Influence-stepsFor the past 23 years I’ve been attempting to build a knowledge base that would be used by resource providers,  policy makers, non profit leaders, volunteers and youth to support the growth of non-school tutoring, mentoring learning programs reaching youth in high poverty areas of big cities like Chicago.

In most cases, people don’t even know what I’m talking about.  Thus, I’m always excited when I find articles that reflect some of the challenges I’ve faced over the years.

I found an article today titled “Collaborative Knowledge Mapping” written by an engineer based in London.  The author describes his frustration with existing knowledge-sharing resources and his own efforts to build something that would work well for his own company.  I hope you’ll read it.

In one paragraph he wrote, “But in reality, the way our brains reach different domains of knowledge is by navigating a network of domains, so different people will access their domain ‘rabbits’ by a myriad of different paths. Notably: carrots.”

It reminded me of this PDF presentation that I created a few years ago to show how the ideas we collect and put in our knowledge libraries should inspire on-going improvement in the actions of organizations throughout the sector.  In this article, a “carrot” is an idea, or piece of information, that others can use to help solve a problem.  Collecting, organizing, sharing and giving attention to such “carrots” on an on-going basis represent huge challenges, but great potential.


I’ve never had much help building the Tutor/Mentor Connection web library . I started collecting information in 1973 that I found useful in helping me with my own work as a volunteer tutor in Chicago, and later as the leader of a volunteer based program., and then I tmc-1998began to share it with peers.

When volunteers helped me launch my first web site in 1998, this graphic was used to illustrate they different types of information and talent we were trying to connect with each other, and ourselves.

I started using concept maps to visualize strategy and show sections of the web library in 2005.

Thus, I’ve been building a knowledge base driven by the needs of the work I was doing. At the same time, I’ve been sharing this with others, who do similar work in Chicago and other places. In doing so, I’ve also been collecting new information to add to the library.

The challenges described in the “Collaborative Knowledge Mapping” article are challenges I recognize. However my biggest challenge is finding others who understand what I’m doing, value the work, and who are interested in helping me build this system and make it work, now, and into the future.

I sent an email to introduce myself to the author of this article. In it I said “Every major city in the world has areas of concentrated poverty where youth are isolated and which are breeding grounds for crime, and now terrorism.”  Thus every city should be trying to build a knowledge base that people use to innovate solutions to this problem.

I post this message so any reader might forward it to people in their own cities who might want to start a conversation with me, or who might want me to be part of their own conversations.

NOTE: after posting this article earlier today I came across this article showing silos that reduce organizational effectiveness.  This is one more argument for an effective knowledge base available to all stakeholders working in the social sector.