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Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

Before you read another word, let me assure you that this is not a resolution column. I like resolutions and I make them, I even have a tradition with my family of picking a theme song for the New Year to reinforce the commitments we make but I can’t write about that and remain in good standing with my husband and kids. They are sometimes surprised to read what I write about them in these columns and I have resolved with them to try and leave them out of my 2014 missives.

When I arrived at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation 2 years ago it was just a few months before the New Year and I did write a resolution column and promised the community that I would listen. I was award that I had a great deal to learn about the issues in our region and I knew that the people to teach me were my neighbors in Southwest Florida.

Trust me, I realize that a listening tour was not a new or novel idea. Sometimes the best resolutions are not innovative, but rather just sound thinking. How many times do we resolve to eat right, exercise more, go to bed earlier or save money? Those ideas are not new, but they are sound. So when I resolved to listen I was just slightly worried that it might be too boring of an idea to work. I was wrong.

The listening, (I am still doing it) has turned out to be a great education. I have learned more in the last 2 years than in any other time in my career, but the real bonus is that listening has turned into conversations. Sometimes two-way conversations between myself and the person I am listening to, but equally compelling are the conversations that have started between groups of people that are willing to come in and sit around a table to share ideas and solutions.
On more than one occasion while hosting one of the these roundtable exchanges, participants have commented on how great it is to just talk and listen to one another. I have also heard that many of us feel as if we just don’t make the time anymore to actually talk to one another. We have all grown accustomed to a more automated form of communication. I like the ads on TV where people are shocked when a real person answers the phone at the credit card company. Human contact has become somewhat of a novelty.

If this was a resolution column I might suggest we resolve to both talk and listen more in 2014- but we all know we rarely keep those resolutions anyway, so how do we keep the dialogue going?

At the Foundation we have found that the key is to give people something meaningful to talk about and to follow up with results when appropriate. Over the past few months we have had gathered people together to discuss topics including literacy, water issues, mentoring high school seniors, regional funding, early childhood education and new models in giving to make an impact. Participants are interested in these subjects and come from a diverse audience. We learn from each other and in some cases make a plan for future action.

Over the last two years our resolve to keep these conversations going has not waned as most resolutions do. As long as caring Southwest Florida residents are willing to talk—we are committed to listening, learning and taking action. I guess this was a resolution column after all. Not about making new ones but recommitting to ideas that are sound and working.

If you have something to talk about or would like to see us hold a roundtable on a cause or an issue please email me at [email protected]

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been supporting the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Collier counties since 1976. With assets over $72 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $57 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. For more information, please call 274-5900, or visit our web site at

Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More