Friday, July 29, 2022

30 Year History of Mapping

On this blog and the MappingforJustice blog you will see numerous articles showing the use of maps.  In some articles, like this, I've tried to show what our vision was and how far we got in achieving that vision. 

About a  month ago I decided to try to create a concept map to visualize this journey. It's shown below. You can view it at this link

Since this map has so much information I'm using this article to walk you through it, starting from the top row, far left, and moving to the far right, then, starting again on the second row, far left. Follow the links  under each node to learn more.  Let's go!

I became a volunteer tutor in 1973 while starting a retail advertising career at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago. I began leading the volunteer program in 1975.  Much of what I learned over the next 17 years led to forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection in late 1992 as we were forming a new teen program that we called Cabrini Connections.  We spent all of 1993 planning the T/MC 10-point strategy, then launched in January 1994, with our first Tutor/Mentor Programs Survey.

120 programs responded to the first survey and more than half said they wanted more contact with peers. More than 70% said they'd come to a conference if it were free, or low cost.  So we organized the first Tutor/Mentor Conference in May 1994 and at the same time, published our list of programs in a printed Directory.  

Response was so positive that we held a second conference and published an updated Directory in November 1994. We held conferences every six months after that, until May 2015. We published an annual printed directory until 2003.

Since we had a list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs we were not only able to organize conferences, we were also able to organize an annual August/September Chicagoland Tutor/Mentor Volunteer Recruitment Campaign. This grew every year through 2003 when we began to focus primarily on the Internet as a way to recruit volunteers for programs throughout the region.

We began to try to build a website around 1997, hosted by a Chicago area company.  Then in 1998 one of our Cabrini Connections volunteers built the first website (now an archive), using the hub/spoke graphic on the home page to show information available on the site and our vision for bringing people from different sectors together. 

The site was built in 1999 by Steve Roussos, a PhD student from the University of Kansas. This was built as an emergency replacement to host our list of tutor/mentor programs when the T/MC site suddenly went off line, right before the annual recruitment campaign. 

I started putting PDF strategy essays on this site around 2000 and it's now the primary site of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. 

We continued to do the annual program survey each year and update our database of programs, but this was very time consuming. In 2004 an intern from India created an on-line platform that programs could use to update their own information and that made it easier for us to also keep information updated.

The public facing version of the 2004 program locator was a searchable directory, which is described in this PDF.   Then, in 2008 a team from India created a new version of the Program Locator, which is shown at the left.

The new version was revolutionary. 

In our 2004 Program Locator, you could find available programs by searching a zip code, and by entering conditions, such as type of program and age group served. This worked like Google, meaning if you knew something about what you were looking for, you could find it.

The 2008 version started with the question of "where are programs most needed?" then "what programs are available in those places?"  It started with a map of the entire Chicago region.  Thus, it was a better tool for leaders to use to assure that well-organized programs were available in all high poverty areas, not just a few. Leaders could look at the whole city, or just a few neighborhoods. 

Unfortunately, just as we were building the interactive platform in 2008 the US and world economy began to enter a recession that lasted for the next 3 years. This affected many of our donors and we lost funding.  Ultimately this led the board of Directors to discontinue the Tutor/Mentor Connection part of the organization.  I was asked to "retire" at this time, but was given full ownership of the T/MC. I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 to try to keep the T/MC available to Chicago and help it expand to other cities.  

I have not been successful at building a new organization or a new funding base so over the past 10 years the mapping websites have ceased to work and we're no longer hosting a conference. I do still maintain the web library and list of programs, which are now plotted on a platform hosted by  And I use this blog, an email newsletter and active networking on social media to encourage the networking and idea sharing that were features of the Tutor/Mentor Conferences.  I reach far more people than ever before. 

So, what were we trying to accomplish with the maps?

From 1993 on our goal was to make maps that leaders would use to build on-going support for youth tutor/mentor programs in different high poverty areas of Chicago.  While we received donated GIS software from ESRI in 1994, we never had money to hire more than a few hours of part time help to make maps using this software.   

I remember sitting in a meeting in 1993 or early 1994 where a company was using an interactive GIS platform to show where work needed to be done in Chicago. That was always my goal for using GIS maps.  In early 2022 I met a company called RS21 who is demonstrating this capability through videos such as this one. 

While we did not reach this ability to do interactive presentations, we did make a lot of maps.

Since we had almost no money for advertising, but did have pro-bono help from a public relations company from (1993 to 2002), we developed a "Rest of the Story" strategy to build maps that showed areas featured in Chicago Tribune and SunTimes stories about violence, gangs, poverty and poorly performing schools.  Our maps showed location of any tutor/mentor programs in the map area, and showed assets (business, colleges, hospitals, faith groups, etc) who were in the same area and who could be helping programs grow. 

In late 2007 we received an anonymous donation of $50,000 to rebuild our mapping capacity.  We used half of this to hire Mike Trakin, a GIS map maker, on a part time basis. Mike started the MappingforJustice blog in 2008 to show the maps he was making. He also build a map gallery (now an archive).  Mike stayed on staff until early 2011 when funding ran out.  

As shown above we also used the funds from the anonymous donation to build the interactive Tutor/Mentor Program Locator.  That has been used to create many of the map stories shown on our blogs since 2008.

What's the future? 

The last section of the concept map at the far right shows that I continue to share our overall mapping goals on this page of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC website. 

However, rather than seek investment to rebuild the Tutor/Mentor Connection under my leadership, my goal is to motivate donors to provide funding at universities in Chicago and other places, to build Tutor/Mentor Connection strategies, with mapping, on their campuses.  

While I plan to continue to advocate and share strategies for helping tutor/mentor programs grow for the rest of my life, I'm now 75 and don't know how many years I have left.

Funding a Tutor/Mentor Connection on a college campus can unleash a flow of talent that comes to the campus, learns what the Tutor/Mentor Connection is (from our archives); how to lead a individual tutor/mentor program and/or a neighborhood or citywide strategy aimed at filling a geographic area with a full range of needed programs that do more to help kids move through school and into jobs and career; then goes into alumni life either working in the social sector applying these ideas, or working in the business sector, generating funds and resources to support the growth of constantly improving programs in all places where they are needed.

3-26-2024 update - in this blog article I share links to my Google archive showing maps created over the past 30 years. 

Thank for reading this far.  Open the concept map now and view it with these descriptions in mind. Follow the links to dig deeper.   If you're interested in knowing more please connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and/or Facebook (see links  here).  

If you want to help me keep paying the bills, use the PayPal on this page to send a contribution. 

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