Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Build Virtual Corporate Office to Support Youth In More Places

On most nights I dream about work I've done in the past to help build support systems for kids in high poverty areas.

Last night's feature was a conversation with people at the Sears corporate office. In that conversation I was showing the parallel of how the Tutor/Mentor Connection, created in 1993, (see 1994 news story) was doing to support hundreds of individual tutor/mentor programs in many different places, and what companies do to put retail stores close to potential customers and support them with a variety of functional teams, including millions of dollars of advertising.

This morning I was going to post a Tweet about this, and wanted to point to an article on my blog where I shared this concept.  Below is an article from 2013.  I hope you'll read it and share it.

----- start 2013 ____

When I came to Chicago in 1973 it was to start a job in retail advertising at the corporate headquarters of the Montgomery Ward Corporation. Over the next 17 years I was promoted often and by the early 1980s I was in charge of the creative development of all national retail advertising. Later I was also responsible for building the first draft of the company's 52 week advertising schedule. I started with a budget of around $250 million dollars and a blank set of papers then had to develop a weekly ad schedule that had variations for big stores, small stores, specialty stores, etc.

Other than differences in products and services, all stores are basically the same. They offer a "things" people near each store want to buy. This graphic illustrates the range of merchandise and services offered by every Sears retail store. Wal Mart, Target, Dayton Hudson, Macy's have similar selections.

If you do a search on Google for different stores you can find maps showing locations throughout the Chicago region. Each of these companies has a corporate office structure with teams that build and operate stores, provide well trained people, provide the merchandise and services that a store offers, and provide advertising that draws customers to each store. This is mass merchandising. It's efficient. Small "mom" and "pop" stores have a hard time competing with the major chains.

Because of my background, the strategies I have developed mirror some of the work done by the corporate office of big companies. The tutor/mentor program's I've led have been site-based, which means students and volunteers come to a program site each week. Because we have space to operate, we're able to offer more different learning and enrichment experiences to youth and more opportunities to volunteer for employees from the Chicago region.
I've used maps to show where tutor/mentor programs are needed, based on high poverty, poorly performing schools, violence and other indicators. I've overlaid on these maps locations of tutor/mentor programs from a directory I've been trying to maintain since 1994.

Many of the existing programs, including the ones I led, were like the small "mom" and "pop" stores. We never had a consistent flow of operating dollars thus worked at a level of poverty that would make it difficult for most businesses to succeed. Everything I've been doing for the last 20 years has intended to improve the flow of resources, the talent in programs, and thus each program's ability to have a greater impact on the lives of youth and volunteers who get involved.

I don't think any organization will ever have the money that corporate offices spend to support their stories. Yet, I feel that type of support is needed to help each tutor/mentor program operate more effectively. Thus, instead of trying to build a single corporate office, I've been focusing on building a "virtual" corporate office where volunteers from many different industries and backgrounds are taking on roles that traditionally are part of a single organizational structure.

I'm not suggesting that small non profits should be consolidated under larger operating umbrellas. Just the opposite. I think the success of a tutor/mentor program comes from a core group of dedicated adults making a long term commitment to do everything they can to help the youth in their program. We need to push resources to the program level and give maximum flexibility for how those resources are used to meet local needs.

At the same time, programs need to communicate a common vision and "what they do" on their web sites. I created this "shoppers guide" to illustrate some information that I feel would help donors choose programs if it were on the organization's web site.

I've been trying to find ways to communicate this concept and today created this PDF essay. I hope you'll take a look and let me know if it makes sense to you. If it does, share it with business leaders who might begin to encourage employees to take on these roles. If you can improve on this, please try, and send me a link to your own version.

____ end 2013 ___

In most of the articles posted on this blog I call on leaders to adopt the strategies I've been sharing.  Volunteers from different companies could be taking roles of functional teams within the "corporate office" to support the growth and long-term impact of volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs within defined geographic areas.

What's critically important to understand is that I'm not talking about supporting one, or two programs in a few places.  I'm talking about filling a map area with high-quality, constantly improving, programs reaching k-12 kids in all high poverty areas within a geographic area like the Chicago region. 

Last Friday I wrote this article about the White House initiative to draw more youth into STEMM careers by 2050.  Unless leaders from every industry adopt the strategies I'm sharing it's not likely the opportunities for youth in 2050 will be much better than as we head into 2023.

Thank you for reading. I hope you'll be one of these leaders and will share this blog with others.

Furthermore, I hope a few of you will visit my "Fund T/MI" page and make a contribution to help me continue doing this work in 2023.

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