Monday, December 26, 2022

If more youth-serving programs took this role...

In late 1992 myself and six other volunteers came together in Chicago and established the vision for a new youth-serving program, which we named Cabrini Connections.  However, we recognized that while one more small tutor/mentor program might be life changing for the few kids who participate, it would not have much impact on the lives of the 200,000+ k-12 youth living in high poverty areas of Chicago.

So we created a second parallel strategy during 1993, which we named the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC). 

The graphic below is from a 2004-05 annual report

The shaded areas of the map are places with high concentrations of poverty.  The dots on the map are locations of volunteer-based tutor and/or mentor programs, which we had located through a survey that we launched in January 1994, as part of the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy.

You can see that Cabrini Connections focused on teens in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago while the Tutor/Mentor Connection aimed to help similar programs reach k-12 youth in every high poverty area.

I had led single volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs since 1975, for 19 years, before forming our new organization in late 1992 and 1993.  Below is just one example of media stories that demonstrated a need for an intermediary like the Tutor/Mentor Connection.  (click to enlarge)

The strategy we deployed to build our single youth program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection, is what I've come to understand as an "information-based problem-solving" strategy. By that I mean we learn from our own efforts and we search out other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and around the country then learn from them ideas that we can apply to constantly improve our own program.  

We did the same to build the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), although there were few models to borrow ideas from when we started in 1993.  However, my 17 years in retail advertising with the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters (1973-90), and my three years as a Loaned Executive (1990-93) with the United Way/Crusade of Mercy, provided ideas that we borrowed in establishing the T/MC.

One section of the library I've been building focuses on collaboration, knowledge management, mapping, data, process improvement, etc.  I've been borrowing from these ideas for more than 20 years. 

I show the 4-part strategy in this concept map

While Step 1 focuses on collecting information Step 2 focuses on sharing that information in ways that increase the number of people who use it.  Step 3 focuses on helping people understand ways to apply the information and Step 4 aims to draw resources and ideas directly to EVERY tutor/mentor program to help them constantly improve.

One primary challenge since we launched has been that I've had far too few resources to do this work and too few others have shared the work of "spreading the word". 

Chicago and other cities have many well-organized, high quality, youth serving organizations. Unfortunately, few serve more than 75 youth on a regular basis, while a very small number may be serving 500 to 1000 youth weekly.  

I've pointed to a 1994 Chicago Tribune article, and much other research, to emphasize that there are more than 200,000 youth living in high poverty areas of Chicago. That number was as high as 240,000 in 1994 and may have shrunk to under 200,000 now.

No single program serves even a fraction of that number.

Which bring me back to the reason we formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in late 1992.  While many organizations may be having life-changing impact on a small number of kids, none is having an impact on the overall poverty in the region.

Every year, for the past 30 years, I've encourage others to adopt the same commitment as my small organization adopted in 1993.  As you promote your own program, encourage volunteers, donors, policy makers and business to build strategies that support every youth serving program in your city.
The same message applies to the business community.  Almost every large business has one or more programs that engage employee volunteers and support youth in communities where they do business.  However, few have strategies that support the growth of birth-to-work youth serving programs in all parts of the cities where they do business.

Imagine how many more people would get involved in business websites and advertising pointed to lists of youth programs like the ones I host

Instead of a few people hearing this "call to action" and using the information in the Tutor/Mentor library, thousands would be called to serve and make life-changing impacts.

That's my wish for 2023.  Please help spread the word.

I've been sharing ideas on this blog since 2005, so there are many articles similar in purpose to this one.  As part of your New Year's Resolution, make a commitment to read at least one article a month and share it with people in your own network of influence.

Since 2011 I've supported the T/MC strategy via Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

My other wish is that a few more people will visit the "Fund T/MI" page and send a 2022 year-end contribution to help me continue this work in the coming year. 

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