SPI Local Application
What We Do

The Dr. Beatriz María Solís Policy Institute (SPI) Local is a policy advocacy and leadership training fellowship for genderqueer and non-binary people, cisgender and transgender women, and transgender men who want to build their skills influencing public policymaking at the local level.*

SPI Local accepts preformed teams of 3 or 4 applicants and does not accept individuals. Teams will develop and propose policy solutions at the county, city, special district, or school district level. The SPI Local 2022-23 program has both in-person and virtual programming and is open to teams from any county in California. The fellowship is bilingual (English and Spanish).

Para ver esta información en español, por favor visite aquí.

*’Cisgender’ describes someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. ‘Transgender’ describes someone whose gender identity is different from the one they were assigned at birth.

Key Dates

Application Opens

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Application Deadline

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 at 12pm
Wednesday, May 4th, 2022 at 12pm

Retreat Dates


  • Retreat 1 (In Person): July 12-14, 2022
  • Retreat 2 (Virtual): October 11-13, 2022
  • Retreat 3 (In Person): February 7-9, 2023
  • Retreat 4 (Virtual): April 26-27, 2023

Webinar Dates

Required Webinars

  • Webinar 1: Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 10am-12pm
  • Webinar 2: Wednesday, November 30, 2022, 10am-12pm
  • Webinar 3: Wednesday, March 29, 2023, 10am-12pm

Optional Informational Webinars


  • Genderqueer and non-binary people, cisgender and transgender women, and transgender men.
  • Individuals living or working in California.
  • Individuals working in a community-based or non-profit setting with the full support of their employer and/or supervisor.
  • Individuals who agree to all participation requirements and whose employers agree to all participation requirements.
  • If you are currently unemployed or self-employed, please review the FAQs and email us to discuss your eligibility.


  • Depth of Issue Expertise
  • Collaborative Spirit
  • Commitment to Policy Advocacy Work
  • Organizational Support
  • Commitment to Building Organizational Capacity
  • Time Availability
  • Understanding of and interest in applying anti-racist, intersectional and transgender justice lenses to policy advocacy


While issues are multi-dimensional, teams must select one area of focus for their application. SPI-Local aims to feature teams working in the following specific areas:

We accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to create places where families and communities are healthy, safe as is possible within our current systems, and ready to learn. We believe that health includes more than physical conditions; health has social, cultural and economic impacts on the well-being of individuals, families and/or communities. Health is also determined by racial, gender and economic circumstances, with direct ties to the history of anti-Blackness and oppression in our country. In this context, community health policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

  • Environmental Health: air quality regulation, access to clean drinking water, climate change mitigation for low-income communities;
  • Community Health: land use such as regulation of warehouses; transportation such as busing, school health such as implementation of state laws or innovative pilot programs, access to housing, food access/food marketing
  • Healthy Youth Development: violence prevention, school push-out policies, school- based health/mental health, trauma-informed services
  • Health Equity: cultural and linguistic competency in healthcare; shifting resources to food deserts
  • Transgender justice: access to just medical care and mental health care for trans and non-binary youth
  • Implementation of and compliance with state laws or innovating pilot programs to address this issue

We accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to address the harmful and oppressive impacts that the criminal justice system has on the lives of Californians, especially those impacted by gender injustice. We prioritize fellows from organizations that work to promote racial, transgender, and economic justice. In this context, criminal justice policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

  • Working to reduce the prison population and the numbers of incarcerated transgender people as well as cisgender women in the short- and long-term through prevention, ending jail expansion, and promoting alternatives to incarceration
  • Addressing the causes and reduce the incidence and impact of the disproportionate incarceration of Black people and people of color
  • Protecting the human and civil rights of incarcerated people
  • Expanding and strengthening rehabilitation and reentry programs for currently and formerly incarcerated people
  • Protecting and supporting the children and loved ones of incarcerated people
  • Expanding access to public programs and benefits for formerly incarcerated people
  • Implementation of and compliance with state laws concerning this issue or innovating pilot programs to address this issue

We accept applications from representatives of organizations that work or support programs that improve the economic security of Californians, especially those impacted by gender injustice. This includes protecting low-wage and informal workers such as sex workers, advocating for the expansion and improved implementation of safety net programs, strengthening the diversity and size of the state workforce, and establishing standards for economic security. In this context, economic security policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

  • Boosting funding for and access to quality childcare
  • Developing county or city general plans that address equitable economic growth
  • Improving enrollment and alignment in health and anti-poverty programs
  • Facilitating access to occupational jobs and economic mobility for low-skilled, low-income cisgender and transgender women, non-binary and genderqueer people, and transgender men
  • Strengthening workforce development programs focused on job placement, retention and advancement
  • Expanding work readiness training or improving access to education, vocational and training services including basic skills training, computer literacy, and life skills training and in languages other than English
  • Implementation of and compliance with state laws concerning this issue or innovating pilot programs to address this issue

We accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to support programs that expand and protect the rights of all people to make informed decisions about and exercise control over their sexual and reproductive lives. Reproductive health, rights, and justice policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

  • Promoting policies that are shaped by and responsive to people’s needs and address the right to bear and parent children
  • Comprehensive sexuality education
  • The right to bodily integrity, especially for incarcerated people and BIPOC 
  • The right to express one’s sexuality, sexual orientation/identity, and gender identity/expression
  • The right to a doula or midwife services
  • Intersectional ties with other social justice efforts, including the reproductive health impacts of environmental pollution, the state violence impact on parenting people, the impacts of transphobia on medical care, and the economic security of youth and families
  • Implementation of and compliance with state laws or innovating pilot programs concerning this issue

We accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to reduce the negative impacts that violence and harassment, which is often gender-based, has on the lives of Californians. In this context, policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

  • Improving protections for victims of online sexual harassment and cyber-stalking
  • Protecting the rights of trans people who experience bullying and harassment in the workplace
  • Strengthening the rights of immigrant cisgender and transgender women and nonbinary people who experience domestic violence
  • Increasing outreach and education to reduce teen dating violence
  • Strengthening existing policies or innovating pilot programs that are intended to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or bullying
  • Implementation of and compliance with state laws or innovating pilot programs concerning this issue


The voices of people impacted by gender-based oppression, violence, and discrimination are often missing or silenced from policymaking processes. SPI’s goal is to ensure that visionary community leaders, their organizations and their communities can actively shape policies to transform the fundamental conditions that affect their lives and communities. Moreover, SPI strives to increase the number and capacity of genderqueer and nonbinary people, cisgender and transgender women, and transgender men who are actively engaged in public policy— particularly those from Black, Indigenous, people of color communities, immigrant communities, trans and queer communities, low- income communities, and rural communities.

Our social justice framework focuses on the structural causes of inequities embedded in public institutions, such as our government bodies. SPI was developed in response to these structural inequities, and while we will make room to discuss oppressive systems and encourage each cohort to critique institutionalized oppression, our primary objective is to train participants to create progressive policy changes within the current legislative system. We recognize the need to dismantle and transform our political institutions and processes and there are many different means that lead to liberation. SPI views policy advocacy as one powerful strategy to solving problems and improving the lives of our communities.  After experiencing what it takes to get a policy win, participants are better able to continue the work of dismantling systems of oppression within public policy.

In the fellowship teams will: 

  • Research a local policy concern to determine which local government entity can resolve the problem.
  • Conduct a minimum of 10 meetings with local public policy staff, including elected officials, to gather advice and determine the political will and policy solutions on the issue of concern.
  • Create a fact sheet and model letters of support addressing a problem of concern and including recommendations for local policymakers;
  • Develop a power map analyzing the political landscape that will set up the team’s campaign strategy.
  • It is expected that the work of the policy project will be shared equally between all team members.
  • Foundation staff will guide the teams, supplemented by a mentor who is a former government insider. Regular communication with Foundation staff is expected.

We recognize that harmful beliefs, practices, and behaviors persist within many sectors of the public policy arena. We do our best to prepare our fellows to respond to these dynamics, to inform our speakers and trainers about our social justice principles and the diversity of our SPI cohorts, and to create as brave an environment as possible for fellows experiencing multiple forms of oppression. Due to the nature of the public policy arena, however, we cannot guarantee that every space you will enter as a fellow—both inside and outside the Capitol, and including retreats—will be safe or that every person with whom you interact, including speakers and trainers, will be trained in anti-oppression and anti-racist principles. If having safety is a requirement for you at this time of your life, SPI might not be an appropriate program for you.

A team member is currently self-employed or unemployed.

  • You are eligible to apply for the Solís Policy Institute as long as:
    • You are rooted in a community that will benefit (i.e., grow in its ability to do policy work) from your participation in the program and to which you are accountable
    • You are connected to a non-profit or grassroots organization that endorses your participation, and
    • Your employment status will remain the same throughout the Solís Policy Institute year.

NOTE: A change in employment status could impact your ability to stay in SPI (i.e., your new organization won’t allow you to stay in the program, you move out of state, etc.).

If you do not plan to remain self-employed or you are actively looking for work during the SPI fellowship year, this might not be the right time to participate.

A team member is a college student.

  • If you will graduate before or during the SPI fellowship year and are planning to search for/start a new job, please see the question above. Unless you are certain that your job will be supportive of your participation in SPI, this may not be the right time for you to apply.
  • If you will not be graduating before or during the fellowship year, we encourage you to review the retreat and webinar dates and determine whether you will be able to miss class on those days. You may want to speak with an advisor or the chair of your department about whether they can support your full participation in the program, including missing classes and whether retreats fall too close to finals week, etc. If counting your participation in the program as an internship would help secure your time away from classes, please explore that option with your department. We are happy to be supportive of that approach in any way we can.

SPI-Local brings individuals who experience racial, economic, and gender injustice—particularly those from communities of color as well as rural, low-income, immigrant, and queer communities—into the policy process, and empowers leaders who will advance a policy agenda that is responsive to the needs of historically marginalized communities.

We accept applications from teams of three or four individuals. Together they write a team narrative as part of the application. Team members should:

  • Live or work in the same county
  • Represent different organizations*
  • Have identified an issue around which they would like to build a policy campaign.
  • Develop local solutions to local challenges in one of the following areas: community health, criminal justice reform, economic security, reproductive health, rights & justice, and trauma services & prevention.

*SPI Local has accepted teams in the past who have more than one member from the same organization. 

SPI-Local does not accept applications from individuals.

  • If you are still searching for that 3rd or 4th team member in your corresponding county, please contact Elizabeth Ayala about possibly connecting you with other team members.

SPI-Local emphasizes regional coalition building and should be seen as a jumping-off point for a policy project. Pre-formed teams are pivotal to the learning of local policy and facilitate the practice of local advocacy.

The SPI-Local program requires on average 32 hours per month from each fellow.

For the Class of 2023, there are four (4) mandatory multi day retreats, currently scheduled for:

  • R1: July 12-14, 2022 (In person)
  • R2: October 11-13, 2022
  • R3: February 7-9, 2023 (In person)
  • R4: April 26-27, 2023

And three (3) mandatory webinars, currently scheduled for:

  • Web 1: Wed., September 14, 2022, 10am-12pm
  • Web 2: Wed., November 30, 2022, 10am-12pm
  • Web 3: Wed., March 29, 2023, 10am-12pm

Each retreat is a mandatory multi-day event consisting of training led by WFC staff, policy experts, and guest trainers. Reading and homework is assigned in advance of the retreats or webinars and throughout the fellowship.

Teams are expected to have weekly meetings or conference calls throughout the fellowship.

Employers must be supportive of their employees and allow them to fulfill the fellowship commitments. This includes signing an Applicant Requirements Agreement to upload into the application system.

The fellowship is offered free of charge. The Women’s Foundation California is committed to eliminating all financial barriers to access and we raise approximately $20,000 for each fellow’s participation in the program. In a typical SPI year, we provide stipends and reimbursements for in-person retreats if a fellow’s organization does not have available funding for travel and meals (which is the case for the majority of our fellows).

Like many organizations and programs, SPI made dramatic shifts to the program after March 2020. The SPI Local Class of 2023 will have both in-person and virtual retreats. While we are heartened by the positive trends in COVID-19 statistics, we will take caution where possible to keep our community safe.  Plans for the two in-person retreats are subject to change depending on these health trends.

The first retreat and third retreats will be in-person.  When holding in-person programming, all fellows, trainers, and guests will be required to take at home COVID-19 rapid tests on the day of travel. All participants will be required to wear masks for programming that takes place inside. The Foundation will work with venues to provide meals outside.  As the Women’s Foundation California is not their employer, fellows will not require proof of vaccination to attend; however they need to take a PCR test in advance of the retreat if they do not provide that proof. This is in addition to the At Home Test on the day of travel, as stated above.

The Foundation will work to set up live streaming of programming done in person but cannot guarantee it will be available if a fellow is unable to attend an in-person retreat. If the in-person retreats can be held in a hybrid manner with both in-person and virtual capacity, fellows should note that they may not be able to participate remotely in smaller settings such as teamwork time or community building activities.


  • SPI-Local interviews will take place in mid to late May.

The Format

  • SPI-Local interviews must be done as a team and are conversational; don’t stress about this portion of the process! We ask questions that help us better understand your team’s interests within the issue area under which you applied, each of your members’ experience with policy advocacy, and how your team came together and plan to create or strengthen a coalition for your policy project as a result of the fellowship.

Who Gets an Interview

  • We don’t necessarily interview everyone before selecting them for the program. Please continue to hold the retreat and webinar dates on your calendar until a final determination on your application is made.

How to Prepare

  • A good way to prepare is to review your Team Narrative as well as the selection criteria and participant requirements.

  • The class of 2023 will include both in-person and virtual retreats.
  • For virtual programming, fellows must have access to a computer with a camera to participate in the webinar and audio either through the computer or a phone.
  • Participants are required to have their own computer, access to the Internet, and knowledge of and access to word processing programs (like Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, GoogleDocs) to participate in the writing of documents.

This work is powered by you.

The feminist future we are building together in California is going to be built by all of us sharing our time, our money, and our skills.  Please consider contributing today.

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