Navigate Pennsylvania Policy & Governance

Sign up for the course

November 2020 self-paced cohort

Prepare yourself to run and govern by learning the context around the biggest policy issues impacting your constituents, the stories and language your constituents use to speak about these issues, the governing authorities you will have access to once in office to affect these issues, and experts you can consult to dig deeper when needed.


The Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center team will be your guide.  For over 13 years, they have been the go-to source for rigorous, independent, nonpartisan, statewide policy research & analysis for Pennsylvania lawmakers and NGOs.


This course is generously supported by The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation.  Participants receive full tuition waiver.

Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center
The Heinz Endowments
The Pittsburgh Foundation

Course Overview

Don't worry - you don't need to become a policy expert to run for office successfully or govern effectively. But to develop, build connections around, and defend your platform, it's important to be solidly familiar with the major policies affecting your community: the basic background, the prevailing positions and narratives, and the political constituencies behind them. And to tune and eventually deliver on campaign promises, it’s crucial to understand the authorities and tools you will have in government, and where you may need the support of others. By the end of this course, you will be better equipped to navigate Pennsylvania's policy & governance terrain.

We will prepare you in six stages, answering key questions along the way:

Tablet with NPPG
  1. State of the State: We start with a quick overview. Who makes up Pennsylvania and, in particular, your local community? What is the geography? What are the major sectors of the economy? What are the trend lines? And from this, where do you see opportunities and challenges ahead?
  2. Pennsylvania Government & Political History: You’re interested in tackling these challenges and making positive change through government. We will look at the institutions of government at the state, county, and local level - one of which you are a part of and others with which you may need to collaborate. What do they do? How are they structured? Where is the power and how is it trending?
  3. Policy Levers: Next we'll walk through the tools to implement policy you would have access to in your desired legislative, executive, or judicial role. For example, what does the "power of the purse" look like in Pennsylvania? Taxation? Regulation?
  4. Major Sectors & Systems of Pennsylvania: Public policy is generally directed towards groups of people and/or industry, so here we will provide brief background on the major sectors & systems represented in the state, like: health care, education, and energy, as well as labor and justice. How are these systems structured and how are they changing?
  5. Current Issues: All of the preceding sections prepare you for this penultimate unit: running through the major issues currently affecting the state and the policy discussions around each. These policy discussions involve the potential of government, to use its policy levers, to influence a set of sectors in the state. We cover 30 major issues debated in Pennsylvania: from higher education access, broadband infrastructure, and healthcare costs, to paid family leave, policing, and shale extraction. Which issues are impacting your communities and how? Focus on only those relevant to you. We’ll give you background on the topics and the politics surrounding them, and prep you for your capstone assignment: engaging your local community to hear their voices on these issues. Understanding your constituents' lived experience completes your brief.
  6. Next Steps: Engaging Policy Experts:  This is a solid foundation – but if and when you need further policy insight, you needn’t fend for yourself. Who can you consult? We will provide connections to policy expertise you can tap as needed.

You will complete the course having developed your own tailored policy briefing book with stories from your future constituents that you will be able to reference on the campaign trail and beyond.



Should I sign up?

We welcome and encourage any candidate or prospective candidate for Pennsylvania elected office to sign up. Whether you are considering a 2021 local or judicial race or a 2022 state-level race, this course will prepare you to engage on the issues that matter to your future constituents.

We also highly encourage candidates to bring along a partner from your (future) campaign team or kitchen cabinet with whom you can discuss issues and tackle assignments.  Please have your partner sign up on this page, as well.

Where is it?

Instruction is conveniently online, accessible through our web platform and iOS and Android apps.

When is it?

This self-paced cohort launches the week of November 16th and runs through the week of December 14th.

What is the structure of the course?

Lessons are split into bite-sized video lectures that you can easily fit into your busy schedules. Exercises and supplemental readings help reinforce and localize what you've learned.

In your capstone project, you will interview a diverse set of your own community members about the policy issues you've learned about, hear their perspectives, and capture their stories and language.

What is the difference between self-paced and facilitated cohorts?

In the facilitated version of the course, Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center and Empowered To Run staff lead one-hour live sessions each week (through Zoom) and actively work to keep you on track with course deadlines.

In this self-paced self-directed version of the course, Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center and Empowered To Run staff will monitor the course for questions, but it is up to the learner to stay on schedule.  We provide a suggested calendar to follow.

We have tentative plans to offer a facilitated version of this course in January 2021 (focused on 2021 local candidates, but open to all).  Sign up here to get updates.

What are the requirements & commitments?

Requirements to earn your Certificate of Completion will be provided at course launch.

As this is the inaugural self-paced cohort of this course, we ask all participants to commit to providing periodic feedback during the course and agreeing to brief interviews with training staff before and after the course.



Reactions to previous courses taught by Empowered To Run

THIS IS AMAZING. I cannot even begin to explain how much pressure this takes off of me trying to figure this out on my own... I honestly loved it and I’d do it again in a hot second! It’s put me on the best start I could have asked for.

I can't imagine figuring all of this out on my own; and given I am starting from scratch; it would have taken me a lot longer to find a mentor who could have helped me... The Empowered to Run course certainly has given me more confidence and shortened my timeline in running for office.

This is an awesome program! As someone who works on a lot of local (and often first time candidates') campaigns, I can tell you that this is a solid model and will be sure to recommend it.