National WIC Association

NWA Partners with Third Settlements to Advance EDIB

April 18, 2024

Why We’re Engaging in EDIB Work

In 2019, the National WIC Association (NWA) received a grant from the Walmart Foundation to support a two-year project Advancing Health Equity to Achieve Diversity & Inclusion (AHEAD) in WIC. A key goal of the grant was to systematically build capacity among WIC agencies and staff to incorporate a health equity framework into WIC research, policy, and practice. Based on achievements made, NWA was later awarded an additional $1.2 million from the Walmart Foundation to support the continuation of EDIB implementation including providing in-depth equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) training for local and state WIC staff, external stakeholders, and NWA staff and Board of Directors. In March 2023, the National WIC Association (NWA) engaged in a request for proposals to assist the organization in advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (EDIB) at all facets of NWA’s work. This work included assessing and providing recommendations on the Association’s internal and external policies and practices and assisting in identifying and developing organizational values to strengthen the internal culture of the Association. The vision of the work was based on information uncovered through NWA staff feedback and internal affinity groups.

NWA requested proposals for a consulting firm to support its staff and Board of Directors as it continues to ensure the implementation of equitable best practices throughout the organization. The request called for EDIB experts to assist NWA leadership and staff with the development and revisement of EDIB-focused organizational values statements to strengthen the internal and external culture of the organization, assist NWA leadership and staff with the design and implementation of a comprehensive workplan, and to facilitate an intensive 2-3 day EDIB-focused retreat for NWA staff and Board of Directors.

After a competitive process and careful consideration, NWA onboarded Third Settlements, a national creative strategy firm building organizations’ capacity to solve complex challenges, to design and develop a comprehensive work plan to further advance EDIB in all facets of NWA’s work by utilizing a co-creation approach.

Who is Third Settlements

The Third Settlements team brings together 10 years of experience leading challenging and transformative conversations with diverse groups and has expertise in organization-wide cultural assessments, strategic planning, and training, as well as department-specific projects and nonprofit Board assessments and training. Third Settlements has provided its expertise to a wide range of organizations, from the ACLU, NASTAD, and Amnesty International to the New York City Bar Association, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and the Vera Institute of Justice. 

The Process

Since the organization’s inception, NWA has always prided itself on serving the WIC community. Over the year, NWA and Third Settlements will partner to engage in a three-phase approach working alongside NWA leadership, staff, and board to design and develop a comprehensive work plan. Phase 1 of the approach focused on reviewing and assessing NWA policies, grant proposals, procedures, and other artifacts. Currently, in phase 2, the team is co-creating EDIB-focused organizational values, and phase 3 will result in a comprehensive work plan design and implementation. In a recent interview with Third Settlements Principal, Dax Devlon-Ross, when asked why Third Settlements responded to the RFP, Ross and the team found it especially appealing that NWA was asking the critical question, “How can the organization become one that is much more aligned with participants by looking inward at our practices, policies, and strategies?”  and commended NWA, “for not using the difficulties of our political environment as a reason not to do this meaningful and impactful work.”

The phased process is also multifaceted. The process not only focuses on community building or organizational audit but combines both and ensures they continue working together simultaneously. Ross explained that Third Settlements combines internal audits and community building through artifacts reviews (to “illuminate how NWA intends to operate based on the language used, written policies, strategy, and overall organizational structure”), focus groups, and EDIB-focused values creation. These activities and the major themes and solutions that arise will ultimately inform work plan development and implementation, the final phase of the process.

When asked how both organizations know when the work is “done”, Ross responded that while Third Settlements creates long-lasting relationships with the organizations they service, no one truly knows what will come out of the process. There are consistent themes that have been identified over the past few months, such as authenticity and allowing authentic voices to be heard and centered in the movement; challenging organizational terminology (i.e., breastfeeding versus chestfeeding) to increase understanding and improve practices of allyship; and grounding all of the work in dignity to give everyone a welcoming seat at the table. It is also important to note that NWA is not waiting until the end of the process to begin advocating for and implementing change. NWA has taken immediate action on specific priorities. Ross uplifted that during phase 1, NWA took immediate action to change the staff handbook. Third Settlements gave the NWA team early feedback about the handbook and it was immediately incorporated and redistributed to NWA staff. The Third Settlements team instantly felt the urgency and excitement for change!

What’s Next

Last week, during NWA’s 2024 Annual Education and Training Conference in Chicago, IL from April 7-10, participants were treated to an engaging session titled "From Training to Transformation: Advancing equitable public health entities and outcomes." This session, led by speakers Jason Spector and Dax-Devlon Ross from Third Settlements, offered attendees a unique opportunity to delve into the inner workings of Third Settlements and their EDIB initiatives at NWA. Through a series of interactive activities involving data, documents, and multimedia, participants gained valuable insights into the process of organizational introspection. The session was filled with multiple audience engagement points, providing a realistic glimpse into the transformative journey advocated by Third Settlements. Whether attendees were interested in learning more about Third Settlements, exploring EDIB initiatives, or undertaking organizational artifacts reviews, this session offered something for everyone.