Sunday, November 19, 2017

Calling on Tech Volunteer for Long-Term Involvement

Nice article in today's Chicago Tribune under headline of "When hackathons won't cut it: Non-Profits cut longer term partnerships with tech experts."

Chicago tech leaders Derek Elder, co-founder of ChiHackNight and Adam Heckman, of Microsoft were quoted in the story.

Heckman said “It’s not just about building a solution; it’s about helping them with their processes and looking at it holistically,” 

Elder said "My experience has been proven out time and time again: You can’t do anything meaningful in a weekend. With a lack of sustainability, a lot of projects will start up and die off. Our resolution was to do it every week and make it easy to attend.

How true. My web sites have all been built by volunteers. This was the home page of the Tutor/Mentor Connection site in 1998, built by Matt Mead and his company.  Matt was a volunteer in the tutor/mentor program I led and he said "I hear you are trying to build a web site."

The current Tutor/Mentor Connection web site was rebuilt by the tech department at IUPUI in 2005 and hosted there till 2011. Now it's hosted on a volunteer in Indiana on a different server, still connected to IUPUI.

Here's another example. I've been  using maps since 1994 to focus attention and resources on tutor/mentor programs in all poverty neighborhoods of Chicago. From 2001 to 2008 a volunteer from Madison, Wisconsin was my map maker. He built the first map gallery.

I've always been dependent on volunteers to help produce these maps, and one reason I've struggled is that I could never find a volunteer who could produce a marketing plan with a realistic cost estimate for what we were trying to do, thus when a wealthy tech guru once showed interest and asked "what will this cost" my feeble response was "I don't know."

The T/MC Organizational History and Tracking System (OHATS) was launched by a volunteer in 2000 and rebuilt by another team of volunteers in 2007.  However, I can't access the data or add to it since 2013 since I've not had the tech support needed. I've not had anyone summarize the information since 2002 due to lack of volunteer or paid talent.

These are just a few of my web sites. All need help to update, improve, add content and attract visitors.

If you want to take the time,  you could visit this wiki and look at the "projects stated since 1993" and see how each requires on-going tech support which I've never been able to find on a consistent basis from volunteers or support with donor dollars.

I've used this graphic for 20 years to show that youth in tutor/mentor programs should be supported by volunteers and leaders from every industry, university, faith group and hospital, as part of their own workforce development and social justice commitments. 

If this were happening, volunteers from the tech industry might be more likely to make longer-term commitments to a non profit or social enterprise, or might be part of a "relay race" of volunteers, with one volunteer passing on the project to others who follow him/her.

Without this consistent support it's difficult to build strong, constantly improving organizations, and thus it's almost impossible to solve complex social and environmental problems, or help kids born or living in poverty move from first grade to first job over 20 years of consistent support.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Who else doing map stories like this?

Through my participation in the weekly ChiHackNight meetings that take place at Chicago's Merchandise Mart every Tuesday evening I've met a lot of people doing interesting things with technology.  One is Steven Vance who heads the ChicagoCityscape site which focuses on making Chicago neighborhood property, construction and development data accessible to everyone.

Steve posted a series of Tweets today, using maps to focus on four Chicago schools.
here's another
here's another
and here's the fourth
This interests me because I've been using maps of Chicago neighborhoods since 1994 to focus attention on places where non-school tutor/mentor programs are most needed, based on poverty, poorly performing schools, etc.. My goal is to draw support to any non-school tutor and/or mentor programs that may be in the neighborhoods I point to, or to inspire local leaders, business, philanthropy, etc.  to create new programs where more are needed.

Below is one of the map stories the Tutor/Mentor Connection created in the 1990s.

Browse articles on this blog written between 2008 and 2011 and you'll find many more stories like this, created when we had funds to hire a part time GIS specialist.  Browse stories on the Tutor/Mentor blog, written since 2008, and you'll see maps made using an interactive program locator created in 2008-09.  

Steve focuses on a different issue than I do, and uses more updated mapping technologies, and demonstrates how maps can be used to focus on neighborhoods and draw attention to information people can use to better understand problems and opportunities in Chicago. I encourage you to browse his web site to see the many map views he has created.

I've not had help updating my maps, or telling map stories, since 2011, so I write articles like this with the goal of locating others already doing map stories, so I can point to their examples, encourage more people to use maps in planning support for social sector organizations, and so I can attract others to help me with the type of stories I focus on.

Interested?  Let's connect. I'm on Twitter at @tutormentorteam

12-18-2018 update - Here's a MapStrategies blog that Steve Vance hosts.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Mapping Philanthropy - Where's the Analysis?

BMA Funders Map
The map at the right is from the Black Male Achievement web site and shows grant making focused on men and boys of color, and Black men and boys in specific.  It's a great resource and I hope more donors and recipients find ways to show this type of information.

I wrote about this in 2016  and have written other articles on this blog and the Tutor/Mentor blog, focused on philanthropy and funding of non-school tutor, mentor and learning organizations that serve youth in high poverty areas.

The screen shot that I posted above shows the level of information available on this site. In this case the number of grant makers and name and number of Illinois organizations who received grants in 2015.

Since I focus on organizations who provide long-term, muti-year support, reaching kids when they might be in elementary or middle school, then staying connected through high school, it's important that funding be repeated to these organizations on an on-going basis, focusing on building strong organizations, not on specific projects or outcomes.

I also focus on high poverty areas where this long-term support is most needed and I use map overlays to show where poverty is concentrated.

Thus, I'd like to find stories showing how people are studying the BMA data, to show if funding is reaching enough of the programs who are doing work in this sector, and continuing from year-to-year.  That might require that more people plot funding on sites with demographic overlays.  I don't think I see this on the Foundation Center maps.

For instance, in 2015, 78 grants totaling $2.9 million were made in Illinois, to nine (9) Chicago area organizations. 63 of these grants went to Chicago Jesuit Academy (49) and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School (14), totaling $2.165 million.  If you look at my list of Chicago tutor/mentor programs you'll find many in high poverty areas serving minority youth. 

This should prompt stories saying "We need more comprehensive funding data!" and/or "We need funding to reach more programs."   I don't know if those stories are being written.

Distressed Communities index
I've written some stories focusing on distressed communities, with maps showing where they are most concentrated. Large numbers of minority youth live in many of these areas, so the foundation giving maps should show a broader distribution of grants than what I see for 2015. 

This broader distribution needs to be happening every year if we want good programs to be continuously operating in more of the places where they are needed.

Who's writing about this?

If you are doing this type of analysis, using BMA Funders data, or some other philanthropy-tracking resource, please share links to your stories so people reading this article can expand their understanding by reading what you are also writing.