Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Listening to the Stars

On Monday, I posted an interview with Dan Bassill about leadership. He talks about the need for more leaders - in all sectors - to support tutor/mentor programs. He also talks about information-sharing and collaboration between programs. Dan, along with other founders, started the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region. They have followed through with that mission over the years by maintaining a database of programs and by sharing ideas and concepts related to tutoring and mentoring.

Tutor/Mentor Connection offers a plethora of resources, but how can we get more people involved? How can we get more program leaders to contribute their ideas and work together to improve their own programs, or help start new ones? Though we are all united by a desire to help youth rise out of poverty and into successful careers, we tend to work in silos. Each program raises funds, recruits volunteers, and runs day-to-day on its own. How can we come together for the better of us all?

In comes The Constellation Model of Collaborative Social Change. In 2000, a small group of Canadian NGOs were worried about the issue of children's environmental health, but no group on its own had the mandate or resources to deal with such a complex issue. In response, the 'constellation model' of partnering was developed in order to bring together groups from multiple sectors to work toward a joint outcome. I encourage you to read this 6-page article detailing the model. Authors Mark and Tonya Surman say "it is helpful for organisations that want to solve concrete problems within the context of a rapidly changing, complex ecosystem." Sounds like us! Here are more excerpts to help you better understand the idea...
Two elements are needed to create a constellation: a need or opportunity, and energetic leadership by one or more partner.
Like the stars in the sky, constellations are 'loosely coupled' together to create a rough and chaotic whole. Partners come together based on their own interests and assets, which usually ensures that the 'right' partners are at the table. This element of self-interest also makes it more likely that there are high levels of contribution and participation.
More importantly, because of reduced competition, partners are able to raise considerably more money ... together than they would have individually. ... Also, funders readily appreciated the strategic benefits of working with all of the partners together.
I think this is a great idea and I would love to see it adopted by tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. Imagine if we were all working as one - sharing ideas and resources - toward an overarching goal of keeping kids in school and preparing them for 21st century jobs and careers by the time they are adults. We could accomplish a lot. Would you join a team?

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