Giving Opportunities

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Opportunity In Crisis

Opportunity In Crisis

Strengths and vulnerabilities across and within systems are magnified during times like these. Our systems – healthcare, education, and the economy – are struggling under the weight of a virus and disease.

We rely on each other, our systems and the interaction between ourselves and systems to maintain our quality of life.

Our deep interconnectedness is undeniable. With it comes collective responsibility. In other words, it’s cause and effect. What you do over there, affects me over here and the system as whole. Our current Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation provides the perfect illustration.

Earlier this year, FutureMakers Coalition earned one of 22 prestigious Talent Hub designations in the U.S. from the Lumina and Kresge foundations. A point of pride for our community, the designation is validation of Southwest Florida’s ability to lead collectively to transform our workforce to meet employment demands now and in the future. The coalition illustrates that the way we collaborate, lead together and manage within and across systems for continuous improvement matters.

Just days before the world came to screeching halt in response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak, FutureMakers, partners from education, government and business, from all corners of Southwest Florida came together with experts from across the country to focus on systems change to meet our goals. Without knowing the impending near future, we discussed the racial and ethnic inequities within and surrounding the education workforce system that threaten our ability to meet the demands on our talent pipeline.

Together we identified a long-standing barrier to achievement, the policies and systems that drive interpretation of clock-hours (time spent in a classroom) to credit-hour learning (amount of work represented by learning outcomes and verified by student achievement) in degree-seeking programs are simultaneously ambiguous and rigid when it comes to assessing and giving credit for prior learning – decreasing the number of additional credits needed to earn another credential. How we translate clock-hours to credit-hours is a problem in a world that is in need of high-quality, flexible, life-long learning models that don’t unnecessarily thwart economic growth by discouraging students who likely don’t have the luxury of extra time or money to earn a degree.

Fast-forward one week and suddenly our region faced the onset of the global threat of virus leaving educators to figure out how to transition students enrolled in technical college programs to virtual school, within the clock in/clock out model, while credit hour programs more easily transition to the virtual space. Ironic, or simply timely?

How do we avoid losing these students that were almost to the finish line – ready to start careers in high-demand jobs, including much-needed nursing students even prior to COVID-19?  The FutureMakers in our school districts and technical colleges are working hard to figure this out. Federal and accrediting agencies are temporarily relaxing regulations to accommodate immediate needs. But how do we ensure these changes aren’t temporary? How do we use this crisis as an opportunity so reactive changes that work on the ground become permanent, resulting in a system that is more aligned, flexible and equitable?

Quality isn’t the job of a few, at least it shouldn’t be. In fact, making improvements to systems should be everyone’s responsibility. The workforce education system is where FutureMakers Coalition is focused.  Leading together and empowering everyone to solve problems is an overarching value of our collective work to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of workers with the credentials needed to fill in-demand jobs in the region.

When it comes to creating and sustaining a resilient and equitable talent pipeline in our region, we need to stay focused on our interconnected systems, rather than each individual part, to make significant strides and realize change. We need more FutureMakers to do the hard work of collaborating for the sustainability of our region.


About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $7.7 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $134.9 million, it has provided $85 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit





Tessa Lesage
Tessa Lesage