If you work in or around education and kids in Collier County, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Future Ready Collier. There’s even a good chance you know about Future Ready Collier’s work as a collective impact network. This partnership of over 60 community-based members is united around a singular purpose: to help students and families thrive in Southwest Florida through access to high-quality education and related supports. Because Future Ready Collier operates as a membership network, most of its efforts are concentrated behind the scenes. Take a closer look at how Future Ready Collier makes a difference through its partners.
Future Ready Collier’s history is rooted in focused collaboration. Collier County has a long and meaningful history of social service and community giving. However, it is easy for service-oriented organizations to become so attentive to their individual missions that cross-sector cooperation doesn’t get the prioritization it deserves. In contrast, Future Ready Collier has made it a central commitment of its work to take an inclusive view of education. Anyone who wants to have a voice in the conversation is welcome.
Meaning, while Collier County Public Schools, and education providers from early learning through university, are valued members of the network, so are healthcare providers, businesses, and charitable foundations. Academic learning happens mostly in the classroom. Learning, though, happens everywhere, in and outside of school hours. And a child’s ability to thrive at school is related to their physical and mental wellness, support received out of school, and awareness of available opportunities at all ages.
Trusted Gathering Point
To that end, one of Future Ready Collier’s primary roles is as a trusted gathering point for its diverse membership, where data and sensitive information can be shared with mutual respect. Members of the network come together to discuss best practices, to strategize, and to problem-solve. The understanding is that education happens along a continuum. The tools and skills that children acquire even before they enter kindergarten lead directly to their elementary, middle grades, and high school successes. In turn, successfully completing high school increases the likelihood that young adults pursue further education or training to secure a sustainable career.
This approach benefits from the contributions of many. For example, the business community is interested in supporting education so that, first, their employees’ children are taken care of, and, second, to grow the qualified local workforce. Relevant efforts include a commitment to expanding students’ access to work-based learning and on-the-job internships. These experiences can introduce students to career pathways they didn’t know existed or were available to them. Working with post-secondary institutions in turn helps students feel that additional education or training programs are options, and that with the right financial aid anything is possible.
Best Use of Resources
Where resources are limited or hard to come by, it matters how they are distributed. Through conversations and partnerships among its network, Future Ready Collier enables better resource allocation in the region. Organizations can more efficiently assess who does what on-the-ground work, who has what tools available, and who would benefit from some targeted assistance. By engaging with charitable funders, Future Ready Collier can be a conduit for identification of need locally.
This has been deeply felt during and after crises, but is just as important for day-to-day requirements and processes. Future Ready Collier meetings have generated action related to developments like Collier County Public Schools’ introduction of a fully online school registration system, or expansion of literacy programs, childhood screenings, and FAFSA support. Importantly, Future Ready Collier’s membership, structure, and goals continue to evolve. Just as the community changes, so must awareness of its needs. To learn more about Future Ready Collier or to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.