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We Believe in a Prosperous Future for the Delta. Here’s Our Roadmap to Help Achieve It

May 16, 2024
The foundation’s “Theory of Change” for the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta is designed as a resource for grantees and other partners

The Arkansas-Mississippi Delta is a region ripe with talent. Every day, local leaders are working hard to create opportunities for all people in their communities to learn, prosper and improve their quality of life.

For more than 30 years, the Walton Family Foundation has remained committed to helping these leaders and organizations build lasting impact.

As part of our effort, we’re working to strengthen schools and educational programs, support small businesses and economic opportunity, and invest in the innovators working to make an inclusive, equitable and thriving Delta a reality.

  • Delta Theory of Change Overview 1
  • Delta Theory of Change Overview 2
  • Delta Theory of Change. Overview 3

To make this happen, it’s helpful to have our foundation and community partners all operating from the same playbook, ensuring each member of the team understands both the “why” and the “how” of this important work. That interconnectedness helps build a shared understanding of the very specific actions we believe will move the region towards greater prosperity.

This playbook for the Delta, called our “Theory of Change," gives a broad view of our approach and provides insights into where we think each player can have impact.

  • Delta TOC Model 2 1
  • Delta TOC Model 2 2
  • Delta Model 2 3

For example, strengthening schools will require improving teacher quality and expanding equitable access to career pathways and postsecondary opportunities for students. In order to accomplish this goal, it's critically important to support teachers in ways that will allow them to grow in their profession. In addition, providing students with tangible experiences that will prepare them for their future both academically and/or professionally pulls their dreams within reach.

To support economic opportunity, we must ensure that residents have the support they need to build and retain their economic assets – from homeownership to launching or growing a business. Delta visionaries deserve opportunities to plant roots and blossom in communities they love. It worked for a small-town retailer in Bentonville, Arkansas, and it can work again.

  • Delta TOC Model 3 1
  • Delta Model 3 2
  • Delta TOC Model 3 3

Finally, we need to identify and invest in next-generation leadership. We need to capitalize on their energy, commitment and vision by building their capacity and utilize local and national coalitions to sustain this work for the long haul.

This playbook isn’t one we created in isolation. Rather, it came from constant engagement with the folks we consider experts in creating rural opportunity. And while some have letters behind their names, many more gained their expertise by living through these challenges every day.

A “Theory of Change” might sound lofty, but we think it’s the simplest place to start in understanding how to partner with the people of the Delta region. And it offers a path for others to help make positive change happen.

So, I invite you to spend a little time reading the documents. If you’re a Walton Family Foundation grantee, taking a quick scan might reveal an area of focus that you didn’t know existed, and inspires you get involved.

  • Delta Model TOC 4 1
  • Delta TOC Model 4 3
  • Delta TOC Model 4 2

Or are you part of a larger national coalition supporting rural opportunity? Maybe you’ll uncover an area of potential collaboration or a useful strategy for your own efforts.

In designing this Theory of Change, we’ve spent many years in thoughtful conversation with the people who call the Delta home.

Beyond the formal presentations and proposals, we’ve sat around their kitchen tables discussing opportunities over strong cups of coffee. We attended little league games and ate amazing fried catfish and hush puppies. We gathered in juke joints to dream big and listen to world-class musicians.

From their diverse experiences, our Theory of Change for the Delta was created. We believe it is a valuable and honest tool for change. It’s a resource and a starting point for conversation. Above all, it’s an invitation to get to know us better.

Take a deeper dive into the Walton Family Foundation's Theory of Change for the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta:

Overall Theory of Change

Education and Youth Engagement

Economic Asset Building

Coalition and Capacity Building

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