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Progress Reports

Progress Reports

I wait with anticipation for “this time last year” photo alerts on my phone.

Sometimes I feel let down when it is a misguided shot of my shoe from 2016, but on the occasion that the photo points to unrealized progress – I am elated.

The throwback images can remind me of how much my teenage son has changed, the early stages of a community project now in full swing, a grassroots meeting that launched a new nonprofit, or the construction of a new building.

Just a few weeks ago, I shared a video with our Foundation board that was date stamped a year to the day of our viewing. The images were of Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s new Collaboratory offices under construction in midtown Fort Myers. We were watching the footage from a meeting room that was yet to have walls in 2018.

As I often do when I see my flash back photos, the trustees gasped with the realization of how much progress had been made in just 365 days.

When we are around someone or something all the time it can be easy to overlook subtle changes that create big impact. We run the risk of taking progress for granted.

Before we all had throwback memories in the palm of our hands we would mark growth and progress in other ways. What baby boomer doesn’t remember their height being recorded year after year on the kitchen door jam.

Some years there were small changes, while others showed remarkable differences.

The key to seeing and acknowledging progress- big or small, fast or slow is recording, documenting and measuring.

We notice change when we measure it. In some cases we see positive results and know what we are doing is on track and other times our evaluation points to failure and helps us make needed adjustments.

For the past 5 years the Foundation has served as the backbone organization for the region’s FutureMakers Coalition, made up of education, business and community partners dedicated to transforming the workforce in Southwest Florida through a collective cradle to career approach. The Coalition is always measuring and evaluating progress as they work to increase the number of degrees and industry recognized credentials in the region.

As I look back I see that FutureMakers has changed lives and made incredible strides for businesses in need of talent. Like perusing the photos on my phone I can mark progress through the Coalition’s piloted projects, collection of data, and the development of best practices.

Still though, the number of credentials added since inception cannot keep up with population growth.  This puts Southwest Florida at a disadvantage, challenging our ability to diversify the economy, grow businesses, and retain talent.  While the trend is discouraging, this is why we measure. The data we have shines a light on opportunities to close achievement gaps. A system that works for all, regardless of differences or zip codes, will get us significantly closer to our goal of transforming Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of credentialed workforce to 55%.

These data driven look backs help guide our steps forward, highlighting progress that keeps us encouraged and providing vital information for new strategies.

If you would like to view the full FutureMakers report, you can find it at

Now, let’s all go check our throwback pictures and celebrate the progress we are making. I would love to see some of yours at [email protected]


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 $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 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






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