Saturday, March 7, 2009

campusCATALYST @ cabriniCONNECTIONS

Earlier this week Dan and I met with Liz Weber, a co-coordinator of campusCATALYST, which is a relatively new organization at Northwestern that gives undergraduates a chance to work with Kellogg MBA students, taking on a consulting role for local non-profits. Cabrini Connections, The Tutor/Mentor Connection was selected as one of the 5 organizations that they will be consulting with during this upcoming Spring quarter. Therefore, we met in order to determine an area of need that a team of 5 undergraduates and 1 Kellogg MBA could tackle in the coming months. Dan and I decided that this would be a good opportunity to try to expand our "Business School Connection" model, which sees business schools as resource-rich potential partners that should have a vested interest in working with youth tutor/mentor organizations around the city.

We are hoping that this partnership could be loosely modeled after our Lawyers Lend a Hand Program, which brings together lawyers of all stripes from the Chicago Bar Association who are interested in using their networks and resources to "lend a hand" to at-risk kids throughout the city in the form of renewable grants to Chicago Tutor/Mentor Programs. Last year the "Lend A Hand" program distributed over $200,000 in grants to 27 different tutor/mentor programs to be used for general operating funds, the most difficult yet useful type of funding for programs like ours to receive.

With this project, we’re aiming to use campusCATALYST's talents and relationships with the Kellogg school of Business to increase their engagement with tutoring/mentoring programs across the city, including our own. The skills and expertise that business schools impart on their students and alumni are exactly the kinds of skills that tutor/mentor programs need to increase their effectiveness and impact on the kids they serve. For example, in conceptualizing the relative lack of tutor/mentor programs compared to the number of at-risk kids who need them, it is helpful to think of it as a marketing and distribution problem. We’re selling hope and opportunity delivered by adult tutors and mentors. For kids, volunteers and business partners to respond, we must have a good product, we must offer effective services and we must have as many distribution points as possible so our services are easy to access, we must have great people and we must sell, sell, sell!

We feel that business must be more responsible for youth entering the workforce. They cannot depend on public schools or the government to create a system that will be competitive with education to careers programs in other countries. We believe that in today’s climate of increasing corporate social responsibility, high profile business schools, such as Kellogg School of Management, have an opportunity to take the lead in encouraging and supporting business involvement in the process of pulling at-risk kids towards college and careers. The Tutor/Mentor Connection has already met with faculty and leaders of a number of Chicago business schools with a goal of enlisting faculty at one school to become a partner with the Tutor/Mentor Connection the way the Chicago Bar Association has become a partner through our “Lawyers Lend a Hand” initiative and in the way that www.verizonreads.org supports literacy programs throughout the country. These organizations believe in the effectiveness of tutor/mentor programs in bringing about a wide variety of positive youth outcomes including but not limited to: improved grades and self-esteem, improved H.S. graduation and college matriculation rates, reduced likeliness of teen pregnancy, initiation of drug and alcohol use and improved school attendance.

The partnership we are seeking is significantly different from traditional philanthropy, which often initiates a project and then asks the organization to seek other sources to keep it going. We are aiming to create a sustainable partnership where Kellogg and other business schools take a leadership role in channeling resources to tutor/mentor programs around the city, helping to pull disadvantaged kids to success, to careers and towards making a positive contribution to society.

Once this resource stream is established, we want to develop a competition between business schools around the city and country to put together teams of students and alumni to fight to raise the most funds and/or bring much needed resources to the many under-funded tutor/mentor programs in each city. Since tutor/mentor programs offer a unique solution to some of the most hot-button social issues of our time: poverty, educational inequity, corporate social responsibility…etc, this provides business schools a great opportunity to use their resources to make a big impact on at-risk youth while at the same time, building positive PR for their schools and developing tomorrows workforce.

Interested in this idea? email me at chris.warrens.mail(at)gmail.com and we can discuss some different ways to get involved

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