Most people would have said “Same Problems. New Solutions.” But to me, that’s part of the problem. I created the graphic above in the 1990s and I’ve used it every year since then. Here’s what the graphic is visualizing.
Far right: A map of Chicago with overlays showing where poverty is most concentrated. These are the neighborhoods where volunteer-based tutoring, mentoring and other forms of learning and support are needed. They are neighborhoods that require a consistent flow of resources, for many years, to help kids move 12 years from 1st grade to 12th grade and another few years to when they are anchored in jobs and starting careers.
To the left of the map, is a large circle, with a timeline across the middle. This circle represents many things. It represents a child needing support, a family, a youth program, etc. It also represents a library of information. When I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993 the goal was to
“gather and organize all that is known about successful non-school tutoring/mentoring programs and apply that knowledge to expand the availability and enhance the effectiveness of these services to children throughout the Chicago region.”
This concept map illustrates a process of gathering information (step 1) and increase viewing (step 2) and understanding (step 3) of that information so that more people will use time, talent and dollars (step 4) in ways that help needed programs and support be available to youth and families in every high poverty neighborhood shown on a map of Chicago or any other city.
Let me emphasize, that while my library focuses on Chicago and issues related to poverty, education, youth and workforce development, and challenges of operating an effective non-profit, this process applies anywhere, to any complex problem.
So, let’s take another look at the graphic shown at the top of this article. To the left of the big circle, and below it, are two sets of related actions.
First, by writing this article, I’m encouraging other people to read it and use the information. I’m also encouraging them to share the article, and links to my web sites, with people in their own personal, professional, faith, alumni and social networks.
Second, I’m encouraging people to form study groups, like Bible study, or college, or business research and development, where they use the information in the library, or in my blog articles, as discussion topics and innovate solutions. By learning more about the problem, how others are already trying to solve it, where it is concentrated, and ways they can help, people can do more to help solve the problem. We can build upon existing solutions and help them mature and get better.
We don’t need to constantly create and feed new solutions while starving those that were new in past years.
Since helping kids from 1st grade to 12th grade takes so long, and requires many different supports (see map), involvement in this effort needs to be constantly encouraged, reinforced and renewed.
In fact, just doing the research, finding resources and talent, then launching a needed service, and growing it into a great program, requires a few years of support…before that service begins to have maximum desired impact.
As people look at my articles and graphics and the links in the Tutor/Mentor web library, and start to think about them, one next step is to create their own visual interpretation of an idea. The graphic at the right was created by an intern from South Korea after she spent time looking at the graphic at the top of the page.
She turned my single graphic into two graphics. The one above focused on building learning groups in different sectors and focusing on maps that show where services are needed and also point to service providers that already operate in some of these areas, who need a constant flow of talent, ideas and dollars to become great, and stay great.
The second graphic, at the left, visualizes the idea of groups learning from information in the library and from each other.
Interns have been creating their own interpretations of ideas I launched in printed newsletters in 1993 and on the Internet in 1998, since 2005. You can view a complete collection here.
If you compare the map in this 1994 Chicago Tribune story to current maps showing poverty concentrations, locations of poorly performing schools, health disparities, violence, etc. you’ll see that for many people, not much has changed.
Maybe part of the reason is that too few have been looking at the information that is already available to them, and have been using it to build and sustain needed programs in more of these areas. Here’s a link to a blog article that shows categories in the library and provides links to each category and to visualizations and articles that I point to throughout the year.
Thus, I start another year with a commitment to try to help existing youth programs and support services stay in place and improve, while helping new programs fill areas where none now exist. I renew my commitment to maintain the information library, add new links as I find them, share ideas with others, and look for conversations where I can help people understand what’s available to them, or help them take roles that motivate others to get involved, and/or, stay involved.
If you’d like to help me, visit this page and make a contribution. In 2011 I created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to continue operating the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago, and help other cities develop their own version. So far, I’ve not found a way to generate revenue to cover my own expenses, so your help is needed.
However, I’m now 71 and don’t know how many more years I have left on this earth. Thus, I’m looking for others who will join me now, learn what I’m doing, learn what’s in the library, then begin to take this responsibility from me so it continues (and grows in impact) in future years. Connect with me on one of these social media platforms if that might be you or your organization.