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.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Learn from Tutor/Mentor Connection newsletters

Six volunteers and myself formed Cabrini Connections in late 1992 to provide 7th grade through high school support to teens living in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago.  At the same time we created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) to help similar programs reach k-12 youth in every high poverty area of the city.

We started telling our story via print newsletters in 1993, The first issues went to our database of about 400 people. However, over the next 9 years I kept adding to the database and by 2002 we were sending the newsletter to more than 12,000 people in Chicago and around the country.

Over the past couple of days I've shared images from some of these with the goal that people who are concerned about poverty, inequality, urban violence, etc. will use these as templates for creating their own versions of the T/MC and leading it for the next 20 years.  Please take a look.

"It is imperative that society provide opportunities" "We have the words but we lack the will" How many programs are needed? Tips for recruiting volunteers. We need to drain the swamp, but we're up to our neck in alligators. Endorsement from Tim Henry, of the Friends First Program at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. View all of the past newsletters from 1993 to 2002. The image below shows the vision of mentor-rich non-school programs located in every high poverty area of Chicago, which can be identified using maps with overlays showing indicators of where programs are most needed.  I've shared these ideas for over 25  years by too few people have even seen them.

The need for the types of volunteer-based youth programs that I've describe in this blog and my newsletters is as great in 2021 as it was in 1993.  The challenges of building and sustaining public will and a constant flow of operating and innovation resources, to EVERY program and every high poverty neighborhood still has not been met.

However, if teams of researchers in Chicago and other cities use my archives as a starting point, they can build versions of the T/MC and do it better than I ever could....if they can attract the funding and talent needed.

I am 74 and don't know how many more years I have left to share this information and/or coach those who might want to duplicate the T/MC.  Thus, if you're reading this, and recognize the lack of leadership in your own community, start reading and learning, so you can create your own version of the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

I'm on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Facebook, so let's connect.  Find links here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Share News of Youth Tutor/Mentor Programs

We're surrounded by news of disasters. forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, Covid19, Afghanistan, floods, political chaos, you name it. Within this tsunami of negative news, how do we keep attention flowing to youth tutor and/or mentor programs throughout Chicago and other cities?

In September 2005 I wrote an article titled "Disaster Challenges all of Us".  In that article I wrote, 

"We created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 because we recognized the problem charities have of consistently attracting donors. While a few programs are great at getting funds, not every program is as good, thus there is a poor distribution of good programs in all places where they are needed."

Step 2 of our four-part strategy focused on building public awareness and drawing volunteers and donors directly to various youth tutor and/or mentor programs in the Chicago region.  

Getting media attention for youth tutor/mentor programs in a world where the latest negative news can put your story on the back page, or out of the news all-together, is a problem I've dealt with for many years.

At the right is a photo from the 1999 Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign kick-off press conference, held at the James Thompson Center in Chicago. We had media from every major news station. Yet, our story did not make it into the news because on the same day the Mayor was attending an event hosted by a major corporation. On a different year, it was news about President Bill Clinton that knocked our event out of the electronic news.

If we'd had the Internet then we could have off-set this by creating and sharing our own stories. 

I wrote about this in an August 2013 article. I'm sharing part of that below, with updates. 

On Wednesday, August 14, 2013 I attended the Why News Matters Summit in Chicago where a variety of speakers talked about "news literacy" and ways to make news literacy education available to youth and adults in more places.

As I registered for the summit I was congratulated by several people for my "letter to the editor" which had been posted in the August 12 issue of Crain's Chicago Business. A couple of people said "I passed this on in my network."

As I listened to the Why News Matters speakers I made notes to myself about how news literacy, and other forms of learning, might be made available to youth in Chicago neighborhoods via non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs. Last week I used this graphic in an article, to illustrate how volunteers from different work backgrounds could help build learning activities in different programs that would help build youth aspirations and skills for careers not modeled consistently by family or community in high poverty neighborhoods.

When I write about "business teams" my vision is that teams from media, arts, video, banking, engineering, etc. might work as a "virtual corporate office", with goals of identifying existing examples where youth already are exposed to different types of learning, such as the WhyNewsMatters program at Erie House, then recruit and support volunteers from their industry who would help embed these types of learning activities in other programs throughout the Chicago region (or in other cities).

I've already created a section of my web library with links to Chicago tutor/mentor programs, and with links to organizations that include health, STEM or arts as part of their activities. Existing programs can learn from what other programs are already doing. They can bring these ideas into their own programs if volunteers and business partners will help make that happen.

I hosted a Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago every six months from May 1994 to May 2015.  Its goal was to share ideas that work in some programs so that they can be duplicated in other programs, reaching more kids throughout the Chicago region. 

Its goal was also to find people who are looking at this from a much larger scale than a single program, or a single youth and volunteer. If you're WalMart, or any other big corporation, your "big question" is how to put profitable stores in thousands of locations. Through the conferences, social media, and constant network building, I'm trying to connect with people who are engaged in this kind of thinking.

How do we make mentor-rich programs available to K-16 youth in all place where they are needed? This can only become a reality if businesses, and business volunteers, help make that happen.

How do we get attention for this message within the ocean of other news?  

Anyone reading this can share it on social media, in their own newsletters, or in one-on-one conversations with others.  If those people do the same we create a chain reaction that reaches people throughout the world.

 I created this graphic more than 10 years ago to visualize how an idea shared by one person, and shared by a few followers, can reach throughout the world. 

This Tutor/Mentor blog provides 15 years of templates that others could use to create their own articles, focused on helping youth in different cities, or in different parts of the Chicago region.  If others were writing such stories, and linking to each other, and amplifying each other's articles, more would be seeing these.  

I did this a few days ago, reTweeting a Mentoring New York post with a link to their blog. 
You can do this, too.  

If you're writing a blog share it on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and/or Facebook.  If I see it, I'll try to amplify it to my own network. 

Thanks for reading.  All of the issues the media point to are important and need attention.  However, kids need constant attention too.  Without millions of dollars for advertising we need to be creative and consistent in telling our stories. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A Look at Purpose Driven Boards

 A few days ago, Betsey (Merkel) O'Hagan, a long term supporter of Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, posted a message on LinkedIn, pointing to an article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), titled The Four Principles of Purpose Driven Boards, written by Anne Wallestad (@AnneWallestad), who is president and CEO at BoardSource.  

After reading the article, and posting a comment, I shared it on my Twitter feed. 

Below I've  posted a few screenshots from the article along with comments.

The article started by sharing some research from Board Source's recent Leading With Intent study.  I highlighted two points: Disconnected from the communities and people they serve and Ill-informed about the ecosystems in which their organization is operating  

I led two non-profit tutor/mentor programs, from their formation. The first was the Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc, which was formed in 1990 after operating for the previous 25 years as an employee led program at the Montgomery Ward corporate HQ in Chicago.  The second was started in 1992 after I left the first program. At that point we created Cabrini Connections (a direct service tutor/mentor program) and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which I still lead via Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

We always needed to focus on fund raising, yet realized that without a board that was well informed, understood our purpose, mission and history, we'd always struggle.  When forming Cabrini Connections we included in board member responsibilities a commitment to spend 2-4 hours monthly reading and learning of the organization's purpose.  

With a constant turnover of board members we constantly struggled with ill-informed and under committed board members.  Thus, I emphasized these two points in the Board Source research.

The next four graphics are from the second section of the article, titled "Respect for Ecosystem".  

The first paragraph focuses on the need for Boards to understand the ecosystem within which they operate.

This second passage follows and talks of how organizations work to address this lack of ecosystem awareness through board education and exposure to programs.

This is where problems with Boards really begin to surface.  NonProfits seek people with talent and influence, who have proven themselves in their careers, and who they "hope" will help access funding from their workplace and/or their personal and professional networks.  That's what my organization did. Unfortunately, most of these people had spent little time thinking of how tutor/mentor programs operate or how an intermediary like the Tutor/Mentor Connection might influence support for every tutor/mentor program in a city, including our own.  The ultimate separation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection from Cabrini Connections in 2011 was a result of this lack of understanding.

On-the-job learning is not enough because busy people don't take the time to do the in-depth reading and learning needed to bring them to even moderate understanding of the organization's purpose, history, or it's ecosystem. 

The next paragraph talks about understanding the ecosystem within the neighborhood where the organization will operate. Are there already organizations there who might be negatively impacted by adding a new organization? 

Below is the concluding part of the section on "Respect for Ecosystem".  The first bullet is what a "traditional board" would do. The second is what a "purpose driven board would do".   How does our organization impact the ecosystem and do the most good? 

There are three more sections to this article, which are equally valuable.  Each concludes with this two part summary.  Please read the article.

I'm jumping to the concluding paragraph with this next graphic.

I highlighted "Applying purpose-driven board leadership principles means leaning into the pursuit of a social good purpose at an ecosystem level and a shift away from protectionism and self-promotion at an organizational level."

I've been sharing maps on this blog since 2005, and the Mapping for Justice blog since 2008. I started using maps in 1993.  Below is a brochure we created for Manufacture's Bank (now MB Financial) in the late 1990s, to show the ecosystem surrounding one of their branch banks.  

We created three other versions of this for branch banks in other parts of Chicago, with the goal that employee volunteers within the bank would use this information to help tutor/mentor programs grow in that neighborhood.

Below is another example. It's one of the maps I shared in this story last week.

In both examples I'm encouraging business and nonprofits within a geographic area to get to know the ecosystem within which they operate, with a goal of filling the area with purpose-driven organizations working to expand the network of support for inner city kids and help those kids move more successfully, and safely, from birth to work. 

I emphasize that by trying to help every organization in the area grow, you help your own business and/or nonProfit organization grow.

In my comment on the SSIR article I emphasized how difficult it is to find volunteer Board members who fit the aspirations of this article. For some organizations, who are well connected to civic and business resources, this may be less of a problem, but for mid-size and smaller organizations it's a crisis.

I have proposed a solution. Actually, many.

You'll find this graphic in this article. It's one of several in a Tipping Points set of articles on this blog.  

Expecting board members to "learn as much as they need to know while on the job" is unrealistic. I propose growing new leaders, starting in middle school and continuing through college and then on throughout careers.  In this graphic I show two outputs from such a long-term learning system.  One group of people goes into direct service, with a wide range of skills and in-depth knowledge of the field they will devote their careers.   The second, larger group, are people who go into other careers, but continue learning, and develop a proactive habit of reaching out to offer time, dollars and talent to support non-profit organizations in their ecosystem.

In this article I point to my race-poverty concept map and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) website. Each node on my map, and each of the 17 SDGs, represents a channel of learning that takes many years to master at the level ideal Board members should understand to guide a  purpose-driven mission.  Too few board members have spent enough time learning this. They've been building careers and raising their own families.

In this ROLE OF LEADERS presentation I offer a second, related strategy. CEOs need to encourage on-going, and long-term employee involvement in youth development programs that create future workers and customers.  

I created this volunteer-involvement concept map in the late 2000s to show how volunteers who stay involved for many years grow their understanding and involvement.  While this focuses on what non-profits do to support continued volunteer involvement, CEOs can also do much to encourage employees to give time when they are young and have extra time, and to give talent, dollars and leadership as they advance in age and in their careers...and in their knowledge of the ecosystem supported by the Boards where they volunteer.

Adoption of these ideas could dramatically increase the number of people available to serve on "purpose driven boards" and thus the positive impact that non-profit organizations and their supporters have on local and global issues.

The challenge now is getting more people from every sector to read these articles, reflect on them, and share them with others in their networks.  That's the purpose of the graphics below, which I created more than 20 years ago.

One of my former students asked me "how can I help" a few days ago. I encouraged her to read, reflect, share and help build the network.

Thank you to all who are doing this. And thank you to the small group of people who continue to support me with financial contributions.  If you'd like to join that group, visit this page and use PayPal to submit a contribution. 

August 30, 2021 update - Here's an article I posted in 2013 under the title of "Engaging Board Members, Business Leaders, in Deeper Learning".  

June 6, 2023  update - "How to Build Movements with Cyclical Patterns in Mind" is an article that should stimulate the thinking of social change organizations. - click here

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Invitation to Universities - updated

As school is starting for another year, millions of people are starting another round of conversations that loosely could be titled "How do we motivate kids to learn?", or, "What role does my organization have in helping kids from poverty reach jobs and careers?"

I wrote that in August 2005.  I've repeated it often in articles on this blog since then.  If you're one of those people, or if you know someone who is thinking about these questions, please consider the introduction and invitation that I wrote in 2005:

I am president of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), based in Chicago. The T/MC was started by a small non profit called Cabrini Connection, back in 1993. I've provided web links below that I hope you'll visit to learn more about our work and our history.

In 2005 I was also a Commissioner on the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, so while my primary focus was increasing volunteer based tutoring/mentoring in Illinois, my ideas apply to increasing effective volunteerism and service in all parts of Illinois.

For the past 30 years (in 2021 it's now 46 years) I've been accumulating knowledge and experience about how to connect workplace volunteers and inner city kids in long-term mentoring relationships that transform the lives of both youth and adults. Since I learned how to put information on the Internet in 1998, I've been putting my knowledge on T/MC web sites, so that others could learn from me. I've also been building a library of web links, that connect visitors to the knowledge of other people who are concerned with poverty and workforce development, and education and diversity. Thus, visitors to our web site can learn from many people, not just from me.

I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to continue the T/MC after the strategy was discontinued at the original nonprofit. Don't be confused by the names. It's the same strategy, with a different tax and revenue structure. 

Since beginning to use the Internet in the late 1990s I've been reaching out all over the world looking for colleges that might take a role in helping to facilitate the use of this knowledge among students and alumni.

The goal of such programs is teach students and graduates to be leaders of organizations that connect workplace adults with, knowledge, with peers, with resources, and with inner-city kids in long-term tutoring/mentoring strategies that lead kids into jobs/careers by age 25.

While we lead one program with this strategy (Cabrini Connections), we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to help every tutor/mentor program in the Chicago region get the resources (volunteers, leaders, dollars, training, technology, etc.) that would enable them to grow in their ability to mentor kids to careers. Through the Internet, this now helps people all over the world.

In the Tutor/Mentor Connection portal (http:/ the navigation bar will lead you to a variety of sections that help you understand this strategy and that help people connect with programs, with information, and with each other in an on-going process aimed at helping every youth born in poverty today be starting a job/career by age 25.

I encourage you to visit the Distribution of Programs section and see how we're using GIS maps and a searchable database to help people understand where programs are needed, and where existing programs are located.

I also encourage you to visit the Tutor/Mentor Institute Library section and read some of the power point essays. They not only illustrate our role, but they illustrate the role that companies or business associations can take to lead strategies that engage their employees in volunteerism, and in strategies that create future employees and customers.

Among the power point essays you can see a few that show how this might take shape in a university, in a hospital, and in the legal community.

You'll see that our web sites have a ton of information and that some sections focus on e-learning, collaboration and innovation. If you think of our web sites as our Bible, or a Curriculum, then our goal is to help groups of people read and reflect on sections of this information on a weekly basis for many years.

If you're a first time visitor to my website, think of it as a huge shopping mall. Walk through it, opening the links into each sub section, just to learn what's there, just like you'd walk the mall, looking at what each store offers.  Later you can dig deeper into those sections that interest you.   

If learners tie this reading and reflection into their volunteerism, philanthropy and direct service, then each time they meet with a youth in a volunteer program, the information in the T/MC portal will become more relevant and important to them. As they become an advocate for the kids they personally get to know, some will use their talent, leadership, and wealth (obtained as they grow older) to build the infrastructure needed to help every kid in the Chicago region (or any other city) get more of the support they need to go up the pipeline into a career. View this presentation to see how this concept was visualized by college interns from Hong Kong and South Korea. 

Hopefully, many will also use this knowledge and their political muscle to dismantle the structural racism that has been embedded in America over the past 150 to 400 years.

The reason I am looking for university partners is that this information needs to be packaged in a 4 to 6 year curriculum where students learn through regular classwork, and through a variety of internships, service-learning, work-study and volunteer activities. I believe that if a university adopted this as a curriculum, its graduates would soon be in demand from volunteer based programs in all parts of the country.

(see this idea - read more)

Furthermore, I believe that alumni who don't go into direct service, but go into industry and professions, would become leaders in workplace and government strategies that PULL kids to careers, using their employees, dollars and jobs as resources. If we can teach people to take that leadership role, we can make a huge impact on how successful non profits are in getting the resources they need to successfully do their work.

My organization was too small to do this in 2005, and is even smaller in 2021. Universities are already doing some of this, but I've not found one who expresses the mentoring-to-career strategy, or the citywide support strategy, that we outline at the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. Thus, this offers a teaching opportunity for anyone who might want to take this on.

Furthermore, I've found no one who consistently tries to draw donors directly to individual tutor/mentor programs in every high poverty area of Chicago, or any other city.    

While we host an Internet strategy, we also hosted a November and May Leadership and Networking Conference ( every six months from May 1994 to May 2015, to share these ideas and to enable other tutor/mentor leaders to network and share their own vision for how to help kids to careers. Colleges often provided space for these conferences (see this presentation), which enabled us to keep the costs low.

Beginning with the first conference in May 1994 we developed a quarterly event strategy that drew programs together, built public awareness and drew volunteers and donors directly to programs included in the Chicago Programs Tutor/Mentor Directory.  

While I no longer host these events the way they were in the beginning, I still promote tutor/mentor programs in these time frames, using email and social media. For instance, since school starts this month, my August newsletter focused on volunteer recruitment.  

A university or leadership team in any city could rebuild this strategy, rebuild the websites and interactive program locator, give it renewed energy and greater visibility, and continue the work the T/MC started in 1993.

This is needed since the problems of poverty and inequality are still with us in 2021.

Once you've had a chance to browse the web site, I hope you'll want to meet to learn more about what I've been doing and ways we might integrate some of this (or all of it) with some of the goals of your university or leadership group. Furthermore, I hope you'll want to discuss how the strategies of the T/MC could increase support for all steams of volunteerism, not just tutoring/mentoring.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope you'll forward it to others who might be interested.

Daniel F. Bassill
Cabrini Connections (1993-2011)
Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present)
Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (2011-present)

Illinois Commission on Volunteerism
and Community Service  (2002-2008)

Sunday, August 01, 2021

How Many Youth Programs Are Needed?

Since 1993 the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC have tried to help comprehensive, mentor-rich, volunteer based youth programs grow in every high poverty neighborhood of Chicago and other cities. The graphic at the left visualizes this.

All of the articles on this blog since 2005 have focused on this goal.  They also focus on the graphic below.

This graphic is from a PDF presentation I wrote about in this article a few days ago. 

For every community area in Chicago planners need to look at the total number of youth, plus the percent who live in high poverty. In the example above, the 4178 number in the blue box is the number of kids, age 6-17, in poverty in one area. Below that is a number showing what percent of total kids this is in that neighborhood.

Green icons on my map are known youth serving organizations that provide various forms of volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring.  In almost every high poverty area there are too few programs based on the number of kids, but some neighborhoods have fewer than others.  In addition, some programs are much more sophisticated and well-organized than others.

In the article I wrote last week, I included maps showing 15 community areas considered "high priority" by the Chicago SunTimes, because of the high number of shootings and homicides in 2021.

Using this concept map anyone can open my list of programs, or view a list of programs operating in other cities. They can also use search engines provided by organizations like VolunteerMatch, to find youth serving organizations throughout the country.

Based on what an organization shows on their websites a volunteer, donor or parent should be able to decide to join or support an organization. At the same time, organizations should be able to look at what is offered by different programs to see if there are ideas they might borrow in their own program.

I said "should be able".  Just because a program is located near where a youth lives does not mean it has openings for additional youth.  You need to call and interview the program.  Furthermore, many programs don't provide much information showing their structure and types of services, so it's difficult to see if they are doing work another would want to duplicate.

But it's a start.  

Finally, as I said above, there are too few programs. Planners need to identify existing programs and develop on-going strategies to deliver talent and dollars to each, to help them constantly improve. Then they should determine where more are needed, and borrowing ideas from existing programs, start new ones.

The first question to ask is "Who is doing an analysis of my community area, and can I connect with them?  If the answer is "No one." then, the next question would be, "Who wants to be part of a group to begin this analysis?"