Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mapping Network Growth in Youth Development Field

I created this concept map in the mid 2000s to show a commitment of "helping all kids born or living in poverty in Chicago be starting jobs/careers by age 25" that needs to be shared by many.  A version of this on a web site would demonstrate that commitment.

This map is really an entry point to layers and layers of addition information, representing available knowledge as well as needed strategies that draw people together and generate a flow of ideas, talent and operating dollars to all of the people who are involved in this work in the same neighborhood and/or city.

The map shown above map is an outline of the web library I've been building since 1998, which was really started in the mid 1970s as a paper-based library.

Open nodes on the map and you eventually will get to a list of organizations which you can open to dig even deeper into the information that's available. It's like going to a university. The information available is much more than can be learned and absorbed in a day, or even over many years.  Yet, the more people dig into the information, the broader the range of ideas and strategies they will have to solve problems of poverty, inequality, social justice and workforce development.

Last September I connected with Marc Smith, one of the leaders of a network analysis project called NodeXL.  I wrote this blog article as a tutorial for those interested in learning more about what this is, and why it is important. I wrote another article in February, following the National Mentoring Conference.

Today, I listened to Marc talk to a group of students at Indiana University, via this YouTube video. I hope you'll take the time to listen and to read my blog articles.

In the concept map above and my web library, I point to more than 2000 other web sites. More than 200 of those are youth serving organizations in Chicago.  Others are research organizations, funders, or people who share ideas about collaboration, process improvement, knowledge management, etc. Many of the sites I point to have their own resource sections, thus pointing to even more web sites.  

By hosting this information on the Internet via blogs and web sites, I create the opportunity that on any given day someone from one of the organizations I point to can be digging into the information on my web sites and starting a conversation with someone else.

The problem is, we don't know if this is happening, and how often.  We don't know who is looking at the information, or connecting to us or each other, so we also don't know who still needs to be engaged.

Marc talks about how the #hashtags we use on social media enable us to track topics that people talk about.  He shows how the handle we use, like @tutormentorteam, can be captured using a network analysis tool like Node XL, to create a map showing who was involved in a conversation on a specific set of days, how they were connected to others, if the were, and what type of connectivity is taking place.  

I hosted Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences every six months from May 1994 to May 2015, and one of the goals was to help build relationships between participants, and to connect participants to myself and the library of information and ideas I host. Another was to create an on-line community where more people can connect, and where everyone has a chance to talk and express their own ideas.   Visit this page and you can see what organizations were part of each conference.

So far, I don't see many in the social service field, or in the narrower tutor/mentor field, trying to use maps to show participation in events they host, or in on-line conversations.  I also don't see any who are trying to show impact, by showing network maps of individual youth and/or volunteers who participate in their programs. I've written a variety of articles focused on network building, network analysis and networking that illustrate my ideas, and why understanding who you are connecting to is a critical first step in building the type of network that is needed to build and sustain a mentor-rich system of supports that will help more youth move safely through school and into jobs and careers.

Last week I posted an article, with this concept map, which shows the four part strategy I've developed over the past 20 years, and the work that needs to be done to enhance each step. I posted another article on Monday,  on the Tutor/Mentor blog.  I hope you'll read them, and share them with people in your own network.

I'm just one person with few skills and little funding, but with a broad vision. There's room for many to share this work, but we need to be connected, and we need to be using tools that show how we're connected and that enable others to join in.

By sharing this and other articles I create the possibility that one or more readers will forward this to others, who forward it to even more. One of those people will be the benefactor who endows the work I"m doing and not only provides funding for the next few years, but provides funding that moves this into one or more universities where it grows for the next 50 years.

Using tools like NodeXL we should be able to map this process.

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