The following guest column by Gulf Coast President|CEO Mark Pritchett appeared in the October 16 edition of SRQ Daily:
Every couple of years, Gulf Coast Community Foundation conducts what we call a “regional scan.”
The project involves researching and analyzing community data to see long-term and emerging trends, and then enhancing that picture with perspectives from focus groups of community leaders. The result is a roadmap of priorities to help us prepare for challenges ahead and move our region forward together.
Last time around, in 2019, we explored future risks and potential disruptors and identified priorities to make our region more resilient. Little did we—did anyone—know how quickly disruption would come, and how fully our resilience would be tested!
The pandemic has jeopardized the livelihoods of thousands of workers, disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income families, afflicted the mental health of children and adults, disrupted our nonprofit organizations and civic institutions, and accelerated social and technological changes in how we live, work, learn, and communicate.
Our brand-new, 2021 scan was conducted as our region worked to recover from over a year of turmoil, uncertainty, and change. This year, we further refined our process and product with an additional, community-facing survey, expanding the number and range of voices helping us define regional priorities and opportunities.
Gulf Coast has identified five priorities that are critical for our region in the year ahead:
-Increased access to mental health care, especially in our underserved and under-resourced populations.
-Supporting, protecting, and retaining our youth.
-Addressing the affordable housing crisis.
-Providing access to stable jobs with livable wages.
-Mitigating threats to our natural environment, especially our region’s waterways.
These will be our focus as a foundation.
Our scan also illuminated cross-cutting and foundational challenges that continue to impact our region and require collaboration to address. They range from achievement gaps and digital divides in education to systemic racial and social inequities to the need for better senior care. Opportunities also exist to strengthen nonprofit networks, engage future leaders, and reform criminal justice.
You can view our summary report at GulfCoastCF.org/scan-2021. It’s a quick read with a bold design that highlights priorities thematically and aims to catalyze action on opportunities.
As we look toward the future, our region in a post-COVID world—if that even comes to be—may look different from in years past. The pandemic’s impacts on our communities, our families, and our children are far-reaching, and ripple effects will be felt for a long time.
Gulf Coast Community Foundation is committed to working with our donors and our partners in the public, civic, and private sectors to enact meaningful change and provide opportunities for all residents. Our priorities are your priorities. Join us in transforming our region.