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DiversityNWA.com just got a facelift, and you don’t want to miss out! Showcasing businesses and community organizations, DiversityNWA.com — an initiative of the Northwest Arkansas Council — is an online business directory and resource for underrepresented populations across the Northwest Arkansas region.

We’re grateful to see our region continue to develop, grow and welcome people from diverse backgrounds, but we’d do well to remember that relocating to Northwest Arkansas can be a culture shock for many newcomers to the area —  some current residents are also still navigating the cultural and social scene in the region.

To help ease the transition, Jasmine Hudson, J’Aaron Merchant and Sierra Polk of the 4C Collective have taken on the challenge to revamp, reenergize and fully support the mission and development of diversitynwa.com.

The women of the 4C Collective — which stands for “Connecting communities through cultural content” — have combined skill sets to support the Northwest Arkansas Council in delivering accessible information within one platform for diverse communities to grow, thrive and embrace NW Arkansas life.

For them, it comes down to passion — a passion to share, be a guide and bridge the gap for many, especially for those adjusting and living in a predominately white demographic.

“I don’t want these things hidden, ” said Sierra Polk of the collective on her hopes for DiversityNWA. “People should be part of the change as opposed to being retroactive. I’m excited about the authenticity of the whole thing.”

The 4C Collective (left to right): J’Aaron “Jae”, Sierra and Jasmine “Jazzy”

A NEW EXPERIENCE

The collective likens the new resource to the Green Book experience. Historically, the Green Book served as a travel guide for African Americans during the segregation era that helped them navigate safe spaces across the country and identify businesses that would accept them as patrons.

In the same vein, the collective wants to help newcomers and current residents answer similar questions: Is this space for me? How do I navigate this and thrive? How do I put down roots here?

DiversityNWA plans to answer those questions and more to show visitors and residents alike that their experiences aren’t isolated. The collective sees this as improving the quality of life for diverse demographics that will also hopefully encourage them to stay and ultimately see NWA as home.

“I want to see the community I’m in win. Lots of support for local business owners and shops,” said J’Aaron “Jae” Merchant also of the collective.

She wants to see a ripple effect by supporting diverse businesses and wants to ask “what can we do to help you be successful?”

And so far, people have embraced it. The landscape is changing for the better, especially for minority-owned start ups and diverse entrepreneurs whose growth is included in the long-term strategic goals and initiatives of the Northwest Arkansas Council.

For Merchant, it’s about bringing people in this region together instead of operating in silos that discourage social inclusivity.

“We have to incorporate all kinds of diversity into the pipeline. [In NWA] It’s easy to tell who put an event together – it shows,” she said, reflecting on the lack of diversity in event planning she sees on a regular basis. “We want it to be natural. More people coming together to talk about what’s going on – increase awareness so we’re not all doing separate things. Co-collaboration and authentic visibility is the main thing, and being active in the community.”

OTHER PLATFORMS

J’Aaron “Jae” and Jasmine “Jazzy” pause for a selfie.

This presents a challenge for the collective because those pipelines are underdeveloped. The group found themselves continually asking, “why are we home on a Friday night at age 25?”

It was a feeling that helped launch JazzyJaeNWA, another digital platform created by two members of the collective, Jasmine and Jae. The duo found that they weren’t very aware of what was happening outside their work environment and social engagement often required them to stand outside their comfort zone.

It’s an experience they found many diverse newcomers and current residents, some coming from big-city backgrounds, shared across the board.

CHALLENGES

But still, the collective recognizes they face some challenges in this relaunch and in creating a stronger sense of belonging for new and long-time residents.

They want people to feel free to raise concerns about what’s going on in their communities and for us to move forward in dialogue and conversations that don’t involve the same people.

“It’s not comfortable, these conversations. Until we look at that, this work will always be needed, ” said Polk. “Call it out when you see stuff that’s happening. If you don’t bring it to light, nothing ever changes.”

The Northwest Arkansas Council and EngageNWA are grateful for supportive partners including the University of Arkansas Office for Diversity and Inclusion, Walmart and the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce. Partners were involved in providing feedback and input during the planning stages of the website’s relaunch.

We also conducted a community survey to help us shape the new website. Although we’re not able to list everyone here, we’re very thankful to all those in the community who took the time to participate in the survey.

Are you a minority-owned business, community leader, or know of diversified groups across the region that should be included in this directory? Visit DiversityNWA to submit your business — this resource is for YOU.

Getting acclimated to a new area, feeling included and valued is critical to the DNA of a community, and we want that for Northwest Arkansas. The Northwest Arkansas Council and 4C Collective encourages and looks forward to receiving feedback/questions as they continuously improve the site to best fit the needs of the community.

This digital resource is funded through the Northwest Arkansas Council from a grant provided by the Walmart Foundation.

VISIT DIVERSITYNWA

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