ECO network: Economic Opportunities through education

EcO Network represents a partnership of education, business, and community leaders focused on aligning the region’s community learning system with economic growth and a high quality of life, while advancing equity in its work.

Launched in 2008, the EcO Network is an initiative of CEC. Its mission is to create a regional system of life-long learning connecting residents in Southeastern Indiana to better economic opportunities through education. Stakeholders from the region who are active in this cross-sector collaboration include education, community foundation, industry, workforce, government, and community leaders.

The Equity Imperative

It is imperative we focus our efforts on promoting equity, eliminating educational barriers and disparities throughout Southeast Indiana.

The EcO Network advances equity in all its work, paying special attention to racial and income inequalities, to ensure that each person thrives educationally, financially and civically. To us, educational equity means:

  • Increased educational access, attainment, and success
  • Improved economic vitality where all citizens possess skills and education to be self-sufficient
  • All learners receive what they need to develop full academic and social potential, regardless of their starting point in life
  • Advancing educational outcomes for Latinx learners and low-income learners

Discover the Latino Education Outreach Program TuFuturo (Your Future). A cross-sector collaboration providing a full suite of services to Latinos and their families.

EcO Network designated as one
of 26 Talent Hubs in the U.S.

One of seven recipients of the
Strada Education Network
Innovative Solutions in Education-
to-Employment national grant.

Designated as a
21st Century Talent Region.

EcO Network proudly serves Southeastern Indiana to connect residents to better economic opportunities through education.

Creating a regional system of life-long learning through collaborative networks, aligning workforce needs, and educational attainment.

The EcO Network undertakes system-change work focused on increasing educational attainment, especially linked to high demand economic sectors that are the most well-paying in Southeast Indiana. The region’s key industry sectors of focus include Advanced Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Information Technology. EcO Network serves as the backbone organization that convenes, facilitates, and coordinates guiding teams representing diverse stakeholders from public, private, and social sectors in the region.

Three Strategic Goals

Move residents up at least one level in their education, training, and/or job placement.

Coordinate and align a regional learning system.

Be a catalyst for regional leadership and collaboration.

Defining Educational Attainment

EcO Network defines Educational Attainment in two ways:

Percentage of the regional adult population with high-value credentials beyond high school.

Number of people earning post-secondary credentials through our regional education partners.

Impacting Lives and Exceeding Goals

Since the launch of the regional Talent Hub strategies, educational attainment increased dramatically.

8% Growth of regional adults
earning credentials beyond

high school 2017-20.

From a baseline of 1,493, our goal of 1,940 people has been exceeded each academic year.

Exceeding goals of earning credentials
three years in a row.

How and Where We Do Our Work

The EcO Network team uses the CivicLab process of stakeholder engagement which provides both a shared language and a data-based common approach.

As we work towards the mission of creating a regional system of life-long learning which connects students to better employment opportunities, EcO Network convenes quarterly meetings with our regional partners to foster learning and create a shared understanding of Southeast Indiana’s talent systems. These partners include those involved in employment, education, community foundations, industry, workforce, government and community leaders.

Through these collaborations, we seek to:

  • Enhance collaboration on talent and employment strategies.
  • Be shovel-ready to leverage local, regional, state, and national resources.
  • Advance equity in all that we do.

AirPark Columbus College Campus provides EcO Network and its partners the perfect environment for collaboration.

From our offices in the AirPark College Campus, located in Columbus, Indiana, the work of
EcO Network circulates its service to Southeastern Indiana. The architecturally distinct AirPark College Campus is shared by Indiana’s three top educational institutions, Ivy Tech, IUPUC,
and Purdue PolyTechnic Institute.

What Employers are Saying

This level of collaboration is world-class. We see the deep commitment by a wide array of stakeholders to achieve positive outcomes in the region.”

Healthcare Industry

I believe CEC’s most unique strength is the way they convene multiple stakeholders to think about and work toward collective goals…encouraging deep relationships and trust.”

Manufacturing Industry

(They) listen to various stakeholder voices, and build bridges across these. Rather than prescribing solutions, it serves as a wonderful catalyst to achieve better outcomes for all in the region.”

Information Technology


Lumina Foundation designates EcO Network as one of 26 Talent Hubs in the U.S.

This designation signals to the nation that EcO Network has the skills, know-how, and capacity to create systemic change for post secondary learners, ensuring residents of all backgrounds receive an education beyond high school. Acknowledging the exemplary status among peer communities, this elevates our region’s effective work and practices to a national level.

Strada Education Network awards one of seven Innovative Solutions in Education-to-Employment Grants.

This grant recognizes the Community Education Coalition and its EcO Network initiative as a back-bone support organization within the ecosystem helping bridge the divide between education and economic opportunity. Regional partners are invested in preparing learners of all ages for in-demand careers, designing solutions that are relevant to the real-world challenges and opportunities today’s students face.

EcO Network and Southeast Indiana designated as a 21st Century Talent Region.

The Governor’s Office of Career Connection and Talent in partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation have designated 21st Century Talent Regions. Communities throughout southeast Indiana commit to a comprehensive systems-approach to attract, develop and connect Hoosier talent. Together we are striving to increase educational attainment, raise household income, and grow population.