Wednesday, July 20, 2022

What if. Looking at past. Looking forward.


A main part of the strategy that I launched in 1993 when we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection was an effort to draw more consistent media attention to places in Chicago where news stories were showing "bad things happening" to kids.  I used maps and my database of youth tutor/mentor programs to create story-maps like the one at the left. Unfortunately, this was before the Internet, and too few people ever saw these.

For today's article I want to jump from 1993 to 2005, and an article that I wrote, titled "A Tutor/Mentor Program is a Place where Idealism meets Reality."  Below is that article. I've highlighted some key passages. 

--------------- start 2005 --------------------

I was only able to attend the O-net conference for half a day Saturday. However, I read through all of the summary reports and blogs this morning. I hosted a conversation on Saturday, focused on creating a group of active o-net members who work to draw people from universities into o-net conversations, with the goal of recruiting resources to support o-net projects.

As I said after Friday's day-long session, I'm really impressed with the talent of the people who are participating in the conference, and who have posted introductions at www.omidyar.net. One person I talked to yesterday was a PhD student at Purdue, who is organizing information intended to be used to help connect people doing good work with resource providers. Another person was a technologist who had great ideas of creating alternative currencies that would encourage people to share talent with each other. A third was a women with an idea of creating visual databases to map assets.

I was really inspired by the Peace Tiles project. I hope we can duplicate this in Chicago tutor/mentor programs and connect our kids with kids in African and on other continents.

When I read one of the blogs, one person was questioning whether or not O-net was just a lot of talk, or if it was stimulating action (providing resources for O-net members to do their various projects). I'm hoping that my participation accelerates the rate at which people help each other, or draw new resources into o-net that end up helping members of the community do their work.

However, until this happens it is idealism within a world where the daily papers remind us of reality. A few weeks ago I did a Mind Map of the Sunday Chicago Tribune. Today I did another. I found a really great story written by Mary Schmich, one of my favorite writers, telling how people had responded to an earlier story about a computer center in Cabrini-Green being flooded, with all computers destroyed. Because of her first story, people provided new computers, and everything else needed to get this site up and running again. That demonstrates the power of the media.

However, in the same section of the Tribune Metro section was a story about a boy being fatally shot at a playground on the far South side of Chicago. There was another story on the same page about a Muslim teen center re opening, after being closed since 2003. These neighborhoods don't have a feature writer of the Chicago Tribune, or SunTimes, writing regular stories about life in these neighborhoods. Most of the times they get in the news is when something bad happens.

My mind map linked these stories. Every time I read a story about Cabrini-Green, written by Mary Schmich, I just wish she'd end with "and this is just one neighborhood of Chicago where kids live in poverty and need extra help with volunteers, donors, technologist, etc." (and provide a link to web sites that people could use to learn about other places where volunteers, donors and technology are needed).

If she and other reporters were doing this regularly, maybe people would have been helping the Muslim teen center get computers, and maybe the boy shot on a playground (or the shooter) would have been inside sitting at a computer rather than out on the street where something terrible happened.

When I sit with my friends at O-net and talk about ideas, it is with an urgency of putting these ideas to work to help more kids in cities like Chicago have safe places where they can gather to learn, be mentored, have access to computers and the world around them. The reality is that while we talk of great ideas, we are losing kids to the streets and to poverty.

Maybe I cannot convince the media to consistently tell the rest of the story when they write their stories about individual tragedies or triumphs, but maybe I can enlist a few technologist at O-Net to help me create a map gallery that would show where negative news happens and where volunteers and donors are needed. If hundreds of friends at communities like o-net were to take on the same goal, we might create a much larger public involvement and flow of resources to every place in the world where good people are trying to do good work to help people who need extra help.

What about you? Can you help?

--------- end 2005 article ---------------

Since 2005 I've created a presentation, and many articles, like these, showing this "Rest of the Story" idea and how students and volunteers from schools throughout Chicago, and other places,  could be creating their own stories, modeled after the ones I've been doing.

Below is a presentation showing this strategy:


This continues to be missing from media thinking.  This week WTTW shared an article showing the effectiveness of Chicago Youth Programs, which I had included among featured programs in this 2019 article

I think it's wonderful that Chicago Youth Program gets this attention.  However, I just wish every story would end with something saying, "This is just one of many youth programs in Chicago who need constant help to do good work.  They all need help.  Look at the list hosted by the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC and get to know others".  

I launched this strategy in 1993. I launched this blog in 2005, so the article I pointed to was one of the first that I wrote.  Today, in July 2022, we still have the same problems, plus new ones.  Getting people on social media and traditional media to connect "bad news" to "idea libraries" and then to places where time, talent and dollars are needed to change conditions, still is my purpose for writing these articles.

I thank you for reading and invite you to share this, and your own version.  


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