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?