Looking for Cross City, Cross State, Collaboration? Websites that aggregate knowledge support the efforts of thousands of others who are looking to apply this type of knowledge in program improvement, problem solving and innovation. This is the role of Tutor/Mentor Connection, or T/MC, a Chicago nonprofit organization, which maintains a library of information related to the operation of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring, education-to-careers programs that are based outside of a school setting. Included is a master database of Chicago-based tutoring and/or mentoring programs.
The Tutor/Mentor Connection uses this information to draw Chicago area programs together for networking, learning and capacity-building collaboration. The program uses the information also to create business partnerships that increase the number of volunteers and dollars available to tutor/mentor programs throughout Greater Chicago. The Lend-A-Hand Program at the Chicago Bar Association is an example.
Networking Across Boundaries to Stimulate Innovation
The Tutor/Mentor Connection encourages other nonprofits to learn to compare what they do, to what others do, and use this benchmarking to stimulate innovation that leads to process improvement on an ongoing basis. Our conferences and online forums encourage networking and collaboration on an ongoing basis.
The T/MC was created in 1993 by the leaders of a small Chicago tutor/mentor program called Cabrini Connections. The founders recognized that by creating a strategy that supports all Chicago tutor/mentor programs with better information, and a more consistent flow of volunteers and operating dollars, it was also building a support system for its own program. Most of its growth has been supported by volunteers, and a variety of corporate/foundation donors.
Today, we see ourselves as part of a larger, international network of “information hubs” that represent more knowledge about helping kids move from poverty to jobs and careers than the T/MC could ever collect and organize on its own.
Creating Your Own Knowledge Center
Any organization has the potential to become a “knowledge center” like the Tutor/Mentor Connection. For example, a team of youth in a service-learning program could create a blog, and then add links to the blog, showing the various nonprofits near their school.
Beyond the electronic component, of course, a nonprofit organization in Boston, New Haven or any other New England city, could take the lead in building a network of local tutor/mentor programs - or whatever their program focus, and draw them together on a consistent basis, as the T/MC has done in Chicago. [For example, read about TSNE’s Capacity Building Fund - ed.]
In the Tutor/Mentor Institute section of its website, the program provides a variety of short essays that illustrate its thinking, and can be used by others to duplicate the T/MC process.
I invite others to take this role and to link to the T/MC site. Furthermore, the T/MC invites others to connect in online forums where the needs of nonprofit tutor/mentor programs – opportunities for helping kids in many cities – can be discussed. Additionally, ideas can be shared that enable all programs to do much more to help youth, than we can with the often limited resources of our own local networks and collaborations.