Thursday, September 16, 2010

Looking Around the Court

In third grade, I played on a basketball team called Sasquatch (see the image on the right for a visual of our mascot). Despite our intimidating name, we won a grand total of one game the entire season (the other team didn’t show up, so we called it a win and went out for pizza). Even though our losing record rivaled that of the Cubs, my teammates and I actually did improve a lot throughout the season. My dad, an avid and talented basketball player, served as our coach, and he always offered words of encouragement and advice from the sidelines.

As third graders still learning to dribble the ball, we needed constant reminding to stay alert to what was happening all over the court so that we could pass, shoot, and move the ball more effectively. Oftentimes, my dad would have to remind us to, “Look around the court!” or "Look for help!"

I thought about my dad’s coaching today when reflecting on the goals of the biannual Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference. Among the primary goals of the Conference is to connect people leading programs, volunteers, donors, and supporters. By establishing these connections, leaders can “look around the court” and gain an awareness of what is happening in other programs or even see places for potential collaboration between organizations.

Recently, one of our volunteers, Kalyani Misra, completed a series of network maps showing organizations represented at the May 2008 Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference and the involvement of participants in the Conference. T/MC President Dan Bassill's recent blog post also comments on what these maps allow us to visualize.

As Dan and Kilyani discuss in their blogs, these diagrams illustrate how the Conference serves as a hub that connects many organizations—some from Chicago and some from other cities. Through workshops and networking, program leaders build an awareness of what is going on throughout the tutor/mentor sector
—best practices, innovations, and support in addressing common challenges.

Beyond reflections on the goals of the Conference, I also thought about the value in looking beyond one’s own niche and organization when I attended yesterday's seminar for the 2010 group of Public Interest Program (PIP) fellows. We represent a wide variety of organizations in Chicago with focuses ranging from youth to refugees to policy change. Each Wednesday, we will be coming together for workshops, site visits to organizations throughout the city, and discussions on working in Chicago's public sector. Just like the Conferences put on by the T/MC, these seminars provide a space for people who might not otherwise conne
ct to learn from each other, find ways that the missions of our diverse organizations might connect, and truly become colleagues.

Whether we are in business, non-profit, fellowship programs, or even basketball games, sometimes we need opportunities to step beyond our own tasks and become aware of what others are doing and how that m
ight relate to our broader goals. I know I am going to keep my dad's coaching in mind when I attend PIP seminars and when I continue planning the November Tutor/Mentor Conference. I hope to constantly stay alert to opportunities, connections, and potential collaborations to work toward shared goals.

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