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I have had my run-ins with rodents.  Depending on where I was living at different points in my life I would encounter an occasional possum or mouse lurking in or around my house.  I never loved it but when my kids were watching I would try to not overreact and make them feel secure that we could handle any situation that came our way.

I held that line until a 1920’s bungalow in Tampa.  It was charming, historic, full of character and…


The lot behind the idyllic cottage had been cleared and through that process the four legged creatures that inhabited that space sought a new home and decided mine would suit their needs.

In an effort to not freak out squeamish readers, who have probably already stopped reading at this point anyway,  I am not going to go into any detail here but let me just say it was an invasion not an intrusion.

Ever since that experience I have had a love affair with skilled humane exterminators and a complete discomfort with anything even remotely having a long tail and beady eyes.

So imagine my dismay when I learned that a regional coalition the Southwest Florida Community Foundation was facilitating and supporting formed workgroups that our staff named Regional Action Teams.

This seems innocent enough but I am fan of acronyms and quickly realized we had formed RAT Teams for this newly developed coalition.  I expressed my concern to my Foundation teammates but they explained that these three words: Regional, Action and Teams were meaningful and important to the work.

The FutureMakers Coalition is tasked with increasing the number of working age adults in our region with post-secondary college degrees or industry recognized certifications from 27% to 40% by 2025.  This is a doable but challenging goal that was crafted by students, educators, businesses, economic developers and workforce development gurus.  The idea behind the goal is to create a more vibrant Southwest Florida with a working population that holds degrees and certifications that improve individual lives and the region as a whole.

You can imagine that if there is a coalition formed there is a great deal of work that needs to happen in order to make the goal a reality.  This is where the RATs come in. I am speaking now about the teams not the four legged creatures.

The efforts must be Regional.  This goal cannot and will not be accomplished within hyper-local boundaries.  To be successful each county must continue the great work they are doing around post-secondary attainment but also be willing to share and communicate across county lines.  We have so much to learn from each other.

The efforts must possess Action.  One of my favorite Chinese proverbs is “talking doesn’t cook the rice.” If we are going to work regionally to achieve the goal we cannot wait for perfect conditions or strategies, we simply must get to work and have an action attitude.

And finally, the effort must have a Team approach.  No singular entity can accomplish this goal alone.  If they could it would have happened already.  It also must be a team based on healthy dynamics.  We have all been part of a dysfunctional team at some point in our lives and know that not much can be accomplished in that setting.

Last week, the Regional Action Teams convened for the first time to launch their work.  I stood at the front of the room and sheepishly apologized for the unfortunate acronym. But to my surprise everyone in the spirit of building the coalition embraced the RAT moniker and reminded me that these creatures are some of the most tenacious, persistent and resourceful.

And that is exactly what it will take to accomplish the goal.

Find out more about the FutureMakers Coalition at and sign the wall to join the effort- all RATs are welcome here!



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