Friday, October 31, 2014

How does a city get from "here" to "there"?

There's plenty of information showing a need to provide extra learning support and mentoring for youth in high poverty areas, but few examples of sustained, decades-long, efforts by cities to build and sustain a network of programs reaching a growing number of youth in all of the high poverty areas of a city. I've used maps and graphics to illustrate the need for planning, leadership and resource development strategies that would take a city from its current level of youth serving organizations to a future level reaching more youth with higher impact organizations.

Last Saturday I posted a "strategy map" illustrating a shared commitment that needs to be adopted by leaders in every sector of business, philanthropy, government, education, non profit, etc. so more are innovating and leading actions that support the growth of strong programs.

Then on Tuesday, I posted a concept map illustrating the different supports youth in high poverty areas need to move from first grade to first job, over a 20 year period of continuous support, available in multiple neighborhoods.

So what might a city need to do to mobilize and support this level of sustained effort? Since 1994 I've been piloting a four step strategy aimed at helping tutor/mentor programs grow in all of Chicago's high poverty neighborhoods.

Step 1 includes building a library of information, including information on existing non-school youth serving organizations, and information people can use to borrow ideas from others and innovate actions that lead to constantly improving programs. These actions include new ways to generate flexible operating dollars throughout the program and intermediary network in any city.

Step 2 focuses on the marketing, social media and leadership needed to build public awareness and draw more people to the information in step 1. One of the challenges that must be overcome is the lack of advertising dollars available to create a reach and frequency of message delivery that gets more people involved, and keeps them involved.

Step 3 focuses on ways to help more people understand the information in the library, how it relates to them, and actions they can take to support the growth of one, or many, tutor/mentor programs in the city where they live, or in other parts of the country. There is so much information available that I've written many articles focused on "learning" cultures, where youth and adults are motivated to spend time on a regular basis reading and reflecting on this information.

Step 4 focuses on actions repeated throughout each year, for many years, which generate a greater flow of needed dollars, talent, technology and ideas to every one of the tutor/mentor programs operating in a city, and to every neighborhood where such programs are most needed.

This animation was created to help you understand the four part strategy and strategy map. This PDF also shows the four part strategy. This blog article does the same.

The heart of this strategy is the information collected and shared via step one. Articles I've read about innovation show that if you're exposed to ideas of how other people are already solving the same, or similar programs, you are stimulated in more ways to innovate ways to solve the same problem where you are. I've devoted an entire section of the tutor/mentor library to creativity and innovation ideas.

I've spent the past 40 years thinking of ways to influence youth and volunteers and of ways to build and sustain mentor rich non school programs that focus on the relationships between youth and adult volunteers and the long-term impact these programs can have on youth and volunteers. This, my understanding of how all of these ideas relate to each other is probably more intuitive than most other people in the country.

Yet, because I share my thinking, and my library, others can build learning organizations in high schools, colleges, business and communities and support a process that shares what I've learned with thousands of others, who then add their own ideas and talent to improve what they do to help youth in their communities move through school and into productive, adult lives and careers. Spend time looking at this information, then look for people who may already be leading this strategy in your own community. If you can't find such a group, start it yourselfe, as I did back in 1993.

As you look at this information I hope to connect with you in on-line communities as well as in conferences I host every six months in Chicago or that others are hosting at different times each year.

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