Monday, December 7, 2009

November Conference Brings Leaders Together - Who Will Put The Maps To Use?

At the end of November, leaders and professionals from all over the country came together at 2009's second Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference to discuss strategies and share knowledge that can improve the reach and success of tutoring/mentoring programs in our nation's high-poverty neighborhoods. (It's a bi-annual event, so head to the conference website to see how you can get involved with the next one this coming May.)

(National participants are mapped below... expand either map by clicking on it.)

All together the event drew 156 people to its workshops.

Some speakers shared knowledge about working/volunteering with students themselves... but other topics included non-student-related issues that need to be considered when operating a non profit tutor/mentor program... topics such as fundraising, volunteer recruitment, networking, and the use of new technologies...

... like, of course MAPS!

I got a chance to showcase my maps, coach others in the usefulness of our mapping innovations, and most importantly, I got to meet potential users face to face and brainstorm about ways our maps might help leadership visualize and take action for their own tutoring/mentoring needs.

When I asked this past fall, when politicians came out verbally, in support of mentoring as a way to address our teen violence problem, "Who Will Tell Government We Have The Tools They Need?!" ... it was a call to action for people who want to help us expedite the time-constricted process of making/maintaining the tools, while ALSO getting the word out to busy people who don't know the tools exist, but are otherwise in a position to make use of them.

We can only do so much alone. We don't know everyone.

We are always in pursuit of that magic moment when someone thinks "Whoa... I know [person in position of power who can really use their political or financial influence to connect these map tools and strategies to others with the power to put the strategies in motion]!"

So maybe one of participants who came from the Chicago area walked away with an idea about who in their network would be able to help us connect our strategies and technologies to local leaders who have the power to make a huge difference.

But when we talk about the big picture, we're talking nationally as well. Chicago isn't the only place with problems related to poverty. There are students everywhere who would benefit from additional tutoring/mentoring.

Thankfully, people from outside the Chicago area attend the conferences as well.

Which is exciting. Because people who talk to me from outside Chicago always have the same question: "Can Tutor/Mentor Connection's Mapping For Justice technologies can be modified/implemented in my city?" (The woman from New Orleans in the map above asked me this at the conference and we were able to discuss. )

The answer is always pretty much the same: It is indeed our goal to help programs grow in every community they are needed. But again, we can only do so much and we don't know everyone.

Hopefully contacts like this woman from New Orleans will be the missing conduit that connects necessary resources and leadership in her back yard to our model, tools, and strategies.

We can provide the tools and we can share lots of knowledge. (We can even provide the talent to make this work in New Orleans if someone out there can fund it.)

But others need to step up.

Please consider being a part of May 2010's Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference ... and meantime, please think about who in your network has the means to connect our tools to politically and financially powerful people.

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