Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Reflections on week 1

Hello again! So I'm in the midst of my second week of work at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection and I'm still feeling really good about things. After my first 3 days where Cabrini Connections was bustling with nonstop activity, it has been an interesting change of pace to see the center with just its 6 employees. For one thing, it's a whole lot quieter! But despite the relative absence of kids running around, I've still managed to avoid sitting at a desk for 8+ hrs a day. For example, since our tutor/mentor program starts back up in full swing by the middle of September, this means that we need to recruit enough volunteer tutor/mentors so that each child can have a qualified and dedicated tutor/mentor to follow them through the academic year...and beyond. As you can imagine, this is quite an undertaking and thus, to help ourselves and other related programs recruit enough quality volunteers, we organize collaborative volunteer recruitment strategy meetings with other organizations. I attended one of these last week with Dan Bassill, our CEO/founder and Nicole, a former NU student who is our current Research and Networking Coordinator.

The 3 of us took the L into the loop to meet at the main office of Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, there we met with members of a number of other Chicago area NGOs involved in tutoring/mentoring and had a round table (which was actually rectangular) discussion about how we can best help each other with volunteer recruitment issues, sharing strategies and past successes and failures. It was interesting to hear the various methods employed by each group beyond the standard on and offline classified listings and flyering. As a newcomer to the non-profit world, I was encouraged by the sense of camraderie between the different organizations and the various collaborative ideas, such as pooling advertising funds and buying ad space on public transit or creating joint flyers and splitting the legwork of posting them. It was really cool to see groups with disparate aims and resources finding common ground and trying to work out some mutually benificial strategies.

Throughout the meeting I think Dan made a strong case for the importance of maintaining a significant and regularly updated online presence, something we have benefited from in terms of volunteer recruitment, but also for public relations and fundraising aims. Honestly, the amount of information that Cabrini Connections and particularly Tutor/Mentor Connection make available online is staggering.

In addition to a comprehensive website for each organization, the staff here keep a number of blogs which you should now be able to access from the blogroll on the right side of my blog homepage. These blogs run the gamut from Dan's tutor/mentor blog wherein he discusses the importance of tutor/mentor programs and how to expand them and improve their impact... to Mike's mapping for justice blog, where he applies his GIS know-how to offer a new perspective on complex issues like urban poverty, crime and the failings of Chicago's public schools. Please check them out as they each offer a different lens through which to view the issues we address on a daily basis at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection as well as the various ways in which we are addressing them.

Besides websites and blogs, we maintain an active presence on facebook as well as another social networking site: ning.com. If you're active in either one of these communities, please consider joining us at the cabrini connection, tutor/mentor connection facebook group or our ning at http://tutormentorconnection.ning.com/ The more the merrier. Hasta la proxima!

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