Friday, November 26, 2021

Creating service and learning organizations

If you've read some of the messages I've posted to this Blog since 2005 you'll see that I led a small non profit from 1993 to 2011 that connected workplace volunteers with children and youth living in neighborhoods of highly concentrated poverty.

This graphic shows some of the people who we connected to each other. These were from 10 to 25 years ago. I'm still connected to many via Facebook. I'm now seeing some posting pictures of their own kids as they finish high school or head to college. That was the goal.

While we led one small tutor/mentor program (called Cabrini Connections) we also led the Tutor/Mentor Connection, which aimed to help similar volunteer-based programs reach k-12 kids in every high poverty area of Chicago. I'm still leading that via Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Since forming this two-part strategy in late 1992 our goal has been to create an organized framework that encourages volunteers to serve as tutors, mentors, coaches, advocates, friends, leaders in on-going efforts that make a life-changing difference for these kids. By life-changing, I mean that the kids will not be living in poverty when they are adults because they will have the academic, social/emotional and workplace skills needed for 21st century jobs, plus a network of adults who can and will open doors to jobs and mentor them in careers.

This graphic visualizes the type of programs I've tried to encourage, based on the ones I led.

We recruited volunteers from various business backgrounds to be on-on-one tutor/mentor support and many of these began to organize extra learning, such as a computer lab, a video club, a writing club and a college access group.

I have spent time almost every day for more than 40 years trying to figure out better, more efficient, and lower cost ways to accomplish this goal, first by leading one small program at the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters in Chicago, starting in 1975, then by leading the T/MC since 1993.

I have learned to mine the knowledge and experiences of others to innovate strategies for tutoring/mentoring, rather than trying to develop my own solutions to problems. Using T/MC web sites, on-line networking and regular face-to-face training and mentoring, I am trying to share what I know, and the process of learning and service that I apply in my own daily routine, so that there are more people in more places accepting this role and responsibility.

This graphic visualizes a service-learning loop formed when a volunteer enters an on-going tutor/mentor program. This video shows the graphic.

So how do we make this vision a reality? We create a "learning organization", which is also the ideal of many of the best businesses in the world. We also create a "service culture" modeled after the work of heroes like Cesar Chavez, whose core values included sacrifice and perseverance, commitment to the most disadvantaged as well as life-long learning and innovation.

In a learning organization, everyone is engaged. In the world of Cesar Chavez, everyone is willing to make huge commitments, and sacrifices of time, talent and treasure to help disadvantaged people move to greater health, and greater hope and opportunity.

Our goal is to find ways to draw a growing number of our stakeholders into this learning process and to build an on-going commitment to service (as opposed to random acts of kindness). This process is intended to include our students and volunteers, our staff, donors and leaders, and members of the business, education, faith and media in the communities where our kids live. It also aims to engage leaders and volunteers from other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and in other cities, plus people and organizations in the communities that don't have high poverty, but benefit from a world envisioned by Dr. M. L. King, Jr. as well as a 21st Century America where there are enough skilled workers to meet the future workforce needs of American industry.

I use concept maps like this to visualize this goal.

Anyone can adopt this vision and lead it using their own talent and resources.

The Internet is our meeting place. It's a virtual library of constantly growing knowledge. On T/MC web sites we collect and host information that shows why kids in poverty need extra help, where such help is needed, who is providing help, and what volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can do to connect adults, kids and learning in an on-going, constantly improving process of mentoring kids to careers.

If we can find ways to increase the percent of our kids, our volunteers, and our leaders and donors who are drawing information on a weekly basis, and reflecting on this information in small and large groups, the way people in churches reflect on passages from the Bible each week, we can grow the amount of understanding we all have about the challenges we face and the opportunities we have. We can innovate new and better ways to succeed in our efforts.

This process has already started. We need to nurture and grow it in 2022.

Can you help?

Browse the articles shown in the list on the left side of this blog and start your own learning.  I tagged this article with "learning" just as I have more than 300 previous articles.  I encourage you to read some of these on a regular basis. I also encourage you to read some of the Power Point Essay I've written, such as the one that shows our Logic Model

This and other PPT essays in the Tutor/Mentor Institute library illustrate the T/MC vision and the community of organizations that we seek to engage. Then share your own knowledge, time, talent and dollars to help us build this service and learning organization.

Thank you all for reading my messages. I hope you share them with others. May God Bless you all with peace, good health and happiness in 2022 and beyond.

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

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