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Unlocking technology for WIC with the state of Montana

Nava, with the support of Schmidt Futures and technical assistance from the WIC program in Montana, is unlocking modernization for Montana WIC – and learning about opportunities to improve the program nationally.

Over 6 million pregnant people, breastfeeding parents, infants, and children get help accessing healthy food, education, and other services through the federal nutrition program known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). WIC embraces innovation to meet participant needs, serving nearly half of all infants born in the US, and reducing the risk of infant mortality by 33 percent. Still, when it comes to adopting technology, agencies across the country grapple with the constraints of existing technology systems.

Agencies looking to use technology to make it easier for people to apply for and keep their WIC benefits, such as online scheduling, must navigate a central management information system, or MIS, which holds information about participants. Building new technology on the MIS platform requires time and expertise, leaving agencies with few options for vendors to work with. Alternatively, agencies can buy standalone tools, such as a feature that allows online scheduling. But then staff are burdened with manually sharing data between the MIS and other systems. Agencies don’t have many cost effective and efficient options to build digital services that are flexible, resilient, and truly human-centered.

Building prototypes to improve access to WIC

That’s why Nava, with the support of Schmidt Futures and technical assistance from the WIC program in Montana, is working on an initiative to catalyze modernization of Montana WIC – and learn about opportunities to improve and scale the program nationally.

Nava is developing technology to make it easier for people to apply for and keep their WIC benefits. Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, connect new digital tools with existing technology systems. Disparate APIs are currently used by some WIC agencies. But there is not an API standard that works across all WIC agencies nationally. Nava and Montana envision creating a WIC-specific API standard that allows different WIC agencies across the country to quickly share and adopt digital tools. With this flexible, adaptable implementation power, WIC agencies are better able to meet participant and staff needs, improving access and equity in government service delivery.

Together, we’ll build an API standard prototype and an enrollment tool prototype to support Montana's vision to improve access to WIC. The prototype will also let us test a solution that would allow WIC agencies across the country to more easily share and adopt new technology: an API standard. We’ll share what we learn with the larger WIC community in partnership with the National WIC Association.

“Schmidt Futures sees a special opportunity in supporting Nava to drive modernization in a space that benefits families and public servants alike,” said Liz McNally, Executive Vice President of Talent Ventures at Schmidt Futures. “Aligned with the mission of our Connectivity & Access program, Nava’s innovative application of technology can unlock increased accessibility to the social safety net, especially for marginalized populations, and potentially drive structural improvements at a national level.”

"Our goal is to support WIC agencies across the country, helping them unlock tools that can best serve the communities they know so well" said Martelle Esposito, Nava's Partnerships and Evaluation Lead. "We're thrilled to work with the state of Montana and Schmidt Futures to not only launch this project, but share what we learn across the larger WIC community."

Learn with us

Over the next six months, we'll use these prototypes to learn about what participants and staff as well as data transfer challenges and opportunities with their MIS. We’ll continually share progress and what we're learning with the larger WIC community at learning sessions and office hours, hosted in partnership with the National WIC Association. To find out about upcoming sessions, sign up for our newsletter.

To learn more about the potential to unlock modernization for WIC, read our report. Find more tactical information on building human-centered and agile technology to power your mission in our toolkits, developed with the WIC Technology Resource Group:

This project is funded in part by Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt that bets early on exceptional people making the world better.

PublishedMay 11, 2022

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