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

Note: in this and other pre 2022 articles all links pointing to are broken. Now you can find these links in the site.

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.