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CTE and Career Readiness in Northwest Arkansas

January 24, 2024

High-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs lead to regional advancement and economic mobility when they align with regional economic needs and provide K-12 students the knowledge, skills and credentials they need for postsecondary success.As in many regions, Northwest Arkansas school districts offer students a range of CTE pathways to pursue based on their interests.To understand the quality and accessibility of those programs in NWA, Insightful Education Solutions convened a local advisory group, examined public enrollment and program quality data and conducted focus groups and surveys with educators and K-12 students. The research was supported with funding from the Walton Family Foundation.

2023 Arkansas Civic Health Index

December 4, 2023

Citizen engagement is vital for the flourishing of democracy and communities. Active citizen engagement can increase the legitimacy and effectiveness of policies and programs, and heighten public officials' accountability, leading to better governance. Those who favor a smaller government promote energetic civic engagement as key to ensuring that the civil, religious, and business sectors of society have the capacity to deliver effective public services. Further, civic health is associated with greater economic growth and improved physical health outcomes for citizens.To gauge the civic health of a state, three kinds of civic engagement can be examined: citizens' direct participation in politics through voting, political activity beyond elections, and connectedness to their families, neighbors, and communities. By registering to vote and voting in local, state, and national elections, citizens exercise control over their leaders and ultimately over policy, control that is especially valued by Arkansans, whose state motto is "Regnat populus": the people rule. Engaging with politics beyond the ballot box—such as through political conversations with family and friends, participating in informed discussions and debates on the issues, attending local government meetings, and communicating with public officials—strengthens our democracy by helping residents learn about and generate solutions to public issues. Moreover, building ties to fellow residents through neighborly conversations, memberships in local organizations, volunteering, and donating to worthy causes nurtures thriving local communities. The Civic Health Index framework complements other, broader models of civic engagement, such as the Active Citizen Continuum and The Points of Light Civic Circle.Further, this report augments the civic health index's measures with additional indicators. Among these are citizens' trust in government and one another, the extent to which nonprofit organizations build coalitions across sectors to address complex issues, the transparency of local government information on the web, the availability of newspapers and radio stations as well as other sources of public-affairs information, and physical and online spaces in local communities where residents can gather to discuss public matters. 

Rural Philanthropy in the Southwest

October 1, 2022

Rural communities, while often small, have a large impact on the livelihood of all Americans. As resource centers for water, food, energy, and recreation, rural areas provide many of the resources for communities in urban, suburban, and rural settings to thrive. In fact, 97% of the United States is technically geographically defined as rural,  with much of the Southwest being considered rural, by measures of both geography and population density. Approximately 1 in 5 Americans live in rural communities,  representing 59.5 million individuals. Philanthropy Southwest, with funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and administrative coordination from the United Philanthropy Forum, hired Dr. Colton Strawser with Colton Strawser Consulting and the Community Leadership, Engagement, and Research (CLEAR) Institute to do an exploratory study of rural philanthropy in the southwestern United States.  The purpose of this study was to capture the current practice of a small group of foundations, understand innovative approaches to rural grantmaking, and seek wisdom on how funders can shift their grantmaking to support rural communities through different approaches via grantmaking, community leadership initiatives, and community capacity building.

Ending Street Homelessness in Vanguard Cities Across the Globe: An International Comparative Study

April 5, 2022

Street homelessness is one of the most extreme, and visible, manifestations of profound injustice on the planet, but often struggles to achieve priority attention at international level. The Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH's) A Place to Call Home initiative, launched in 2017, represented a concerted effort to support cities across the globe to eradicate street homelessness. A first cohort of 13 'Vanguard Cities' committed to a specific target on ending or reducing street homelessness by December 2020. Our independent evaluation of this initiative found that:Two Vanguard Cities – Glasgow and Sydney – fully met their self-defined target reductions for end 2020. In addition, Greater Manchester, while it did not meet its exceptionally ambitious goal of 'ending all rough sleeping', recorded an impressive 52% reduction against baseline.Overall, there was evidence of reductions in targeted aspects of street homelessness in over half of the Vanguard Cities. In most of the remaining cities data limitations, sometimes as a result of COVID, meant that it was not possible to determine trends. In only one Vanguard City – Edmonton – was there an evidenced increase in street homelessness over baseline levels.Key enablers of progress in reducing street homelessness included the presence of a lead coordinating agency, and coordinated entry to homelessness services, alongside investment in specialized and evidence-based interventions, such as assertive street outreach services, individual case management and Housing First.Key barriers to progress included heavy reliance on undignified and sometimes unsafe communal shelters, a preoccupation with meeting immediate physiological needs, and sometimes perceived spiritual needs, rather than structural and system change, and a lack of emphasis on prevention. Aggressive enforcement interventions by police and city authorities, and documentary and identification barriers, were also counter-productive to attempts to reduce street homelessness.A key contextual variable between the Vanguard Cities was political will, with success in driving down street homelessness associated with high-level political commitments. An absolute lack of funds was a major challenge in all of the Global South cities, but also in resource-poor settings in the Global North. Almost all Vanguard Cities cited pressures on the affordable housing stock as a key barrier to progress, but local lettings and other policies could make a real difference.The impact of the COVID-19 crisis differed markedly across the Vanguard Cities, with people at risk of street homelessness most effectively protected in the UK and Australian cities. Responses were less inclusive and ambitious in the North American and Global South cities, with more continued use of 'shared air' shelters, albeit that in some of these contexts the pandemic prompted better coordination of local efforts to address street homelessness.IGH involvement was viewed as instrumental in enhancing the local profile, momentum and level of ambition attached to reducing street homelessness in the Vanguard Cities. IGH's added value to future cohorts of cities could be maximised via a focus on more tailored forms of support specific to the needs of each city, and also to different types of stakeholders, particularly frontline workers.

Northwest Arkansas Housing Policy Landscape Assessment Phase One Report

September 9, 2021

In 2020, a team led by Smart Growth America assessed policies that affect the supply and price of housing in Northwest Arkansas and analyzed current capacity and market conditions for a wider range of housing types and price points. Two subsequent reports detail these findings and include recommended changes in policy and practice that could help the region successfully address these challenges. The reports build on Our Housing Future, a call to action published by the Walton Family Foundation in 2019, which found that "housing is becoming increasingly inaccessible to the region's workers, families and seniors." Over the course of the assessment, the research team conducted interviews, analyzed zoning codes and development processes, tested current and future growth projections and developed an understanding of the financial impacts of public and private investments as they relate to housing affordability.

Northwest Arkansas Housing Policy Landscape Assessment Phase Two Report

September 9, 2021

In 2020, a team led by Smart Growth America assessed policies that affect the supply and price of housing in Northwest Arkansas and analyzed current capacity and market conditions for a wider range of housing types and price points. Two subsequent reports detail these findings and include recommended changes in policy and practice that could help the region successfully address these challenges. The reports build on Our Housing Future, a call to action published by the Walton Family Foundation in 2019, which found that "housing is becoming increasingly inaccessible to the region's workers, families and seniors." Over the course of the assessment, the research team conducted interviews, analyzed zoning codes and development processes, tested current and future growth projections and developed an understanding of the financial impacts of public and private investments as they relate to housing affordability.

The Power and Problem of Criminal Justice Data: A Twenty-State Review

June 30, 2021

Despite accounting for a substantial portion of local, state, and federal budgets, our criminal justice institutions are among the least measured systems in our country. In an effort to bring transparency to this sector, MFJ has collected, standardized, and made public 20 states' worth of criminal justice data.The purpose of this report is to share what we have learned through this effort, including: (a) what we cannot see when data are missing, and (b) the value that data can provide when they are available and comparable. In particular, we identify patterns around the following:There is a substantial lack of data around pretrial detention and release decision-making, as well as individual demographics (particularly indigence).New data privacy laws are also making it needlessly difficult to obtain certain data. This poses challenges to understanding how individuals experience the system in cases that do not result in conviction.There is great variation in how counties dispose of and sentence nonviolent cases; how financial obligations are imposed on individuals; and the collateral consequences that individuals face when convicted.Across many of these findings, where demographics are available, we have an opportunity to identify and respond to significant disparities in group outcomes.This report challenges stakeholders and policymakers to dig deeper into these patterns and missing data. It also implores policymakers and legislators to improve criminal justice data infrastructure to ensure a more transparent, fair, and equitable implementation of justice.

Millennials, Generation Z, and Northwest Arkansas

June 23, 2021

During the Summer of 2020 and Spring of 2021, in the midst of a global pandemic and protests around racial justice, The Walton Family Foundation embarked upon a study of what young Americans thought about their own futures: their prospects for success, what they want out of life, and what they fear will stand in their way. As part of the Walton Family Foundation's work in its home region, Northwest Arkansas, they also sought to understand how Generation Z and Millennials talk about where they want to live and why - in their own words. During May 2021, they commissioned three focus group discussions with teenagers aged 13 through 18 living in Northwest Arkansas to cover these topics.This report synthesizes the findings of those original nationwide research efforts with the focus groups to better illuminate what kinds of communities Millennials and Generation Zers - particularly those in Northwest Arkansas - seek to create.

Food Over Fear: Overcoming Barriers to Connect Latinx Immigrant Families to Federal Nutrition and Food Programs

December 1, 2020

This report sheds light on why many immigrant families are forgoing vital assistance from federal nutrition and food programs and lifts up recommendations aimed at ensuring that all families and individuals, regardless of immigration status, are nourished and healthy.While the findings of this report are informed by a series of focus groups conducted from November 2019 to January 2020 (prior to the onset of COVID-19), the need to connect immigrant families to nutrition programs is arguably of even greater importance given how COVID-19 is fueling unprecedented food insecurity and ravaging communities of color and immigrant communities at disproportionately high rates due to unique barriers faced by families that include noncitizens.

Strengthening State Systems and Policies to Foster Two-Generation Strategies and Practices

September 1, 2019

This policy brief reports on the first three years of an initiative to work directly with five WPFP state partners in AR, CO, GA, KY, and NC to enhance their state's commitment and ability to serve and support adults and children collectively as well as drive local programs to do so by reviewing the efforts of the five state partners. After first providing more background on Two-Generation efforts across the U.S. in recent years, this brief discusses: 1) the WPFP concept and approach to the initiative; 2) the work of the five state partners, including the state systems identified for this work and specific items identified for improvement within those systems as well as progress to date; and 3) lessons learned and observations of this work with a clear recognition of the challenges and complexities inherent in undertaking systems change work.

When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2017 Homicide Data

September 1, 2019

The U.S. Department of Justice has found that women are far more likely to be the victims of violent crimes committed by intimate partners than men, especially when a weapon is involved. Moreover, women are much more likely to be victimized at home than in any other place.This study provides a stark reminder that domestic violence and guns make a deadly combination. According to reports submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), firearms are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes. Instead, they are all too often used to inflict harm on the very people they were intended to protect.

Profiles in Parole Release and Revocation: Examining the Legal Framework in the United States, Arkansas

January 1, 2018

The Parole Release and Revocation initiative researches the components and framework of parole release and revocation decision-making across the United States. Publications resulting from the initiative focus on the legal framework of parole release and revocation at the individual state and federal level.