Thursday, June 08, 2017

I'm up to my neck in alligators. How can I drain the swamp?

In dozens of past articles I've used maps to show all of the high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago where kids and families need extra  help, and graphics like the one at the left, to show the role each of us can take to draw others into the work of making such programs available in more places.

Over the weekend I was reminded of how difficult it is to attract people from their own busy, complex, lives, to devote time, talent, thinking, learning and dollars to help others who live on another block, another part of the city, or in another state or country.

My neighbor, Casey Jablonski, died of a sudden heart attack. As we gathered for the wake, my wife and I reached out to an elderly couple across the street, and one comment was how "every Sunday after church Casey had visited to offer them help".  I constantly saw Casey reaching out to help neighbors, while spending countless hours mentoring his grandsons.  He also worked long shifts on his job.

Every day, citizens like Casey, are doing different acts of service, helping their neighbors, their local schools, the local sports programs, their church, and even local politics. At the same time they are taking care of their own parents, kids and grandkids.

With eating, sleeping, working, and caring for close neighbors, how much time is left for caring about people who don't live near you, don't look like you, don't share the same belief systems, etc?

From this blog
So today I read an article about digital citizenship, written by Sheri Edwards, a school teacher from Washington state, who I've met via the Connected Learning MOOC (#clmooc).   The graphic at the right was one of several in her article. This one shows family at the center of a person's universe with rings of involvement surrounding each person and their family.

I love the graphic, but felt that it was missing some of the complexity that I've been focusing on. So I created my own interpretation.

Instead of showing "city, state, country, continent, world" in one ring, I separated them into different rings, with the intent of illustrating the growing distances between your family, close friends and neighborhood, with other parts of your city and its suburbs, your state, other cities, your country, and the world.

I've used this graphic often to show how conversations, and interest, need to turn into planning and on-going efforts to build public will to support the distribution of resources into high poverty areas of Chicago and other cities.  The further away the problem is, and the more complex it is, the more difficult it is to get people to devote a fraction of their waking hours to get involved in finding solutions.

I led volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs from 1975 to 2011 and in one we grew from 100 volunteers to nearly 550 volunteers over a 17 year period...with almost no paid staff until the final two years.  I learned through those years that the commitment of most volunteers to the tutoring program was seldom higher than 4th or 5th on their life priorities, behind family, work, faith, friends and often a few other interests. Because I was able to build an on-going organization with this level of support, I've always believed we could draw enough people into on-going efforts focused on helping every neighborhood have high quality, mentor-rich programs.

I'm constantly reminded of how difficult this is.  But I'm also reminded of how important it is to keep trying.

I created this "drain the swamp" graphic for an article I wrote several years ago, to illustrate this problem. The article is still valid. I hope that I can connect with others who are also thinking about this.

I encourage you to read and share other articles I've posted, in the past few days, and the past few years. Create your own interpretations of my graphics.

I look forward to adding my experiences into your own discussions and borrowing from your own ideas at the same time.

No comments: