Monday, December 12, 2011

Maps communicate information in unique ways

This map shows broadband availability in the United States. Availability is defined as at least 3 mbps download and 768 kbps upload speeds. This is from a Broadband Availability web site. When you live in a big city like Chicago you tend to take broadband access for granted. This map show that many places in America don't have such luxury.

This is just one more example of how mapping data can help make it easier to connect people from different places with a common understanding of a problem that affects people all over the country.

At the Tutor/Mentor Blog my article of 12/12/11 includes a map showing drop out high schools in Illinois. We need significantly more resources to map this information in all the ways we want, and to create the advertising and public awareness needed to get millions of people looking at this information.

Can you help? Click here to see how you can help.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Building Partnership with other countries - Jellyweek

I've been connecting with a group of social entrepreneurs from around the world in a Facebook group. Their aiming to build a project during Jellweek2012, which will be January 16-22, 2012. The map below shows project locations around the world and is another demonstration of how mapping can be used to connect people and create understanding.

View WORLDWIDE #JELLYWEEK /// January 16 to 22 2012 in a larger map

While I've been contributing ideas to the group on Facebook I've also been reaching out to mentoring networks around the country as well as my peers in Chicago because January is National Mentoring Month. A map like this could be a platform for people from different places to show where they participated in a tutor/mentor program. It could also be a tool that existing programs could use to show where they operate.

To learn more about Jellyweek, click here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Building Partnership with other cities

This map shows high schools with high drop out rates in Sacramento, CA. It comes from this web site.

We've been creating maps of poverty and poorly performing schools in Chicago since 1993 as part of a 4-part strategy aimed at helping volunteer-based, mentor-rich, non-school youth programs grow in high poverty neighborhoods. This Tutor/Mentor Connection web site was built by the technology department of IUPUI in Indianapolis, as part of an effort to help the T/MC strategy grow in that city.

As we look to the next five years we've created the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to support the growth of the T/MC and our mapping project in Chicago. However, our goal is to build partnerships with non-profits, businesses and universities in other cities, that enable us to share our ideas and technology as part of organizations led by leaders in these cities. Such partnerships provide local ownership and funding to support local actions, but provide revenue and fees to the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC to support what we do in Chicago and the way we manage this web library and share it at no-cost to others around the world.

If you can help develop this strategy please review the planning wiki and contact Dan Bassill via Linked in, Twitter, Facebook, or Skype.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More ideas for mapping and using GIS

This is an article showing Digital Mapping approaches that appeared on the Georgetown Commons.

If we can attract the attention of universities and companies already committed to mapping perhaps we can find partners, volunteers and investors to build our own mapping capacity and role it out to cities all over the world.

Can you help?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making Maps Guide

I hosted a 38th Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference in Chicago this week. As with every conference I showcased some of the maps that Tutor/Mentor Connection created in past years. This image shows the home page of a Map Gallery that Mike Trakan created to shows maps he created from 2008 through March 2011 while we had the money to have him as part of the T/MC paid staff.

This PDF shows how Chicago area volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs can add or update their information in the Program Locator.

This PDF shows how youth and volunteers, or development officers in non profits, can create their own maps and embed them in blogs or grant requests.

This PDF describes how youth interns and volunteers can use maps to build greater public attention and more consistent support for tutor/mentor programs.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Maps and What's Possible

A couple of years ago the Social Edge forum hosted a discussion titled "Maps and What's Possible" featuring the Tutor/Mentor Connection's uses of maps. That's not the first time our use of maps have received attention.

 This is the front page of a 1999 story in the URISA Newsletter (see pdf). In 2004 our use of maps was nominated for a Global Innovation Award, as described in this pdf.

 In 1995 our strategy was described as a "Master plan for saving youth" in this Chicago Tribune article.

 Our mapping strategy is outlined in this wiki and I'm looking for partners, volunteers, investors and benefactors to help us develop this strategy so it can be applied in big cities all over the world, as well as in other social benefit sectors.

 Can you help us find these resources?

Monday, October 3, 2011

SunTimes series focuses on neighborhood of NBA Star

For the past week feature articles in the Chicago SunTimes have focused on the gangs and violence in the Englewood area of Chicago, near where Chicago Bulls Star Derrick Rose grew up. This was one article.

In the Tutor/Mentor Blog I used this same map, and pointed to a parallel story from Maywood, where a teen was killed while sleeping as a result of a run-away car that crashed into her home. The drive of that car had been shot.

In another set of articles I've been writing about sports and teamwork and showing how athletes could be "coaching" fans to support the growth of a wide range of youth serving organizations in different neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities.

The map at the right is one that was signed by nearly a dozen high profile athletes almost 15 years ago, showing their interest in an "adopt a neighborhood" concept that I have been trying to build support for. I'd like to find a sports writer who would want to champion this and other Tutor/Mentor Institute ideas. I can't carry this ball all by myself.

I also can't continue to host this map-resource without finding a sponsor/partner or benefactor to provide at least $50k a year to staff the project and support the continued upgrade of the technology and the data. Just one NBA or NFL star who wants to have a career beyond playing days is all this needs to become a beacon of hope for youth throughout every NBA city.

If you're interested why not come to the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago on Friday, Nov. 4. See details at

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mapping since 1994

This story appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times in 1994 when I was first launching the Tutor/Mentor Connection. It's one of many stories that have been written since then. See an archive on the Tutor/Mentor Institute web site.

Here's a couple of places where the mapping strategies have been described.

Story of Tutor/Mentor Connection – MapTogether

Social Edge Maps and What's Possible, June-July 2009

Many of the media stories were the result of the conferences I've hosted every six months since 1994. The next is November 4 and will be held at the Metcalfe Federal Building. I hope you can attend and I hope you or others will write about this so we can create new stories and new interest and investment in this strategy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mapping the ideas around the maps

This is a map I created today using Debategraph.

This is a way to connect the ideas I share on blogs, and other web sites I manage with a vast world of other people who share concern about the same issues.

Maybe you can find a use for this tool, too.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

London Riots - Use of Maps

For the past few days disaffected youth in London and other UK cities have been rioting. This map shows the correlation between poverty and these incidents.

This is the first interactive poverty map that I've found for London. The map was posted in this blog. Here's the full-size interactive version. This map is created on a platform called MapTube, which is a product of the work undertaken by the Geographic Virtual Urban Environments (GeoVUE) team based at University College London's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA).

I'm not sure the creators have the same goal for their maps as we do with the maps we have crated at the Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC, but I'd like to connect to see if there are ways we might collaborate.

Note: On the Social Edge forum Charles Cameron shared these links that he posted on UK blogs to encourage readers to take a look at the Tutor/Mentor Institute's map strategies.

post on "This is London" article

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Market Research - collecting info

Since 1993 the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been collecting information about volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago and its suburbs. Our initial aim is to know what organizations provide these services, who they serve, what age group, what type of tutoring and/or mentoring and where they are located.

In 2004 we created an interactive portal that people can use to search our database. This graphic shows what it looks like.

In 2008 we created an interactive map that would show where these programs are in the region, and show where they are most needed based on high poverty or poorly performing schools. The map below was created using this feature.

Now we're trying to find sponsors and partners who will help us maintain this service and keep it free to users. With help we can upgrade the technology, provide more training, build greater awareness and more use and make this service available to other cities. If you can help join the GIS planning group on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interactive World Map - nice!

We're always inspired to see how others are creating maps to help build better understanding. This map web site is one that I encourage you to browse.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mapping Actions

This graphic represents the vision of Dan Bassill and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) which began to pilot a use of maps in 1993.

This shows a cycle of collecting information about non-school, volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs operating in the Chicago region, and using maps to show where these programs are most needed, based on poverty, poorly performing schools, violence, etc. The strategy is based on what big companies like Sears, WalMart, Bank of America, etc do to support thousands of branch locations with central organizing, planning and advertising strategies.

The T/MC wants to help high-quality, constantly improving tutor/mentor programs reach kids in high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other urban areas in the USA and the world.

We have never had enough resources to do this so the graphic on the chart shows some actions that we do, but not with enough impact, and some actions that we will do when we find investors and partners to help us. We outline the GIS strategy on this WIKI along with other complementary strategies that make our use of maps unique.

If you want to help implement this strategy in Chicago, or in your own city, please email and offer your time, talent and/or dollars. We cannot do as much working alone as we can with the help of others who might benefit from what we're trying to do.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Process Maps and more

The Tutor/Mentor Connection seeks to use more forms of visualization than just geographic maps. This map shows participation in a Tutor/Mentor Connection conference. It is one of several conference Social Network Analysis (SNA) maps that you can see here.

These I-Open process maps provided by Betsey Merkel are very good.

Here are maps showing the process of ...culture building, one aspect of the I-Open Civic Forum Process

Here are maps showing a timeline and repeating activities

View the various slides and you'll see many examples of applying social network analysis to understand how groups are forming around common purpose. We have been doing this for 18 years but don't have the capacity to demonstrate this yet due to lack of funding. We do have donated software that interns have been trying to learn. You can follow our progress in this forum.

The maps Bestsy has created demonstrate what the Tutor/Mentor Connection would be doing if it had the philanthropic support needed. We'd go a step further and apply these concept maps to the process of building volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in all poverty areas of the Chicago region and helping more k-12 youth finish school prepared for 21st century jobs and careers.

Can you help us find that support?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rosland raises $2 million for Promise Neighborhood

I read an article in Catalyst Notebook today about the Roseland Children's Promise Zone, a project that will coordinate educational and social services for young people in the far South Side community.

This is one of the maps we've created in the past, showing the Roseland neighborhood, and showing how leaders such as the Rev. James Meeks, could be supporting the growth of youth serving organizations in the area.

I hope the group leading this effort has found and used these maps. We've not had any contact from them, so don't know if they are planning to incorporate maps and marketing into their efforts to build a distribution of k-12 support programs and services in the area.

We'd be available to help if someone can help us raise the money to keep this service available to Chicago.

We're hosting a Tutor/Mentor Conference on May 19 and 20, 2011 in Matteson, Il. We've tried to spread the word to people in Roseland and other neighborhoods that need Promise Zone strategies. So far we're just too small a voice to be heard.

Spread the word if you want to help.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Collective action in South Suburbs

This is a map showing the South part of Chicago, the South Suburbs and Northern Indiana. If you compare this to other maps on this blog you can see that there are many concentrations of high poverty in the city, and in the suburbs.

Yet, if you look at the Chicago Program Links section, we don't show many volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in these areas. Furthermore, if you compare the web sites of organizations we show, to this list of features we feel a tutor/mentor program web site should include, you'd see that some need help in telegraphing that they are a tutor/mentor program and why they are needed in the neighborhood they serve.
We're holding a Tutor/Mentor Conference in Matteson, Il. on May 19 and 20, which is right in the middle of this area. It's intended to connect people and organizations who are concerned about poverty and want to do more to make high-quality, mentor-rich programs available in many parts of the region.

As of today the registration is less than 60 people.

Margaret Mead said "a few people can change the world" and maybe this is all that's needed. However, if you're in this part of the Chicago region and want to change the way poverty impacts you and other people in this region, I encourage you to try to attend, or to be an evangelist and encourage other people to attend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Different kind of maps

Most of the articles and graphics on this site use traditional maps, showing the Chicago region and places where volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs are needed.

However, the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been creating many different types of maps, showing the ways people might get involved to help tutor/mentor programs grow, or the range of information we host on our web sites to support involvement by an infinity of people and organizations.

This graphic is from a Trailmeme web site that enables visitors to map the path they take through the internet to discover information. In this case, a volunteer from the UK has built a map showing a progression of places in the Tutor/Mentor Connection library that she has located, and which she is sharing to help others follow and learn more about the T/MC and its resources.

When you go to this site, double click on each graphic and see how it points to a section and/or article on the T/MC web site. For instance, when you double click on "where to start" you go to this page.

See more uses of maps and graphics on this site.

Monday, April 18, 2011

CHA relocations - still in poverty

I'm Dan Bassill, President of the Tutor/Mentor Connection. I'm guest writing articles on the Mapping for Justice blog while we look for financial support to add a part time map-maker back onto our staff.

This map was part of a Chicago Tribune story from Friday, April 15, 2011 that you can read here. The dark blue areas are the former locations of Cabrini Green, Henry Horner and Rober Taylor CHA high rises. It shows that the neighborhoods receiving the largest number of displaced residents are in Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Woodlawn, Roseland and Englewood. If you view some of the maps we've created, or use the Interactive Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator to create your own map, you'll see that these are neighborhoods with high poverty, high numbers of homicides, large numbers of poorly performing schools, and very few mentor-rich non-school tutor/mentor programs.

Our goal is to use this information to increase the number of volunteers and donors who help non-school tutor/mentor programs grow in high poverty areas. For us to do that we need philanthropic investors who will support our efforts so that we can keep this map-based resource available to Chicago and continue hosting May and November Leadership and Networking Conferences to help programs grow.

I've created some videos that show the Tutor/Mentor Connection strategy. I hope you'll view them and show them to people who might support our efforts, and the efforts of tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New layer of info on T/MC maps

Mike Trakan added a new layer of information to the Interactive Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator maps, showing 2010 homicides. This is a map created in just a few minutes, that I imported to Adobe Photoshop, then converted to a JPG and put in this article and one at the Tutor/Mentor Blog.

Mike added this feature this week, even though he was laid off a week ago, due to lack of philanthropy donations to fund the Tutor/Mentor Connection and our mapping project.

I hope you'll browse the articles Mike has written over the past three years and see how important his contribution has been to the T/MC and to helping volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago get more visibility, and hopefully, more volunteers and operating resources. You can also visit the Map Gallery that Mike created to host the maps he has made.

We were able to bring Mike on staff in January 2008 and rebuild our mapping capacity thanks to a $50,000 donation from an anonymous donor. That money ran out in mid 2009 so we've not been able to update the program locator or do some of the technology improvements we know need to be made. Until we can find new philanthropic investors to support the T/MC we seek volunteers who will help us maintain the map project, as they did between 2000 and 2008.

If you can help just call 312-492-9614 or email Dan Bassill at tutormentor 2 at earthlink dot net.

If you're looking to hire a really creative map-maker, Mike would be your man.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blog at MapAdvocates talks about T/MC

Here's a blog article by MapAdvocates talking about way Tutor/Mentor Connection is applying them in Chicago. Take a look and share this with others.

Monday, February 28, 2011

As "Offshoring" Loses Popularity and "Onshoring" Trends, Am I Crazy to Propose "Urbansourcing"?

It seems corporations have started to recognize over the past decade that outsourcing American jobs to foreign labor pools is not the money-saving no-brainer it originally seemed to be.

A few years back, Stephanie Overby at went to great detail to show how businesses, in their rush to save money, probably overlooked or didn’t anticipate many “hidden costs” of outsourcing (aka "offshoring").

Specifically, she details the costs and challenges that pop up when working with colleagues half a world away. For instance, there are hassles related to managing foreign workers; never-ending travel expenses in all directions; the costs of transitioning technology, architecture, and knowledge while operations continue at home; the emotional and financial costs of layoffs and retention bonuses; the time it takes to adjust to different cultures (laws, business practices, ethics, and communication challenges); delays and problems that need to be addressed from many time-zones away; new quality assurance and testing needs… on and on. In the end, not many companies succeeded in saving gobs of money, and many have refocused on the home front in their ongoing search for new ways to save on labor costs.

This all reminded me of a question I've had from time to time while working on this Mapping For Justice project; a question that I’ve posed before to different community leaders, mentoring leaders… friends and family who dabble with economics… and even complete strangers on a couple occasions:

Why couldn’t some corporate mastermind find a way to cut labor costs by grooming “cheap” labor available right down the street, right here in our city?

Last I looked there were a lot of people who could probably use a minimum-wage gig, and if the “hidden costs” of offshoring the labor make it somewhat of a wash, are companies currently looking to develop our students right here in our backyard, to take on some menial jobs like customer service? I know as a Chicagoan, I’d rather talk with someone who knew my city, my culture, and the nuances of my problems, while feeling good that companies were putting money into the pockets of local consumers, which in turn helps our struggling local economy instead of, say, India’s.

Or Arkansas’s.

Now that companies are coming back to the United States to replenish their staffs, CNN reports that “some companies are starting to eye job-hungry areas of the country as prime candidates for the kind of outsourced work that once would have gone overseas.”

“Ruralsourcing” or “onshoring,” the story tells us, “recruits workers from minimum-wage jobs and gives them intensive training in IT specialties.” Mentoring in rural America!

If this is any indication, it seems companies aren't thinking solely about "menial" jobs when looking at places in the United States to develop workers from "minimum-wage" skill sets.

And really, why should they set their sights low? I have worked with some CPS high school students like Sean at Cabrini Connections tutor/mentor program’s Tech Club (a club where students from Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green neighborhood meet each week to learn marketable tech skills), who are perfectly capable of rising to any challenge I have faced in the corporate sector.

Socially-responsible and forward-thinking companies would be foolish to look thousands of miles beyond the Seans living right down their road.

In 2005, Russ Finney wrote an article in which he observed that “companies must keep a talent base close to home to remain innovative. Educational institutions still need to meet the emerging requirements for skilled entry-level IT talent.”

He continued, “already companies are preparing to refill their downturn diminished entry labor pool with a new wave of IT recruits. These companies need to get the word out to ensure an adequate supply of graduates.”

Some companies aren't focusing their recruiting efforts on Ivy League schools either. Indeed, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been frequenting community and 4-year colleges because they want “to encourage more 20-somethings to get a post-high school degree or certificate before starting a family … The foundation's overall higher education goal is to double the number of low-income adults who get a degree or certificate beyond high school by age 26.”

Why is this important to Mr. and Mrs. Gates' philanthropy?

While the press releases and reports focus on social and charitable benefits, I can’t imagine that Microsoft hasn’t recognized the potential shared value that would come from increasing the number of students who move from every walk of life into college and onto career, and in turn increase the number of Seans who have a need for (and a way to pay for) new computers and occasional MS operating system upgrades.

In the end, of course, business has a choice in how they want to invest in their human resources. By no means, as an IT professional do I love the fact corporations have looked into solutions like outsourcing to save costs, and in turn crippling the purchasing power of and confidence of many qualified American workers, even as the cost of living in a city like Chicago shows no signs of slowing down.

The more I read and the more I think about it, though, I can’t help but believe there are creative solutions out there, rooted in simultaneously solving our economic, workforce development, and education crises, all while creating long-term shared value for some brilliant business mind.

Maybe I'm crazy to pitch “urbansourcing” and a support-system that includes a closer look at tutoring/mentoring?

Or maybe it's the next big trend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Where Each Chicago Mayor Candidate Stands on Education and Mentoring

"Government can’t do everything you want it to do. ... That’s why you have partnerships with non-for-profits and profit organizations." – Mayor Richard M. Daley, 2/9/2011

Chicago’s voters will choose a new mayor for the first time in over 20 years this coming week. I found surveys online that puts each candidate’s ideas about education in their own words.

If you live here, you probably don't need my maps to tell you that Chicago is dealing with a crisis of poor school/student performance. In fact, I can't personally remember the last time I saw a news story that framed Chicago's public schools in a light that didn't include failing, closing, mismanagement or crime.

Against this backdrop, I have written a lot of articles for Mapping For Justice that supplement the ongoing negative news with stories of hope, showing cases where tutor/mentor programs are helping some of these communities, and advocating for leadership to build tutor/mentor support in areas where our kids need as much help as possible.

I have also come to believe, based on my research, that poorly-prepared students become poorly-prepared adults and eventually becomes a taxpayer burden for everyone. For this reason, I feel this is an issue voters should not ignore when choosing Chicago's next leader.

Recently, Cabrini Connections program leader Dan Bassill wrote, "I wish voters in Chicago were holding the Mayor and other elected officials accountable for what they do to improve student learning ... voters and leaders need to do their own homework to know more about the poverty gap, and why it is a critical issue that affects all of us, not just the poor."

So with that said, my intention today is NOT to endorse a particular candidate. Instead it is to share the links to the education surveys I just read, so you too can take a look at each candidate's proposed plan - in their own words. So we can do our homework.

I've listed the candidates in alphabetical order, and highlighted moments in the surveys that I feel might relate on some level to tutoring/mentoring (the theme to my maps). Oh and of course, I've added a few maps. Click on these to see how maps make elected leaders more effective!

Carol Moselely Braun

* Read her full survey here.
* Read a recent MFJ article that features Braun here.

Braun reminds us of her support as Senator for "Midnight Basketball programs, which brought local youth together with local police officers." This is as close as she gets to discussing tutoring/mentoring programs.

Much of her plan focuses on what she believes needs to happen in the schools. For instance, she calls for an expanded curriculum that includes courses students find attractive, to can keep them from dropping out. She also wants to add vocational training to the curriculum, to "provide students with the skills to be more competitive in the workforce and less likely to join gangs."

It makes sense that the majority of a candidate's policy would be focused on the schools. After all that's where the students get the bulk of their academic and social training. However, I wonder if these candidates have looked into using non-school mentoring programs that could give a boost to their efforts to keep students in school, on a path toward the workforce, and away from gangs.

Braun does suggest that her administration "will coordinate social services to meet such needs that transcend teachers' ability to resolve, such as homelessness, hunger, poverty and traumatic home environments," so maybe the connection will eventually happen.


Gery Chico

* Read his full survey here.
* Read a recent MFJ article that features Chico here.

Chico regrets that the afterschool programs he accomplished as President of the Board of Education "have been scaled back and in some cases, eliminated." These programs "gave nearly 200,000 CPS students alternative and constructive things to do."

Indeed, the city budget is a mess, so I hope when he suggests that "by partnering with community organizations ... we can leverage resources to reduce costs," he's aware that there is an existing network of tutor/mentor programs Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) has in their directory that are also currently giving CPS students "constructive things to do."


Miguel Del Valle

* Read his full survey here.

A former CPS student, with a community organizing background, Del Valle says, "I am inspired by efforts where neighbors, churches, and other partners work together to ensure the safety of our children. I will encourage and support all such programs in conjunction with parents and neighbors [and] non-profit organizations..."

Del Valle has strong ideas about how to "provide youth with [at-school] opportunities to engage in positive activities and contribute to community life through after school programming." In fact, he seems to provide the most detail in his survey, regarding specific education policy goals, proposed programs, and developed ideas about where the money will come from (taxes, TIF funds, and private sector alliances included).

He also seems, looking at the surveys, to have the best-developed plans for what to do with kids in non-school situations, proposing "an expanded program called 'Community Learning Centers' to create extended day learning opportunities that may include technology clubs, the arts, sports, tutoring, and specialized programs for students. This would be done by creating partnerships among the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and schools."

Del Valle echoes the hopes of the tutor/mentor community when he states that, "it is imperative to promote and help bring to scale programs that intervene and bring corrective action to get youth back on a productive path rather than simply emphasizing punitive measures that lead down a path to nowhere."


Rahm Emanuel

* Read his full survey here.

Much of Emanuel's platform seems to focus on programs that will happen at the school. He "calls for comprehensive after-school programs ... integrating child intervention programs across departments." He calls this win-win for the students, citing after-school programs' abilities to "both increase academic progress and reduce violence. He seeks funding through "school partnerships with local businesses and non-profit organizations that want to target specific schools."

Perhaps he too is aware of the existing network of non-profit tutor/mentor programs available to partner with the city and support student development when the students are away from school. T/MC can even map which resources are available near the "specific schools" he wants to target.

After all, Emanuel does want to "incent community based organizations, citywide non-profits, universities, commercial companies and other civic institutions to bring their people and programs to bear to support particular struggling schools by providing mentors, tutors, job training, access to college courses, and in classroom support to schools that need it most."


William Doc Walls

* Read his full survey here.

On a personal note (as map geek), I'm fascinated by Walls' interest in "increasing the use of Crime mapping and data analysis" to help combat crime in high poverty neighborhoods.

But staying on topic, and looking for indications that Walls intends to incorporate tutoring/mentoring into his plans to support for at-risk students, Walls does say that he "will provide tutoring, social skill development and increased recreational activities in an effort to achieve normal educational accomplishments in chronically low-performing schools."

He does not go into great detail about how this will happen, yet I am hopeful he supports existing programs in his community - he does offer some genuine opinions and somewhat creative/alternative solutions to problems his community faces.


Virginia Van Pelt Watkins

* Read her full survey here

An alumnus of Fenger High School with an intimate understanding of the challenges and hazards at-risk students like Fenger's Derrion Albert face, Watkins outlines her ideas for school leadership, curriculum, quality schools, and teacher mentoring.

Particular to student tutoring/mentoring, she wants to "champion for early child education" and promises to "remove barriers families experience in accessing existing early childhood education programs and services."

She also touches briefly on "peer-to-peer mentoring programs that are developed with and supported by youth" but does not mention partnerships with existing adult-student tutor/mentor programs specifically.

Remember! Polls open at 6am this Tuesday, February 22!

Find your polling place and other information about the election here.

And let's make sure whoever wins keeps their promises, and explores all resources available to improve the health of our schools and the prospects for our students.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sponsoring Dragons To Assist Youth Programs

Occasionally, Mapping for Justice gets a chance to get out of the cubicle and work with kids in the tutor/mentor programs I write about.

This month, Mapping For Justice has decided to support a team of students in the Cabrini Madness tournament – a yearly fundraising “tourney” that brings together "teams" of students, volunteers, program staffers, and outside leadership like you.

The tournament helps teach students to advocate/compete for themselves, while helping the Cabrini Connections program raise a few bucks (which is vital for a non-profit to continue pairing adult mentors with youth from all over Chicago) - all while having a little fun. Check out the tourney website.

So this Cabrini Madness season, Mapping For Justice has decided to support and help promote... drum roll...

Team 5Ds (aka The 5 Dragons), captained by an amazingly talented young man, Charles Hill, with lots of help from other bright Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students, Sean Mayfield and Erin Smith.

Every small donation you make with me, and every time you pass this article to friends and colleagues, we help support student efforts to support themselves, while raising awareness about the virtues of these programs - programs that not only help each student, but in turn help society, and help you and me as taxpayers.

Additionally, 10% of your donation will go to Cabrini Connections Tech Club, a weekly club that teaches tech-related volcational skills to a group of students who want a little extra help on their way from the CPS to college and career.

Meet the students captaining this effort:
Charles Hill
Sean Mayfield
Erin Smith (profile coming soon)

Please consider helping Mapping For Justice help Team 5Ds by making a small tax-deductible donation here.

Wish us luck, and please check in occasionally to find continued tourney updates here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Impact of Mapping Resources in a High-Poverty Neighborhood: A Reflection on the Map Kibera Project

A friend of mine pointed me to an ongoing OpenStreetMap project in one of Africa’s largest slums on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. “Kibera” is inhabited by hundreds of thousands of poor people; has hospitals, schools, and structure; and yet amazingly, according to project leaders and a 3 minutes long BBC mini-documentary/slideshow, Kiberia remains hidden from the world - designated as forest on government, Google, and other publicly available maps.

Map Kibera is a project that was started in October 2009 by Erica Hagen and Mikel Maron (with initial funding by Jumpstart International). They advocate that, "without basic knowledge of the geography and resources of Kibera it is impossible to have an informed discussion on how to improve the lives of residents."

When my friend contacted me with a link to this project, he said he thought I'd find it interesting but also told me he thought, "this is pretty different than what you're doing." Actually, I contend that this is very similar in many ways to what we are trying to do at Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC).

The aforementioned BBC short film explains a bit more about why Map Kibera received funding necessary to staff volunteers and train 13 Kiberan youth in GPS/GIS and internet technologies needed to publish an interactive online map of their own community.

The project leader interviewed in the film says, "Our motivation was, and our belief is, that without basic geographic knowledge of a certain place you cannot talk about improving people’s lives."

"To enable people to have a bigger say in their futures," you need to "know how resources are distributed in a certain place – for example, how many schools there are… how many hospitals there are… how these hospitals are equipped… how much staff they have."

"If you open up the information or data [to others], there is no saying what can be achieved out of this because a million people have a million ideas and a million things can happen."

Tutor/Mentor Connection is working with a staff of three people and no real funding to try and accomplish a similar thing in Chicago's high-poverty neighborhoods.

Are there a ton of differences between the poor of Chicago and the poor of Nairobi? Of course. But there are also many similarities. We aspire to take an inventory of all resources in our high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods - using volunteers and empowering youth and citizens who live in the neighborhoods. Our goal is to encourage alliances and investment in student programs that improve at-risk students' lives, and in the long-term when these students grow up with their new skills through tutoring and mentoring, improve America.

We have created an information hub of maps, data, strategies, and information, and are hoping there are "millions of people" out there with the talent and ideas to join us and make small investments of time and money to make something powerful like Map Kibera happen right here in Chicago.

I found the wiki for the Map Kibera project particularly exciting, because it documents several of their challenges as well as the specific impacts their investment has made in Africa. Most of these are also very familiar to us here in Chicago at T/MC.

Among common challenges, Map Kibera documents the "challenges of volunteerism," citing how inspiring volunteers or youth to "take charge of the project is a delicate and ongoing process" for a whole list of reasons. We at T/MC are constantly trying to find volunteers to help with the maintenance and leadership of our GIS/tech-based project

They also point to the difficulty the community (you and me, as well as localized leaders and parents) has in "understanding the larger concept and benefits [of a resource map]," specifically pointing out the general limitation of what people assume maps can do. They report that many people initially did "not see how the map could benefit them or their community since it was only available online and they already knew how to get around."

Additionally, even in Africa, there is results-based skepticism among the "average citizen [who] needed to see the results ... even if they were not able to access the Internet." This is especially frustrating when the map-makers inherently understand the technology but have difficulty "articulating the benefits and potential impact of the map at first." This is one of our biggest challenges and the purpose of this blog - to provide "many discussions, and more importantly demonstrations of the possibilities [of maps], to see comprehension of the potential for technology to bring real change" to our communities.

Map Kibera also points to the challenge of trying to convince other related organizations (in our case, we are trying to build alliances of tutor/mentor programs - but also trying to encourage cooperation among faith-based and other theoretically like-minded groups like the Baptist community featured in the second map above - to join hands in support of at-risk youth). Map Kibera shares our frustration that "organizations do not like to share information ... There are so many organizations that they tend to see each other as competition. A collaborative spirit is hard to achieve, and it is not obvious to many why they would benefit from working together ... Every group was interested in having a map for their purposes; few have the sense of why an open and shared platform for everyone could be even better. The technology world has an ethos of creative collaboration alongside competition, in the spirit of innovation and problem solving. It is hoped that this concept will over time influence organizational behavior."

Despite these challenges, hopefully the "impacts" that an organized, well-invested, map-based project like Map Kibera has had can open eyes to the wisdom of similar programs - such as T/MC in Chicago.

Participants from Kibera, in their own words, according to the Map Kibera wiki, claim to have learned new technical skills, taken new-found pride, and obtained new social/advocacy skills that "may translate to other experiences and support their overall personal development," and could certainly lead to "leadership skills and [a new] sense of responsibility to the community." Tutor/Mentor Programs such as Cabrini Connections have clubs that teach tech skills as well as other media skills that can have these same effects. In fact, Mapping For Justice has worked closely with these clubs in the past and has even developed curricula designed to teach similar advocacy-through-mapping skills, if time and investment ever allows.

In addition to the "personal impact" on participants, Map Kibera documented "community impact," such as bringing "the community closer to legitimacy and giving a sense of being a real neighborhood. Sensitive to external perceptions and its negative reputation, Kiberans appreciate any image such as this map that portrays it in a positive, or at least 'normal' light." Clearly one of our missions has been to supplement the negative news a ghettoized and beleaguered neighborhood like Englewood in Chicago receives, to encourage potential volunteers and business leaders to re-imagine the potential of these neighborhoods' wealth of talented students.

Excitingly, Map Kibera's impact has lead to an increased number of organizations that are suddenly "keen to be represented and eager to learn how they can make use of the map as well as the [program] site to highlight their activities ... Groups that are interested in a variety of issues such as health, gender-based violence, sanitation, new mobile phone services, farm-to-market supply chain, large-scale conflict mapping, peace promotion, and others have contacted the directors to look into collaboration or use of collected data, sparking new thinking on each issue and the potential for the project to move in unexpected directions."

This sort of community participation through the use of maps is the ultimate goal of T/MC's Mapping For Justice project.

Thanks again to my friend who pointed me to the Map Kibera project. It has allowed me to reflect on similar goals, problems, and solutions we are facing right here in Chicago. Hopefully it has also opened the eyes of those who are curious and seeking "proof" that mapping can impact the ways organizations like T/MC can bring positive change to our communities.

(If nothing else, I am at least encouraged someone is thinking of our work at Mapping For Justice when they find a project like Map Kibera!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tom Tresser Calls NPO Leadership to Action in Chicago's Mayoral Election

I think it’s time Chicago’s mentor program leadership got together and demanded some real investment by political leadership. With the coming mayoral elections on the horizon, the time is now. Bear with me as I explain.

When I signed on three years ago as GIS Specialist for non-profit Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), I was finishing my M.Ed and working in a Chicago Public School (CPS) on Chicago’s high-poverty, crime-riddled west side. I believe that the majority of CPS students I have met these past years are talented with academic upside (and if you don’t agree, I have to doubt you have actually met any of them).

Unfortunately CPS students are often underprepared at an early age, in comparison to students I have worked with in “better” suburban schools. Many of them read at a lower grade level. Many do not have optimal parental support. The schools they attend are often poorly equipped in general.

While this inequity itself is well-documented, it seems sometimes, no matter how much empirical research I cite, I struggle to guide the discussion away from finger pointing and toward an understanding that poverty (and the poorly-equipped students that are often raised in poverty) are everybody’s problem, no matter how far away from Chicago you move, or who is at fault.


Across bipartisan lines, most would agree I think that underprepared students grow up to become adults that are underprepared to be workers, parents, and citizens. In worst-case scenarios, the costs of crime, prisons, and welfare affect taxpayers everywhere. So for me the question is, do we want to look for solutions to help at-risk students take care of themselves now, or do we prefer to have to take care of them later, with a continued cost of poverty?

Here’s the good news, as I’ve come to learn: Contrary to what the media too often shows (and far too many people I talk to in casual conversation believe), many CPS students are actually... smart. As a teacher whose job was to provoke critical thought among inner-city social studies high school students who were often reading at an elementary level, I constantly marveled at how many of these students had creative, outside-the-box approaches to complex historical and civics-related problems. They often have the ideas but not the tools, if you will.

Many of these same students are also willing to take on additional tutoring and commit to long-term mentors, when such opportunities present new tools, and new hope of a brighter future. Indeed, as a teacher then, and as a volunteer now, I continue to meet students with the initiative to enroll in optional school-based tutor programs like AVID, as well as non-school tutor/mentor programs like Cabrini Connections.

That’s half the battle, right? Finding large numbers of at-risk students who are willing to take the extra step to receive supplemental academic and decision-making support, bridge the gaps they face in their development, and put themselves on paths to college and career, versus continued poverty?

They’re out there, and I know for fact that mentoring programs can work. My personal stories aside, I recently wrote a blog that featured the story of Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, a high school in the notorious Englewood neighborhood that employs full-time mentors, and in four years has put more than 2/3 of their incoming freshmen into four-year colleges, despite the fact most arrived reading at a sixth-grade level or below.

But back to the point. Three years ago, I signed on at T/MC, a program that has been trying to organize resources that support mentoring programs and encourage new "Urban Prep"-like case studies in neighborhoods everywhere.

All I was being asked to do was use my skill as mapmaker and GIS professional to show how T/MC program data could be visualized – in map form – to the advantage of political, business, or other community leaders whose goals included safer communities, better schools, workforce development, and tax relief.

I jumped at the chance to work with an organization that was trying to take the lead, organizing bi-annual conferences designed to bring mentor program leadership together, and stockpiling data and information in a centralized hub for these same leaders to use and share.

To me, it all made so much sense. Help build it, I thought… and as sensible people, they would come.

Well, three years later, politicians are still talking about crime and schools and workforce malaise.

People are more freaked out than ever about crime and schools and workforce malaise.

Reports continue to show that mentoring helps address crime and schools and workforce malaise.

And yet somehow, there’s still little unity among the city’s mentor programs, and it’s still not fashionable for political leaders to include mentoring as a part of a proposed solution to the items on their agenda.

For me, I continue to work in obscurity. And while I’m told by some to remain patient, I can’t help but lament that my efforts have been overlooked... with no indication this will change. After all, attendance figures at mentoring conferences I attend aren’t really soaring, we have seen a virtual freeze in donations and other investment in our technologies, and my web analytics tell me that very few people will probably even read this, honestly.

But maybe that's just the nature of the blogosphere beast. Maybe I'm not really alone in any of this, and am instead just a single fractured voice, lost at sea trying to find others with similar concerns and ideas – others who are out there but are also failing to find a unifying force.

Last week on Outside The Loop Radio, WLUW Chicago, host Mike Stephen interviewed Tom Tresser, an instructor at DePaul University and IIT, a former candidate for Cook County Board President, and a non-profit veteran since 1980.

Tresser recently issued a rallying cry of sorts in the Beachwood Reporter, which he then echoed during his interview on the Outside The Loop program. He too sees a lack of unity among non-profit leadership across the board, and is urging Chicago’s non profit leaders to “take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity [to] get involved in the 2011 election for Chicago's mayor.”

I felt a shiver of hope (misery loves company, I guess) when he pointed out that, while all non-profit sectors are suffering with familiar disunity and dwindling funding, NPOs do employ hundreds of thousands of workers in Chicago. In other words, they remain a vital source of employment and a potentially powerful constituency for a politician looking for votes.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the unity, clout, or power at this point to take advantage of our numbers in the political arena, he says.

Tresser explains, "Elected officials have a reptilian brain.” They size up an interest group and determine “can this entity help me or hurt me” and if it can do neither, it ignores them and moves on. He says, “You've got to show how you can help or hurt a candidate in order to be taken seriously.”

We’ve seen how mentoring can help politicians. My recent blogs have cited issues our mayoral candidates are employing in their campaigns, and how mentoring can help them achieve their specific goals.

So my question to the leadership at T/MC and mentoring programs everywhere is: Who is going to step up in the name of mentoring, and forge the politically powerful “vast constituency” Tresser insists is necessary to secure the ears and support of those in power; politicians who have the influence to make mentorship a fashionable component of any political platform, while encouraging volunteering, new leadership, and new investment in mentoring everywhere?

This is the reason I got involved with T/MC in the first place – its mission is one of community and unity among program leaders everywhere, as evidenced by T/MC's commitment to their bi-annual conferences, and their mission “to help [programs] already operating, then help new programs form by borrowing from ideas of existing programs.” There’s is a clear commitment, from the top at T/MC, to the unification of mentoring leadership throughout the Chicago area.

So who is going to step up?

And by the way – for those leaders who are hoping Tresser backs up his call to action with an explanation of how this can work (after all, non-profits are forbidden by law to engage in politics directly), Tresser does lay out a strategy for working around this little hurdle, if anyone cares to read or listen about it.

And I hope he is onto something tangible, because it stands to reason that if non-profit leaders fail to organize and obtain real influence, they will continue to be ignored and eventually disappear. Tresser points out that even in a solid economy, 60% of non-profits struggle to make ends meet, but that in this crippled economy, the state of Illinois now owes 1.4 billion to non profits, while the government continues to bail out the "banks, insurance companies, General Motors and Goldman Sachs to the tune of trillions of dollars.”

I signed on three years ago to make maps on a part time basis. I am a foot soldier in this war on poverty. Three years (of watching T/MC struggle) later, I impatiently wonder if an alliance of non-profit leadership can happen in time to influence this mayoral election.

Or if it will ever happen.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Map Gallery: Congressman Gutierrez Endorses Gery Chico for Chicago Mayor

Gery Chico - Running For Mayor

“Each community provides unique opportunities for partnerships that can enhance our children’s education..” - Gery Chico

(Part 12 of T/MC's "Mapping Solutions" online gallery)

This past week, influential Chicago politician Luis Gutierrez, a US Representative whose district is featured on this first map (click to enlarge) came forward and endorsed Gery Chico in the race for Chicago’s next mayor.

Lately, I’ve been publishing an series of maps that we at Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) made, featuring political boundaries in Chicago.

Of course, we at T/MC do not endorse specific candidates. We simply wish to showcase how T/MC can customize a map to analyze the distribution of tutor/mentor services in any given region (in this case, a political district), and how we can also provide a birds-eye view of neighboring community assets for local leaders (in this case, for the next mayor of Chicago).

We will also suggest, looking at each candidate’s personal platform and concerns (so far we have also looked at Carol Moseley Braun), that each candidate should have an interest in either supporting mentoring through direct action, or at the very least should be using their influence to tell their constituents how mentoring can supplement their efforts to address the issues they promise to tackle. This leadership might then steer other community leaders, volunteers, donors, and parents to these vital non-profit services in an economy where such services are at more risk than ever of disappearing.

It's not hard to find examples of how mentoring supplements the work an elected leader needs to do. For instance, Gery Chico tells us that, “residents with jobs means safer and more prosperous neighborhoods, tax dollars saved from less social services and additional city revenue as more people spend money, buy homes and earn income. The impact of each new job ripples outward through the economy, creating secondary and additional benefits.” To this end, Chico desires to “work with business partners to build technical and career programs that prepare students with the technical and occupational skills they need to find good employment.”

We have a database of over 200 tutor/mentor facilities that are already in place, working toward this same goal, and I have written on this blog about how mentoring can bolster our workforce by helping students choose books and careers over less desirable paths.

On education, Chico states that, “without an effective school system we cannot prepare kids to compete in the global economy, or provide the labor force that will attract good companies to locate in our great city.” His “Ready by Five” initiative seeks to ensure that “every child is prepared to learn and succeed by the time he or she reaches kindergarten.” He also wants to “create a Parent Academy for every school” that will help parents who “lack the resources and knowledge to effectively help their children succeed” learn those skils.

These are great ideas that can be supplemented by mentor-student relationships that help kids who are "ready by five" stay the course toward globally competitive careers, while helping these same young adults achieve the academic and vocational success that will support their ability as the next generation of parents to effectively help their children succeed as well.

On the issue of crime and safety, Chico lists several ways he might make schools themselves safer, but I suspect he might also be interested in learning how a mentoring program in a high-crime neighborhood like Englewood could help its young men stay out of trouble, graduate, and enroll in four-year colleges at an unprecedented rate. He might then explore how similar mentoring programs might improve the well-being of students (and adults) in every neighborhood.

Chico is an advocate of community-level “partnerships that can enhance our children’s education” and promises to "partner with foundations, community groups, museums, government institutions, etc. to bring innovative and diverse programs and learning opportunities to our schools."

Perhaps he and the other candidates - whether they become mayor or not - are already exploring how partnerships with established mentoring programs can supplement their efforts to achieve their vision of a prosperous, safe, and educated Chicago.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Map Gallery: Danny Davis drops out of Chicago mayor’s race, endorses Braun

Carol Moseley Braun - Running For Mayor

“We can’t have a city divided or a people divided...We must make sure Chicago’s future is brighter.” - Carol Moseley Braun

(Part 11 of T/MC's "Mapping Solutions" online gallery)

U.S. Congressman Danny Davis and Reverend Senator James Meeks have pulled out of Chicago’s mayor’s race, and are now endorsing Carol Moseley Braun, in the upcoming battle for Chicago’s top boss. Their collective battle cry revolves around “unity.” I can only hope "unity" is a policy-related concept, as much as it may be useful in consolidating votes.

At our map gallery in November, we featured maps that provide birds-eye views of Congressman Davis’s district, as well as Senator Meeks’s district, in an attempt to show how Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) maps could help Chicago’s next mayor -whomever it may be - become better equipped to address voter concerns such as education, crime, and economic challenges.

(These gallery maps are only samples by the way, and similar maps showing relationships among community resources - or lack thereof - could be easily be customized to the specific needs of any elected official or community leader. )

Carol Moseley Braun, as Chicago’s next mayor, would obviously face the same challenges as Davis and Meeks. Using a map similar to the Davis map above (click to enlarge), she too might visualize where businesses and other community resources such as hospitals and colleges are operating, in relation to poverty and existing support systems for at-risk youth (such as tutor/mentor facilities). She could then allocate resources, or facilitate unity among community leaders, as she sees necessary.

She might also notice where highways cut through the city, in relation to poverty and poorly-performing schools, and perhaps encourage commuters interested in "service" to become active in student-focused programs, thereby uniting volunteers from relative wealth and success with intercity youth who might not otherwise have mentors in their lives that can provide strong career paths.

Like Meeks, Braun might use maps to visualize and unite our faith community, in areas where students live, and then build tutor/mentor facilities to help local youth onto paths that lead to college and career, versus welfare and crime.

Maps can show relationships among school performance, crime, and all of the aforementioned resources as well. Braun’s platform and political track record show that education and public safety are serious concerns of hers, recognizing that “kids should be able to expect a quality education in their own neighborhood... [which] will take involvement from parents, teachers, our community and our government,” that the “best way to stimulate economic and educational development is to keep people safe," and that "it will take a mayor with diplomatic, coalition building expertise to bring together the resources Chicago needs to protect its neighborhoods.”

As a long-time resident of Hyde Park, an island of academic and business wealth in an area of the south side of Chicago that is relatively impoverished and crime-ridden, she has first-hand concerns that the recently reported drop in violence might be misleading, and reminds us that crime is still a serious problem, before offering a message of hope, that violent crime “is not insurmountable. This is something we can do something about."

She cites mentoring programs as part of the solution.

Perhaps she is using maps to help her visualize where these mentoring programs might be needed most. And then uniting resources the maps show are available to help build great programs all over the city.

(I should mention that these maps are not intended to show where service work is, or is not occurring. They are also not meant to endorse, or criticize elected leaders. The voters should make those decisions.)