Sunday, July 24, 2022

"Good to Great" Philosophy - updated

In December 2011, a few months after leaving the non profit that I had formed in 1993, and forming the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, I posted an article sharing my "Good to Great" philosophy. Here's an update.  

"Good to Great" & the development of Great Volunteer-Based Tutor/Mentor Programs

How many of you have read the Jim Collins book titled "Good to Great and the Social Sectors"? If not, you get a copy from your local library or and read it.

Here are some links to blog articles where the writers summarize this book


"Good-Great: Social Sector"

Read this Tactical Philanthropy series of articles and reflect on the resources needed to grow from good to great, and to stay great for many years.

I’ve applied Good to Great concepts in the leadership of the Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Program (1993-2011) and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present) (and before that in my leadership of the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini Green Tutoring Program) since 1977 when I learned about Total Quality Management (TQM) while working as an Advertising Manager at Wards.

I've continued to apply that thinking in my leadership of the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. 

I was lucky to have many mentors and supporters during the early years and one said “If you don’t write you plan on paper, you don’t have a plan.” Thus, every year since then I’ve written the plan, and made an effort to share it with others in the organization who needed to be the people who embraced the plan and made it a reality.

I now share that plan via our web sites and this wiki with people from around the world.

Good to Great was a relatively new way to understand process improvement when I first learned about it in the mid 2000s. I have embraced it since then, and think this can really help us focus the leadership and all of their other volunteers on the mission of any single tutor/mentor program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection type citywide strategy rather than just the fund raising.

Below I’ve listed what I felt our our Hedgehog values were in 2011. I still embrace them. Do you agree with these? Are there others that you might add to the list, or that you feel are more important than these?

Do these ignite your passions and make you want to sacrifice as much as our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, or other foreign wars, to end poverty through mentoring kids to careers? Maybe that’s an extreme example of commitment, but what would it take you to make a sacrifice that is even 10 or 20% of what’s represented by the “ultimate sacrifice”?

Hedgehog Roles

a) Getting a youth and volunteers is only the start of the tutor/mentor process. A program needs to keep youth involved and connected from when they first connect at least through 12th grade. We tried to do this since 1993 for youth living in the Cabrini Green area of Chicago, giving more than 580 youth the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive, long-term tutor/mentor program (Cabrini Connections), which connected them with a diverse base of adult mentors and learning experiences. From 1975 to 1992 we applied the same concepts in a program serving younger 2nd to 8th grade youth (that program is now Tutoring Chicago and serves youth throughout Chicago). 

There were too few programs providing long-term tutor/mentor support to youth in poverty areas of Chicago in 2011 and that's still the case in 2022.   

Just keeping a non-profit organization like Cabrini Connections funded and operating from year to year, is a tremendous accomplishment.  While I was able to do this from 1993-2011, while also creating and developing the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy, I was not able to control outside factors, such as the financial sector meltdown, starting in 2008. Ultimately this caused our small nonprofit's funding to decline to the point that the Board of Directors decided they could no longer support the Tutor/Mentor Connection part of the strategy (even though it had generated the largest grants in the previous 5 years!).  

I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue to operate the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago and try to help it grow in other cities. 

b)I continue to maintain a database of Chicago area non-school tutor/mentor programs and an understanding of where they are located, vs where they are most needed in the Chicago region.

No one else in the Chicago region is providing this type of information, at this level of detail.

While there are many map based directories (I point to some here) no one else (in Chicago or in any other big city) is using maps or internet-based databases the way I have been to draw resources directly to existing tutor/mentor programs. 

If I were not still doing this, no one else would be.

c) I continue to use the database to invite program leaders and stakeholders to gather on a regular basis for networking/learning and capacity-building activities that benefit ALL programs, not just a few highly visible programs. I continued to offer the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences every six months until May 2015.  I began using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in the late 2000s and since 2015 this has been my primary platform for connecting people and ideas. 

If I were not providing this service, no one else would be. (No one else can without building and maintaining the type of database that the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC owns). What I have been doing is providing a form of community information, which was described in this June 2011 white paper by Peter Levine of Tufts University.

d) I continue to focus on building strategic involvement and long-term commitment from the business community, which uses company resources (people, dollars, jobs, etc.) to build great programs that PULL kids to careers. See this article about "Influence" which is visualized in the graphic at the right. 

Most others focus on what government, teachers, parents and students need to do. I focus on what business and private sector needs to do because I recognize that there is not enough government money to fuel the operations of programs like Cabrini Connections in all the places they need to be, and for all of the years they need to grow to be good, then to be great.

e) I use the Internet to connect people and ideas from around the world, and to stimulate the flow of resources directly to tutor/mentor programs throughout Chicago. I've done this since the late 1990s. 

In the volunteer section of the Cabrini Connections web site we hosted a "resources to help you" sub-section. This included links to the volunteer handbook, homework help, and other materials that we hoped all volunteers would read and use as a constant resource. Another sub section pointed to the Tutor/Mentor Connection library and on additional web resources volunteers could learn from and incorporate in their tutoring, mentoring and advocacy for Cabrini Connections.

This information is what unites us as a community of purpose. As more of our members understand this information we create many owners and many leaders. We can withstand any changes in leadership. We can constantly get better at what we do.

The visual at the left describes the "volunteer growth cycle" which powered the tutor/mentor programs I led for 35 years. 

One of the articles I point to from the Tutor/Mentor library is a pdf from the UCLA Center on Mental Health in Schools. The title is School Engagement, Disengagement, Learning Supports, & School Climate. This focuses on motivation, which is the fuel that drives student learning and aspirations. I encourage volunteers in any tutor/mentor program to read this, think about this, discuss it with others, and try to find ways to help tutor/mentor programs motivate students, volunteers and leaders to do more each year to help us achieve our mission of helping kids to high school graduation, college, then careers.

f) The Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, and the youth programs I led, are learning organizations. The information I share on these wikis and our web sites is available to any member or supporter. We need to find time to read, reflect and use this information on an on-going basis. This is a lesson I tried to teach staff, volunteers and partners of Cabrini Connections since we formed in 1993. It's also the core idea I share through the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site which was formed in July 2011 after the Board at Cabrini Connections decided to downsize and no-longer support the T/MC strategy.

Leaders, volunteers, students, donors and supporters of programs like Cabrini Connections need to become active network weavers, people who use search engines like Google to find places where other people are offering tutoring/mentoring, or discussing issues related to effective tutoring/mentoring. In these groups members need to participate, sharing information from what they do at their own programs, and providing invitations for people in these groups to use each other's web sites, or join in the activities that connect people and ideas.

I do this every day, and if you search Google for 'Bassill', or ‘tutor mentor’ you will find numerous places where I am actively networking. Each person in a tutor/mentor program and a tutor/mentor community should set a personal goal to be active in 5-10 places each month, over the course of a year. If 50 people are doing what Dan does, we can dramatically increase the influence of the ideas we all share, and the number of people who are helping us achieve our mission.

Here's a Tweet I posted recently, pointing to an observation by a student who was learning about the Tutor/Mentor Connection. 
Informed people dig into my library and blog articles to learn what's there, then share what they learn to inform other people, who then do the same. This "informing" process is on-going. 

If I were not constantly pointing to Chicago tutor and/or mentor programs, no one else would be (and no one else can unless they maintain a database, and lead a resource building effort).

g) While I have not led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program since 2011, I have more than 35 years of knowledge about how to involve volunteers in a non-school tutor/mentor program, along with the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of other people and organizations, and I use this to

1. help parents, teachers, social workers, volunteers, donors, etc. find existing tutor/mentor programs near where they live/work

2. help individual programs grow from Good to Great, while helping new programs fill voids

3. help networks like T/MC grow in other cities and in other social service sectors (which network with the Chicago T/MC in a shared effort of helping programs grow from good to great)

h) I have created a knowledge-based innovation, networking and problem-solving process that can be applied by people in other cities, or in any other social benefit sector.

i) I (and volunteers, staff and interns working with me) have piloted innovative network-building tools using maps, graphics, video, animation and interactive on-line databases. These can be applied in other cities for the same purpose as I use them in Chicago, or in other social benefit sectors.

View this 1992-present timeline

Few other people or organizations in the country can claim this many years of continuous learning and application of knowledge to build and sustain a volunteer based tutor/mentor program. 

However, I have not communicated these ideas effectively to enough people and have not built the leadership team and organizational strength to be able to expand our influence and fully develop and share these ideas.

That was the goal of Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011 when I first wrote this article. I've managed to do much, but failed to build a new organization and funding base needed to keep the platforms built in the 2000s, or the Tutor/Mentor Conferences, updated and available.

This "How can we do this better?" graphic is as relevant today as it was in 2011, or in 1993 when I formed Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Except, now leaders in universities, businesses or other youth programs in Chicago and other cities need to step forward to adopt the same "Good to Great" commitment and take ownership of my history and archives.  If that happens the timeline concept map shown above can extend for another 20 years, with much more impact than what I've achieved over the past 10. 

Thank you for reading. And thank you to those who go to this page and continue to send me small contributions.

Reach out to me on social media. Let's connect. Share ideas. And find leaders who will take on this work. 

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