Monday, May 7, 2007

A New Neighbor

One of the most difficult things about running any volunteer organization is getting your message out to like-minded individuals. You can post flyers around town, you can rely on work of mouth, and you can put a press release in the local paper. With the great power of the Internet you can also connect up with people you would never have met in any other way.

And that is how we came across the Neighbor Networking Blog and Habib Rose. Neighbor Networking is also a part of the Tutor/Mentor Blog Exchange going on this month in conjunction with the biannual Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago.

The idea of the neighborhood for a large city is certainly different than the focus for the small cities and rural areas that we have in Vermont. In the post from May 3rd, Habib writes about the pluses of connecting to others within your neighborhood:

[I]n the case of cities on the West Coast, it is my impression that there is always a possibility of connecting people who have needs with neighbors (in their broad neighborhood) who can offer assistance. Making these connections on a neighborhood level rather than all the way across a city offers a number of benefits including:
1. Greater possible frequency of interactions (you don’t have to make a special trip way across town)
2. Higher likelihood of familiarity with the culture, surroundings, and living situation of the kids who are getting help
3. Less time wasted in travel across town
4. Less gasoline wasted, pollution generated etc. (in situations where one or both parties are driving or being driven)

It is my guess that one of the best ways for people to get involved as Tutors/Mentors with T/MC is to know other people who are already Tutors/Mentors. So, the more Tutors/Mentors that get started in any general neighborhood, the greater the likelihood of finding additional people in those same neighborhoods.

Some of these principles can be applied to us in Southern Vermont but we do have to expand our neighborhoods to greater geographic areas. Sometimes there just aren’t enough people in our physical neighborhoods to meet our mentoring needs.

That is why a program like “Let’s Do Lunch” has so much success here. The students are in a central location (school) and the mentors come from local businesses. The neighborhood is expanded and ties between communities are formed. The mentor and mentee may live at opposite ends of the travel spectrum – but they are brought together at lunch. Once the connection is made the mentoring program may expand to after-school and summer activities as well.

We are hoping that we will also be able to expand our neighborhood using this blog and other Web 2.0 applications like bookmarks and Technorati.

We are also expanding our virtual neighborhood as much as possible but we’re also looking for ideas of how to connection this blog to local people. How do you get the word out to people who may not be looking for you? This weekend we handed out flyers about the blog at Green Up Day in Springfield. A decidedly non-tech solution. But every little bit helps!


Tutor Mentor Connections said...

You are doing a great job of connecting with others involved with the blog exchange. I added a graphic to today that illustrates the role of a network weaver. I encourage you to look at this and consider ways you might take that role in Vermont.

I'd like to introduce you to another person that I think you'll enjoy meeting. At you can read about a concept called Peace Tiles. The author, Lars Hasselblad Torres, is based in Vermont, so it might be possible for you to connect your kids and volunteers via a peace tiles project.

I think this could be a great idea to connect kids and volunteers from multiple programs with each other, at a time of the year when we're all looking for volunteers (Aug/Sept) or dollars (Nov/Dec).

Vermont Mentoring said...

Thanks, I'll take a look at the Mixed Media site and what they are doing with the Peace Tiles.

Tutor Mentor Connections said...

Kari, in your closing comment you asked, "how do we get the message out to local people?"

My suggestion is that you enlist faith and business leaders who will tie their communications to your mobilization message.

You can provide reasons for them to do this by pointing out how similar people in different cities/countries are doing this. Or you can tie the work you do with kids to issues of workforce development, peace and justice.

Vist the Smart Communities blog at and you'll see some recommended reading.

One way to get local people involved is to encourage them to read material like this, then come together with you and other local youth organizations to discuss how that applies in your community, and what people can do to solve these issues by working together.

Since these are national issues, if we can find ways to get people from all over the country to come to our web sites to discuss research like this, we can create more visibility and draw more people and donors to our programs.