Sunday, January 29, 2023

We can help kids through school, but can we keep them safe from racism?

The nation is once again shocked by a Black man being murdered by police. This time it was in Nashville, Tennessee.   Below is one of many Tweets that have prompted this post. If you have spent any time on this blog over the past 17 years you've seen this graphic, or a version of it.

This shows the goal of organized, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs, that operate in non-school hours out of neighborhood facilities, which help kids from high poverty areas move through school and into adult lives.  

If enough of these programs were available, in more places and consistently funded, constantly improving, etc., more kids would move through school without detours in the criminal justice system or in need of mental health support.

Here's a concept map that visualizes this same goal.  Note the text box in the lower left corner where I describe a role for volunteers who get involved as tutors and mentors.  

I've never believed that a single mentor can do everything needed to help a youth in high poverty area overcome all of the challenges they face growing up, which I've described in the concept map below. 

Yet I do believe a single volunteers can have a life changing impact.  It's just not predictable in what cases that will happen.  I know that the boy I first met in 1973 when he was in 4th grade says I had a huge impact on his life, but I know he had other people also helping him, including a strong mother.

I've seen countless stories over the past 30 years showing similar life changing mentoring and tutoring relationships.  

Here's what I'm struggling with.  Being Black in America puts you at risk, regardless of how successful you are in business, education, sports, etc.  

You can be running in a park, or driving down a street, and someone will single you out, just because of the color of your skin.  

One of the reasons I support volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs is that they can attract people who don't live in poverty, connect them in one-on-one, on-going relationships with kids who do live in poverty, then slowly educate them of the challenges kids and families face.  

This volunteer growth cycle visualizes that process. See it in this blog article

Every time you read about an act of violence or racism against people of color, I urge you to do homework to understand why that is happening and ways you can get involved to help prevent it from happening in the future.

Below are two graphics to consider:

Resource library - links to articles on race, poverty and inequality.  Click here to open

Connect people to this information.

I've used versions of this graphic for over 20 years.  In the middle, the blue box represents libraries of information such as the one I host, and the many that I point to from my library.  You can find many more through your own web searches. You can even build your own.

At the right is a map of Chicago, showing high poverty areas, where kids need extra help and where tutor/mentor programs are most needed.  At the left is a list showing all the people who could be using the information in our libraries to find ways to help kids and families in high poverty areas.

However, as I look at another act of police violence against a grown man, I realize that the is more learning to be done.  Be the YOU in this graphic.

Many of the articles in my library represent starting points in a life-long learning journey.  In this graphic the big circle represents libraries of information. The smaller circles represent groups of people meeting regularly to read small segments of that library and discuss what it means and how they can respond.  In concept its very similar to classroom learning in schools across the world, or to religious circles, where people read scripture and reflect on its meaning.

If you're a volunteer in an organized tutor and/or mentor program working with kids in elementary, middle or high school, start thinking of what future they will have beyond college, getting a job and starting a family.

What can you and people you know do to assure that none of them will be a victim of racial injustice at some point in the future?

I don't know the answer.

I do know that learning can lead to understanding and can show models of how others are trying to solve these problems. And that should stimulate your own thinking of how you, and people you know, can help make a difference.

While this article, and much of my work, focuses on Black youth, racism and hate extend to Asians, Indigenous, Latino and religious groups.  In every case, understanding why and innovating solutions starts with building (or accessing) a library of information.  I encourage others to create their own concept maps and blog articles to draw people to such libraries.  Send me a link to your library and I'll add it to mine.  

Thank you for reading.  Let's do more than "thoughts and prayers" for victims of racism and police violence.  

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Changing Demographics for Chicago Children - Update from 2007

I've been using maps since 1993 to focus attention on areas of high poverty in Chicago where kids and families need extra help.  At the left is a photo of me with a Chicago Tribune article on the screen behind me. The headline was "City kids at risk" and the sub head told of 240,000 kids living in poverty.

I've pointed to this and similar maps often in an effort to motivate leaders to develop long-term strategies that build and sustain mentor-rich non-school youth programs in all of these areas, instead of having a few great programs in a few areas.  

Below is an article I wrote in January 2007 

----- start 2007 article ---

During a Public Policy Forum hosted in Chicago on 1/24/07, maps were used to show the changing population trends and their implications for future services. The research was created by the Chapin Hall Center for Children.

The T/MC has used maps for many years to show poverty demographics and locations of poorly performing schools as an indicator of need for tutor/mentor programs. The T/MC Program Locator includes a Map Gallery, and a searchable database that visitors can use to shop for programs in different parts of the Chicago region.

However, we've also built a GIS links library, with links to different organizations in the Chicago region and nationally who are using maps to create a better understanding of poverty as the root cause of many other social issues.

During the meeting today I invited the 300-plus participants to use the GIS links on our web site as a resource in their own planning and networking. In addition, I invited them to add additional links, showing other sites that use maps to provide a spatial understanding of important social issues.

I also invited people to provide information about forums where people are using maps to share information, network and collaborate, so that all children in the Chicago region have equal opportunities for an education and a life out of poverty.

Finally, if you know of people who blog the issues that were discussed in today's forum, add your link to the T/MC links library or introduce this resource in the comments section below.

If we build a network of Chicago area and national organizations using maps to make better decisions, then the next step is to create blog-exchanges at strategic times throughout the year, so we can draw a growing number of people together to look at this information, reflect on it, and use it to do more to help kids living in poverty neighborhoods.

 ---- end 2007 article ----

If you spend some time viewing articles posted since 2007 I've often invited leaders to adopt the strategies I've been sharing.

It has not happened.

For a variety of reasons but most likely, too few have ever spent time looking at what I've written, and the ideas have always been too far from common practice for people to understand and adopt them.

Many things have changed since 2007, but two stand out.

First, the number of kids living in poverty has declined.  This article points to research by UIC and the MacArthur Foundation showing demographic shifts since 2000.  The biggest decline is among Black Chicagoans. The UIC report shows that this group declined from 1,063,737 in 2000 to 787,661 in 2020.  At the same time Latino population grew from 753,644 in 2000 to 819,518 2020. 

According to the UIC report (page 40) 28.2 percent of the Black population is in poverty. 18% of the Latino population is in poverty.

That means around 222,000 Black Chicagoans live in poverty in 2020 and 147,500 Latino families live in poverty.  That's about 370,000 people. 

Another report from Self Inc., a financial technology company, says that "20.6% of Chicago minorities live in poverty".  This report says that there are 126,988 children below the poverty level in Chicago.

That's a big change since 1994, but still a huge number.

Second, media stories about crime and violence remind us that poverty continues to have a negative impact on many children and families living in high poverty areas.

I included this Chicago SunTimes story in an article I posted in November 2020. 

It's one of dozens of similar articles I've posted in this section since 2007.  

So, there are still a lot of kids who need help in Chicago. That's true for other big cities, too. 

Yesterday I was contacted by a PhD student from Germany, who had visited my MappingforJustice blog and wanted me to fill out a survey about my uses of technology for civic benefit.  Last year I wrote about an on-going conversation I was having with Aliyu B. Solomon, from Nigeria. 

I wish people in Chicago had been showing similar interest over the past 28 years. Actually, a researcher from the University of Chicago did do a brief case study of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in the late 1990s. You can read it here

In this report one observation said "T/MC may be particularly difficult to understand because it does not easily fit within known categories of organizations"

That remains true in 2023.  

In the 2007 article I pointed to the library of GIS resources that I had been building.  I've added to that often since then.  I also created this concept map, to help people find data resources they could use in creating stories similar in purpose to those on this blog.

I still don't find many using maps the way I have been so I've also not been able to gather people at strategic times a year to talk about what they are doing. Maybe someone in the future will do that.

The future.

Along the left side of this blog are tags that enable you to narrow your search for articles to read.  I encourage you to open About T/MI, History, and A NEW T/MC to expand your understanding of what I've been trying to do and to learn ways you might build your own version focused on your city, and/or step forward and help rebuild the T/MC to focus on Chicago in future years.

Thanks for reading this. Please share it. 

I'm on various social media platforms. I hope you'll connect with me.  Find links on this page

Furthermore, I invite you to help Fund T/MI in 2023 to help me continue to share ideas and host the ideas and library.

Visit this page and use PayPal to send a contribution. 

Go forth and do good!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Learning from Internet Libraries

In different parts of the country local and state government are beginning to restrict what can be taught in schools and what books can be included in libraries.  This is a terrible trend.  It's also useless...if parents, mentors, tutors and educators are helping youth learn to use Internet libraries on a regular basis.

I led a tutor/mentor program from 1975 to 2011.  In the 1980s volunteers set up our first computer lab. In the late1990s volunteers from Microsoft set up a computer lab when we moved to a new location on Huron Street in Chicago.

In the 1980s we did not know about the Internet.  It the late 1990s we were just beginning to learn about the Internet. I was an early adopter, spending many hours connecting with people from around the world via list serves hosted by the Mott Foundation, Digital Divide Network and a distance learning group in Australia.

Thus in the mid 2000s I created this concept map to show my vision of teaching students and volunteers (and donors) to use our websites to get and give information and to connect with each other. 

Through the Tutor/Mentor Connection, formed in 1993, I had been building an on-line library of reading materials since the late 1990s. By the late 2000s we had more than 1500 links.  One section focused on Black History and another focused on race and poverty.  

Above is a screenshot showing a few of the articles in the Black History section.  I keep adding to this all the time. For instance, today I added a site called "AntiRacist APUSH", which is a curriculum for teaching antiracist history.  

The big challenge in the  mid 2000s and today is teaching students and adults that these libraries exist and motivating them to spend time visiting and learning what they include...then digging deeper in an on-going personal learning journey, that can be self-guided, or facilitated by peers or adult mentors and tutors. 

Here's what we tried in 2008-09. 

Visit this blog and read about the "Cool Cash" program. See its rules and how our technology coordinator launched a learning quest each week with his blog article, then shared comments students had posted in our on-line Student-Volunteer History & Tracking (SVHATS) system (no longer available). 

Unfortunately we were not able to continue this program after 2009 since the financial crisis cut our funding and led to staff reductions and ultimately to me leaving the program in mid 2011.  Leaders who followed me did not have the same vision or commitment.

Yet, the need to inspire students to build on-line learning habits is more crucial today than in the past.  

Below is how an educator from Massachusetts, Kevin Hodgson, is motivating his students into on-line learning.

Visit Kevin's blog and view this video.  See how he has embedded video clips in each of the boxes on this graphic.  Scroll through past articles and look at all the ideas Kevin shares.  

While our Cool Cash program only lasted two years, the Tutor/Mentor Connection part of our organization hosted a parallel learning journey for interns who joined us between 2005 and 2015. 

The concept map below highlights some of the projects created by interns as they spent time learning about the goals and strategies of the Tutor/Mentor Connection (led by Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC since 2011)

Browse through the Intern blog, started in 2006, and see all the ways students from various colleges and universities did learning, then shared what they learned.  

Projects like this can be created by educators, parents, students, volunteers in tutor/mentor programs, from any place, to help students develop their own Personal Learning Network (PLN).  If you're not familiar with this term here's one article you might read.  It's a link in this section of the Tutor/Mentor library. 

I used the word ENOUGH in the mid 2000s to urge people to develop their own personal learning strategy to learn more about problems we face, and ways some people are solving them, to help innovate solutions they could apply in their own lives and communities.

You can see this in this article

It's never to late to start learning or to start helping young people develop Internet learning habits.  As we head into February Black History Month, use the links in my library to expand your knowledge of American History.

Thank you for reading.  Please share these posts and connect with me on one of these social media platforms.

If you can spare a dime, consider a contribution to the Fund T/MI campaign and help me continue this work in 2023. 


Monday, January 16, 2023

Help Build Networks of Support for Youth in High Poverty Areas

Today and over the past weekend I've seen hundreds of posts about Dr. ML King Jr, like the one below. As you do service today, look for ways you can do service every day.  With that in mind I want to focus on efforts that expand the networks supporting kids in high poverty areas, which is a form of "bridging social capital".  

I've been using the graphic shown below for more than 20 years to visualize the range of adult support and learning that can be made available to youth via organized, volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs.

The circle in the middle includes a pre school through work/career timeline. It shows public school support above the timeline and community support, through family, neighbors, faith groups and non-school programs below.  The spokes lead to the different sectors of the community, and the different career opportunities that might be modeled by volunteers who connect with youth via organized programs.  

I've been using maps since 1993 to focus attention on high poverty areas of Chicago, where organized tutor/mentor programs are most needed.  And, I've collected information about existing programs and plotted their locations, as overlays to the maps.  Then I've tried to draw attention to research showing where and why kids need extra help, so that more people would use their own time, talent and dollars to help tutor/mentor programs be available to more kids, and constantly improving, based on what they learn from their own efforts, and what they learn from others.

I share these ideas in the website and on my blogs.  As part of your service today, and throughout the year, spend time doing extra learning, and look for ways to apply the ideas in your own community. 

At the left are tags sorting articles by primary focus (although almost all focus on the overall goal of helping kids through school and into adult lives.")  Once a week click on a tab, then scroll through the articles to see what's included. As you do this share articles with your network and create a "study group" or "book club" so more people are reading these articles with you.

Over the course of a year, or several  years, you'll build a much broader and deeper understanding of actions that need to be taken in order to create the world Dr. King envisioned.  

The map below is from this article, which is one of many where I've focused on social capital.  It's an example of how maps can show where kids and families need extra help.  

Here's another article that invites you to "Dig Deeper into Social Capital Thinking."

The graphic below is from one article about "Total Quality Mentoring" which is a term I coined in the 1990s to convey the idea of on-going improvement based on learning from your own efforts, those of others, and by having consistent financial support for program operations. 

As you look at the first graphic I used in this article, then this one, think of the YOU being someone on each spoke, who shares information that gets more people from her industry, college, faith group, family, etc. involved in helping youth, by helping non-school and school-based programs grow in more places.

I'll close with two more posts from Twitter. 
This post encourages on-going service, which I what I also encourage.  "Today, tomorrow and every day, let's lift up his legacy"

Here's the second Tweet. From Vue Le. 
Follow the links and do deeper reading about what Dr. King said in the 1960s. 

Use the ideas I and others share to build an intentional strategy that expands social capital, opportunities, networks of support and the range of people who "open doors" for youth who have had too few people taking these roles for too many years.

Visit this page to view a list of Chicago youth tutor and/or mentor programs that you can support with time, talent and/or dollars. 

Thank you for reading.  I'll look forward to connecting with you on one of these social media platforms.

If you find value in these ideas please consider a small contribution to help Fund T/MI -  click here to learn more

Friday, January 13, 2023

I Have a Dream, too.

As we head into the 2023 MLKing Day weekend, I'd like to encourage all who will do service, to also do learning.  That means spending some time looking at ideas I've been sharing on this blog since 2005.

I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program in Chicago from 1974 to 2011. I formed Cabrini Connections in 1993 to help teens from the original 2nd to 6th grade program at the Montgomery Ward HQ in Chicago get the extra support they need from 7th grade through high school, in order to be prepared for college, vocational education, and the next steps to a job and a career.

When kids and volunteers joined us we made one promise: We will do everything we can to assure that each student who joins us will be starting a job/career by age 25. We are only limited by how much our students, volunteers, alumni and supporters are willing to share this responsibility.

I visualize that commitment with graphics like I'm showing in this article.  

Below is a message I shared with volunteers in the tutor/mentor program I was leading to start 2008.

This message can be just as relevant to volunteers in any tutor/mentor program, or to people looking to be elected to city, state and national office. 

I hope that all of our volunteers have had great holidays and that you are looking forward to continuing your role as a tutor/mentor volunteer at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

I've been a leader of a tutor/mentor program since 1974, and I've learned that every volunteer and student are different, and constantly changing. Thus, while I can provide a structure for your participation, I can't teach you everything you need to know, or everything I've learned. I can try to help you, and your student, form a learning strategy, where you know where to find information, and find help, so that as you meet weekly, you know where to go for ideas to stimulate and support your involvement. 

Last Christmas, Rebecca Parrish (a Cabrini Connections volunteer) gave me the book "The Starfish and the Spider" as a present. As I read it, I realized that this book was describing Cabrini Connections and the role of every volunteer, staff member, and leader. It also describes the role of alumni, and veteran volunteers. 

We are a decentralized organization in which each volunteer is the CEO of his/her own tutoring/mentoring business. We succeed in life by our own efforts and by what we can learn from others. Our networks are important. They expand opportunities, open doors and provide resources. 

As you go through the tutoring year, each volunteer is learning to individualize his/her weekly activities based on the needs of your student, your own abilities and time, and the level of experience you have gained. Veteran volunteers, alumni, staff and coordinators are able to support you with ideas, information, and structure, but it is your own learning and networking with other volunteers that gives you ideas for what you do. 

Each week I'm trying to coach you with this email, with my blogs, and with the information and networks available to you on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site at 

You all already know how difficult it is to motivate many kids to do homework, do extra learning, and take charge of their lives. Imagine how difficult it is for me and the leaders of Cabrini Connections to recruit busy people like our volunteers, and convince them to spend time beyond their weekly tutoring/mentoring, learning how they can become more effective tutors/mentors, or giving help to others who are seeking help. 

Yet, this is the only way we can succeed in keeping the promise we make to our kids. Read more at

I thank you all for your involvement in Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. On behalf of our volunteer board of directors, I welcome you back for our 16th year of tutoring/mentoring since January 1993.

Dan Bassill
Cabrini Connections 
Tutor/Mentor Connection 

 ---- end 2008 article --------------------------------- 

In what ways will our elected leaders support the involvement of volunteers, donors, businesses and universities in programs like Cabrini Connections? Will they use maps to build a distribution of resources into every neighborhood where tutor/mentor programs are needed? Will they use their blogs, web sites, public speaking to connect volunteers with non profits in their district, using links to a Program Locator, so volunteers and donors can search for where to get involved? 

Or will the volunteer and donate button on their web site only point to themselves, in an effort to get elected, or stay elected? 

True leadership lifts up everyone. Real Generals understand the need to distribute troops in all places where the enemy is concentrated, and they understand the need to have an infrastructure that supports those troops with food, clothing, pay, training, weapons, etc. so they are better equipped than the enemy.

I created this graphic in 2011 and shared it in this 2012 article.  As you think of helping kids in high poverty areas include data maps and each of these steps in your planning. Next year, and each year after that, celebrate National Mentoring Month and MLKing Day by providing a review of actions you took to help more kids during the previous year and actions you plan to take in the coming year to build on past year progress. 

This graphic illustrates an information based problem solving strategy where groups of people focus on a section of geography where kids need extra help, then look at available information showing how some people have helped similar kids in different places. Then they brainstorm and create and execute their own plan. At the end of the year they review what they've accomplished, look at work others are doing, then launch a plan for the coming year, building on what was done the previous year. See the concept map here and blog article here

This type of planning needs to be happening in many places in order to fill all high poverty areas with comprehensive, on-going, birth-to-work mentoring strategies.

Which of our leaders are going to be demonstrating this type of leadership in 2023? Who already is sharing these type of ideas in other places? 

Let's connect.  Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, LinkedIn, etc. Find links on this page

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the weekend. Please make my vision, your vision, too. 

If you want to help Fund T/MI and the work I'm doing, please visit this page and use PayPal to send a contribution. 

Friday, January 06, 2023

Using Maps - in my Dreams

A few times last year I wrote about how often I have vivid dreams that replay conversations about tutor/mentor programs that I had, or wish I had had.

Last night I dreamed about how maps can be used in planning, to help fill high poverty areas with mentor-rich tutor, mentor and learning programs that reach k-12 kids during non-school hours.

I've been using maps for this purpose since 1993, as indicated by this 1994 Chicago SunTimes article. 

In last night's dream I was showing uses of data platforms which I had been trying to build until 2009 (I ran out of money with the financial sector meltdown, then when I split from the non-profit organizations that I had created and led since 1992). 

The Tutor/Mentor Program Locator (described in this Wiki page) is no longer active, but is available as an archive.  Last spring I met a company called RS21 via Twitter and watched a video where they described uses of the type of data platform I was trying to create.  I wrote about it in this article. The graphic below is part of the RS21 presentation. 

While the RS21 data platform has a lot of potential, it still does not have all the layers of information that was included on the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator.  And it's not yet widely used.  In this MappingforJustice article I describe our intended uses of data maps and show the layers of information that need to be available. 

In my dream I was showing people how they could zoom into a location on a map, such as the address of a school, then look at the indicators in the area around the school that show reasons for student success or lack of success.  Then I showed how they could add information to their map, such as assets (businesses, universities, hospitals, etc) within the map area, as well as existing youth tutor/mentor programs.  

Then, I showed them a concept map visualizing the range of talent and networks who need to be part of the planning process and described how network analysis tools could help them learn "who was there, and who was missing". 

Then, I woke up.

As you can see from my links in this article, this is not a new topic, nor a new dream.  It's something I've tried to influence others to build and use for nearly 30 years.

At the right is a map-story that was created in the mid 1990s that includes all of the elements we built into the Program Locator in 2008-9 and that I'm describing in this article.  The maps show the location where a 15-year old girl was killed in Chicago and demographics of the surrounding area.  They show tutor or mentor programs in the area and a list of assets who could be working together to help fill the area with a wide range of youth serving programs.

It's sad that so few people ever saw these maps and that no one really adopted this strategy in Chicago.  Maybe that's why I keep dreaming about making this happen. 

Or writing about it on this blog.  

In the concept map below I visualize a planning process that engages all sectors and uses maps to focus attention on specific areas. You can find it in this article.

At the right is a map, and at the left are steps that focus on building public involvement and support and influencing leaders in business, media, philanthropy, politics, faith groups, universities and other sectors to make a strategic, and long-term, commitment to helping all kids born of living in poverty today be starting jobs/careers by their mid 20s.  

I'm only able to keep sharing these ideas through this blog, my email newsletter and website and social media because a few people have made contributions to my "Fund T/MI" campaign.

I hope you'll join them in 2023. 

Thanks for reading and adding these ideas to your own dreams.  I'm on many social media sites, so please connect with me. 

Monday, January 02, 2023

New Year Reflections for past decade

I wish you all a full 2023 filled with hope, good health and happiness.

I've been writing this blog since 2005 and had been sharing ideas via printed and email newsletters since forming the Tutor/Mentor Connection and a site-based tutor/mentor program called Cabrini Connections, in 1993.

Almost all articles focus on the message in this graphic.  "What will it take to assure that youth born or living in high poverty are entering careers by age 25?  What role does mentoring have?  What can we learn from others?

My first post every January has been a reflection and a challenge for the coming year.  As I thought about what to write today, I reviewed past January posts, and tagged them with "NewYear" so readers can find them more easily. 

I hope you'll spend time reading them.  

You can begin with last year's "Where it began" article. 

You can jump to this 2019 article titled "What the Heck am I Trying to Do?" article.

Or you can visit this January 2011 article titled "New Year. New Decade. New Hope.

Here's another article that I encourage you to read, titled "Bridges that Connect People on Both Sides of the Poverty Line". It was written in September 2005.  In the final paragraph I wrote "I've been working at this for more than 30 years yet I'm still just a whisper in the wilderness." 

Too few people have ever heard about me or the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.  

That means, if you read and share these, they may find fertile soil and bloom to new life, and new hope.

That's my wish for 2023.  

I am still using Twitter to try to reach as many people as possible with these ideas. I use other platforms, too.  Visit this page and find links to all of them.

And, I continue to depend on a small group of supporters to help me pay the bills and keep sharing these ideas.  Visit this page if you'd like to help. 

Thank you for reading. Happy New Year to you.