Tell us a little bit about the Women’s Policy Institute.
The WPI is a year-long fellowship that prepares community-based women leaders to influence and create policies that benefit low-income women and families.
We provide our fellows with the tools, networks and strategies they need to navigate the complex system of policy-making at the state level and now at the county level—starting with the Riverside County.
This fellowship is important because most policies made on behalf of women do not reflect women’s voices and experiences. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of women can be found at the decision-making table as policy makers or as advocates.
What’s more, the legislative process is obscure and often intimidating, meaning that community-based women are discouraged from participating. The WPI demystifies the process and helps women see themselves as powerful and able to create change for the communities they live in and serve.
Tell us a little bit about the WPI-Riverside.
The WPI-Riverside takes our 13-year track record at the state level and modifies it so that it’s relevant to the challenges, structures and needs of the communities in Riverside County.
Unlike the state program where fellows are creating policies in collaboration with the policy makers, the county program looks at how policies are being implemented. Are these policies actually meeting the needs of people living in Riverside County? Are they effective?
As part of their fellowship, the WPI-Riverside fellows will be responsible for researching, building relationships across the many county decision-making bodies (such as the Board of Supervisors, County Agencies and Administrator Offices), identifying opportunities for policy improvements and recommending ways to make policies more responsive to women and families.
Why is the Foundation expanding its WPI model to the county level and what do you hope to achieve?
We’re expanding our model because of what is happening at the state level. Our state officials are putting more authority into the hands of the county officials. For example, the budget allocations and key policies like the Realignment and the Affordable Care Act are being implemented by the county system.
Our plan with WPI-Riverside is to take fellows through an intensive learning process that will support their development as policy advocates. Coming out of our program, they’ll be superbly prepared and positioned to influence decisions made on behalf of the communities they live and work in.
We will give them a real-world, hands-on experience and provide them with the tools and confidence they need to lead systemic change for low-income women and families in Riverside County. Learn more in the application from.
Long term—and as a direct result of this program—I envision more women advocates engaged in the county policies; I see community organizations working with policymakers to solve complex local problems; I see more women elected to office and appointed to positions at the county level; and I see more women in leadership positions in county agencies.
You’re partnering with California Endowment to launch this program. Can you tell us a little bit about your partnership?
Over the years, the California Endowment has been a leading funder for the WPI. We’ve partnered with them to train over 30 women through their Building Healthy Community Initiative. As a result, we’ve always looked to the California Endowment as a thought partner.
The California Endowment has been doing a lot of work in the Coachella Valley as part of their Building Healthy Communities Initiative, so it made sense for us to start working together in Riverside County and together continue building the capacity of this region and engaging women leaders with the issues that impact their communities every day.
We’re very excited about this opportunity to work with the California Endowment. The combination of our unique strengths will enable us to have a great combined impact and achieve our mutual goal of improving the lives of all individuals in California.