“Equity in Action: Envisioning a Post-COVID Arkansas”

Forum to address equitable recovery efforts

No one is immune to the coronavirus and its effects, but the pandemic is not the “great equalizer” many say it is. Disparities in health, education and economic access have only been exacerbated by the current crisis. An upcoming forum seeks to highlight how recovery efforts can make sure no one is left behind. 

On Thursday, May 21, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. (CDT), the Ideals Institute and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation will host “Equity in Action: Envisioning a Post-COVID Arkansas,” a deep-dive conversation about equity in Arkansas  both what we are learning from the current crisis and how these lessons can be a catalyst for lasting change. 

Moderated by Elecia Smith, executive director of the Ideals Institute, the forum will convene a cross-section of community leaders to share their perspectives on this crisis and how our state can move forward, inclusively and equitably.

big IDEAS.

Walmart-funded study leads to regional task force for “one-stop-shop” workforce development program

The Northwest Arkansas Council has recently formed a task force to determine whether or not the region needs a “one-stop-shop” for adult/incumbent worker upskilling. More than just expanding skills and training offerings, the plans focus on people who also need additional support services like part-time work, child care or transportation while they are acquiring new skills.
The genesis of this project comes from a nationwide study of the impacts of automation and the future of work commissioned by Walmart. The Walmart Foundation subsequently supported design sessions in Northwest Arkansas that allowed the Council to work with ShiftLabs and the New America Foundation to help develop resilience strategies in the face of increased automation or artificial intelligence.

The task force has been studying a model organization based in Texas called Capital IDEA. While Northwest Arkansas has many of the pieces in place for a similar model, the Council is assessing what more needs to be done and invites feedback from the EngageNWA network.

The diverse and inclusive perspectives of EngageNWA’s network are invaluable to this assessment and will help the Council determine next steps, which may include recommendations for a new organization, a consortium or a repurposed existing organization.

You, too, can participate in the assessment process.


While it’s tempting to respond to uncertainty and financial pressure by dropping DE&I programs, it won’t serve your organization in the long run. These efforts can be both scrappy and effective, strategic and sustainable. DE&I can be the means by which your company not only survives this crisis but comes out on the other side of it stronger.

- Lily Zheng, "Adapt Your D&I Efforts to the Reality of the Crisis," HBR

take NOTE.

Funds earmarked for minority-owned businesses offer crucial support, but accessibility issues persist

Earlier this month, Gov. Asa Hutchinson passed the “Ready for Business” grant program designed to encourage small businesses to safely reopen and strengthen the local economy. Of the $55 million, at least 75% was earmarked for businesses with less than 50 employees and at least 15 percent to minority and women-owned businesses.

The grants are intended to help cover COVID-19-related costs of ensuring the health and safety of employees and patrons at Arkansas companies. In an interview with KNWA, representatives of Springdale-based Arkansas United expressed frustration that application documents were not available in any other language except English.

Without translated materials and appropriate bilingual staff to address questions about grant guidelines, many minority-owned businesses had difficulty accessing eligible funds.

“We have already asked legislators to put more money specifically to minority businesses because we feel not enough time or considerations were built in so that we could take advantage,” said Mireya Reith, executive director.

With the help of Arkansas United, more than 20 Latinx and Asian-owned businesses have successfully applied for grants thus far, Reith said.


Two months ago, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while out for a run in Brunswick, Georgia. On Friday, May 7, in honor of what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday, area residents took to McNair Field in Fayetteville to run in his honor.

“We want to spread the awareness here in Northwest Arkansas that something like that can happen, but if we do events where we illustrate and tell the story of African Americans, then this can be prevented,” Fayetteville resident Michael Day told KNWA.

Read author and professor Ibram X. Kendi’s reflection on the tragedy.