Daniel Bassill
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Daniel Bassill's Discussions

Discussing, Understanding and responding to "Culture of Poverty"
1 Reply

Started this discussion. Last reply by Ian Carmichael Oct 22, 2010.

How Far Does Sympathy Go - another perspective
2 Replies

Started this discussion. Last reply by Ed Hitchcock May 21, 2010.

Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago...and On-Line
2 Replies

Started this discussion. Last reply by Daniel Bassill Sep 15, 2009.


Can Billionaires Adopt Neighborhoods of Chicago?

I just saw a story in the Chicago Tribune showing that 17 people from Illinois are on the 2014 Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the US. A CBS report lists these people.

Now I understand that I've been tilting at windmills for a long time, but what if these 17 people divided the Chicago region and each pledged $10 million a year to support general operations of youth and family serving organizations in different sections of the Chicago region? This map illustrates the idea.

This money would not go to hospitals, universities, museums, religious groups (unless it is to operate a youth organization), nor would it go to political campaigns. The money would focus on high poverty areas using maps being produced by many different organizations to show health, education, poverty, violence, unemployment and other indicators. The money would not go to schools, either. If we change the support systems around the schools I feel more kids will come ready and motivated to learn. Maybe they will already have learned to learn, with the help of mentors in a non-school program that has a technology lab and volunteers from Google, Microsoft, Bank of America and other companies in the region.

If the richest people anchor such a commitment, those slightly less wealthy, like CEOs who earn more than 330 times low paid workers and more than 774 times what minimum wage workers earn, might also make on-going financial commitments to the same neighborhoods. See CEO Pay articles here and here.

How would donors choose who to support? This Shoppers Guide suggest information that could be on an organization's web site. Many of the youth serving organizations in Chicago neighborhoods may not collect this type of information, or have the ability to put it on web sites and in blog articles. The investments made by financial leaders should be intended to help every existing organization get the ideas, talent and resources to grow to be considered world class at what they do. That includes communicating what they do so volunteers, parents and donors can decide who to support, and so other programs can learn from what the best programs have already figured out how to do.

New organizations should form, using this investment, to fill voids in places where more programs, or certain types of programs, are needed. Maps should show where donor commitments are being made, and should show a growth of needed programs over the next 10-15 years, then a decline in the need for such programs as a result of this consistent investment.

Perhaps after 30 years there will be new problems that need this investment, but providing a support system that helps families and neighborhood schools help kids be better prepared for 21st and 22nd century roles, should not be needed in many places if such consistent, flexible investment is made for so many years.

Esquire Magazine has launched a Mentoring Project, with highly visible people talking about "who mentored them". Maybe they could champion my idea of wealth people adopting poverty neighborhoods with consistent financial support that matches their verbal support.

If ideas like this appeal to you, why not come to the next Tutor/Mentor Conference in Chicago on Friday, November 4 and introduce yourself. Or connect with me on one of these social media spaces.

Perhaps one of these wealthy leaders would want to put their name on the Tutor/Mentor Institute? If you dream it, maybe it can become a realty.

Celebrating achievements of Chicago tutor/mentor programs

Over this past weekend I had the pleasure to be the guest of two Chicago youth serving organizations who were celebrating milestones.

One was the Youth Service Project (YSP) which operates out of a converted storefront at 3942 West North Avenue. Their Facebook page shows they have been active since 1975.
YSP was celebrating a youth technology/job training program, called "igniTechLab" which it had operated this past summer. About 30 people, including youth, parents and volunteers were treated to an overview of the program, and three presentations by youth, who showed what they had learned from the program. Two teens showed how to build a web page without using formats like DreamWeaver or FrontPage.
Two others talked of the music lab they had set up on the second floor and the documentary of life in Humboldt Park that they were working on. The project leader described how she had built the curriculum from scratch after receiving a government grant. She was not sure how the project would continue since no source of funding has yet been found.

On Saturday, I attended the 50th year celebration of the tutoring program at 4th Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, right across from the Water Tower shopping center. The celebration was held in a elegant new building which must have cost several million dollars to build. When I first connected to this program in 1974 it was not known by its current name of Chicago Lights Tutoring.

From 2 till 3pm myself and 200 to 300 former and current volunteers, friends of the program and current and former students were encouraged to walk through the classrooms devoted to the tutoring program on the 5th floor of the Gratz Center which is the new addition to the church's mission. This program serves more than 400 pairs of youth and volunteers annually, and has had that enrollment for over 40 years at least.

I was delighted to see the timeline posted on the wall of one of the classrooms showing roots going back to the mid 1960s. The program I led at the Montgomery Ward headquarters on Chicago Avenue started at about the same time. This time line shows how I joined it in 1973 as a volunteer and became the leader in 1975. It shows that in 1976 I began inviting leaders of area programs, including 4th Presbyterian Church, to gather monthly for lunch and to share ideas. This networking eventually led to the formation of the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993.

At 3pm all of the guests of the Chicago Lights Celebration gathered in a large chapel where we first heard Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, talk about how important mentoring and the attention of just one caring adult can be in the life of a child growing up. When I sat in my seat at the start of the 3pm session I was surprised to find myself sitting next to Bob Greene, a former Chicago Tribune writer, who wrote some great stories about the tutoring program at 4th Presbyterian Church, like this one.

Two of the veteran volunteers who spoke gave direct credit to Bob's stories for their becoming involved in the program. I'm not sure what percent of total volunteers stay with the program 5, 10 or 15 years, but it seems that they have many long-term veterans, demonstrating a well organized program. I kept hearing from volunteers "I've gained more from this than I think my mentee did."

During the next 90 minutes I heard volunteers and student alumni talk about how important the Chicago Lights Program had been in their lives. This resonated with me because every year since 1973 I've been part of a similar gathering of youth, parents, volunteers. This video is from one of those.

Find more videos like this on Tutor/Mentor Connection
You can see many more Cabrini Connections videos here.

When I sat next to Bob Green I reminded him that I had reached out to him in the 1990s asking him if he'd tell stories of the other tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, not just the great one operating on Michigan Avenue. When I've met with leaders and organizers of the 4th Presbyterian Church program over the last 40 years I've encouraged them to build an active outreach to motivate and teach faith groups from the entire Chicago region to partner and support the growth of well funded, mentor rich programs like the one they operate.

This is one of many maps I've made showing the density of faith groups in the Chicago region. Many of those operating in poverty areas don't have the wealth of churches operating on Michigan Avenue or in the North, West and South suburbs of Chicago. However, those who do have such wealth, of talent, not just money, could make a commitment to help at least one high poverty neighborhood build a program that in 50 years would be considered one of the best in the country of helping kids from poverty connect with a wide range of adults who helped them grow up and move into adult roles and careers.

Alex Kotlowitz said of the Chicago Lights program "It's a miracle that uses shared time to turn strangers into families" and "this program changes lives of youth and volunteers".

One of the later speakers said "It's not so important to bring a child into the world as it is to make a difference in the life of a child."

It takes the vision, and commitment, of many people from many sectors to help make this happen. As we move through this school year I hope many will read the ideas I've shared on this blog and look at web sites of different youth tutoring/mentoring programs in Chicago and make a commitment to help at least one.

Building teams to support non profit sector orgs

The map below illustrates a key challenge small non profits and social enterprises face. They need a wide range of talent and skills but don't often have the ability to find and recruit such talent, or to keep it for many years.

I have written many articles on this topic, such as this one, since this is the most important challenge keeping us for solving some of the complex problems facing our world.

I'm seeking this same range of talent to support my own efforts to help youth in high poverty areas move through school and into jobs and careers. If you're in the Chicago region, we can meet at a coffee shop, or in the LOOP, or at the next Tutor/Mentor Conference on Friday, November 7.

If you're from a beyond Chicago, anywhere in the world, we can connect on the Tutor/Mentor Connection forum, or on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook, as well as by email or Skype. This page provides links and contact information.

45 Years a Tutor/Mentor and Still Going Strong

Here is photo of Sean Mayfield and AJ Tyson. I've known Allen for 40 years since he was already a two-year veteran tutor when I joined the tutoring program at Montgomery Ward in 1973. Allen sent me this message last week to update me on the progress of a student he worked with in the Cabrini Connections program from September 2006-June 2012:

"I met with Sean recently and he's working at Weber Grill and will be entering his second year in college this fall. I tutored Sean for 8 years through the Tutoring Chicago and Cabrini Connections programs in Chicago. He always came to tutoring on time and with his homework. He is a bright young man. I was able to help him get a job interview at Weber Grill through one of my contacts. He got the job on his on. I'm very proud of him. He's doing well there. He will continue his studies in Chicago this fall. I've stayed connected with his Mom and Grandmother even though he finished high school in June 2012.

I'm now back at the Tutoring Chicago program and starting my 45th year of mentoring with my student from last year, Davion Willis. Erin McPartlin is the director and she's the one that got Sean and I together eight years ago when the program was called Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc."

I asked Allen if he was now raising money for Tutoring Chicago just as he did for Cabrini Connections when he was a volunteer there. He said, "Yes. I raised close to $10,000 last year."

Why does he continue to tutor, and why does he raise money for the programs? He said "I enjoy it! Once you're connected and see the benefit of what you do, it's easy to ask people you know to help."

I've included graphics like this on my blog for many years to illustrate the need to connect with youth when they are young, and stay connected to them for many years. Allen's involvement started with Sean when Sean was in 5th or 6th grade. It still continues today, after Sean has finished high school. In our conversation today Allen told me how he's reaching out to kids he tutored in the 1970s via Facebook. I'm doing the same. In this article I show how I've been connected to my first mentee for 40 years!

In this graphic I'm illustrating the need for volunteers from many industries to be involved in tutor/mentor programs all over the Chicago region, and for some of those volunteers to grow their involvement so they a) help kids into jobs, and b) help programs attract the operating dollars needed to keep these connections in place.

Allen and I both have longterm histories because the programs we were part of provided great support, and managed to survive on inconsistent funding and tremendous levels of volunteer involvement for all of these years. Just to be clear, I was the volunteer leader of the Montgomery Ward program from 1974 to 1990 and led the conversion into a non profit in 1990. I led it until October 1992 when I and six other volunteers left to create the Cabrini Connections program and the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC). I led the CC program till June 2011 when I left and formed Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC in order to continue the T/MC after the strategy was dropped from the Cabrini Connections program.

My ideas and passion come from leading these two programs and from the constant struggle to find and keep operating resources that were essential to supporting the involvement of hundreds of pairs of youth and volunteers.

I point to the Lawyers Lend A Hand to Youth via blog articles not because they are great, but because they have been working at raising money to support tutor/mentor programs in multiple locations for nearly 20 years! I want more legal and professional groups to duplicate this, and do it better! That's the only way to help more tutor/mentor programs grow. We need to build a generation of leaders who are proactive in what they do every day to encourage volunteer involvement and support it with dollars and talent from other volunteers.

I've written about this often and have probably spent more time thinking about this than most people in America. I really appreciate it when people like Steve Sewall, Mark Carter, Betsey Merkel, Kelly Fair, Steve Braxton, the Jefferson Awards Program and others post articles on their sites helping people understand what I'm doing.

Just as individual programs cannot operate effectively on an on-going basis without financial support, neither can I or other intermediaries.
If you want to help me, a tax deductible donation can be make as a conference sponsor, using this link.

If you're not concerned with the tax deduction, or my tax status (I'm a LLC) with no revenue, then use this form and become a supporter.

If you're a long term volunteer like Allen, I encourage you to create a blog and share your story. Encourage others to get involved, and encourage others to provide the talent and financial support every single tutor/mentor program in Chicago or any city needs to support these long-term connections.

Expanding Network in Chicago

Last Thursday I attended the UIC Urban Forum in Chicago. As I listened to speakers many of the ideas resonated with me and I began building a list of follow ups. I encourage you to visit the web site to see the list of speakers, read the white papers, etc.

One of the panel members was NBA Hall of Fame Star Isiah Thomas, who grew up in Chicago. His comments were challenging. He said "This is about compassion, love and engagement, not a data issue." "When we start disinvestment in communities we take sports and play out of a community." "We're dancing around an issue of poverty and segregation." If you search #urbanforum on Twitter you can read some of what I heard.

Then on Friday and Saturday I attended the Chicago School of Data event hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaboration ver two days people talked about collecting, organizing, mapping and visualizing data, with the important focus of "how do we use this data?".

I was one of a minority of the 300-plus participants of the Urban Forum who was posting Tweets to my timeline as the conference took place, using hashtag #urbanforum.

The organizers of the Chicago School of Data event hired bloggers, social media experts, film makers, etc who were active throughout both days collecting interviews and posting Tweets under the hashtag #chidata. Here's a RivetNews radio interview.

As I attended the Urban Forum I wrote in my notes "Where do people meet to follow-up on the various ideas shared by panel members?" The organizers of the Chicago School of Data event answered part of this by posting meeting notes in this Google Drive space.

Both web sites include agendas with bios of speakers. The School of Data event included a roster of participants, with links to their organizations. This seems like a real effort to support connections among participants.

I hope in future events organizers will use maps to show participation, such as the maps I've created to show who has been attending Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences. In fact, I created a concept map to suggest how participants in events like these could be mapped to show what areas they focus on, not just who they are.

If we can get more of the people who attend these events into on-going conversation and brainstorming, and bring donors in to help fund our individual efforts so we have time to participate in collective efforts, we can unleash a tremendous amount of talent toward making Chicago's future bright for all of its residents.

I encourage you to bookmark this article. As the hosts of these events provide follow up information I'll post links on this article.

Recap posted 9/24 on Escaped Notice blog

Daniel Bassill's Page

Profile Information

Tell about your involvement in education, and your ideals for collegial sharing
I led a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program from 1974 to June 2011, connecting inner city kids in Chicago to volunteers who work in a variety of businesses and professional backgrounds. Based on this experience I started the Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) in 1993, with a goal of helping every tutor/mentor program in the city get the resources each needs to be constantly improving. With the Internet. We now share ideas with people all over the world, and our goal of learning is not just to engage youth, but to engage adults, so adults do more of what is needed to help youth from poverty reach jobs and careers. In August 2011 I will launch Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC using ideas at http://www.tutormentorexchange.net. This will be a new structure intended to expand revenue to enable us to continue supporting Tutor/Mentor Connection in Chicago, while helping similar support intermediaries grow in other cities.
About Me:
You can read my linked in Profile at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/daniel/bassill and my blog at http://tutormentor.blogspot.com
Twitter Account

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Daniel Bassill's Blog

Service Learning Loop illustrates idea and ways to involve interns

This graphic is from a presentation we call the "service learning loop". In this blog post you can read how an intern from IIT in Chicago, via Korea, created a…


Posted on February 23, 2011 at 5:00pm — 2 Comments

Expanding the network of people working to help inner city kids

This is a screen shot from a video taken after one of last week's student and volunteer orientation sessions at Cabrini Connections. You can view the video at http://vimeo.com/14950784

When you look at the CC web site you…


Posted on September 15, 2010 at 1:35pm

Waiting for Superman documentary - See it. Talk about it.

Last night I was invited to view the new documentary titled Waiting for Superman. On the Take Action page, it says "the public education system is broken, but fixing it is possible". Suggestions and links are provided.

This is a documentary created by… Continue

Posted on July 22, 2010 at 3:09pm — 6 Comments

Northwestern University Public Interest Program Fellowship - Meet our Fellows

Our aim is to involve adults who don't live in poverty in tutoring/mentoring programs that focus on youth in poverty and to transform those volunteers into leaders who bring more people into this movement.

I'd like to introduce you to Bradley Troast, who just completed his one-year fellowship with Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. His one-year reflection points to the person who preceded him in this… Continue

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 9:00pm — 2 Comments

Connecting people you know to places where these ideas are put to work

I have enjoyed the many discussions and exchanges of ideas that Fireside offers. There obviously are many people who care deeply about the educational inequity that separates rich and poor in many places of the world.

I created this chart for my own volunteers and board members. It's intended to help them build lists of people who they could reach out to, so that more people join…


Posted on April 6, 2010 at 10:26am — 4 Comments

Comment Wall (19 comments)

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At 11:39am on December 31, 2010, james bosco said…

Hi Dan....

Yep...the Kalamazoo Promise is a wonderful program.  I worked with it when it was getting started.  HOpe you have a great 2010.



At 8:45pm on June 27, 2010, Connie Weber said…
Ok, Daniel, lots to consider. I'll bring your suggestions to my colleagues at school for a starting point, and thank you so much.
At 10:23am on June 26, 2010, Connie Weber said…
Thank you infinitely for your participation on Fireside. Thanks for your recent reference to the Giraffe site--whew--very pertinent as I begin planning for my yearlong theme of heroes next year.
I would like you to talk to students/parents next year about what you're doing. Would you be willing? Let's figure out whether it should be via video-conferencing or face to face, or a combination. Do you know much about Ann Arbor and Detroit? We may be able to move some people to action here. I like the idea of using YOU as a real-life example of a hero.
At 5:51pm on February 19, 2010, Daniel Bassill said…
Thanks Connie, I have about a dozen books I'd like to find time to read, just based on the ones I've been introduced to on the Fireside site. I just need to find time to read them.
At 2:54pm on February 19, 2010, Connie Weber said…
Hi Daniel,
I know you're interested in motivation--since you and I enjoy sharing references on the topic. Have you read much of Robert Brooks? I know you'd like his stuff. Motivating Environments
At 3:08pm on January 14, 2010, Laura Gibbs said…
Hi Daniel, and happy new year! Connie sent me a note saying you were in search of a Powerpoint-to-Flash conversion program. That's not something I'm familiar with, and I searched the Ning here quickly and didn't find a reference to anything like that, but I bet if you start a discussion and explain what you want to do, you'll find a Powerpoint guru who can help you.

I use the little "Powerpoint-to-video" conversion option inside Microsoft Powerpoint which turns a Powerpoint file into a .mov video file - but that's not the same as a Flash application, which I'm guessing would have slide controls in addition to the animation. If there is a simple Powerpoint-to-Flash converter I'd love to know about it, too!

I hope your new year is off to a great start!


At 7:19am on September 14, 2009, Connie Weber said…
Hi Daniel,
How about posting your upcoming conference (Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference) in Events, on Fireside? Let's get the word out as many ways as possible. Maybe also start a forum about it?
At 5:50pm on February 15, 2009, Daniel Bassill said…
I've updated the web site for the tutor/mentor program that I lead in Chicago. I hope you'll take a look at some of the videos and other information. By sharing as we do we hope others will borrow ideas from us to build their own programs. We also hope that some of our visitors will be donors who are shopping for places they want to support.
At 11:20pm on November 29, 2008, Daniel Bassill said…
I found a Pan-Canadian Literacy Forum on Ning that some of you might be interested in. Seems that they address similar issues.
At 9:35am on August 29, 2008, Daniel Bassill said…
Thanks Ian. As I watched Barack Obama give his speech at the Democratic convention last night, I wished that there were a section on his campaign web site pointing to maps and charts like these. This can be "world changing" but only if we increase the number of people in the world who see the information and adopt it to their own actions.

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