TagsExplorer7-6-16aOver the past week many of the participants of the Collaborative Curiosity MOOC have been writing blog articles reflecting on the TAGSExplorer feature, which tracks participation around the #curiouscolab hashtag.  I created my own visualization, showing @tutormentorteam among many participants who were active on Twitter.

I’ve been interested in network analysis for the past 10 years because of my efforts since the 1970s to connect workplace volunteers with inner city youth, in organized non-school tutor/mentor programs.  While I led a single program from 1975 to 2011, I created the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993 to help mentor-rich programs grow in all high poverty neighborhoods.   For that to happen, many people need to be strategically involved, not just volunteers serving as tutors and mentors.  I used the graphic below in this article on the Tutor/Mentor blog.


I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences in Chicago every six months from May 1994-May 2015. I also hosted a Chicago area tutor/mentor volunteer recruitment campaign every year from 1995 – 2003 (and continued it on-line since then).

In operating a single program, or trying to support over 200 programs, I learned you cannot do this work without help.  The graphic at the top of the page is illustrating the need to get talented people representing different networks involved. This concept map visualizes the “talent needed” in another way.

Getting the right mix of talent and networks into the same room is a huge challenge, made more difficult, or easy, by how much wealth or civic reach you do, or do not, have.  It’s a constant process of invitation, repeated in many different communications channels.  Keeping people involved, for multiple years, is an even greater challenge.

I began to map participation in Tutor/Mentor Conferences, using GIS maps, and network analysis maps, in the mid 2000s. However, I’ve not seen many others attempting to do this. Thus, I was delighted to see the TAGSExplorer.


Some of the features that make this special include:

a) it only maps the participants enrolled in the event and shows how they are connecting with each other

b) if you put your mouse on a name, like @tutormentorteam, a pop-up window shows your level of activity, over the life of the MOOC

c)  It’s a tool that can be duplicated by others.  I highlighted in yellow the “make your own” button.  I’ve already shared this with organizers of an upcoming Connected Learning (CLMOOC) event.

I encourage you to read other articles about the TAGSExplorer, written by #CuriousCoLab participants and leaders.

However, there are also some additional features I’d recommend.  By only showing participants in the MOOC, the TAGSExplorer is not showing how the MOOC is connecting participants to the larger world of people they are connected to on Twitter as a result of being part of the #curiouscolab MOOC.

I’ve used several different SNA tools to show my Twitter activity.   In the graphic below I show @tutormentorteam using MentionMap.com and Socioviz.net (both free).


I took a screen shot of these maps today, then pasted them in PowerPoint so I could add some annotation. Then saved to Adobe Photoshop where I cropped them, and saved themas JPGs. Then I pasted them back into PowerPoint to create the side-by-side visualization.

In both of these maps I’ve highlighted a few people from the #curiouscolab MOOC and the #CLMOOC who I’ve been connecting with over the past month. You can quickly see that these are part of a much larger network of people I follow, and who follow me, on Twitter.

Below at the right, is a another SNA map made using #NodeXL, a product of the Social Media Research Foundation. This map shows on line participation in the January 2016 National Mentoring Summit. I combined this with another graphic, to illustrate my goal of connecting people who can help with organizations in places where lots of help is needed. I included this graphic in this article.


I’ve heard many leaders say “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child“.  However, I’ve not seen many who create concept maps to visualize what they mean by “village“, as I do with concept maps and in my blog articles.

As I wrote above, the invitation process is on-going, and difficult.  However, unless organizers, leaders and intermediaries are using maps to show who is participating in their conferences, MOOCs, capacity building events, etc., we really won’t know who in the village is participating, and who still needs to be motivated to attend.

Furthermore,  unless the maps are created during, or after, every event, year-after-year,  we won’t know if the network is growing, who is represented, or if we have the right mix of talent needed to accomplish the work we are meeting to talk about.

Finding manpower to do this work will be a challenge. I think students in high schools and colleges can fill this important role, and build important leadership skills in the process.

NU cMap


In 2009 a Northwestern University alum who had served a one year fellowship with my organization, created this map showing groups within the university who had the ability to help tutor/mentor programs grow in Chicago. He posted the map in this blog article.

Using a map and database of these organizations, someone could be sending invitations to gather, share ideas and collaborate, on an on-going basis.  They could be creating SNA tools like TAGSExplorer to show who is participating and help them connect, while also using it to show who still needs to be nudged to attend.

To my knowledge, it’s not happening. I ran out of money to keep NU Public Service Fellows working with me after 2010.

I met with a volunteer coordinator at the University of Illinois at Chicago today, and he showed me a web site, with 20 or 30 student groups listed.  I showed him work interns have done with me in the past and I suggested to him that a student project could be to build a portal that invited members of those groups, and alumni of those groups, to gather and explore ways they could support the growth of tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, or any other issue that they choose to adopt with a long-term commitment.

Through my Twitter and social media networks I issue the same invitation on a regular basis to other universities in Chicago and around the world.

We face some pretty complex problems in Chicago, the USA and the world. Finding ways to bring a “village” of talent and networks together to try to solve these problems is important. Gathering together in on-line events like the Collaborative Curiosity MOOC is one way for busy people to connect, and stay connected, over many years.  Finding ways to motivate them to interact with each other, would be one step toward finding solutions to some of these problems.

Using SNA tools to map and analyze participation should be an important part of this process.