021)

My concern about putting this on the site is that it my not have enough band with to support it.  That site is already crashing often due to information overload. I'm investigating an upgrade, but that comes with a few other problems. Cost is one.  However, I don't know where my IP address is hosted so can't point to a new IP address if the site hosting is upgraded.

I could also build this on a new page, with each article being one sub section of the library, and the tags along the left site  pointing to each sub section.  I'm not sure how viable that would be.

The best option would be some organization/university and/or benefactor seeing the value of the library and the ideas I've been sharing, and stepping forward with a multi-year financial commitment to rebuild the sites and take ownership from me.  

The worst option would be to shut down in 2022 and end the work I've been trying to do, discarding all of the information I've aggregated for the past 30 years.

That's not likely to happen.  That's because the archive version will continue to be available at this link.  I'll write a post soon showing the site archive and what it can do and what it does not do. It looks like you can click on links and go to an archived version of that link, if it is available. 

Any suggestions? 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Building knowledge-based ecosystem

I'm fascinated by their potential for bringing people together in ways that's not possible face-to-face. I've wanted to build this capacity into the Tutor/Mentor Connection for more than 25 years. 

I and six other volunteers created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to "gather and organize all that is known about successful non-school tutoring/mentoring programs and apply that knowledge to expand the availability and enhance the effectiveness of these services to children throughout the Chicago region."

It's 2021. I'm still leading that effort, via the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC

1998 Crain's Chicago Business

I'd been leading a tutor/mentor program in Chicago since 1975 when we formed the T/MC. So I already had an extensive database of other programs in Chicago, as well as of foundations, businesses, volunteers and media. We did our research and planning, and developed a 4-part strategy in 1993. Then, we launched our first Chicago tutor/mentor program survey in January 1994 to systematically learn who else was offering non-school tutor and/or mentor services.

As we started reaching out to learn about programs we began sharing what we were learning with other programs, and with resource providers and other stakeholders, via printed newsletters. We began drawing stakeholders together to share and learn from each other via organized conferences in May 1994 and started organizing an annual Aug/Sept Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign in 1995.  You can view the goals of the conference here. See recruitment campaign history here.

We began sharing our list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs in a printed directory in 1994, but never circulated more than 500 copies a year. As we put our library on line in 1998, we also put our list of programs on line.

In 2004 we were able to launch an on-line portal where people could search for information about Chicago area tutor and mentor programs by zip code, type of program and age group served. In 2008 we launched a map based version of this.

With the maps we could show all the places where programs were needed, as well as what places already had service from existing programs.  Thus, our conversations were focused on a) helping existing programs get a more consistent flow of resources needed to constantly improve, while b) helping new program start where more are needed, borrowing ideas from existing programs, rather than starting from scratch.

The conferences and annual recruiting events we organized helped us generate a flow of print news stories, drawing attention to tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago, not just to our own program (which I led until mid 2011). While we stopped our printed newsletter in 2002 we've been sending email newsletters every month since 2000. With our maps we crated map-stories following negative news, in an effort to draw more attention and resources to neighborhoods where help was needed.

I created this concept map many years ago to visualize how we were building a library of information that anyone can use to a) build and sustain volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in high poverty areas; and b) understand root causes that created a need for tutor/mentor programs and placed challenges that made it more difficult to move safely from birth to work; so (c) more people who first became involved as tutors or mentors would become involved in building solutions that reduced, or removed, these systemic barriers.

Below I'm showing some elements of this concept map.

When I first created this chart I only included information that people could use to build and sustain volunteer-based tutor and mentor programs. (#1) on the graphic.  I updated that with the set of green boxes (#2) showing that the Tutor/Mentor library includes a much wider range of information about poverty, racism, inequality, challenges of funding, ideas for learning, and ideas for collaboration, knowledge management, etc.

Just getting a youth into a tutor/mentor program is often not a powerful enough influence to assure a successful  journey from birth-to-work. In high poverty areas there a many systemic barriers that need to be reduced, or removed.  Getting more people personally involved in the work needed to understand, then remove the barriers, can be one by-product of getting more  people involved as tutors/mentor and leaders in organized youth programs.  My own 40 year journey is an example of that.

The right side of the concept map shows two forms of learning, one formal, and the other informal.  Each are intended to support volunteer involvement that leads to a better understanding of the information in the library and the growth of more and better tutor/mentor programs in places where they are most needed.  

It also results in more people working to create systemic changes where those are needed.

Now look at the line across the top of the concept map.

Building the library is an on-going process, but it's only the first step in our 4-part strategy.  Getting people to look at the information in the library is an advertising and public awareness effort.  

Thus we published our list of programs in a printed directory from 1994-2002, then in an on-line map based directory through 2018. It's now available in an on-line list and a Chicago programs map.  I've used newsletters, blogs, social media, along with conferences and media events to draw attention to the library.

We began to use GIS maps in 1993 to show where tutor/mentor programs were most needed and where existing site-based programs were located.  We also started a "rest-of-the-story" strategy using maps to show where media stories focused on incidents of violence, or locations of poorly-performing schools.  We used these to who what assets (business, university, hospital, etc.) were in the area where the incident took  place, who could help tutor/mentor programs grow. This was part of our effort to draw greater attention to programs throughout the city.

We (#3) then organized May and November conferences to draw programs together to learn from each other and to provide information to help support volunteers and students in every program. This information was part of on-going formal and informal learning.  We organized annual August/September Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment campaigns to help programs find volunteer talent.  

Finally, we repeated this for 20 consecutive years.  

At the top right of the concept map I show events that we created in August, November and May to draw programs together and draw attention and resources directly to programs.  The May and November conferences were held every six months for 20 years. The Volunteer Recruitment campaign was a multiple-site event every year from 1995 to 2003 and has been an on-line activity, drawing attention to our on-line lists of Chicago area programs continually since 2003.

Ultimately my goal is that people from different sectors and different places are forming study and learning groups which draw from information libraries they find on line. While these groups engage in on-going face-to-face learning, they also engage in on-line conversations, with each other, and with people in other groups, expanding their  understanding of problems and solutions and building relationships with people who who might help...

....all with the goal of filling high poverty areas with needed programs and services that help kids move safely through school and into adult lives, jobs and careers  (see strategy map).

If you've read this far, thank you! I hope you'll visit some of the links and build your own understanding of the strategy I've piloted.  I hope you understand how this supports my own on-going learning and efforts to do "better today than I was able to do yesterday". 

While there are many intermediary  organizations in Chicago and around the country who focus on youth well-being and do some of the things the Tutor/Mentor Connection/Institute, LLC, have piloted, I don't yet see anyone including all of these steps, supported by a library with as much information as is included in the Tutor/Mentor Library.

Nor do I find anyone using concept maps as extensively as I have since 2005 to visualize strategy, process and information available.  

Yesterday the Ryan Family made a $480 million commitment to Northwestern University.  I dream of someone making a $100 million commitment to build a Tutor/Mentor Connection in every major city, supported by student/alumni teams from a local university.

That needs to happen soon so I can pass on all of my archives and enable people to build from what I've started, rather than start from scratch.  

If you'd like to help make such a community a reality, let's connect.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Building the network

 Last week I posted an article talking about the "ecosystem" of people and organizations who need to be connecting and working toward common goals, such as helping kids in poverty move through school and into adult lives.

Here's an example of how I have been trying to do that.

First, since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 I've been building a library of "all that is known" about successful non-school tutoring/mentoring programs and applying that knowledge to expand the availability and enhance the effectiveness of these services to children throughout the Chicago region.

This concept map shows the four sections of the library, along with sub-categories in each section. It includes more than 2000 links.

Every year I spend time going through each section to refresh my understanding of what information each link shares, and to make sure they all are working.  I started doing that again last week.

This time I looked for Twitter links on each account then made sure I was following them, or that I included them on one of my lists.  Twitter rules limit how many you can follow but not how many you can include on lists.  If I want to see what certain types of programs are Tweeting I open a list and skim through those Tweets.

I also started a document where I put the Twitter handles for each organization in my library, in a document which enables me to find them later. Below is one segment.

Then I created a set of graphics, asking "Are you following all of these organizations?  Are you visiting their websites and learning from them?  Below are some Tweets showing how I then shared this information.

I point to many #volunteer #Recruitment resources. Here are some.

Here's another: 

I did this several times so far and am just starting.  Here's another Tweet, where I show how the library website looks, and circled the section of links I was sharing with my post. 

As a result I've generated some conversation between myself and people in the library and hopefully  have encouraged some to reach out and connect to others.

There are other ways to share this information so I hope readers will dig into my library and share the links.  I hope my example will be duplicated in other cities, where people will add my library to their own, which would focus on issues specific to that city, or country, not Chicago, where I work. 

 I'm just one person. I've been building this library and sharing the information since 1993, but with too few resources to do it as well as needed, or to share it as widely as needed. 

Yet, if I can keep doing what I do, maybe others will join and add their own time, talent and dollars.

Thanks for reading.  

Saturday, September 11, 2021

20 years ago - what have we learned?

Today is the 20th year since the tragic 9/11/2001 attack on the American people. I was on the Kennedy Expressway that morning, headed to my office in Chicago, when the first reports came in on the radio. When I got to my office I turned on the computer and followed events the rest of the day. One of my Board members worked for Aon Corporation and around mid-day I emailed and asked if he knew anyone there. He replied, "We have an entire office there. I have many friends."

Twitter has been full of memorials and I posted a few Tweets pointing to articles I've written on this blog since 2005.

and this earlier in the week I posted this The timeline shows work I had been doing prior to Sept 11, 2001 and work I've continued to do since then.  one post I saw was by Nicholas Kristof, a writer for the New York Times. Kristoff wrote, "If only we had tackled America's child poverty as seriously as we confronted Al Qaeda. If only we had fought addiction the way we fought Saddam. If only we had bolstered American education the way we bolstered our military."

That's what I've tried to influence for 25 years, before, and after, 9/11.  Now that we're out of Afghanistan, and not spending all that money on that war, can we spend the money to do the things Kristof argued for?

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Helping kids move from poverty to prosperity - who needs to be involved?

You've heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child" haven't you?  I created the concept map in this graphic many years ago to visualize all sectors of the village who need to be involved.

The graphic can be found in this article, which shows the knowledge base we need to support our efforts to help kids in poverty areas move through school and into jobs and careers. 

If you try to define who all needs to be involved,  you're talking about an ecosystem.  Here's a definition of what that is. 

I was going to write a long article about the ecosystem and what I've been doing for the past 28 years to connect such a group with each other in an on-line learning network, but searched my blog for previous articles and found this one, from February 2018. 

Rather than repeat that article here, I hope you'll follow the link and read it. 

Actually, I've focused on the ecosystem in many articles, so visit this link and you can browse those. 

All of these articles, in fact this entire blog, is focused on supporting actions of millions of people in many places, who all are focusing on helping kids born, or living in,  high poverty areas, move safely through school and into adult lives, with decent paying jobs, that enable them to raise their own kids without so many of the challenges of living in segregated, high poverty areas.

If this is your goal, too. Let's connect on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and/or LinkedIn.  Let's connect our networks too. That expands the ecosystem and helps people connect and learn from a wider range of sources.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Help Kids in Poverty Move from Birth-to-Work

I've posted articles around Labor Day almost every year since starting this blog in 2005.  I hope you'll read some of them and apply the ideas in Chicago or in your own community. 

Since I've lived in Chicago and its suburbs since 1973 my focus has always been on helping kids in big city high poverty, segregated neighborhoods.  The map below illustrates that there are many cities in the USA where people could apply the ideas and strategies I've piloted in Chicago to help kids in those places.

The map is from a 2015 article which you can find at this link. It's one of many articles I've found over the past 40 years that emphasize how where you are born and where you live determines your health and economic success in life.  

I've used the graphic below since the 1990s to visualize how an organized, site-based, non-school tutor and/or mentor program can be a place that connects youth to adults from many different backgrounds and expands "who you know" and "what you might aspire to".  

Note that in the middle circle of this graphic is a birth-to-work timeline. In the graphic above I also used a birth-to-work graphic.  Below is another graphic that visualizes the same goal.

Here's one of several articles where I use this graphic. It emphasizes the need for teams of people to work at the program level, the neighborhood level, the city level, and the national or international level, to help long-term, mentor-rich programs grow in high poverty areas.  That means helping them get the talent, volunteers, technology, ideas and operating dollars needed EVERY YEAR.

Thus, if you're gathering face-to-face, or on ZOOM, or just posting Tweets or notes on social media this weekend, think of ways you can help such teams grow in your own community.  Think of ways you can share on your own blog or website the strategies you are developing and how you can connect with people in other neighborhoods, or other cities, to share what you are learning.  

I've started updating the Tutor/Mentor web library again and as I've viewed websites I started to make a list of Twitter accounts.  I this Tweet you can see how I share the list and encouraged those on the list to connect and learn from each other.
I'll be posting links like this often over the next few weeks. I hope you'll visit the accounts, then their websites, and look for ideas you can borrow and ways you can draw attention and support to EACH of these organizations. 

If my example helps, then please duplicate it. 

Thank you for reading.  I'm on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram and hope to connect with you. Find links here.

I've received many awards for the work I've been doing. 20 years ago today I received an honorary PhD from Illinois Wesleyan University. That was just a week prior to the 9/11 attack.

Today that recognition needs to be expressed in how readers share my posts and how some help fund my continued work. 

Visit this page and use the PayPal to send a contribution if you can.  

Monday, August 30, 2021

On-going cycle of problem solving

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

I often dream about the strategies I've been developing for the past 40 years. Last night it was about map-based planning. It prompted me to post this article today.  It's a pretty long article, with many links. Take your time in reading it. 

Let's start with the concept map below, which I created in 2015 to show planning as a cyclical process. 

The concept map uses a graphic that I’ve borrowed from a video created by Gene Bellinger, who I met in a Systems Thinking discussion group on LinkedIn.

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 many years ago in a blog post focused on comparing the thinking and planning process that Generals 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.

In the systems thinking video, this graphic is used to describe a “situation”, something that motivates people to gather to find ways to change the situation. In this and many articles I've posted on this blog the “situation” is poverty, violence, workforce development, poorly performing schools, and an ineffective funding stream to support organizations working to solve the problem.

In this graphic, Gene is focusing on how groups need to gather and review information that helps them understand the situation, as well as potential solutions.

In my own graphic, I show this as the analysis stage (1). I've created a huge library of information that people can use to understand how where you live influences what your future is. This library includes maps, that show all of the areas of Chicago where poverty is concentrated, so that planners provide support services in all of those areas, not just in high profile areas. Robert Putnam's book,"Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis," calls attention to how this opportunity gap is growing in America. I wrote about it here.

I use concept maps to outline sections of the library. This map shows research articles in the library. Thus in understanding violence you'd need to look at articles on poverty, drop out issues, social capital, workforce development, crime, etc. You can find this map at

Based on shared understanding a group will propose solutions, and build strategies to implement those solutions. This is the Strategy stage Gene describes. I use this Strategy Map to focus attention on a goal that can be shared by just about everyone, which is to help kids grow up and be starting jobs and careers by their mid-20s. People in different places, and with different resources, will develop different strategies to reach this goal. If they are well supported, and given time, many can be effective.

Steps 2 through 6 of my graphic represent stages of putting a strategy into operation. This includes generating the revenue needed to fund the entire operation, not just parts of it. In the military, the troops in combat are supported by a huge supply chain. We don't have such a system supporting all of the organizations working with youth in Chicago. This is the adoption stage of Gene's video.

As the plan rolls out in its first year data is collected showing what happened, and new information is collected showing how others have been trying to solve the same problem in different places. An analysis of this information leads to improvement in the strategy so it works better the second year.
This graphic illustrates this process of constant improvement as “The Problem Solving Loop”. The “Reality” in this process is that complex problems, such as ending poverty, require many years of effort.

You can read more about this "cyclical process" in an article from my web library titled, “The cyclical process of action research – The contribution of Gilles Deleuze”  I found this in an article that's part of a web library hosted by Geno Bertini.

In action research, a situation is identified and a group of people gather to build understanding and propose solutions. An action plan is developed and the ideas are put in to action. When the initial problem is solved, such as getting a business to donate land for a park, a new situation is created, such as “what do we do with the land”. This requires new people, with new expertise.

In numerous reports about poverty, inequality, workforce development, etc., mentoring is mentioned as a solution. The situation that needs to be addressed is “How do we connect youth and adults and keep them connected long enough for the mentoring to influence the habits and behaviors of the mentee?”

Organized tutor/mentor programs are a solution, but then the “situation” becomes “how do we make these programs available in all of the places where they are needed”.  A variety of mapping platforms are available to support this stage of planning. I show many on the concept map below.  

Maps can include overlays showing indicators, like poverty, violence, poorly performing schools. They can show locations of existing programs. They can even show assets in different parts of the city who should be supporting program growth in different areas. You can find many examples for using maps in articles posted at since 2008.

At this stage of the problem solving there are many different “situations” which need to be addressed concurrently. Every organization working to reduce poverty by helping young people move through school and into jobs, or in helping parents earn a wage that enables them to provide more support to their own kids, has the same needs. They all need volunteers, public visibility (advertising), operating dollars, technology, etc.

I posted an article a couple weeks ago showing how community areas can use maps to determine how many kids are in an area and how many tutor and/or mentor programs are there (if any).  This is a starting point of the analysis that needs to be done. 

Below is another map that demonstrates this analysis. This shows how communities can identify potential assets in their area who should be involved in efforts to help kids through school and into jobs.  View this at this link. 

I've created graphics like this to illustrate the 12 years it takes for a youth to go from first grade through high school. Building funding commitments that sustain this journey in every neighborhood is one of the challenges we need to overcome. One of the PDF essays I've written it titled “tipping points”. It lists some actions that might lead to more and better youth serving organizations in places where they are most needed.

Step 7 of my graphic is one that we struggle with as a country. We fail to keep the issue in front of the public long enough to reach all the people who need to be involved in solving the problem, and we fail to keep them involved for all of the years it takes for great programs to grow in all the places where they are needed, then to grow their impact on youth as they move from first grade to first job, which is a 20 year journey for every youth.

Thus this is another “situation” that requires the involvement of people from many different backgrounds, who innovate ways to communicate ideas and create on-going social purpose advertising, without the same resources that for-profit businesses use to attract customers. Dan Pallotta's TED talk calls attention to this “situation”. Here's a blog article inviting you to be part of that problem solving community.

We need to be influencing what resource providers and policy-makers do, not just what schools and non-profit organizations do. 

I visualize this with another graphic from my blog. Note how it includes elements from several other graphics that were created earlier. The intent is to show that if we want to solve complex problems we need to influence what resource providers do, not just what social service and education providers do.

As I mentioned above, a major challenge is finding ways to reach more people with these ideas, and doing so with few, or no, advertising dollars. One solution is to engage young people in communicating these ideas.

At this link you can see how an intern from South Korea “hacked” my blog article to create a new video interpretation of the first graphic in this article. Here's a page where you can see a video created by a different intern providing an interpretation of the above graphic.

My hope is that many will do this. The information I've shared here can be used by leaders in business, philanthropy, media, politics, education, etc. to engage people in this on-going systems thinking problem solving process. If just a fraction of the billions of dollars spent on electing people in this country were spent to facilitate this problem solving process in every city, perhaps the leaders could actually shrink the poverty and opportunity gaps in America.

Read the articles about learning and network building on this blog. Every person who shares these ideas helps expand the network of people who get involved and stay involved in providing solutions to poverty in one or more places. As one person learns to hack these ideas in their own efforts, they become a leader who then mobilizes others, rather than a bystander who is hoping others “will solve the problem” or who thinks they can build a wall that keeps them and their family safe and not affected.

I do my best with what talent I have to communicate these ideas. I know others can do better. That's why I include links in my articles to other web sites.

Here is a version of the Systems Thinking video which I “hacked” to build this article.

Click here to view this Systems Thinking video

This is one of a series of videos that I hope you'll take time to look at and share with others. Gene does a great job of showing tools to use to create understanding, while also helping us understand how to look at problem solving from a systems thinking perspective.

Here's a section of my web library with links to many other people with great ideas for collaboration, innovation, knowledge management, etc.

Here are more visual essays with strategy ideas that you can use to build your understanding of the situation and potential strategies to solve the problem.

There are thousands of consultants, writers, educators, etc. who provide tools and ideas that people can use to solve problems. Most of these are “generic”. It's like getting a liberal arts degree but needing to learn what to do when you get a job.

I think students in high schools and colleges could hack work done by people like Gene, and build versions that apply those tools and ideas to solving specific problems.

If you're already doing this, please share. Perhaps future cMOOCS will be showcasing such work, and will be helping more people become involved.

This has been a really long article. If you made it this far, thank you for reading it. 

Now imagine having ideas like this flowing through your dreams every night, just like happens to me! 

Note: 7/2/2017 update - here's an updated "creating a better future" page from Gene Bellinger.