Bentonville, AR - The Walmart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation today announced joint support of TRUE Northwest Arkansas (TRUE), a new three-year community-based initiative to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in Benton and Washington counties. The program will foster an environment where all members of the Northwest Arkansas community can thrive and feel included, building on both foundations’ efforts to enhance quality of life in the region.
“Northwest Arkansas is a vibrant, diverse community where many of us are privileged to live,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “The TRUE initiative will strengthen partnerships among local leaders and organizations to foster an even more inclusive and empathic community.”
The Arkansas Community Foundation will coordinate and lead efforts for TRUE Northwest Arkansas. The Walmart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation are providing nearly $2.5M in funding to support grants that provide project management and implementation during the pilot program’s startup phase, as well as additional training and capacity-building grants to local organizations that are selected to participate in upcoming efforts.
“Growing up in Bentonville, my family experienced firsthand all our hometown has to offer,” said Tom Walton, Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program chair. “TRUE Northwest Arkansas will help our growing community ensure newcomers and long-time residents are welcomed and have access to all the opportunities available in this region.”
TRUE Northwest Arkansas’ website – truenwarkansas.org – will be a community engagement resource that will provide up-to-date information on training opportunities, a report on the state of inclusion in the region, and grantee and learning resources. An anonymous online survey that will capture perceptions around diversity, equity and inclusion in the region is also available through the website. Survey findings will inform the report on the region’s state of inclusion to build understanding around gaps and barriers. The public is encouraged to complete the survey.
The framework for TRUE Northwest Arkansas will:
- Train local champions of diversity and inclusion. The Arkansas Community Foundation will facilitate two 10-month learning cohorts in 2019 and 2020. Cohort participants will represent partners from multiple sectors, including current grantees and select organizations. These groups will be subsequently eligible for funding from the Walmart Foundation and Walton Family Foundation to support projects and ideas that emerge during training.
- Report on the region’s state of inclusion to build understanding around gaps and barriers. The Arkansas Community Foundation will release findings in early 2019 informed by community input gained through focus groups, interviews, research reviews and a broad survey of Northwest Arkansas residents.
- Uplift the work of underrepresented populations. Up to 10 organizations currently supporting diverse communities in Northwest Arkansas will be selected to receive capacity building assistance over a three-year period from the Arkansas Community Foundation. Selected organizations will also be eligible to apply for capacity-building grants from the Walton Family Foundation and the Walmart Foundation and receive ongoing support from the Arkansas Community Foundation over a three-year period.
- Engage communities through a 20-member Advisory Council of local business, education, faith, health and social services leaders that will provide input on reports, trainings and the cohort selection process.
“It is the people of Northwest Arkansas, in all of our diversity, and our cultures that help to foster an inclusive environment in which our community can continue to thrive,” said Dr. Yvette Murphy-Erby, a TRUE Advisory Council member. “I am honored to be part of this initiative that is demonstrating a meaningful investment and strong interest in the importance of diversity and inclusion in our local communities. The synergy that is already resulting from this initiative is amazing.”
The Advisory Council members include: Terry L. Bankston of Bankston Consulting, Kathryn Birkhead of Birkhead Consulting, John L Colbert of Fayetteville Public Schools, Kim Davis of the Walton Family Foundation, Abdellah Essalki of the Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas, Mike Gilbert of The Jones Trust, Emily Hackerson of Tyson Foods Upward Academy, Phyllis Harris of Walmart, Ronnie Hoyt of St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church, Debbie Jones of Bentonville Public Schools, Monica Kumar of Kinship, Melisa Laelan of the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, Yvette Murphy-Erby of the University of Arkansas, Nelson Peacock of the Northwest Arkansas Council, Eric Pianalto of Mercy Health System, Anne Shelley of the NWA Center for Sexual Assault, Janie Simms Hipp of the University of Arkansas, Mark Snodgrass of the Bentonville Community Church, Margarita Solórzano of the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas, and Lisa Stuart of the Trans Equality Network.