Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Persistent Poverty in America

My Twitter feed brought a new report to my attention this week. It's titled "Persistently poor, left-behind and chronically disconnected" and was written by Kenan Fikri who I've been following for a while.  (I'll use Persistent Poverty to refer to this report in the rest of this article.)

The map below was what caught my attention.  It shows areas of concentrated poverty in six Ohio cities.

For the past 30 years I've used maps to focus attention on areas of concentrated poverty in Chicago. In this set of MappingforJustice blog articles, I show other cities with the same challenges.  In the 1990s a book titled American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass written by Douglas S. Massey,  addressed this same issue.

Below are a few passages from the Persistent Poverty article that I highlighted. (click to enlarge). Go to the report to read this in context.

The abstract shows a focus on social networks and social capital and says "these problems tend not to resolve themselves naturally".    The second shows that hidden in affluent Cook County are several clusters of persistent poverty census tracts.  Two with over 200,000 residents."

This is not a new problem. This 1994 Chicago Tribune front page pointed to some of the same high poverty areas as are shown in the Persistent Poverty report. 

I formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago in 1993 (and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in 2011)  to try to help volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs grow in these areas as a strategy for expanding the networks of adults from beyond poverty areas who were helping kids through school.  I point volunteers and donors to these programs, through lists that I host on this page

In the Persistent Poverty report, one strategy was to expand networks of support and bridging social capital. 

This paragraph highlights the difference between "bonding" social capital which consists of strong ties between family, neighborhoods and/or church groups.  These are present in many high poverty communities.  What's not present are large doses of "bridging" social capital, which connect youth and families to people and opportunities and solutions beyond the place where they live.  

I've been writing about social capital on the Tutor/Mentor blog for many years. Add these articles to your research. 

The graphic below was created in the 1990s to show the design of the tutor/mentor program I led. It's a strategy designed to expand "bridging" social capital for K-12 youth and families in every high poverty area of Chicago and other cities with areas of concentrated poverty. 

The hub on this graphic represents a youth, a family, a school or a neighborhood. It shows a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program as a place that draws workplace volunteers from many different backgrounds to serve as one-on-one and group tutors/mentors to youth living in high poverty places of Chicago.  The timeline in the middle of the hub emphasizes the 20-plus years it takes to help each youth through school and into jobs where they can earn enough to raise their own kids free from poverty's challenges.  

The strategy I've emphasized has been to enlist leaders from every industry to use their own media, visibility and resources to draw volunteers and donors to tutor/mentor programs in all parts of a city, not just to one, or two, high profile programs. 

These two PDFs show this goal - Total Quality Mentoring  click here

Role of Leaders - click here

I've focused on cities because the geographic size makes it difficult for workplace volunteers to meet with kids during the school day, or right after school, because of the distance between work and program locations.  The after work and weekend hours are times when that volunteers is more able to stop at a neighborhood program and make an on-going commitment.

However, there are not enough long-term programs and there is inconsistent funding to build and sustain such programs.  Here's one of many articles where I focus on funding.  No solution will come without addressing the flow of dollars to these places!

However, as the map from the Persistent Poverty report shows, the problem of long-term poverty is not limited to cities and urban areas.

These two paragraphs emphasize the different history of places across the US and the lack of simple solutions.

Below is another graphic from my collection.  

It emphasizes the role each person can take to be part of a solution. If you've read this far, that means YOU!

Read the report. Here's the link again.

Update: I asked if there is an interactive map showing the Persistent Poverty data. There is. Follow the link in this post from Twitter (x): Using the interactive map you can zoom into the Chicago area, or any other place with high concentrations of poverty.  Look at it. Create your own map stories.

Then, share it with people in your network, so they read it and begin to think about roles they might take in helping more people become involved in efforts that make mentor-rich programs available in all of the high poverty areas shown on these maps.

Then visit this section of the Tutor/Mentor library and read additional reports about poverty, race and inequality in America, that I've been collecting for more than 20 years. 

In last Sunday's Super Bowl a group spent millions of dollars to purchase ads talking about Jesus.   I wish someone were spending the same money talking about the research I've been pointing to and mobilizing people to be volunteers, leaders and donors supporting youth tutor, mentor and learning programs in all high poverty areas of big cities across the country. 

And building a similar research library showing the different challenges of rural areas, reservations, and other places where solutions may be different than for big cities. Then, drawing readers and planners to that resource so they develop solutions.

And that they do it consistently for the next two decades.

What do you think?  Connect with me on social media. (see links here)

Help me pay the bills. Make a contribution to Fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. click here

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Explore STEM Visualizations for Stakeholder Conversations

Today I explored a robust data visualization site created by Argonne Labs in partnership with Northwestern University’s Digital Youth Network. The home page of the website is shown below. 

Click on any of the green circles and you'll open data tables for nine communities on Chicago’s south side, cataloguing STEM assets from Kindergarten to career. 

The nine focus communities are shown in the map on the home page.  Open this link and you'll find an interactive version.  Below are some map views that I created in just a few minutes.

Click on the "layers" tab and you will see a menu of choices for what you want to show on your map.  For instance.

This view shows community organizations in the area who offer various forms of STEM learning opportunities.  The orange circles show census data for each census tract in the nine community areas.

In the map view above I've clicked on an icon for the Chicago Youth Programs site at 5350 S. Prairie Ave.  You can see program information in the text box to the left of the map.  This is an organization I've know for many years and is also included in my list of Chicago area volunteer-based tutor, mentor and learning programs.

Below is a map view where I've clicked on the orange circle for the census tract with the Chicago Youth Programs location.  I asked for information showing the number of youth under age 18 in the area. The map shows 678 kids out of a population of 2152 in that census tract.

The next map view shows businesses, or potential employers, in the nine community areas.  Put your curser over any black dot and find information showing who that business is. Zoom in to see what businesses are in different census tracts. 

There is a lot to explore.  Here's an article about the platform, posted in the Block Club Chicago publication.

My question is, "How will it be used to make STEM learning and career opportunities available to youth through out the area?"  

I've met in the past two years with the people who created this platform and encouraged them to dig into the history of the Tutor/Mentor Connection and the tools and strategies we piloted from 1993 to 2011 to help volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs grow in the Chicago region.  This Mapping for Justice blog is a textbook for anyone who wants to use it that way. Just read some of the "strategy" articles. 

I started building a list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs in 1993 and at the same time began learning ways to use GIS mapping to show where the programs were located and where more were needed. We published our first Directory in May 1994 at the same time as we hosted our first networking conference.  We used the directory to launch citywide volunteer recruitment campaigns in August 1995.

In 2004 an intern from India built the first on-line Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, which was a searchable database shown below.  We had organized our annual survey in 1994 to learn who offers volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs, where they were located, what age group they served, and what type of tutoring and/or mentoring did they offer, as well as what time of day did they offer services.

The search fields on the Program Locator enabled people to search for specific programs based on the categories of our survey.  This worked like most search engines. If you had an idea of what you were looking for, and where, the platform helped you narrow your search and find tutor/mentor program information in that area.

In 2008 a team from India built a new version of the Program Locator. The home page is shown below. This works differently from Google. It starts with a map of a specific area, then shows layers of information, including our data on Chicago tutor, mentor programs.

At the left you can see layers of information that can be displayed on the map.  These layers included our data about Chicago tutor/mentor programs, but also included poverty data, poorly performing schools, and assets (businesses, faith groups, colleges, hospitals) etc.

Thus, you could create a map showing the entire city.

Or you could zoom in and create a map view showing a portion of the city.  

You could add text to the map to focus on specific organizations in various community areas.

You could follow news stories with map stories. On your map you could not only show existing tutor/mentor programs, but you could add layers showing businesses, hospitals, faith groups, universities who share the same geography and who should be innovative and strategic in helping mentor-rich non-school programs grow in the area. For each part of the city the mix of programs and assets is different.

The Program Locator is now only available as an archive.  However, you can see some of the features in this PDF essay.

How to Use Chicago Tutor/Me... by Daniel F. Bassill

One of the challenges of the STEM project is building public awareness and drawing people to the platform, then teaching them to create stories on a regular basis that draw even more people to the platform and motivate them to take actions that help kids in the area have access to mentor-rich STEM learning programs that provide on-going support as kids move from 1st grade through high school, college/tech school and into jobs and careers.

Since my organization did not have advertising dollars we developed a "Rest of the Story" strategy that followed media stories with maps that showed the neighborhood and pointed to tutor/mentor programs in the area (if any) and described the need for more programs.  Below is a mid 1990s example.

The STEM project leaders could duplicate this and other strategies that I've piloted over the past 30 years.  They are all on-line and available to anyone motivated to look.  They might even add some features and functionality to their platform based on what I have done, or tried to do. 

The Tutor/Mentor Blog is an even broader text book than the Mapping For Justice blog.  Think of the sections below as chapters, or courses in a learning curriculum.  

Public awareness - click here

Using maps - click here

Media strategies - click here

Follow up to violence - click here

Mentor role in larger strategy - click here

Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC website - click here

The challenge: Too much information.  

View this graphic in this article.  The ideas I share and websites I point to are a vast information ecosystem. It's like a university library or the library of different religious groups.  It can't be learned in a day. It needs to be part of on-going learning.

For that to happen major donors, perhaps MacKenzie Scott, need to provide money to fund programs within high schools and college that provide advance degrees for people who spend 10-20 years learning and applying these ideas.

Thanks for reading. Please share these ideas with leaders in Chicago and other cities.  Maybe you know one of these donors, or are one yourself.

Connect with me on social media platforms and share your own strategies and maps. Help build the network. Help the STEM network grow and reach more people. 

Finally, consider a year-end contribution to help me continue this work in 2024. Visit this page to use the PayPal.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Maptitude tools using GIS for regional economic planning

Below is a map view showing three cities in Oregon, using a mapping product from Maptitude.

This map is part of an article on LinkedIn titled "How to use GIS to look at changes in employment patterns".   

In the introduction the writer says "This article explores how to use GIS (geographic information software) in local or regional economics. Many times, local or regional governments, economic geographers or regional economists are asked to look at changes in employment patterns over a specific period within a particular geography (e.g., a city, township, or county) or between several geographies where a comparative analysis is required."

This is a detailed article with step-by-step instructions for building a map-view like shown above.  You may not feel comfortable doing this work yourself, but if you understand the potential, you can share the article with others who might be able to fund this type of work in your community. 

In my June 25, 2023 article titled "Where are non-school youth development programs most needed?" and in many other articles on this blog, I've encouraged the use of GIS software to do an analysis of community areas, similar to what is described in the Maptitude article, but different in purpose. 

Here are just a few articles I encourage you to read. 
In this article I show the concept map below. 

This concept map shows layers of data that need to be collected and mapped to not only show where tutor/mentor programs are most needed, based on indicators like poverty concentrations, poorly performing schools, violence, etc., but also to show assets (businesses, colleges, hospitals, faith groups, etc) who share the same geography and who should be leading efforts to make mentor-rich youth programs available to more K-12 kids.

This 1994 Chicago SunTimes article shows me with a student from the tutor/mentor program I led at that time. In the background is a map of Chicago, with high poverty areas highlighted.  I've been trying to harness this technology for nearly 30 years!

I've never been a GIS expert myself, thus always depended on volunteers or paid staff to make maps, and map stories for me.  Since these resources were inconsistently available, I never have been able to do the type of analysis described on the Maptitude site.  

Yet, I keep pointing to maps as tools that leaders in Chicago and other cities should be using.

Youth in non-school tutor/mentor programs, high schools and/or colleges could be learning to do this type of analysis and then sharing map stories to mobilize more people to become strategically involved in helping reach K-12 youth with on-going programs that expand their networks of "who they know" while helping them through school and into adult lives.

In these articles I outline a "Rest of the Story" strategy that young people, supported by professional mentors, could be leading. 

Please share my articles and help recruit people to do this work.  If you know groups who already do this, share their website and blog addresses in the comment section and introduce them to me on social media.

Thank you for reading.  Visit this page to find my social media platforms.

Visit this page to make a contribution to help me continue to share these ideas. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Pain and suffering around the world

Today I'm listening to news about the brutal terrorist attack in Israel, following the continuing Russian attack in Ukraine, and looking at headlines about kids killing kids in the USA.  

It's overwhelming.

A few years ago I posted a map showing disaster areas throughout the world.  Today I looked for updated information and found this detailed map on the Visual Capitalist website.

The Reliefweb website also has a map showing disasters around the world.  

As I look at the scale of these conflicts and natural disasters I ask, "How can I keep trying to help kids in  high poverty areas connect with tutors/mentors in organized, on-going non-school programs?"  That seems like such a small issue compared to these larger conflicts and disasters.

This is not a new concern for me.  Below is a graphic I created in the 1990s. 

This shows a goal of attracting a small percent of attention and philanthropy to youth tutor/mentor programs on a regular basis.

Below is another graphic that I created to show the need to divide attention and giving into slices of a pie so that a small percent goes to on-going problem solving, like helping kids entering 1st grade today be entering jobs/careers in 12 to 20 years.

Here's another. It uses the pie chart from the graphic shown at the top of this page, to emphasize how every non-profit youth program competes for a small, inconsistent, pool of donor dollars.

My goal has been to draw youth serving programs together in an on-going campaign that educates donors and increases the size of the pie, and motivates them to look for 1) where tutor/mentor programs are most needed; 2) choose a zip code you want to help; 3) look at websites for programs in that area to see what they do and what help they need; 4) then look in a mirror, and decide how, and how much, you want to help.

While we need to give attention to disasters and conflict around the world, and in America, we need to continue to devote a small slice of time and dollars to helping kids grow up safely and well-prepared to be leaders in their adult lives. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Where are non-school youth development programs most needed?

The Heartland Alliance released its latest data tables last week.  I wonder who in Chicago is using this information to understand where youth need extra help in the non-school hours, based on levels of poverty in their community area?  

Here's an example of the data available on their site

Below is the same table, along with maps that I created from other sources. The first one shows the North Lawndale area of Chicago. 

This second one shows the Albany Park community area.

I used data provided from the Heartland Alliance in 2011 and again in 2018 to create the presentation shown below.  It includes maps for each Chicago community area, with the total number of kids age 6 to 17 and the number who fall into the poverty level.

In the above graphic for the North Lawndale area I used a map showing shootings that had been published by the Chicago SunTimes, along with a map from the Program Locator (no longer available) that my organization created in 2008.

View the presentation below to see more examples of maps being used to help determine where non-school programs are needed, where existing programs are located, and where more are needed.

In early June I posted this article, asking who is doing research about youth program availability.  The two SlideShare presentations are examples of the type of analysis that needs to be done ... with much greater depth and professionalism than what I've been able to create.

Between 1993 and 2011 I operated as a non-profit organization and while funds were inconsistent we were able to pilot a process of collecting information about volunteer-based  youth tutor/mentor programs and segment that by age group served, type of program, and location.  We shared that via an on-line search table (created in 2004 and updated in 2008) which I show below.   

Since 2011 I've not been able to update or continue to develop this and now it's only available via the Internet Archive.  Had I been able to continue development we would have expanded the type of programs were were looking for, to include arts, technology and youth development categories.  

Furthermore, we would have built a fund-raising page, that would attract donors to different neighborhoods of Chicago, where websites of existing programs would provide information enabling volunteers, parents and donors to choose who to support.  I feel that creating the funding page was important because for a small organization one of the most difficult challenges of doing this work was collecting the data and keeping it up-to-date.  Having the site raise money for your organization would be a strong motivator for keeping data updated. 

Combining the fund raising feature with the maps of each community area was a strategy intended to drive resources to EVERY high poverty area of Chicago, not just the most visible areas, or the most well-known programs.

I described this fund raising strateg on this page.

The value.

Building a segmented, searchable, list of non-school youth serving programs would be a valuable resource for Chicago or any city. Helping those programs attract operating dollars and volunteers would help each program operate and constantly improve.

However, without the demographic information such as provided by the Heartland Alliance (and others that I show on this concept map), leaders, volunteers and donors don't know where programs are most needed.    Without providing the number of kids within a community area who live below the poverty line, it's impossible to gauge weather or not enough kids in each grade level are being served by existing programs.  Without segmenting the program list by type of program we might see a density of icons on a map, but still be not providing needed services in many places.

Finding a way to gather this data and use if for analysis is a huge challenge.

My hope is that philanthropists will fund work in Chicago and other cities that builds on the work my organization started in 1993 and that is shared in articles on this blog that extend back to 2008, and articles showing uses of maps that I share on the Tutor/Mentor blog, started in 2005.

Enough is Enough.

We continue to be reminded by daily media stories of the results from not having the type of support systems for too many youth that might offer hope and opportunity and serve as a disincentive for gangs, crime and violence.  

Tutor/Mentor programs are not quick fixes. Yet if leaders had embraced the strategies the Tutor/Mentor Connection was piloting in the 1990s and sustained them for the past 25 years, I feel that a lot fewer young people would be lost. 

What can you do?

If you've read this far, thank you.  As the graphic at the left illustrates, we're all able to access these articles via our computer and phones.  Start skimming through my archives. Share what you read with people in your network.  Help find the leaders and philanthropists needed to build this research capacity.

Create a new portal, available FREE via open source code, so that it can be adopted and used everywhere.   Create communities on social media where people creating and using these portals, and who are building tutor/mentor programs, can connect and learn from each other and build the public will needed to generate the flow of resources essential not only to support the platforms, but to support the thousands of youth tutor, mentor and learning programs that are needed in high poverty areas around the country.

If I can share this via a blog article, you can too!

I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Mastodon (see links here). Please follow me and introduce me to your friends. 

If you can help Fund the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC with a small contribution, please visit this page

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Who is doing research about youth program availability?

 If you've read articles on this blog, going back to 2008, you'll see that the Tutor/Mentor Connection (1993-present) and Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC (2011-present) have been trying to build a comprehensive, map-based, understanding of what non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor and learning programs exist in Chicago and where more are needed.  Over the past several years my capacity to do this work has been greatly reduced so I'm pleased to be able to point to others who seem to be filling this space.

Below is one slide from today's STEM Pathways Coop meeting, where Deanna Howlett of Northwestern University spoke to attendees about the Citywide State of STEM Landscape Survey.  

View the slides at this link.  Below is another slide from the presentation, showing the process intended to create understanding, and change, where change is needed.

I've shared ideas and strategies with those doing this research and participated in the meetings when they were on-line.  I look forward to more.

Today I did participate in an on-line webinar, hosted by, focused on Racial Equity.  Here's one Tweet that I shared during the event. 
Visit #BrookingsRacialEquity on Twitter and see my contributions and posts by others.   As I write this post and share my ideas on Twitter and other platforms I'm trying to model a practice that I wish thousands had been duplicating for the past 10 years.  

The Internet is a huge depository of information. But unless people are aggregating it in libraries like mine, or sites like, it will be difficult to organize learning communities that are needed to build understanding and public will necessary to impact public policy in America.   In addition to its blog and huge library of research articles you can find video archives of past webinars if you search in this section on the Brookings site. 

Share this information. Build learning circles.

You can be the YOU in this graphic by sharing my post and forwarding my Tweets, along with those of other people and organizations that I point to in my library and blog articles. 

Among many problems we face one big barrier is that there is "too much information".  We need people collecting the information, but we also need people evangelizing and trying to get growing number of people to look at the information that's been collected. Then we need even more people who are facilitating understanding and helping people connect and work together to implement solutions, in places where data maps show more people need extra help.  Colleges, public schools and faith based organizations have been doing this for centuries.  We need to duplicate that process and that requires some major benefactors who make long-term investments.

I've written several hundred articles on the Tutor/Mentor blog, that just focus on this "learning" process. Here's one.  

The Step 3 graphic above is part of this concept map, showing 4 strategies that I've followed since starting the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.  I invite others to build their own version and apply this in their own work.

Thanks for reading. I hope you'll borrow from what I share here, on the Tutor/Mentor Blog and on the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC website.  Create your own versions. Share your own maps and blog articles. Teach others to do the same.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Mastodon.  

If you want to help fund my work, visit this page and send a small contribution.

If you want to adopt this work and embed it in your university, I'd love to hear from you.