NetWork Kansas announces participation in the Kauffman Foundation Spark Heartland Program and new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Board

News Release
For Immediate Release                                                                           

Media Contact:                 

Steve Radley
(877) 521-8600
[email protected]                                                       

NetWork Kansas announces participation in the Kauffman Foundation Spark Heartland Program and new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Board

NetWork Kansas, a statewide organization devoted to the establishment of entrepreneurship as a priority for economic and community development, announced two initiatives today: acceptance into the Kauffman Foundation’s Spark Heartland Program and the launch of a new advisory board to help guide the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies.

Kauffman Spark Heartland

The 2021 Heartland Spark Program is a pilot capacity-building program for entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The program is designed to create a more equitable and diverse ecosystem for entrepreneurs. Community Wealth Partners, a social-sector
consulting firm, is managing the program in partnership with other capacity-building organizations who bring specialized expertise in the program’s content areas. Participants will work on strengthening core organizational competencies through the following primary program goals:

• Increased collaboration: Improved ability to build productive and mutually-beneficial working relationships with peers, funders, and/or other supporters
• Stronger organizational capabilities with a DEI lens: Improved knowledge of selected organizational competencies with a DEI lens and, longer-term, consistent application of learnings
• Clarified value and strengthened influence: Clearer understanding of the organization’s niche in the ESO ecosystem and ways in which they can better support entrepreneurs and influence the ecosystem

Charter Empower Advisory Board

The charter Empower Advisory Board members are:
• Chan Brown, Program Officer, Kansas Health Foundation, Wichita, KS
• Rhonda F. Harris, Director, Office of Minority and Women Business Development, Kansas Department of Commerce, Topeka, KS
• Christina M. Long, Inclusive Director, NetWork Kansas and Strategic Director, NetWorked Partnership for Community Investment, Wichita, KS
• Jonathan Long, Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Executive Director, Mosaic, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa, OK
• Coral Lopez, Director, Main Street, Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation, Dodge City, KS
• David Rixter, CEO and Co-Founder, MStreetX, Fairfax, VA
• Dr. Robert Weems, Jr., the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History, Wichita State University and NetWork Kansas Board Member, Wichita, KS

“Our advisory board members and team have been actively contributing to develop and launch programs that ensure minority entrepreneurs have the opportunity to access resources that meet their specific needs,” said Steve Radley, CEO of NetWork Kansas. “This fantastic group, coupled with intentional strategic efforts through the Kauffman Spark Heartland program, will accelerate our ability to create new, scalable resources that close the gap between resources and opportunity.”

The board will be responsible for providing input on NetWork Kansas’ new programs and initiatives including the Empower Fund, the Kansas Community Investment Fund, and NetWorked Partnership for Community Investment. All three efforts were launched in partnership with the Kansas Health Foundation and supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. New partners for these efforts include Fidelity Bank and INTRUST Bank, both of which have headquarters in Wichita.

The Advisory Board will also counsel on best practices for NetWork Kansas’ growing supplier diversity program, entrepreneurship programs, and resource development efforts to better serve diverse populations. NetWork Kansas is a leader in providing gap-financing to disadvantaged geographies and populations across the state and has developed relationships with key leaders and minority-led organizations in Kansas and across the country to strengthen access to resources for minority entrepreneurs in Kansas.

“NetWork Kansas understands building community begins at the local level,” said Rixter, CEO of MStreetX, who serves on the Advisory Board. “From my time supporting Kansas as [its] Outreach Manager for the U.S. Department of Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), including collaborating with NetWork Kansas on Treasury’s first Inclusive Entrepreneurship convening, I have witnessed NetWork Kansas’ progression from a nascent ecosystem builder to a thriving and vibrant organization that connects domains to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

About NetWork Kansas:
NetWork Kansas, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, is dedicated to making entrepreneurship a priority for economic and community development in the State of Kansas. NetWork Kansas connects aspiring entrepreneurs, emerging and established businesses, to a deep network of business-building and community development resource organizations across the state. NetWork Kansas is also the home of e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (e2). e2 provides best practice solutions to entrepreneurial ecosystem building in Kansas and nationally.
NetWork Kansas facilitates the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem within participating communities through the E-Community Partnership. Contributing factors to successful development include availability of financial capital, support by local leadership and development of educational resources. All of these factors combine to increase entrepreneurial activity in participating towns, leading to increased startup activity, business expansion, job creation and more. For more information about NetWork Kansas, visit or call 877.521.8600.


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