Thirty years ago, my grandparents started the Walton Family Foundation to encourage our family to come together to give back. A lot has changed over the past three decades – the foundation has grown and so has our family. Social and environmental problems intensify daily, and we live in a time of increasing uncertainty and decreasing trust. Our desire to create access to opportunity for people and communities is now more important than ever.
For the Walton Family Foundation, what remain the same are the timeless values that inspired my grandparents. They envisioned a world where people can accomplish anything with opportunity and encouragement. The challenges have grown along with our commitment to making this vision a reality.
Creating Benefits for People and Nature
In our Environment Program, years of hard work to ensure healthy oceans, rivers and coasts are fulfilling our commitment to be responsible stewards of our natural resources and creating benefits for people and nature. The passage last year of a new Coastal Master Plan in Louisiana will guide the restoration of wetlands that are now disappearing at an alarming rate. We are proud to have supported binational cooperation between public and private partners that produced a 2017 U.S.-Mexico agreement on stewardship of the Colorado River, which will help provide water security for 40 million people in the West. Internationally, countries such as Indonesia, Japan, the United States and others are working together to eliminate the global scourge of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Increasing Access to High-Quality Schools
Foundation support for quality K-12 education options has helped hundreds of thousands of students gain access to better schools that provide the building blocks for successful lives. But so much more needs to be done. It’s why the foundation has invested in purposeful partnerships that are transforming education in communities across the nation.
We’ve seen tremendous progress in cities like Indianapolis, which has invested in achievement by creating Innovation Network Schools that give educators more autonomy to meet students’ needs. In New Orleans, bold ideas from education entrepreneurs like Jonathan Johnson, founder of Rooted School, are putting underserved students on a path out of poverty by preparing them for the jobs of the future.
Planting Seeds of Opportunity in our Home Region
The foundation’s history runs deepest in our home region, where hope grows from collaboration at the grassroots level. Early grants helped establish cultural landmarks such as the Walton Arts Center and introduced new high-quality education options such as KIPP Delta. Today, we remain committed to planting seeds of opportunity throughout Northwest Arkansas and the Delta region of Mississippi and Arkansas. We see the impact in Springdale, Arkansas, where the foundation supports young Latino artists to showcase the diversity of arts and cultural talent. And we see it in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, where a unique college-preparation program reports helping 100 percent of graduating seniors at Central High get accepted to a post-secondary institution for the first time in the school’s history.
None of these stories would be possible without the dedication of our grantees and staff, who every day carry out the mission of the foundation and are the ambassadors for its vision and values.
The Values Guiding Our Work
Our 30th anniversary was a moment to both reflect and look forward. In 2017, as a family and a foundation, we articulated the values that have guided our work to date. To stay rooted in a family tradition of giving and in the communities where we work. To be active partners with our grantees in identifying challenges and developing solutions and to base those solutions on helping people and communities have an active role in their futures. To tackle issues with a steady, long-term view to bringing change that lasts.
We also committed ourselves to a culture that fosters bold and sometimes unconventional thinking and to be more open about who we are and what we do – and to new ideas about how to solve big problems.
These recently defined values will guide us in the near-term as we evaluate the outcomes of a five-year strategic plan that concludes in 2020 and as we begin to plan for the next five years and beyond.
In life, change is constant. Each day brings new challenges and new problems to solve.
As we head into the foundation’s next 30 years, one thing will not change – our commitment to tackling those challenges with immediacy and resolve.