Championing Community

April 17, 2021


Championing Community

NWA Daily

We all know the key to a community's success lies in factors such as high-quality schools, economic and cultural vibrancy, a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, and housing that is affordable and accessible through diverse mobility options. At the Walton Family Foundation, their goal is to help NWA become one of the most inclusive places to live in the country - how will they do that?

  • The foundation’s five-year strategy has three shared goals that unify their work, including:
    • Championing community-driven change to reflect the voices and needs of the communities we support.
    • Prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in our grant-making and the voices we engage.
    • Collaborating with partners to develop innovative approaches that bring people, resources and ideas together.
  • The first step toward inclusion is to better acknowledge different cultures and communities throughout the region, said Melisa Laelan, executive director for the Arkansas Coalition of the Marshallese. NWA is home to the largest population of Marshallese in the US (about 15,000) most of whom are based in Springdale.

  • “The intersectionality among these different sectors … is just so important in terms of raising awareness and ensuring that the underserved communities, marginalized communities are at the table” when policy decisions are made, Laelan said.

  • In addition, government and communities must lead to ensure public services are more easily accessible, public spaces are welcoming to all, and people have access to more affordable housing and transportation options. “As we have become more diverse … you've seen our prosperity grow,” said Benton County Judge Barry Moehring. “I don't think that's by accident.”

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