A Shared Roadmap for Our Region's Future

Gulf Coast

BY MARK PRITCHETT SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUN 17, 2017

Today, we have more data than ever about our community and world. But how do we best make sense of it—how do we turn that barrage of information into actionable intelligence to benefit our region and residents? Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s latest regional scan is one approach.

Every few years, we analyze data and interview community leaders to better understand what’s happening in our region and what challenges we face. From there, Gulf Coast identifies regional priorities that we must address together to build a better future. For example, our last scan in 2013 led to initiatives to diversify our economy, improve the skills of our workforce and help homeless families find opportunity after the Great Recession.

What does our latest scan tell us? With our region earning individual accolades for things like “best beach,” grade-A schools and “top 10” retirement havens, you might think we’re doing just fine. In fact, we see challenges across the big picture. The strengths and assets we consider our greatest—our beautiful natural resources, reasonable cost of living, good schools and more—are at risk. Things like growth, diversity, technology, globalization and climate trends will have real impacts on our region, real soon.

But like Churchill said, there is opportunity in every difficulty. That’s why we use our scan to identify priorities for action. It’s also why we titled our report “Moving Forward Together.”

Together, we have vital opportunities to address chronic homelessness, improve foster care, stem the opioid crisis, provide mental health options and help young children read.

So how can you use our new report? For policymakers and other leaders, the data in our scan (and on its companion website, www.GulfCoastIndicators.org) say a lot about our community, but the voice of that data will only come from choosing to put it to use. For our nonprofit partners, you can see a variety of issues on our region’s horizon and how you can partner with Gulf Coast to address them. And for philanthropists and volunteers, you can learn more about areas where your help is needed most (and we can even connect you to them).

The economic cost of social issues and the resources dedicated to helping others in our region are substantial. And many of our most pressing needs are not new or unique; they are recurring issues and enduring enigmas. Now more than ever, we must establish new partnerships, pursue lasting solutions, and invest in people. When historian David McCullough spoke in Sarasota earlier this year, he stressed that data and information alone are not learning. So, let’s learn from this data and then use it, together, to move our region forward. 

Mark Pritchett is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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