National First Food Racial Equity Cohort

Apply to be a part of CSI’s first National First Food Racial Equity Cohort. Applications are due by February 19, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. See below for information about the Cohort.

CSI’s report on removing structural barriers to breastfeeding in communities of color.
Read the report.


Breastfeeding is an essential entry point for positive, lifelong health outcomes for babies and mothers alike. Policies that support First Food (breastfeeding and other child and maternal health issues) are the cornerstones of the best possible health outcomes for all communities.

However, despite the many benefits of breastfeeding, across the nation, women of color are the least likely to be supported to breastfeed.

For the past three years, Center for Social Inclusion has been working deeply with key field builders in First Food to understand why this divide exists. Using both academic research studies and field interviews, CSI has developed a baseline racial equity analysis of breastfeeding—surfacing challenges faced by women in communities of color and highlighting necessary policy entry points to bridge this gap. CSI’s work surfaced trends in the field of breastfeeding, particularly in relation to the inclusion of racial equity in the broader field:

  • Despite deep work being undertaken by several organizations, the field has a severe lack of diversity in the membership of key organizations—most importantly in leadership;
  • There is growing realization that communities of color must be positioned to “sit at the table” in meaningful ways;
  • There is, therefore, a growing urgency among field leaders to address the barriers within their own organizations that preclude full inclusion;
  • Racial equity issues, unaddressed, derail forward movement for the field as a whole, and;
  • Deeper understanding of and training to support the application of racial equity is essential to both better integrating racial equity as a key field value and to resolving major field tensions.

While CSI has started to see the impact of racial equity work across the field, we recognize that our collective reach and level of understanding is limited. Specifically, there is limited capacity to support awareness building and training of the vast network of people and organizations that make up the First Food field. While CSI has gained an understanding of the field overall, we recognize that practitioners and community workers likely have deeper firsthand knowledge that can support the tailoring of CSI’s analysis and approach to better meet the needs and unique challenges of the field.

CSI is therefore launching a First Food Racial Equity Cohort.

The Cohort

Who? The cohort will include a cross section of participants from the field. We hope to identify 12-15 emerging and established field leaders, with varying level of experience and exposure. We seek a group that is diverse in race, age, and experience. We believe that a diverse group will be most effective in building alliances across divisions and in delivering the message that racial equity impacts and can truly benefit all communities.

What? The cohort will be prepared through a “train the trainers” model to be central capacity builders for the broader field of First Food. The trainings will encompass a variety of topics including 1) structural race (both basic and advanced understanding and application), 2) racially equitable policy and strategy development, 3) organizational change strategies, 4) facilitation and meeting management, and 5) effective communications strategies: how to talk effectively about race. CSI has established curriculum which will be tailored to the cohort’s collective understanding once the cohort is established and surveyed.

In addition to training, the cohort will have the opportunity to co-lead CSI sessions for the field and their own organizations, as well as to partner with CSI to develop a set of tools to assist their home organizations to implement racial equity in both their internal policies and external policy advocacy and community engagement.

Through participation in the cohort, individuals must make a commitment to attend all four (one to two day) work sessions in 2016 (including homework assignments between sessions), as well as a commitment to lead at least one workshop/training or awareness building activity in 2017. CSI will cover all travel and related expenses for individuals to participate in CSI-led work sessions.

When? The cohort will meet five times (in person) and as needed (via phone and email) over a two-year period, starting in early 2016. The first year will include deep capacity building and tool development. In year two, CSI will partner with members of the cohort to co-lead conversations about structural racial equity at local, state, and national First Food organization, maternal and child health, and health equity gatherings.

Application Process

The First Food Racial Equity Cohort will be selected through an open application process. Over the course of the two-year cohort learning journey, participants will gain:

  • A deeper racial equity analysis—a systems-based, root cause analysis centering race.
  • A deeper understanding of institutional change toward racial equity—how does it happen? What’s needed? How do you move that process forward in your own organizations and other organizations in the field?
  • Policy analysis skills—from power mapping/stakeholder analysis, to applying a racial equity lens to policy, to developing new policy ideas centered in racial equity.
  • Facilitation and meeting design skills.

To apply, please submit a resume and a 1-2 page response to the following:

  • Briefly describe yourself and your work.
  • How do you define racial equity? What does it mean for your work?
  • How will participation in the cohort build your capacity to advance your work?
  • In what areas do you seek professional growth and development?
  • If selected, what would you contribute to the cohort?
  • If selected, what is your level of commitment to attend all cohort related activities? Are there other commitments (personal, professional) that you would like to share with us?
  • Any other information you believe is important to include.

In the application, please also include:

  • Your full name
  • Your contact information (email, phone number)
  • The city/town/state in which you’ll be based
  • Name of your home organization
  • Two references (name, email, phone, relationship)

Applications are due by February 19, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. Send completed applications to Tahirah Cook at

Once received, we will select 12-15 final candidates and will send out notifications to all applicants by March 4,2016.

We are asking all applicants to hold March 29, 2016 on their calendars for the Cohort’s first in-person meeting in Washington, DC. More details to come!

Questions? Please email Tahirah Cook at