Thank You Community for Energizing NWA!

Dr. Joe Thompson

I had the weekend to reflect on the EnergizeNWA Summit that took place last Thursday, and I remain in awe of the number and caliber of community leaders that came together to talk about creating a healthier region. At our best count, 210 leaders attended the summit-from mayors and city planners, to educators, health care professionals, funders, and key decision-makers from non-profits and area businesses. Thank you for a fun and productive day!

The goals of the day were to build excitement about what’s possible in terms of increasing access to physical activity and healthy eating opportunities for everyone in our region, and to begin to build a blueprint for how to achieve this vision. We’re proud to say we met these goals and we’re poised to work together as a community to change the landscape of regional programs, policies and infrastructure to create an environment that supports a healthy, active lifestyle.

At the summit, we heard from some visionary speakers that helped set the stage for the dynamic community conversations that would follow. Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson began the day with and eye-opening account of the problem. “The obesity epidemic is robbing our health, our wealth and our productivity.” Dr. Thompson went on to poll the audience to ask how many folks rode their bikes to school when they were young versus how many of our children walk or ride their bikes to school today. The result was no surprise. Dr. Thompson encouraged us to get back to simple living, and to remember that the healthy choice can be easy if the infrastructure is there.

Tracy Fox, policy advisor to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and President of Food, Nutrition & Policy Consultants, shared some best practices from other communities, including a mobile market in Detroit, MI that accepts SNAP benefits and is bringing fresh produce into neighborhoods where there are no supermarkets or farmers’ markets. Tracy acknowledged that some of the change we want to create will take a long time, but there are some things we can do in the short-term as well. She also stressed that partnerships with non-traditional allies are key.

Dr. John Agwunobi, SVP and President of Health and Wellness with Walmart, closed out an exciting and visionary morning as our keynote speaker for the day. Dr. Agwunobi talked about Walmart’s efforts to help make its customers and associates healthier by offering nutritious options and educating people to make good choices. He encouraged us to listen to our kids–the anti-smoking movement gained the most traction when kids became advocates–and challenged us to work together and value the collective power within our own communities to innovate solutions.

Our speakers–along with an animated afternoon panel of experts that shared their own experiences in creating the kind of change we need–set the stage for some engaging break-out conversations about the resources, barriers and opportunities we need to understand and embrace to build a healthier, more active and more vibrant region. Endeavor is in the process of compiling and digesting the great feedback shared on Thursday, and we look forward to sharing the key findings and ideas that will guide our work together in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor (Walmart) and our Supporting Sponsors (P&G and Arvest) for making the EnergizeNWA Summit possible, and to all of you for making the day a huge community success! Now let’s roll up our sleeves and let the real work begin…

Spirit of Collaboration

Endeavor wants to impact the obesity epidemic facing our state and nation by creating a spirit of collaboration! Do you want to be a part of the collaboration, too?

Our hope is that by bringing key community leaders, healthy eating and active living experts and concerned citizens together, we can build a culture and environment supportive of healthy eating and active living. Our hope is then to implement community-centered solutions that systemically address one of the root causes of the obesity epidemic – lack of access to physical activity and healthy food options.

Endeavor’s vision for this initiative is that Northwest Arkansas is a healthy community where routine physical activity and healthy eating is easy, safe, affordable, and accessible to everyone. This vision fits squarely with Endeavor’s existing organizational vision: Healthy people. Thriving communities. A vibrant Northwest Arkansas.

We can do this together! And, it’s going to be one exciting project!!! So, hold on, we’ll be blogging regularly about it and sharing our latest progress and opportunities for involvement. Email us at or Let us know if you are in!

Volunteer Fair

Today is Northwest Arkansas’ first regional Volunteer Fair. The NWA Leadership Council and several other community organizations, including Endeavor, will be hosting the event from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the John Q Hammons Convention Center in Rogers. The event is open to the public so we hope to see you there.

Rperesentatives of 73 nonprofit organizations will take part in the fair. One of the main goals today is helping business professionals identify nonprofit organizations that can use their talents.

One of the challenges almost all volunteers face is identifying the nonprofit organizations that they are most interested in assisting and which ones will benefit most from their skill sets. The fair offers a venue for nonprofit organizations to tell their story to motivated, willing volunteers.

The NWA Leadership Council, chaired by Walmart Senior Vice President Celia Swanson, led efforts to put on the fair with assistance from the Endeavor Foundation, the United Way of Northwest Arkansas, the Northwest Arkansas Chambers of Commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Council.

As I’ve mentioned before, the NWA Leadership Council formed last year to implement leadership goals identified in the Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy. The leadership objective in the plan is to “develop the next generation of leadership in Northwest Arkansas by promoting citizen engagement, volunteerism, and leadership training.”

A list of nonprofit organizations taking part in the Volunteer Fair is below.

Participating organizations

Legal Aid of Arkansas
Rogers Noon Kiwanis Club
Faith In Action
Samaritan Community Center
American Heart Association
Youth Strategies
Friends of the Bentonville Library
EOA Head Start
Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter
Northwest Arkansas Tax Center
American Diabetes Association
Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County
Donald W. Reynolds Boys and Girls Club
Down Syndrome Connection of NWA
Habitat for Humanity of Benton County
OHC Benton Co. Senior Activity Center
Endeavor Foundation
United Way of Northwest Arkansas
EOA Children’s House
Feed Fayetteville
Legal Aid of Arkansas-Low Income Tax
Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation
Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas
Compassion Center
Life Styles Inc.
Hope Cancer Resources
NWA Area Agency on Aging Ombudsman Program
Genesis House
Rogers Historical Museum
Credit Counseling of Arkansas
Family Network
CASA of Northwest Arkansas
Rotary Clubs of Benton County
ALS Association of Arkansas
Circle of Life Hospice
Youth Bridge, Inc.
City of Fayetteville Community Services
Arkansas Alumni Association
Lowell Lions Club
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Junior League of Northwest Arkansas
Boys & Girls Club of Benton County
Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Ozark Affiliate)
Ozark Literacy Council
Rogers Youth Baseball
Arkansas Crisis Center
Children’s Advocacy Center
Arthritis Foundation, Southeast Region
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
Ability Tree Inc.
Saving Grace
Open Avenues
Fayetteville Public Library
Arkansas Visitation Exchange Center
LifeSource International
Arts Center of the Ozarks
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter
Area Agency on Aging
Mercy Northwest Arkansas Auxiliary
Northwest Arkansas Land Trust
Girl Scouts Diamonds of AR, TX and OK
Seven Hills Homeless Shelter
Main Street Rogers
Walton Arts Center
Habitat for Humanity of Washington County
Boys & Girls Club of Western Benton County
Washington Regional Cancer Support Home
Northwest Arkansas Autism Support Group
Aspire Arkansas
Compassion House
Ozark GuidanceDHS-DCFS Benton and Washington Counties

Endeavor Hosts the Philanthropy Roundtable in NWA

Endeavor Foundation was proud today to host The Philanthropy Roundtable, a group of Arkansas’ funders and grantmakers who gather several times each year to learn from one another. The luncheon was held at The Jones Center for Families in Springdale. After the meeting many of the funders travelled to Bentonville to see Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for the first time.

Today’s program was entitled “Philanthropy and Beyond: Bringing Together Key Players for Holistic Community Change” which gave those in attendance a look at how the NWA Council Development Strategy is progressing. The strategic partnerships I’ve blogged about recently are so important to bringing lasting positive change to a community or region.

I’d like to recognize Seth Duell, Endeavor’s Program Assistant, who coordinated the event on our behalf. Thank you, Seth!

Leadership of Our Well-Being

The last couple of weeks I’ve focused on the steady progress of two of our taskforces of the Community Vitality component of the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Development Strategy (, the Built Environment and Leadership Taskforces. Today I’ll focus on the work of the Well-being Taskforce being led by Endeavor Foundation.

Generally speaking, well-being means the state of being happy, healthy or prosperous. I don’t know about you, but that definition sounds good to me and certainly sounds good for our region.

The objective for the Well-being Taskforce is to support the work of community and social service providers to improve the social and economic well-being of the region’s varied populations. One of the very first topics discussed by the taskforce early last year was the need to develop a healthy lifestyle and physical activity initiative for our residents.

If you take a look at the Gallup-Healthways Index Survey (, Northwest Arkansas, or more specifically our congressional district, ranks in the bottom quintile of areas exhibiting healthy behaviors. All the more reason to focus on a healthy lifestyle and physical activity initiative! The healthy behavior index measures lifestyle habits that have established relationships to health outcomes. The index includes four items such as eating healthy, weekly consumption of fruits and vegetables, weekly exercise frequency and smoking.

Endeavor Foundation is helping to lead the initiative by developing an awareness and education campaign about the importance of nutritious foods and physical activity. We’re very excited to roll the campaign out this summer! We have also just completed interviews of approximately 70 residents in our region to provide guidance for a program to reduce barriers to healthy living, specifically regarding nutritional and exercise choices. We look forward to hearing the themes from the interviews.

The Well-being Taskforce has other strategies to consider including whether there is a need for more out-of-school activities and opportunities for students throughout the region and whether a health data assessment is needed for our region to assist service providers, funders and others access to health data.

Lots to do! But, if well-being means happy, healthy or prosperous-we can continue that work!

Leadership within Leadership

Today I’ll continue sharing the work of the Community Vitality component of the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Development Strategy ( This time I’ll focus on the work of the Leadership Taskforce led by Celia Swanson, Senior Vice President, Talent Development, Walmart U.S. Good grief, could you get any better leader than this?! I don’t think so.

Celia has brought together an incredible taskforce, a group of individuals and corporations that can focus solely on the development of the next generation of leadership in Northwest Arkansas by promoting citizen engagement, volunteerism and leadership training. It’s of critical importance to our region’s future vitality and prosperity to have a community of individuals dedicated and supportive to the social sector and the great work of our nonprofits. With all of the brain power in our region, can you imagine what kind of expert leadership will be sitting on our Northwest Arkansas nonprofit boards of directors and volunteering their expertise and time? It’s so exciting to think about!

The first initiative created by the Leadership Taskforce is a leadership training program to be delivered by the ALPFA Institute at the University of Arkansas. Mid to upper level professionals will be nominated or appointed by corporations and employers to participate in this leadership certificate program. Since the ALPFA Institute is already positioned as a leader in training programs, it made sense to collaborate and partner with ALPFA. We are anxious for the program to see its first 50 participants this fall.

Another initiative being planned by the Leadership Taskforce is a Volunteer Fair to take place in the next couple of months. The fair will provide an opportunity for organizations to promote their good works and help them recruit motivated and willing volunteers. The taskforce is recruiting individuals through the corporations for which they work to attend the fair and meet with the nonprofits.

I feel so fortunate to assist in leading these Community Vitality components and to work alongside such great community volunteers like the Leadership Taskforce, and its chair, Celia Swanson. What a great way for me to become a better leader!

I hope everyone has a wonderful spring green weekend!

Community Leadership for All

I truly hope you’ve read my last couple of blogs. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?! Don’t you want to know the latest vision of our great region and the incredible work being orchestrated by the Northwest Arkansas Council ( and many, many volunteers and organizations including Endeavor? Don’t you want to stay in the know and tell your friends? Shouldn’t everyone do what they can to help this beautiful place we call home? I think so. Endeavor thinks so. Get busy reading and educating yourself.

If you have read the blogs, you know I’ve shared the plan’s four priority goal areas of 1) infrastructure, 2) regional economic development, 3) educational excellence, and 4) community vitality. This time I’ll dig a little deeper into the component being led by Endeavor: Community Vitality.

The goal for the Community Vitality Workgroup is to ensure our region remains a vibrant and attractive community for decades to come by working on:

  1. The built community,
  2. Leadership,
  3. Diversity and inclusion, and
  4. Well-being.

The taskforce for “built community” or enhancing the quality of the region’s infrastructure and the region’s downtown and population centers, met for the first time on March 16th. Karen Minkel with the City of Fayetteveille and chair of the taskforce convened members of the region’s Downtown and Main Street organizations including: Downtown Bentonville, Inc., Main Street Rogers, Main Street Siloam Springs, and representatives from the Cities of Springdale and Fayetteville. Mike Malone, Executive Director of the Northwest Arkansas Council, shared with the group that “healthy downtowns are very, very important and instrumental in helping with economic development”.

At this first meeting, one of the representatives shared that these organizations had never formally met to discuss how a collaborative approach could be taken for our region. Wow! That was surprising but also encouraging to know that a regional strategy could unite organizations to think in a new way. And, think they did! The ideas were flowing like our Northwest Arkansas Rivers are this spring! From downtown performance measures tracking the health of our cities to comparisons of downtown organizational structures and powers to ensuring residential/commercial mix, affordable housing and sharing of calendars, this taskforce is rolling after just one meeting!

You better get rolling, too! Read and learn about this place in which we live.



Community Leadership in Action

Have you had the chance to read my previous blog or the Executive Summary of the Northwest Arkansas Council’s development strategy for our region? If not, what are you waiting for?! Wouldn’t you like to be informed about what’s happening to make our region an even better place to live and work? I encourage you to go to to learn more. It’s such an exciting and ambitious roadmap for all of us!

As I mentioned in my last blog, Endeavor was honored to be a part of this work by serving on the Steering Committee charged with developing the plan. But, we’re not stopping just because the plan was developed and published. No, we are continuing to step up our community leadership efforts. Last year, the Northwest Arkansas Council selected Endeavor to lead one of the four components of their plan, Community Vitality.

If you read the plan, you will see that there are four strategies outlined to help Northwest Arkansas compete and continue to grow our economy.  They are organized around the following priority goal areas:

  • Infrastructure
  • Regional Economic Development
  • Education Excellence
  • Community Vitality.

The Community Vitality Workgroup’s goal is to ensure that Northwest Arkansas remains a vibrant and attractive community for businesses, residents, families and retirees for decades to come. But, why should we do it? As Northwest Arkansas continues to grow and change, so must its support services, amenities and cultural infrastructure. We must respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse community. We must place an emphasis on maintaining an environment that is attractive to young families and enticing to single, young professionals. While we are fortunate to possess a strong quality of life and comparatively low cost of living, proactive community development is necessary to ensure that livability is enhanced rather than burdened by future growth.

In chairing the Community Vitality component, Endeavor recruited fourteen members to the Community Vitality Workgroup which consists of leaders from the social services sector, higher education, foundations, community groups, and businesses and corporations. After meeting and reviewing our objectives last April, the Workgroup then formed four taskforces with members from the community and identified chairs to lead the respective taskforces for implementation of the objectives.  The following are the four main Community Vitality objectives:

  • Enhance the quality of the region’s infrastructure and the region’s downtown and population centers. Chair:  Karen Minkel
  • Support the work of community and social services providers to improve the social and economic well-being of the region’s varied populations. Chair:  Anita Scism
  • Promote racial, cultural and ethnic diversity in Northwest Arkansas and support quality of life enhancements by developing amenities that appeal to a variety of demographic groups. Co-Chairs:  Luis Restrepo and Kim Davis
  • Develop the next generation of leadership in Northwest Arkansas by promoting citizen engagement, volunteerism and leadership training.  Chair: Celia Swanson

Each taskforce as well as the Community Vitality Workgroup have been meeting on a regular basis (every six weeks) for almost a year now.  The work coming from the taskforces is soooo good!  I’ve been impressed with everyone’s ownership and commitment to the strategy, their intellect, and the time they have given on behalf of themselves and/or their employer. All I can say is “Go Northwest Arkansas!” And, of course, thank you to all of our community leaders.

Next blog….more specific taskforce actions. If you want to stay in the loop, you might want to keep reading.

Stepping Out and Up to Community Leadership

I mentioned in my last post that Northwest Arkansas has plenty of good leadership, but I should have said the region has had incredible leadership! We’ve been blessed with great leaders like Sam Walton, Don Tyson, and J.B. Hunt who set really bold goals and achieved them.  These leaders set us on a path to make Northwest Arkansas an even better place to live and do business.  Their path also led Endeavor to new leadership opportunities for our region.

In January of 2011, the Northwest Arkansas Council unveiled the Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy, a blueprint for growing jobs and creating economic opportunities in Northwest Arkansas into the next decade.  See  The Council’s Steering Committee of nearly 30 regional business and civic leaders helped develop the strategy for taking Northwest Arkansas to the next level.  The Committee set four key goals in their work:

  1. Assessing Northwest Arkansas’ economy;
  2. Benchmarking our region’s strengths and weaknesses against the State and other high performing regions of the United States;
  3. Assessing international economic trends and opportunities, identifying where our region’s strengths intersect; and,
  4. Developing a plan that produces growth in key sectors that will lead to job creation.

Through the input and suggestions of thousands of Northwest Arkansans and the help of Market Street Services, a consulting firm from Atlanta, the Council and Steering Committee were able to accomplish such a strategy.

I had the privilege, on behalf of Endeavor, of serving on the Steering Committee with 30 incredible individuals from our region.  Endeavor was proud to step out and up to Community Leadership in this way.  As I’ve mentioned, Endeavor has a relentless commitment to the betterment of Northwest Arkansas, and based on the Council’s new strategy and Endeavor’s commitment to leadership, we felt we played an important part.  However, this was just Endeavor’s first step.

To be continued……



Community Leadership

Okay, I think we need to back up a little.  I’m new to the blog world (I’m sure that doesn’t come as any surprise), and as I reviewed our postings over the past few months, it seems we shot out of the gate, weren’t very consistent and didn’t even share how Endeavor got to this point in our work.  Of course, if you go to our website, you can find out who we are, what we do, and why we do it.  But, I think it’s important that you understand a little more of our thinking – how we got to this stage in our short life.  I’ll do my best to shed a little light.

So backing up a couple of years, our Board and staff did some strategic planning and decided that we didn’t want to be limited to just providing services; we wanted to expand our mission and be a focused, long-term advocate for Northwest Arkansas.  Some refer to that as “community leadership”.  You are probably asking “what is community leadership?”  Or, you might be saying Northwest Arkansas has plenty of leadership, good leadership, and I agree.

Endeavor defines community leadership as a relentless commitment to the betterment of Northwest Arkansas.  And, some of the ways that our leadership will take place is through linking people and organizations together to create new partnerships; facilitating action across different sectors to work on problems; engaging donors and leaders in community problem solving; advocating and/or partnering for policy solutions.

Endeavor wants to make a real difference because we care about Northwest Arkansas and Northwest Arkansans!  So, I hope as we move through the months and years ahead, you will begin to see our leadership in many, many ways.  I’m going to share our first example in my next post so stay tuned.