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Listen, Learn, Lead: Walton Family Foundation Launches New Five-Year Strategic Plan

February 8, 2021
Community-driven change, diversity, equity and inclusion & collaborative and inclusive partnerships will be elevated priorities across the foundation’s work

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (Feb. 8, 2021) – The Walton Family Foundation today announced a new strategic plan for its next five-year grantmaking cycle. The plan reflects the foundation’s mission to tackle tough social and environmental problems with urgency and a long-term approach to expand access to opportunity for people and communities.

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Luis Gonzalez

Working across its three, longstanding programmatic areas – protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, improving K-12 education, and investing in the foundation’s home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta – the plan places a strong emphasis on supporting innovative and inclusive solutions that support individuals and organizations striving for change in their communities.

“Today’s challenges are more complex and interconnected than ever, and solutions require setting ambitious goals, bringing people with different ideas and backgrounds together, and developing innovative approaches,” said Annie Proietti, board chair of the Walton Family Foundation. “As we work toward lasting change for tomorrow, we are committed to unlocking opportunity today and breaking down barriers that stand in the way.”

The five-year plan prioritizes three goals across the Walton Family Foundation: championing community-driven change to ensure the foundation’s work reflects the voices and needs of communities in which it works; prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in the grants the foundation makes and the voices it engages; collaborating with partners to develop innovative approaches that bring people, resources and ideas together from across government, local communities, and the private and philanthropic sectors. The Walton Family Foundation will provide more than $2 billion in philanthropic support over the next five years to achieve these goals.

Caryl M. Stern, executive director of the Walton Family Foundation, said, “To create meaningful and positive change in the communities we serve, we must first listen to and learn from those closest to the complex challenges. That insight will empower breakthrough ideas that are the building blocks for the big system change we hope to achieve.”

The Environment Program envisions North America as a leader in improving water quality and availability through climate-resilient approaches to agriculture, water resource management and sustainable fisheries. Over the next five years, the program will work toward this vision by supporting efforts to protect water resources in the face of climate change. Specific initiatives will:

  • Drive Innovation: Working with on-the-ground partners to develop, test and drive the widespread use of innovative agricultural water resource and fisheries management practices.
  • Use Markets to Advance Sustainability: Supporting community leaders who are using market demand for sustainably produced products to improve agricultural practices and fisheries management.
  • Encourage Smart Policy: Elevating the voices of those most affected by water policies to bring their perspectives to bear in crafting policy solutions that strengthen environmental and economic outcomes in their communities.
  • Engage & Empower Diverse Allies: Working with stakeholders from within and beyond the environmental field – including expanded engagement with Communities of Color, who disproportionately experience the more severe impacts of climate change.

The K-12 Education Program seeks to increase access to high-quality K-12 education that puts opportunity and a self-determined life in reach for every child, especially those most in need. Specific initiatives will:

  • Increase Achievement & Opportunity: Supporting community-designed and community-driven educational change across the country.
  • Foster Diverse, Durable Coalitions: Building strong, diverse coalitions that advance policies so promising, community-demanded educational models can thrive.
  • Accelerate Breakthrough Innovation: Supporting entrepreneurs and innovators breaking down barriers to progress and developing new solutions to advance students’ learning and growth.

The Home Region Program honors the Walton family’s shared values and commitment to Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta by supporting local efforts to create opportunity and enhance quality of life for all who call these communities home. The plan envisions Northwest Arkansas as one of the most vibrant and inclusive regions in the nation. Specific initiatives include:

  • Advance Economic & Cultural Vibrancy: Supporting Northwest Arkansas’ diverse and innovative regional economy, so small businesses and startups can flourish and world-class cultural and other opportunities are accessible to all.
  • Foster Inclusive Growth & A Sense of Belonging: Working with a broad spectrum of local organizations to ensure everyone can fully participate in the region’s economic and other opportunities, while also building meaningful connections across diverse communities to inspire a genuine and shared sense of belonging.
  • Support Community Leadership & Capacity-Building: Engaging and elevating the voices of a diverse array of local leaders and supporting organizations working most closely with the community.

The foundation’s work in the Delta will focus over the next year on gaining a deeper understanding of how to support community-driven change most effectively. The next 12 months will offer opportunities for learning from community partners and exploring how to best support their work helping ensure residents have equitable access to resources and opportunities. Areas of exploration include education and youth engagement, economic asset building for individuals and families, and coalition building to maximize impact.

About the Walton Family Foundation 
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2019, the foundation awarded more than $525 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.