Below is a graphic that I’ve been sharing for many years on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC web site and my blogs.  While I focus this process on making mentor-rich, non-school tutor, mentor and learning programs available in all high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities, I feel the process applies to other issues.FormLearningCircles

I’ve numbered different sections of the graphic.

  1. If we want to solve problems we need to get more people than ourselves involved in doing the research needed to understand the problem, potential solutions and then to innovate and develop solutions.  Forming #LearningCircles is a way to describe this.
  2. The big circle on the graphic represents the information available to you to help you solve the problem you are interested in solving.   While you can do a Google search to find information about any problem, you may not know where to start and what to look for. Thus, people who are building information libraries related to specific issues, provide a valuable resource that anyone interested in that problem can use.


If you do a Google search for “tutor/mentor” and any of the terms on this word cloud, you’ll find articles that I’ve posted over the past 20 years related to that part of what you’d need to know to understand and try to solve any problem.

You can also open this concept map, and find a tool you can use to navigate sections of my web library.

3. Form Learning Circles within affinity groups.  The graphic below shows an organizational chart for a business or any non-profit youth program.


Sadly, most non profit youth programs don’t have the money to hire people to fill all of these roles. Too few people are trying to do too much, and do things they don’t really have the skills to do. Yet, having this infrastructure in place is what helps make an organization effective at what it does.

Thus, as you look at the skills categories on this chart, think of what might be possible if professionals who had these skills began to volunteer their talent to  help one, or more, non-profits fill that role. Then, imagine someone forming a learning circle, gathering people who do volunteer, along with others in the industry who might volunteer, or help in other ways, to discuss what works, what does not work, what programs are you helping, are there more that need help, what ways can we as an industry do more to help this type of program be available throughout the city where we work or live?

Building-Connecting-villagesOver time this could lead to maps in each affinity group, with icons showing places where their members are involved as volunteers, infrastructure support, board members, and/or donors.  If such a strategy is in place for many years, the map should begin to show more and more programs in places where they are most needed, with help being provided by this affinity group.

4)  Will YOU take this role?  Anyone can use their social media, blogs, face2face networking, etc. to invite people they know to gather and become a learning circle focused on helping kids, or focused on helping solve any other problem that needs solving.

If you’re doing this, I encourage you to share your thinking and process so others can learn from you.  If you’re interested, I encourage you to browse articles about #learning, #network building, #network analysis, #systems thinking, etc. on the Tutor/Mentor blog.


Finally, can you help me do this work? Visit my FUND ME page and make a contribution.