The Economic Progress Institute Announces New Executive Director

PROVIDENCE, RI—The Economic Progress Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies as its new Executive Director. Succeeding Rachel Flum and Interim Executive Director Margaux Morisseau, Nelson-Davies will lead the Economic Progress Institute in the next phase of its work to provide research, education, and advocacy on policies that improve economic security and opportunity for Rhode Islanders. Since its founding in 1999, The Economic Progress Institute has been a trusted source of policy research and advocacy in Rhode Island. The Institute welcomes the opportunity to continue building its impact under Nelson-Davies’ leadership.

Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies comes to the Economic Progress Institute from Community Legal Aid (CLA) in Central and Western Massachusetts where she has served as the managing attorney of the Worcester County offices. Additionally, she has overseen special projects, including the Asian Outreach Project, the Medical-Legal Partnership pro bono project, the CORI/Reentry Project, and the Veterans Legal Assistance Project. She has also served as the co-chair of CLA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.

“After almost 14 years as a legal aid attorney in Massachusetts, providing direct representation to low-income and marginalized communities and advocating for social, racial, health, and economic justice, I am honored and ecstatic to be joining the Economic Progress Institute team in my adopted home state of Rhode Island to continue the fight for economic opportunity for Rhode Islanders,” said Nelson-Davies.

“I am excited to lead the Institute as it moves with intentionality to uplift community voices and center racial justice in its advocacy for economic policy changes that meet the needs of families and improve the lives of Rhode Islanders and the economic stability of the state. I am grateful for the vision and legacy of Linda Katz and the late Nancy Gewirtz and the commitment and dedication of the Institute’s staff, board, partners, and supporters.”

Weayonnoh started her legal aid career as a Bart Gordon Fellow in 2008 at South Coastal Counties Legal Services, focusing on the cumulative effects of structural racism on communities of color. She specializes in general poverty law, racial justice, medical-legal partnerships, public benefits, and housing law. She has served as a small group faculty facilitator, capstone project mentor, and co-facilitator at Brown University Medical School and taught a civic engagement law-based course as an adjunct professor at the Community College of Rhode Island. In 2020, Weayonnoh received the Roger Williams University School of Law Alumni Public Interest Champion of Justice Award. In 2017, the Massachusetts Bar Association presented her with the Access to Justice Rising Star Award. She is currently a cohort member of the Rhode Island Foundation’s inaugural Equity Leadership Initiative. She is a proud alumna of Leadership Worcester, City Year Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and Roger Williams University School of Law.

“Words cannot express how excited the EPI board and staff are to welcome Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies as our next executive director,” said Carolyn Mark, chair of the EPI Board of Directors. “Weayonnoh is a powerful advocate and a gifted storyteller who is passionate about advancing policies that will lift up those who have been historically marginalized and help ensure economic opportunity for all Rhode Islanders.”

Nelson-Davies will join EPI on January 18, 2022. She will work with the board, staff, allies, and partners to set a vision for the next stage of the Institute’s work that builds on its strong reputation on issues impacting the economic vitality of Rhode Island residents and carries forward its commitment to equity. Nelson-Davies will ensure the ongoing operational, fiscal, and programmatic excellence of the Economic Progress Institute and will serve as an ongoing community partner and powerful and inspiring voice for progress in the state.

Said EPI co-founder and policy director Linda Katz: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Weayonnoh take the helm as the 4th director of EPI. She has the experience, focus, and vision to help us be a stronger community partner and leader in promoting and achieving economic and racial justice for Rhode Islanders. Our previous directors have created a strong foundation for the new work on which we will embark. The staff and I are honored that Weayonnoh will be joining the EPI team and look forward to working with her.”

The Economic Progress Institute expresses gratitude and appreciation for the insights and input of leaders across the region and nationally throughout the extensive search process and to the highly talented and committed candidates. The search was conducted with support by CLC Endeavors and was led by search committee members Carolyn Mark (Chair), Paola Fonseca-Fernandez, Matt Shumate, and Jill Beckwith.

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About The Economic Progress Institute 

The Economic Progress Institute is a nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to improving the economic well-being of low- and modest-income Rhode Islanders. For more information, visit www.economicprogressri.org.

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