Friday, September 01, 2023

Building youth networks.

Below is a graphic I created in 1990s to show the range of adults from different backgrounds who were connecting with teens in the Chicago tutor/mentor program that I led from 1993 to 2011.

Note the pre-school through career timeline in the middle of the circle. This shows the multi-year support needed by kids living in high poverty areas, where too few of the people surrounding them work in the wide range of careers that more affluent kids are exposed to.  Note also the circle showing public school above the timeline and the 3pm-5pm and 5pm-8pm circles below the timeline. This shows that the 3-5pm non-school hours are the typical after-school program, needed in all areas where Mom and Dad have full-time jobs and kids need safe places during this time frame.

The 5pm-8pm timeframe is more unique to big cities where workplace volunteers are more able to become tutors and mentors in on-going programs. That was the timeframe when the programs I led operated. 

I did not realize until I read Dr. Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone book in the late 1990s that what we were doing was creating bridging social capital for our kids.  Around 2013 Putnam published another book, titled "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" which I've written about often. 

In my graphic at the top of this article I show a hub and spoke design, where the hub represents a tutor/mentor program, or an individual youth. The spokes represent all the people who could be part of that youth's network, made possible by the family and community she is part of, or by the organized tutor/mentor program she is part of.

But how do we show this?  

At the left is another graphic that I've used for many years. In the mid 2000s I begin to learn about social network analysis, which is a tool for mapping connections between people and showing them in a visualization.  

Here are two articles written in the late 2000s where I introduce social network analysis, and one of it's pioneers, Valdis Krebs.  Click here and here

Yesterday I did a web search using the terms "tutor mentor push pull maps".  Below is a screen shot of the images from the top results on that search. Many of the images shown are from this blog and the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC website. 

I often do searches like this to make sure my web content can be found if people are searching for terms that include "tutor mentor".  In this search I saw that there were some others who were mapping networks.

One was a mentoring network map from Lehigh University. 

The second was an Earth Sciences mentor network map.

Both of these graphics use a "hub and spoke" design, similar to mine.  Both are trying to teach people to "know their networks".   I encourage you to visit their websites and read more about their network mapping.  Learn from them and apply the ideas to your own program design. 

Here's another great resource.

In 2021 I connected with the Christensen Institute on Twitter and posted the graphic below in this blog article, titled "Digging Deeper into Social Capital Thinking".  

The Christensen Institute has a collection of articles on its website that focus on increasing social capital.  I also have a collection of links to social capital websites and research in the Tutor/Mentor library.  The more you know and understand these terms and how expanding social capital can be a strategy for creating opportunity while reducing violence, and improving workforce readiness, the more you might apply these ideas in your own work.  

So how are youth programs showing social capital in their program design and outcomes? Are they?

From posts I see and websites I review, I know many Chicago tutor/mentor programs are connecting inner-city kids with adults from diverse workplace backgrounds.  At the left is a post on Twitter from Chicago Youth Programs, Inc. Their website does a great job showing their long-term support for kids and families.  However, I don't see the term "social capital", although they certainly do help kids build their networks.

Furthermore, I don't know of many foundations funding youth programs based on their social capital-building designs.  I pointed to recent MENTOR research in this article, that shows how few foundations fund long-term operations. That's a problem. 

There's a lot to digest in this article. The two mentor network mapping sites that I point to above focus on adult-to-adult mentoring.  The Christensen Institute seems to focus on what schools can do to expand student networks.  

Thus, I don't see many using work of people like Valdis Krebs to figure ways to show how student networks expand over a period of years as a result of intentional program design, funded by committed philanthropic partners.

I'm still connected to Leo Hall, who I first met in 1973 when I was assigned to be his tutor/mentor.  He's one of many former students, volunteers and staff members whom I'm connected to on Facebook. 

I've dabbled with network analysis over the past 20 years.  In 2010 we set up this intern group on our Ning site, where our goal was to create a tool to map network growth.  That fizzled when I could not retain interns for more than a few months. 

In 2012 I created a network analysis map showing my Facebook followers. You can see the analysis in this PDF essay.   

I'd love to find student researchers who'd continue the network analysis work I point to above.  It's not something I can do on my own.

Are you doing this type of analysis?  How can we apply the network mapping graphics used in workplace mentoring to better understand the impact and program design of youth tutor/mentor programs?  How can we convince funders to provide operating dollars based on this information showing up on a youth program website?

Where are you connecting and talking about building social capital for youth in high poverty areas?  I host a list on Twitter that includes the people I've mentioned here.  I hope you'll connect.

Here's my list of Chicago youth tutor/mentor programs. Take a look. See which, if any, are building social capital through program design and which, if any, are writing about this in their blog, or strategy pages.  If you know these programs, connect them to articles like this on my blog.

Thanks for reading.  As usual, I encourage you to connect and follow me on social media and to visit this page and make a contribution to support my work.

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