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Riding the Information Tidal Wave

17 Sep

P3_Logo_FINAL-B&W1Quite by accident I ended up having dinner with friends and a Connecticut sculptor/university professor and his wife. The conversation moved from art to students and then to history. Along the way we strayed into my favorite subject; information overload. For the professor, the availability of a wealth of information was mitigated by students with little or no ability to locate primary source material, determine the validity of the information or critique and analyze resources to support their theses.

In fact, information overload can make it more difficult to locate relevant information in a timely manner, let alone understand and digest it enough to use it to make informed decisions. Organizations, as well as human beings, face the same challenge. This is especially true of organizations in the non-profit sector where the need for services often exceeds the available resources.

P3 faces the same challenge, too much information and not enough time to process it, let alone draw meaningful correlations to our mission and goals. There are reams or terabytes of facts, figures, charts, graphs, research, grants and news that might prove to be instrumental in our journey towards empowering young people but we don’t have the time, energy and wherewithal to always do what we desire.

The P3 board is going on a retreat to determine our next steps. If you would like to join us drop me an email and I will give you details. If you have something valid to add to the community of people pushing this organization forward but cannot attend, let me know so that we can include you in the team of people necessary to make this organization a thriving vital part of the community.

Neighborhood or Community

24 Jul

Did you know that there is a bike tour of the Austin neighborhood? The online site also includes images of various historic buildings and residences in the neighborhood. If you scroll through to the 3rd section you may even see a familiar house labeled Catherine Schlechtk House, described as an 1887 Queen Anne designed by Schock http://www.chicagovelo.com/austin.html.

The popular site Street Advisor, used by many people when moving to a city or state, also has a number of reports on the Austin neighborhood http://www.streetadvisor.com/austin-chicago-cook-county-illinois. For those unfamiliar with the site, it allows people living in or near the location to rank the area for everything from its architecture to who lives there. Surprisingly, in addition to great architecture, it also ranked high for Neighborly Spirit and was suggested by more than one writer as a good place for both professionals and families with kids.

While you may think I am bringing up these items up simply because I am weary of writing about crime rates and cajoling people to action, it is actually a response to something I saw in the Chicago Tribune Crime in Chicago article. The anonymous writer asked the question “What’s the difference between a neighborhood and a community…?” While the answer referred to a 1920 Social Science Research Committee report from the University of Chicago, I considered how I would answer that question myself.

Various dictionary definitions of community proved to be ambiguous though all had similar beginnings; that of a social group with common interests. The definition of neighborhood seemed to be more concerned with location, mostly connected to a place where people live. Psychologist Seymour Sarason first defined the phrase sense of community; he suggested that community is defined by the following factors:
1) Membership: Members have a sense of belonging; they identify with the group and they are willing to make an investment.
2) Influence: Members feel their participation makes a difference and that they have a say in what happens in the group.
3) Fulfillment of Needs: Members’ needs are met by the group; they are rewarded individually and by the success of the group. An important factor is that members are able and willing to help one another and to receive help in return.
The final and most important factor, in my estimation, is this
4) Shared Emotional Connection: Members have a belief that community has a common history, and common places as well as shared events and positive experiences. Members also experience the risks and rewards that come from their individual and group investments, be they time, money or intimacy.

Pyramid Players Productions is trying to create a community within the Austin neighborhood. In order for P3 to foster, build, and grow a successful and thriving community, it needs members. But P3 needs members who are willing to step up and take ownership and responsibility. You do not have to live in the Austin neighborhood but you need to be willing to want to be a part of the community that is striving to empower young people to discover hope and build self-worth through performance based arts and athlete development initiatives in order to be prepared for real-world success. To read the entire mission statement see http://pyramidplayersproductions.org/#/.

Your reward for participation in the P3 community will be that you are helping to make a difference, that you are a part of the answer to the challenges that teens face in Chicago. Someone in your past made an effort to engage you, to help you to get to where you are now so it is time for you to join this community and offer a hand to the next person.

Tagging Austin

19 Apr

There have been several recent articles about a new start-up social media site called the Findery (https://findery.com/). The founder, Caterina Fake, who previously started Flickr, has a new web site where the service relies upon users to annotate the physical world to create augmented-reality content. This form of internet tagging is designed, in Fake’s words, “to tease out local knowledge, hidden secrets, stories and information about the world around you.” According to the Atlantic magazine article (http://tinyurl.com/asd5fzm), Fake wants to make technology real by bringing in human interactions.

While I am always interested in technology, my eye caught this question from the interviewer; “Could more knowledge lead people to shun dangerous or crime-ridden areas?” Fake’s answer intrigued me:

      There was a lot of crime information on Findery for Hunters Point, a poor neighborhood in San Francisco. As a team, we felt an urge to make the place come alive, to say, “This is the community, this is the history of the place, here’s the important stuff that’s going on now.” That can’t happen unless you give people a place to talk. If a newspaper reports on Hunters Point, the “if it bleeds it leads” attitude dominates. The news doesn’t tell you the story of a place as the locals know it.

Then I looked up Chicago on the site. There are only six locations listed which is not surprising, given that the site originators are California-P3_Logo_FINAL-B&W1based. But, consider what would happen if we decided to change the Austin neighborhood from a crime-ridden communitywith nothing but reports of continuing failure and violence to a neighborhood where the hidden gems show up on the map. So I invite you to either send me a location in Austin that you would like me to post or go to Findery yourself. Let’s begin to put Austin on the map for all the best reasons.

And don’t forget to attend the spring concert Dancicals on April 25th at 6 p.m. at Autin H733889_420309491393352_928553474_nigh School located on 231 N. Pine. Show up and applaud the efforts of some of the best teens in Chicago.

Why Baseball?

6 Mar

As a part of our mission, P3 advocates for baseball as a means of empowering youth but we are sometimes confronted with the question “why baseball”. In a recent email article Phillip Jackson, Executive Director of the Black Star Project, discussed how African-Americans have fallen behind the globalization movement (“new-world economy and new-world standards of existence”). http://tinyurl.com/azvk4qe  This is not a dilemma we face blindly. As youth advocates and workers, we often witness the aimless/mindless behavior and attitudes of our teens. 

Many sports have become breeding grounds for young athletes who hope to escape the hood as half-backs or through hoops, rarely facing the reality that few will ever make it beyond high school. While dream-chasing, they miss out on the other social and emotional benefits of participating in organized sports. These tangibles help shape and support our youth in making the physical and mental connections to the world, aiding them in realizing their full potential (in or beyond the world of sports).

The pace and complexity of baseball shapes the game to be more than a “useless sport”; whether playing, coaching, umpiring, training, analyzing, scouting or announcing, it requires the following Essential Skills:

The ability to read with understanding;

Convey ideas in writing;

Speak so that others can understand;

Observe critically;

Listen actively;

Solve problems and make decisions appropriately;

Plan and put those plans into action effectively;

Use math to solve problems and to communicate;

Cooperate with others;

Guide others;

Advocate and influence;

Resolve conflict and negotiate;

Take responsibility for life-long learning;

Learn through research;

Reflect and evaluate;

Use information and communication technology. 

I learned to play softball in my early 30’s and, when I think about the skills that I use the most in my professional life, I often cite my participation in softball as one of the most enduring. I had exceptional academic skills but had never honed (because I never played any sport at all before this) the so called “softer” skills mentioned above. In softball I learned how to lose – not just the game but inning by inning – and still keep playing. I learned to listen well enough to do something different; to observe well enough to do something different;  and to persist, persevere, and stay at the table (in the game) even when things were not going my way. I learned that people depended on me and that I depended on them. I learned that we are sometimes called upon to do things we are not inclined to do because our participation matters.

Only in softball did I see folks who – without softball – would be in jail or so hopelessly disconnected that they were aimless, rudderless and lost. No matter what, the people who committed themselves to softball and the team kept showing up! And in a global world, these are the skills necessary to survive in the 21st century.

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Pay It Forward

4 Mar

Years ago I read an article in the Atlantic Magazine that offered some insight into political capital. The author, William Schneider, said “The rule about political capital is, when you’ve got it, spend it, because you can’t hold on to it.” The popular definition of political capital usually refers to the power that popularity or media coverage confers upon a politician or someone in power.

There is also human, social and intellectual capital. Human capital refers to the value that people, often employees, bring to an organization through their skills and knowledge. Social capital is thought of as the social interactions and relationships that glue us together. Intellectual capital, a term most often employed in business environments, includes human capital, structural capital or process infrastructure that allows us to support what we do, and relational capital, that which links an organization to suppliers and customers. 

Before you drift off, thinking this is another business meeting in a stuffy conference room where a talking head is discussing short and long term business goals, think about P3. We have assets and, though these assets are not cash, they are spendable. Our assets are human capital, social capital and most recently, intellectual capital. We have formed a board, assessed our financial situation, and have undertaken the often thankless task of developing processes to move forward. By spending a little of our capital, we have had assistance in creating logos and letterhead.

Our assets can give us a distinct competitive advantage if we are willing to spend them. We need to distinguish ourselves in the landscape of non-profits with good intentions but little or no business or marketing acumen. We have the people and we have the mission so in the next few weeks we are going to spend a little capital and ask that you do the same.

P3 will be hosting several events, one after work and another after a performance. Our capital expenditure will be volunteer time, expertise and sweat equity while yours needs to be cash. We need money to move this plan forward and while we would love to find a couple of big donors, for the time being we are going to be coming to you, our friends, co-workers and family. Invest in a better tomorrow. Whatever part of our mission resonates with you, get out your checkbook and spend a little on the future of Austin.

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Reggie Jones & Murielle Dickens; Rising Stars of Chicago’s Austin Community

27 Aug

Move Me Soul is more than just a dance troupe; it is a movement dedicated to saving lives through hard work, dedication, education and dance. Move Me Soul is an After School Matters program dance troupe based in the Austin community on Chicago’s West Side. Reggie Jones and Murielle Dickens are two of the standout dancers in the Move Me Soul dance troupe. They share a love for all things dance and that’s not the only thing they have in common.  

Move Me Soul, in conjunction with P3, sponsored Reggie on his first college trip to Cornish College in Seattle, Washington. He is currently a senior Austin High School. Murielle Dickens is entering her senior year at George Washington Prepatory High School. Thanks to Move Me Soul Director Ayesha, Murielle visited and studied dance and culture in Ghana.

I recently had an opportunity to see Reggie and Murielle perform and interview them as well. It was Reggie’s first time on a plane when he visited Cornish College. He described his first visit to Seattle as “Beautiful, the weather was perfect!” even though he ran into some difficulties checking into to his hotel room. P3 had pre-paid for Reggie’s room, but when he arrived he was unable to check-in; P3 eventually arranged housing for Reggie at another hotel about 30 minutes away.

While visiting Cornish College, Reggie participated in the Modern, Ballet, and Pilates dance classes. Reggie thoroughly enjoyed his visit with Cornish College, saying “Their hospitality was great!” In our interview he expressed his passion for all forms of dance; when asked to describe his style of dance he said, “It’s smooth, and I can make it however the choreographer wants to see; I will take in their techniques and add my own to it.” Preparing to go on stage his energy was upbeat and confident. When asked what makes him different he stated “I bring dance to life with my own style.”

 Murielle Dickens describe her style of dance as “Versatile and like a sponge. Any type of style of dance I can learn I will. I want to master every type of style of dance.”  Murielle said that “dancing allows me to get away from the world. Dancing keeps me out of trouble. There are so many places you can go with dance!” After being nominated by Move Me Soul Director Ayesha for the Sankofa Youth Enrichment program, Murielle won a trip to Ghana to study dance for two weeks. She seemed very humbled from her experience and said “We take so much for granted here in the US.” She intends to go back and initiate a Christmas toy/clothing drive for the youth in Ghana. Her advice to anyone interested in dance is to “Stay true to yourself.”

Reggie Jones and Murielle Dickens are the Rising Stars of the Austin community. They both claim Michael Jackson as their favorite dancer but they also share their ambition and drive as well. Their plight is to escape from the violence of Chicago’s Austin community through dance. These are the names that you should know as these Rising Stars will become the Game Changers of tomorrow.

 

Eldrick Hereford