Friday, April 23, 2021

Follow Negative News with the "Rest of the Story"

There's plenty of bad news in the media and many non-profits working to change conditions that lead to these stories. I focus on volunteer-based youth tutor and/or mentor programs and have led a strategy for the past 28 years intended to help such programs grow in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.  You can find more than 1200 articles on this blog that focus on this.

One challenge that most programs have is finding the operating dollars needed each year to host a space where kids and volunteers can meet, fill it with learning resources, such as computers and Internet access, and with paid staff who support both youth and volunteer involvement.

Most tutor/mentor programs are relatively small and don't have the type of staff most businesses do to advertise regularly and draw customers (donors, volunteers) to their locations.  Thus, they struggle to stay funded, or raise the level of funds needed.

Thus, in 1994 when I was launching the first survey of Tutor/Mentor programs in Chicago we began using maps to show where they were.  We published our list of programs in a Directory, starting in May 1994, and used maps to show where poverty was greatest and where existing programs were located.  We started putting this on-line in 1998 and launched an interactive program locator in 2004 and a map-based version in 2008.  Unfortunately after 2011 I was not able to keep these updated and the sites are now only available as an archive,.

I still plot program locations on a map, which you can find in this article, but no longer have the interactive features of the original program locator.

However, you can still zoom in and build an understanding of what programs are in different parts of the Chicago region.

We never had much money for advertising, and recognized that this was a weakness of many programs. Thus, we began a strategy I call "The Rest of the Story".  

When we saw media giving feature space attention to a "bad news" story, like one about poorly performing schools, gangs, or violence, we created a map showing where the incident took place, then used overlays to show the role of poverty.  We also showed locations of existing tutor/mentor programs in the area, and assets, like banks, drug stores, colleges, hospitals and faith groups, who are in the neighborhood and should be supporting efforts to make high quality, mentor-rich programs available to a growing number of k-12 youth.  

In the 1990s we put these map-stories in our newsletters and shared them at conferences.  We created maps for other youth programs, too.  In the 2000s we began to share these via email and our websites and in 2005 started putting them in blog articles.

However, too few people were seeing what we were publishing. Thus, I created a presentation showing how students and volunteers from schools throughout Chicago could be creating their own stories, modeled after the ones I've been doing.

Below is a presentation showing this strategy:

Note: I've been updating all of my Slideshare presentations and the ones I've embedded in past articles will no longer appear, since my updates have new locations.  I encourage you to visit my collection and bookmark it for future referral.

While I've struggled to keep my own mapping platform on-line others are creating robust data-mapping platforms.  Below is a concept map I created a few years ago to share some of these. 

Anyone creating "Rest of the Story" articles can use one or more of these platforms to build the base map you use in your article by zooming into the geographic area you're interested in, adding layers of information, then creating an image that you paste into Power Point or similar publishing tool. Then you can add additional information to the map. Once you're satisfied, save it as a JPG and you're ready to put it into a blog article, Tweet or Facebook/LinkedIn post.

If you're doing this please share your articles with me on Twitter or any of the social media platforms that you find in this link

If enough people adopt this strategy we can do much to make safe spaces available that help kids living in poverty areas move through school and into adult lives.

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