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Yesterday, Bradley Troast and I led a meeting for leaders of tutor/mentor programs to share updates about their programs while also brainstorming ways programs might work together in the coming months. I was excited that we had ten program leaders attend. I think this alone--the fact that these busy people took the time to come into our office for an hour and a half--shows how much leaders value the opportunity to collaborate with other programs and share best practices.

In addition to giving me an opportunity to meet many program leaders, the meeting revealed various avenues where programs might learn from one another. For example, as one person discussed questions she had about program policies, others jumped in with how their programs handle legal matters. As another leader grappled with how to best use social media, another stepped up and offered insights about her use of Facebook to connect to mentors and donors.

These are just a few of the many conversations that were started yesterday. I am looking forward to watching as these conversations blossom into collaborations this coming year.

Here are the complete meeting minutes:

Tutor/Mentor Connection

Brainstorming and Collaboration Meeting

August 30, 2010

  • Introductions
    • Organizations present:

Becoming We The People

Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Camp of Dreams

Chicago Lights Tutoring and Summer Day

Howard Area Community Center—Youth Division Programs

Lake County Regional Office of Education

Life Directions—Chicago

New Horizons Mentoring Program at Gads Hill Center

Wicker Park Learning Center

  • Discuss purposes of meeting:
    • Check in with programs—updates, current challenges, current strengths
    • Network between program leaders and brainstorm potential collaborations
    • Check-in before CPS regular school year begins on September 7th
    • November conference planning

  • Priorities/Feedback Forum
    • Reviewed results from 2009 survey of program needs and how the current challenges
      of programs might be similar/differ
      • Fundraising
        • Programs that have depended on federal dollars now leaning more on private
        • Given the economy, grants and money from foundations even more
          competitive—programs finding innovative ways to evaluate programs and
          show results-oriented data for grants
        • Smaller fundraiser events—board members leading small-scale fundraisers
        • Tough to quantify mentoring side of relationships which is more anecdotal
      • Volunteer recruitment
        • Need volunteers willing to commit for a longer time period; programs not
          taking “just anyone” so can be hard to find the right people
        • Some of the best recruitment comes from word of mouth; focus on keeping
          current mentors/volunteer happy and helping them have the best
          experience so they will refer friends (support/check in meetings,
          monthly social events, “open door” policy)
        • Pair with civic organizations that do volunteering as a group
      • Engaging university students and interns as volunteers
        • DePaul University Steans Center for
          Service Learning
        • Partnerships with Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Job Fair this
          Wednesday—check their website for details)
        • Loyola—upcoming internship fair
        • Recruiting quality interns—best luck when post a job description and then
          interview the candidates
      • Social Networking
        • Facebook vs. Twitter: Twitter can reach a more general network of people with
          more content specific information (ie: “Read this article and pass it
          along” or “Attend this meeting today!”)
        • Important to have a presence within all social networking platforms (Facebook, Linked-in,
          Twitter, etc.) in order to connect with those who use each account
        • Facebook groups: can be helpful to have separate groups designated for mentors,
          parents, and students
        • Get creative. Camp of Dreams posts inspirational quotes to Twitter and
          ‘words of the day’ to Facebook and kids get rewarded for using that
          word in their statuses
      • Program policies
        • Questions regarding how different programs handle legal/logistical policy issues
          (ex: Can students attend sporting events where there is alcohol served?
          Are permission slips needed for every type of event?)
        • Can be best to have generalized policies (re: Mentors must not drink in the
          presence of a student and may not take students to a venue where
          consumption of alcohol is the primary activity)
        • What are the Illinois
          laws for youth programs? Do you have an attorney who can advise you on
          these matters?
        • Best practices in this area—potential workshop topic!
      • Background Checks
        • State of Oregon
          provides free background checks to mentors—could something like this be
          duplicated in IL?
        • Potentially valuable to form a consortium of programs to do background checks
          together and bring down the costs
        • Adam Walsh Act—background check that Cabrini Connections uses
        • Having mentors pay or partially pay for the background checks as an upfront”
          buy-in” to the program

  • Ideas for T/MC to Best Serve Program Needs
    • Hold meetings throughout the year based around specific topics (ex: marketing,
      program evaluation, fundraising) so programs with particular interests
      can share best practices and collaborate

  • November 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference
    • Tentative dates: November 11th-12th OR November 18th-19th
    • Location: Tentatively DePaul University, Lincoln Park
      Campus (Nov 11/12)—will be spread amongst several buildings, so if we
      find a more convenient location in the next few weeks, we are open to

  • Conference Brainstorm
    • Workshops ideas
      • Social Networking
      • Program Policies
      • Background checks
      • How mentor programs decrease drop-out rates (overview of statistics and data)
      • Coalition Building around issues such as substance abuse prevention

  • Ideas for format and schedule
    • Networking 101: Before/after/instead of keynote, teach people how to use conference
      to network and meet people
    • Ice-breakers/activities in groups of 8-10 people
    • Keep attendee list on the website. Good for contacting people you meet.

  • Wrap-up and Upcoming Events
    • Life Directions: Parties for Peacemakers Retreat—contact Van Bensett
    • Becoming We the People: September 11th Scavenger hunt and community
      building event—contact Jordan Hestermann
    • New Horizons Mentoring Program at Gad’s Hill: in process of hiring ten full-time
      mentors as part of Culture of Calm Initiative; looking for good
      candidates—contact Katie Cusack or Sandy Reyes
    • Camp of Dreams: Community Days open house on September 25th, need volunteers to teach
      high school seminars on leadership and community service
      contact Jacquita Smith or Michaela Pease

** Conference Planning Meeting: Tuesday, September 21st at 12:00pm**

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FOOD for THOUGHT,CST-NWS-mitch10.article

I think Mary Mitchell makes some very good points in this article about why programs like ours are important. What can we do to increase the number of articles that shed a spotlight on our program and others like it? This article, like many others published this summer and in previous summers, was spurred by the high Chicago crime rates and killings that have been an unfortuante repeating summer trend for the city. However, the attention drawn to these low income crime filled neighborhoods often fades as the cool weather sets in. What can we do to keep the media's attention on these areas and more importantly the public's attention and interest in volunteering to make a difference in these areas?

Read more…

On my first day, I am excited to get started on learning the ins and outs of CC-T/MC and familiarizing myself with the vast web of knowledge shared here. First and foremost, I can see the importance of NETWORKING here, and I am happy to combine my network with CC-T/MC's in order to add to the growth and development of these great programs. I can see that there is alot of potential to expand CC-T/MC's network and I think one of my goals while I am here will be to increase the awareness of the CC and T/MC programs overall in order to build the network. I also plan on doing research to find people and companies who would be key contacts and assets to the programs by asking and answering the questions:

Who are the best people to be informing?
What is the best way to inform them?
What are innovative ways to clearly, efficiently, and effectively spread the message of the programs overall?
How are we going to implement these communication strategies to the best of our abilities?

I am also going to be focusing my energy on raising awareness, interest, and donations for the upcoming CC events: Martini Madness and the conference in November. The Brainstorming has begun! I would love to discuss this further with anyone else who is interested.

Moving myself along the path from the uninformed to the informed, thus enabling myself to inform others (woo! that's alot of "informing") is my primary goal for the next week. I can see that there are alot of great people working together here to make a positive impact and I am really happy to be a part of what seems to be a wonderful intelligent group of people.

My Network Map:

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Thinking Like Google

My experience so far with Dan and T/M C brought me back to a passage of a book I read earlier this year, Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. Friedman wrote:

"The key breakthrough that enabled Google to become first among search engines was its ability to combine its PageRank technology with an analysis of page content, which determines which pages are most relevant to the specific search being conducted. Even though Google entered the market after other major search players, its answers were seen by people as more accurate and relevant to what they were looking for" (155).

It occured to me that this forum is essentially modelled on a similar format as Google's. a) looks for information, or content, and people relevant to the cause of tutoring and mentoring; b) organizes, analyzes, and archives that information for future reference; and c) utilizes those references for targeted advertising campaigns, social networking, grant-writing, and the like. Even more to the point, this forum is a way of attempting to grow the idea of tutoring and mentoring to scale, or to a point where it "tips".

The "In-Forming" Process works something like this:

1. Uninformed people interact with information and become informed.

2. Informed people interact with uninformed people, producing more informed people.

3. Informed people interact with each other.

4. To the point where new information is being passed along to all parties involved, starting the process over again.

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Social Network Analysis Project Team

Success in today’s economic climate is largely dependent, among other things, on the strength of social networks. A strong social network increases efficiency and competitive advantage of an organization by enabling information exchange within the organization. Social network analysis (SNA) tools are used by organizations to analyze large amount of data stored in their databases and map relationship among them based on shared features. These tools also provide a better understanding of the organizational structure, like who reports to whom, or interaction among different project teams etc.

Here’s an example of how such a tool can be used to map the evolution of the social network within the SNA group of Tutor/Mentor connections (T/MC). It also shows how different people are taking the lead in the SNA group to keep the project moving in order to achieve the goals of T/MC. Inflow social network analysis software training was held at T/MC on 25th February 2010. The first map (Figure 1) shows the interaction among the members of the SNA group before the training in February. In this map, we can see that Dan Bassill is directly connected to most of the members of the group. So, he is the central hub of the network.

I have used a scale of 0-4 to show the strength of relationship between the members in
the SNA group. The definition of the scale is as follows:

0- no interaction.

1- have met at the Ning site but not in person.

2- met only at the InFlow training.

3- met more than once after the InFlow training.

4- have a regular/ongoing relationship.

In addition, the members of the network are color-coded according to their responsibilities.

Figure 1

After the SNA training, everybody got connected to each other with Dan being the central hub (Figure 2). The strength of relationship between the members of the SNA group has also increased after the SNA software training

Figure 2

This map ( Figure 3) represents the people who will be working on theSNA project after the training. We have hidden the nodes of the people who won’t be working on the project. At this stage of the project nobody has taken the lead.

Figure 3

Jonathan and Ahmed left the SNA group few weeks after the training and two new members Karina and Kalyani joined the group. The following map (Figure 4) shows the interaction among the members of the SNA group after introduction of two new members with Katie and Anne currently being the project leads.

Figure 4

This is the current network map ( Figure 5) of the SNA group after the inflow software training of the new members. Here everybody is connected to each other with Anne and Kalyani being the project leads.

Figure 5

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Help Spread the Word

This is the first page of this PDF volunteer recruitment presentation. If you're trying to draw volunteers and donors to your non-profit, it will help if people in business, media, religious groups, etc. are using their own media to encourage volunteers and donors to find you.

You can save this image to your computer, and then put it in your own blog, with your own message. If enough people do this in August we can increase the number of volunteers and donors who are supporting us in September and beyond.

I created a set of "blog exchange" links on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site. If you use this image in a blog story, why not add a link to the story in the T/MC site. As we aggregate these we can learn from each other, and build more attention for each other's work.

Read more…

Final Reflection

For the past seven weeks, I've been working with my first overseas internship in Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection and feel it worthwhile. This internship experience not only expands what I've learnt at college as a journalism student, but gives me a general idea of how I should do outside the ivory tower.

When I first learnt that my job at Cabrini Connections Tutor/Mentor Connection is to help update this website by blogs (as you can see right now), pictures, or even videos, I found it matching my major quite well. CC T/MC is a non-profit organization found in 1993. For years, it has been working in the neighborhood to help children in low-income families. I'm
supposed to share my personal experience as I go through the organization's database, talk to the regular staff and take part in its functions. This is just what the main concept I've learnt in last semester's Computer Aided Reporting.

Nowadays, the internet has a booming affect on communication while traditional media shrinks as times goes by. This is what we as media people worry about, but on the other hand, it is a great chance for we as normal citizens to count on in order to make our voice heard with the lowest invest(with money). By creating the website, we may get in touch with millions of people in the world. And this is how we broadcast our vision as a non-profit organization.

However, the academic concept won't fit the reality at all time. A famous educator in ancient China once said, what you get from books is always not deep enough if you don’t take it into practice. Although we know the basic things of online journalism, things didn’t go as smooth as I thought at first. I’ve been through what’s called “cold-calling” as I sent out e-mails to radio stations, newspapers, and even my fellow group members who come together with me to Chicago for internship as well. I was depressed at a time, not understanding how people could act so indifferent to such a wonderful program. After talking to Dan Bassil, the CEO and founder of CC T/MC, I know that I should not expect each and everyone in the world would agree to what we believe. Nevertheless, we can still use the internet to attract our potential alley. Just as I’ve learnt from a workshop about how to build an effective campaign which I went to 2 weeks ago, persistence is truly important in the process. The more I write and
send, the more chances people would get our message.

Besides the daily routine, I’m glad that I also had a chance to take part in two annual activities held by Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection during my time here. The outing with Cabrini students and education major graduate students from Edgewood College was an amazing experience, since I participated in the activities and had a close talk with both enthusiastic volunteers and the kids who need help. The Edgewood Experience confirmed my faith on CC, T/MC’s vision as I saw how much the kids benefit from our program and also how happy the volunteers were when their help really worked. Those volunteer students illustrated that we are not alone. And the Golf Benefit was very successful and educational to me too. I enjoyed that a lot.

Chinese people are often teased by westerns since we rely on connections in social behaviors so much. Yet my experience in Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection tells me that it’s not something that “Chinese-specialty”. People cannot live in the world by avoiding the connections with others. Human beings are social animals. The problem is how should we view connections and how should we use them effectively. At the beginning of my internship, I felt a little bit uncomfortable when I found I have to contact with some people whom I may hardly call as acquaintances. I just thought it was too utilitarian. This bothered me for a couple of weeks until I watched a video and saw light suddenly. Then I observed how Dan and my other colleagues do to demonstrate our organization, to build connections with people and to attract donors. What they've done is not simply ask others for favors, but treat them sincerely as friends, caring each and everyone’s unique situation. I think that influences my outlook
on interpersonal communication.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been helping to organize the up-coming Benefit Concert on Aug. 29. It’s a pity that I can’t eventually make it as I’m leaving in 5 days. Nonetheless, I believe it would be a great success, because we have a group of superb staff here armed with faith and passion. I really appreciate the time working with them. My internship lasts only for seven weeks but I’ll cherish this forever, since what I’ve learnt here is my lifelong treasure.

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Final week reflection

It's my last week of my seven weeks internship at Cabrini Turtor/Mentor Connections. This organization is a non-profit organization aimed to help students who live in disadvantaged areas. My job here is promote our projects through facebook, blog of Ning website and some Chinese websites, get people's attention on Cabrini Connections, try to get them donate or volunteer at Cabrini. Although things are not as easy as I have thought, I still see many people are doing something in order to make differences.

I have taken a part in Cabrini's 12th annual Edgewood College Experience and 2010 Jimmy Biggs Memorial Golf Benefit fortunately and see how a non-profit organization work to promote their organization and encourage people to donate or volunteer at them. I really treasure this experience because I wanna be a promoter in the future, and they have a through knowledge of each other.

I've also experienced cold-calling when I tried to connect the local radios to promote our project. I've send more than 50 Emails but have few responds. That made me realized that not all the people are interested in what you are doing, and what should I do is figure out what's my project's selling point and how it can deserve others' attention. If I can persaude people to look at the same thing from their own angle, it may make a difference. This is what I need to prove myself and learn more about it.

I always think non-profit work is the hardest work in the world, because most people in the world are working for themselves, but a few people, just like who are working at non-profit organization, they work for others. People in Cabrini Connection are part of them, they help youth in disadvantaged environment build up their aim and goal of their life and help them to reach it with their connections in the world. As I said in my blog before, few individuals’ strength is weak, but a group of people is strong enough to change something.

It's a honor to work in Cabrini Connection, I treasure the experence to work here and get along with nice people here. I do hope there will be more people donate or volunteer at Cabrini, and if it's possible, I hope I'm able to donate at Carbini Connection one day.

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