Friday, July 09, 2021

Network Building - Learning from the Past

Today I participated in ZOOM meeting organized by the Social Capital Research Group who I connected with first on Twitter, then on Facebook.. Today's speaker was Daniel P. Aldrich, who I'd met last year on Twitter. After the formal session I was invited to host a breakout, which I did. I was joined by Christopher Chinapoo from Jamaica, and Marion Cornish, from the RCRG. I was able to share resources of the T/MC and Tutor/Mentor Institute and opened connection with Christopher on Twitter.  

I've been entering this type of event for 25  years and it's never certain who I'll meet or what will happen.  Below is an example taken from two articles I wrote in July 2005, the first year I wrote this blog.

On July 29, 2005 I wrote this: 

I attended the O-Net conference in Chicago (Oak Park) today. More than 20 people from different parts of the world gathered to brainstorm ideas on how we might work together to make this a better world. 

The wonderful thing about this is that up till today, most of the people had never met face to face. They had met in the portal (available now only in web archive). The conference was the result of the efforts of just a few people who said, "let's get together" and who then used the o-net space to plan the entire event, even raising nearly $4,000 to provide scholarships so that seven people could attend, from as far away as Germany!

I met many people who shared exciting ideas and who may someday be partners with the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I even met one person who had come to a Tutor/Mentor Conference many years before. The conference will continue tomorrow, and hopefully on the Internet after that.

I hope that tutor/mentor stakeholders participate, and that some begin to use the new portal as a meeting space where some of them can launch actions that lead to more people coming together to help each other do good.  Thanks gang. 

Then on July 31, 2005 I wrote this: 

I was only able to attend the O-net conference for half a day Saturday. However, I read through all of the summary reports and blogs this morning. I hosted a conversation on Saturday, focused on creating a group of active o-net members who work to draw people from universities into o-net conversations, with the goal of recruiting resources to support o-net projects. 

 As I said after Friday's day-long session, I'm really impressed with the talent of the people who are participating in the conference, and who have posted introductions at One person I talked to yesterday was a PhD student at Purdue, who is organizing information intended to be used to help connect people doing good work with resource providers. Another person was a technologist who had great ideas of creating alternative currencies that would encourage people to share talent with each other. A third was a women with an idea of creating visual databases to map assets. 

I was really inspired by the Peace Tiles project. I hope we can duplicate this in Chicago tutor/mentor programs and connect our kids with kids in African and on other continents. 

When I read one of the blogs, one person was questioning whether or not O-net was just a lot of talk, or if it was stimulating action (providing resources for O-net members to do their various projects). I'm hoping that my participation accelerates the rate at which people help each other, or draw new resources into o-net that end up helping members of the community do their work. 

One of the people I met through the Omidyar network was Steve Habib Rose. He took time to get to know what the Tutor/Mentor Connection was attempting and started this conversation in 2007 to help me find others who would help. Unfortunately, Steve died suddenly shortly after starting this and the potential support never was realized. However, his demonstrated interest and initiative of starting the conversation, is what motivates me to keep joining in new conversations, such as today's ZOOM meeting.

Unfortunately, until on-line events and forums like actually draw attention and resources to participants on a regular basis,  it is just idealism within a world where the daily papers remind us of reality. 

A few weeks ago I did a Mind Map of the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Today I did another. I found a really great story written by Mary Schmich, one of my favorite writers, telling how people had responded to an earlier story about a computer center in Cabrini-Green being flooded, with all computers destroyed. Because of her first story, people provided new computers, and everything else needed to get this site up and running again. That demonstrates the power of the media. 

Below is a media map from 2007, which demonstrates what I had created in 2005.

However, in the same section of the Tribune Metro section was a story about a boy being fatally shot at a playground on the far South side of Chicago. There was another story on the same page about a Muslim teen center re opening, after being closed since 2003. These neighborhoods don't have a feature writer of the Chicago Tribune, or SunTimes, writing regular stories about life in these neighborhoods. Most of the times they get in the news is when something bad happens.

My mind map linked these stories. Every time I read a story about Cabrini-Green, written by Mary Schmich, I just wish she'd end with "and this is just one neighborhood of Chicago where kids live in poverty and need extra help with volunteers, donors, technologist, etc." (and provide a link to web sites that people could use to learn about other places where volunteers, donors and technology are needed).

If she and other reporters were doing this regularly, maybe people would have been helping the Muslim teen center get computers, and maybe the boy shot on a playground (or the shooter) would have been inside sitting at a computer rather than out on the street where something terrible happened. 

In my ZOOM call today I encouraged people to enlist students as story tellers, and as network builders.  This article shows how students could follow negative news with "The Rest of the Story", generating more consistent attention and public awareness and drawing volunteers and donors into neighborhoods where these stories were taking place.  This blog includes stories showing work interns did with Tutor/Mentor Connection for many years.   Websites throughout the world could be hosting work like this, done by local youth, pointing to their own communities.

When I sat with my friends at O-net and talked about ideas, it was with an urgency of putting these ideas to work to help more kids in cities like Chicago have safe places where they can gather to learn, be mentored, have access to computers and the world around them. The reality is that while we talk of great ideas, we are losing kids to the streets and to poverty. 

Maybe I cannot convince the media to consistently tell the rest of the story when they write their stories about individual tragedies or triumphs, but maybe I can enlist a few technologist at O-Net to help me create a map gallery that would show where negative news happens and where volunteers and donors are needed. If hundreds of friends at communities like o-net were to take on the same goal, we might create a much larger public involvement and flow of resources to every place in the world where good people are trying to do good work to help people who need extra help. 

Actually, this  has happened. Just not often enough, or with multiple year sustained commitments.  At the right is a map gallery built by Jim Corey, a volunteer from Wisconsin, who I met in one of these on-line forums in the early 2000s.  This link points to a newer map gallery, built in 2009 by Mike Trakin, who I was able to hire at a part-time map maker from 2008-2010, with donations from HSBC North America and an anonymous 2007 donor who gave the T/MC $50,000 to rebuild our mapping capacity. 

Neither of these is now active, due to losing funding support in 2009 due to the financial melt-down, then the separation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 2011 from the non-profit where it was given birth in 1993. 

This concept map shows four actions that I've been taking daily for the past 28 years.  It involves 1) collecting information; 2) creating public awareness to attract more people to the information; 3) helping people understand the information; then 4) motivating them to use the information in one or more specific places to help solve a complex problem, such as helping kids in poverty move through school and into jobs and careers.  

It also shows help I've needed every year since creating the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011.  

I think this 4-part strategy should be duplicated in every city, state and country, to support local problem solving focused on any issue. 

Interested in knowing more?  Can you help?  Let's connect.  I'm on social media at these sites

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