WPI Local Application
What We Do
Women's Policy Institute

WPI-Local is an experiential, year-long fellowship open to community-based advocates from all 58 counties in California who want to address the inequities embedded in public institutions. The fellowship delivers training and tools, builds networks, and develops leadership skills to advance local policy campaigns and build power throughout the state. Fellows work in teams to develop and propose policy solutions to existing or emerging problems at the county, city, special district, or school district level.

To apply you will need a team of three or four collaborators and an idea for a local-level policy project that will advance racial, economic, and gender justice.

WPI is inclusive of all communities affected by gender-based oppression and discrimination, including cisgender and transgender women, genderqueer, gender-variant and non-binary individuals, and trans men. We recognize that gender-based violence and discrimination disproportionately impact transgender and gender non-conforming people, and we strongly encourage applications from transgender and gender non-conforming folks.

The 2021-22 program is open to teams from any county in California. The fellowship is bilingual (English and Spanish). To view this information in Spanish, please visit here. 

Key Dates

Application Opens

  • Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Information Webinars

Application Deadline

  • Thursday, April 8th, 2021 at 12pm PST

Notification Date

  • May 11th, 2021

Eligibility

  • cisgender and transgender women, genderqueer, gender-variant and non-binary individuals, and trans 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.

Criteria

  • Depth of Issue Expertise
  • Teamwork
  • Commitment to Policy Advocacy Work
  • Organizational Support
  • Commitment to Building Capacity
  • Time Availability

How to Apply

WPI-LOCAL ISSUE AREAS

The program focuses on improving economic security for individuals impacted by systemic gender-based discrimination, as well as their families and communities in California. While issues are multi-dimensional, teams must select one area of focus for their application. WPI-Local aims to feature teams working in the following specific areas:

WPI will accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to create places where families and communities are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. We believe that health is broader than a physical condition; health has social, cultural, and economic impacts on the well-being of individuals, families and/or communities. In this context, health policy projects may include, and are not limited to:

  • Access to health care/patients’ rights: expanding access (e.g. Affordable Care Act/Health Reform) to quality health care; ensuring patient autonomy over decision-making; affordability/parity of coverage of treatments/medications; medical privacy
  • Environmental Health: air quality regulation, access to clean drinking water, climate change mitigation for low-income communities
  • Community Wellness: diabetes prevention, land use/public transportation and the promotion of active living, built environment, school health, 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; addressing disproportionate targeting of communities of color by specific industries (e.g., tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverage companies); shifting resources to food deserts

WPI will accept applications from representatives of organizations that work to address the negative 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, economic, and gender 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 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
  • Reducing the over-policing of communities through policy, budgeting, and community accountability and engagement

WPI-State will 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, 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
  • Improving Medi-Cal and CalFresh enrollment and alignment
  • Facilitating access to occupational jobs 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
  • Improving access to education, vocational, and training services including basic skills training, computer literacy, and life skills training and in languages other than English
  • Expanding work readiness training and other services to prepare cisgender and transgender women, non-binary and genderqueer people, and transgender men for occupational jobs
  • Strengthening labor laws for people working in industries with fewer protections

WPI will 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 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
  • Access to safe and legal abortion
  • Comprehensive sexuality education
  • Universal health care
  • The right to bodily integrity
  • The right to express one’s sexuality, sexual orientation/identity, and gender identity/expression
  • Strengthening ties with other social justice efforts, including the reproductive health impacts of environmental pollution, affordable health care, and economic security

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

  • Expanding resources for sexual assault survivors on college campuses
  • Improving protections for victims of online sexual harassment and cyber-stalking
  • Protecting the rights of trans people who experience bullying in the workplace
  • Strengthening the rights of immigrant women who experience domestic violence
  • Increasing outreach and education to reduce teen dating violence
  • Strengthening existing laws and policies that are intended to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or bullying

FAQ

WPI-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. Team members should:

  1. Live or work in the same county
  2. Represent different organizations*
  3. Have identified an issue around which they would like to build a policy campaign.
  4. 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.

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

First, WPI-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.

WPI-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 short answer is that you are eligible to apply for WPI as long as:

  1. 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.
  2. Your employment status will remain the same throughout the WPI fellowship year.

The long answer is that our model is to invest in the capacity of organizations and communities, not individuals, for engaging in policy advocacy. We do this because:

  1. Strong organizations and coalitions should be the driving forces behind public policy advocacy.
  2. We believe that more non-profit and community-based organizations should employ policy advocacy as one of their strategies for social change.
  3. It would be impossible and impractical to attempt to train every single potential individual policy advocate in California, as our impact increases exponentially if our fellows are taking their training back to their organizations and communities.

A change in employment status could impact your ability to stay in the WPI program (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 WPI fellowship year, this might not be the right time to participate in WPI. Teams suffer when they lose a member halfway through the program, so it’s important for us to know with a fair degree of certainty that your employer is supportive of your participation and that you plan on being with that employer throughout the WPI year.

We know that COVID-19 has resulted in unpredictable employment for the majority of people in addition to a limited capacity for most individuals and their organizations. Ultimately, you know your own circumstances best, and you are the person who is best equipped to decide whether this is the right time for you to apply. If you choose to apply, please make sure to read the full FAQ section for a clearer understanding of the time commitment and expectations.

If you will graduate before or during the WPI fellowship year and are planning to search for and start a new job, please see the answer to the question for those who are unemployed or self-employed, above.

Unless you are certain that your job will be supportive of your participation in WPI, this may not be the right time for you to apply.

If you will not be graduating before or during the WPI 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 should 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.

When
WPI-Local interviews will take place in late April.

The Format
WPI-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
Also, no, 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.

Teams who articulate clearly their capacity to leverage the fellowship to build or strengthen coalitions, a compelling policy problem that it is a local government problem, and exhibit deep issue knowledge (whether professional or personal) are always strong candidates for the program.

Our final decisions are based both on each team and the overall mix of the applicant pool and subsequent class.  A central goal of WPI is to build cross-movement networks so we take issues, geography, and other factors into consideration.  We often receive strong applications from teams who we would love to admit to the program but don’t have room to put in the program.

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

For the Class of 2022, there are four (4) mandatory 3-day retreats, currently scheduled for:

  • R1: June 8-10, 2021 (virtual)
  • R2: September 14-16, 2021 (virtual)
  • R3:  February 1-3, 2022 (virtual)
  • R4: April 12-14, 2022 (virtual, possibility of in-person)

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

  • Web 1: Wednesday, October 13, 2021, from 10 am to 12 pm PT
  • Web 2: Wednesday, November 10, 2021, from 10 am to 12 pm PT
  • Web 3: Wednesday, March 16, 2022, from 10 am to 12 pm PT

Each retreat is a mandatory multi-day event consisting of training led by WFC staff, policy experts, and guest trainers.

Reading and homework will be assigned in advance of the retreats or webinars and throughout the fellowship.

Teams will be 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.

  • Research a local policy concern to determine which local government entity can resolve the problem.
  • Interview and engage community members (stakeholders) directly impacted by 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.
  • Hold at least one public community meeting with elected officials, allies or community members to advance their policy project, in the second half of the fellowship.
  • 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.

The fellowship is offered for free to all selected participants. The organizational expense of running WPI-Local costs approximately $20,000 per fellow.

There are no monetary grants to the participant or the participant’s organizations as part of the fellowship. That being said, teams can access up to $750 of additional funding earmarked to support their policy project during the fellowship.

Costs associated with regular teamwork that takes place outside of trainings (phone calls, transportation to policy meetings etc.) will be paid by the participants.

We hope to meet in person for the final retreat if it is safe to do so. In the case of an in-person retreat:

  • Participants will be provided transportation reimbursements and offered a free, shared hotel room with another training participant. If participants would like a private hotel room, they will need to pay for it themselves (provided that the hotel has availability).
  • Meals will be provided during the final retreat, should we meet in person.

Harmful beliefs, practices, and behaviors persist within many sectors of the public policy arena. We do our best to prepare our fellows to engage these dynamics. We inform our speakers and trainers about our social justice principles, the diversity of our WPI cohorts, and strive to create as safe an environment as possible.

Due to the nature of the public policy arena, we cannot guarantee that every space you enter as a WPI fellow—both inside and outside government and retreat spaces—will feel safe or that every person with whom you interact will be trained in anti-oppression principles. If having safety is a requirement at this time of your life, WPI might not be for you.

Our social justice framework focuses on the structural causes of inequities embedded in public institutions such as government.

Although WPI was developed in response to these structural inequities, and while we encourage each cohort to critique institutionalized oppression, the program’s primary objective is to train participants to create progressive policy changes within the current local government system.

Thus, program participants are enacting policies that make California a more just and equitable place today and are encouraged to work with their communities and organizations toward making all of our government processes more open and accessible to all community members tomorrow.

Our social justice framework focuses on the structural causes of inequities embedded in public institutions such as government. Although WPI was developed in response to these structural inequities, and while we encourage each cohort to critique institutionalized oppression, the program’s primary objective is to train participants to create progressive policy changes within the current local government system. Thus, program participants are enacting policies that make California a more just and equitable place today and are encouraged to work with their communities and organizations toward making all of our government processes more open and accessible to all community members tomorrow.

Additionally, the WPI seeks to increase the numbers of cisgender and transgender women, non-binary and genderqueer people, and transgender men involved in the policy arena—particularly those from communities of color, immigrant communities, queer communities, low-income communities, and rural communities. By bringing individuals who experience gender-based discrimination into the policy process, WPI works to empower leaders who will advance a policy agenda that is responsive to the needs of all Californians.

The curriculum of WPI Local will require all participants to dig into how current and proposed policies advance racial, economic, and gender justice.  This includes weaving an explicitly anti-racist lens throughout the program.  In addition, the gender justice lens of the Women’s Foundation California uplifts the experience and needs of the trans and gender nonconforming (TGNC) community.

  • For the webinars, 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.

Together We Are Unstoppable.

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