Goodbye and Q&A with Laura Nash, our Communications Manager

A few words from Northwest Health Foundation President Jesse Beason:

Laura and Jesse hug. Laura has a blanket draped around her body.

This Friday, we bid farewell to our Communications Manager Laura Nash. Where is she headed? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!

From day one, Laura brought a keen eye for improving our communications. She helped crystallize our style to be more plain language and our approach to be supportive of our grantees, not self-congratulatory. But she expanded her role to be way more than we ever imagined. She brought her design savvy to our website and publications. She became integral to program planning. She helped lead our work exploring disability and disability justice, earning national attention in doing so. And she’s been a great friend to so many of us.

In her more than five years at Northwest Health Foundation, Laura has made a lasting impact and we will miss her dearly. But we are so proud of and excited for her next adventures!

Photo portrait of Laura smiling.

Q&A with Laura:

Q. What are you most proud of having worked on during your time at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Our disability equity work. I’ve been part of Northwest Health Foundation’s disability equity journey since I first started working here in 2014, from Learning Together, Connecting Communities to Advancing Disability Justice. I assisted with meeting logistics to help bring members of disability communities together in person and virtually. I also contributed to our Striving for Disability Equity blog series, in which we owned up to our mistakes and shared our efforts to do better. And, with Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative facilitator Stacey Milbern, I supported members of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative to create a recommendations report for advancing disability justice in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Through communications, we held ourselves accountable to our word. We followed through on making our public meeting spaces fragrance-free, supporting disabled leaders of color and disability-led organizations, and introduced disability justice to community partners throughout our region. We also catalyzed other organizations, regionally and nationally, to examine their own practices and consider how they can do better by disability communities.

This work benefited me personally as well. Through learning and building relationships with disability communities, I realized that I feel at home with these communities. I realized that I am neurodivergent. And recognizing this has allowed me to examine my own internalized ableism and become more self-aware and self-confident.

Q. What’s something you’ve learned at Northwest Health Foundation that you’ll carry with you?

A. It would be impossible to name everything I’ve learned at NWHF, because I feel like so much of it has sunk into me and become integral to how I move through and think about the world. I’m not sure I could parse it all out. One lesson I can point to is how important it is for people to have a say in anything that affects their lives. It seems like common sense, but so many groups of people aren’t represented in decision-making positions. When our leaders reflect our communities, laws and policies will work better for all of us. I’ll hold on to this lesson and continue to contribute what I can to making reflective democracy a reality.

NWHF staff, all dressed in denim, stand in a line along a white brick wall with their backs to the camera. They all look over their shoulders.

Q. What will you miss most about Northwest Health Foundation?

A. I’m going to miss the work environment. I know I’ll find jobs in the future that feel satisfying, where I know I’m doing good work. But I’m worried I’ll never find a workplace as supportive or fun as NWHF. Everyone at NWHF believes deeply in health equity and puts so much thought and time into making that vision reality. But we also pause for silliness and enjoy spending time with each other. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to make a music video or organize an all-denim photo shoot with coworkers again.

Q. What’s your communications advice for the philanthropic sector?

A. Foundations and other philanthropic institutions should focus less on marketing themselves and creating shiny communications materials. As foundations, we of course need to put ourselves out there so people know we exist and what we’re about. We don’t need to be salespeople; grantees will come to us regardless. Instead, we should use our influence to tell truths, uplift our grantees’ stories, and educate and advocate on the issues we care about.

Q. What’s next? 

A. Grad school! I started a master’s program in fall 2018 at Pacific Northwest College of Art. In fall 2019 I’ll continue working on an M.A. in Critical Studies, and I’ll start working on an M.F.A. in Applied Craft + Design. That means I’ll spend the next two years reading, writing and making, three of my favorite things. I’ll also continue to do some freelance communications work. Oh! And wedding planning. My partner Teddy and I are getting married in 2020.