Navigate Pennsylvania Policy & Governance

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January 2022 facilitated 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.  (Check out how our first cohort described their experience here!)


The Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center team will be your guide.  For over 14 years, they have been the go-to source for rigorous, independent, nonpartisan, statewide policy research & analysis for Pennsylvania lawmakers and NGOs.


Thanks to the generous support of The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation, the $750/person tuition is waived for this cohort.  Sign up now while space is available!


Part 1 formally kicks off Tuesday, January 4th.
Sign up now and get immediate access in case you wish to start early (👀 2022 candidates)!

Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center
The Heinz Endowments
The Pittsburgh Foundation

Program 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 program, 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 criminal 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 over 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: Dig Deeper with Constituents & Experts:  This is a solid foundation – but if and when you need further policy insight, you needn’t fend for yourself. We will guide you in selecting additional constituents to speak with and provide connections to policy expertise you can tap as needed.

We have split this material into two parts:

  • Course 1: Governing Context: It runs two weeks and covers Sections 1-4.
  • Course 2: Current Policy Issues: It runs five weeks and covers Sections 5-6.

You will complete the program 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.

Each element of the program increases your EDG (Emotional quotient [EQ], Design quotient [DQ], and Government quotient [GQ]). (Read more about our EDG framework and why it matters.) This is our premier course for Pennsylvanians wishing to raise their GQ.



Should I sign up?

We welcome and encourage any candidate or prospective candidate for Pennsylvania elected office to sign up. Whether you are working towards a 2022 state-level race or are looking forward to a 2023 local or judicial race or beyond, this course will prepare you to engage on the issues that matter to your future constituents.

We also welcome current elected officials and their staffs, as well as community organization staff. Strengthen your tradecraft, preparing to deliver results for your community and communicate your successes.

⭐Bring a partner⭐: We've discovered that learners who have recruited partners are more likely to complete their assignments, they report more meaningful learning experiences, and they develop even better policy ideas and strategies. While it's not a requirement, for candidates, we highly encourage you to bring along a partner from your (future) campaign team or kitchen cabinet with whom you can discuss issues and tackle assignments. For non-candidates, we suggest bringing along at least one other member of your staff or someone otherwise aligned with you from your community. You may have more than one partner.

Please have your partner(s) sign up on this page, as well.

Where is it?

Instruction is conveniently online, accessible through our mobile-friendly web platform. Additionally, we will sync up during 1.5 hour live session each week through Zoom video conference.

When is it?

Course 1 runs from January 4th through January 18th. We'll adjourn for two weeks during which time you can wrap up any remaining coursework.  Then course 2 starts on February 1st, running through March 8th. Live sessions will be held each Tuesday, 3:30-5pm.

How is the course material structured?

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. Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center and Empowered To Run staff will facilitate the course and keep you on track with achievable deadlines.

In your capstone exercise (in course 2), you will interview a set of your own community members about the policy issues you've learned about, hear their experiences, and capture their stories and language.

If I'm running in 2022, can I complete the full program before nomination petitioning starts?

We are aware of the narrow window between when new state legislative district lines may be announced and when nomination petitioning starts.  To accommodate, we will have a special track for 2022 state-level candidates and provide modified guidance to help you get through critical material before petitioning starts.  We will be opening access to the course content by December 14th and hosting an early-bird kickoff in order to give you more time. (Note: Because district lines have not yet been set, it is quite possible that petitioning dates will shift (currently set to start on February 16th).  By early January, we should know better and will adjust accordingly.)

The live session time doesn't fit into my schedule.  Can I still take the course?

Yes. We encourage you to attend all sessions you're able to, but we record each live session and you can review the recordings at your convenience.  Even if you're unable to engage course staff during the live sessions, you may send emails and request meetings to discuss any questions you may have.

What are the requirements & commitments?

Earn a Certificate of Achievement for completing each course in the program and add them to your LinkedIn profile, if desired! The complete details are listed in each course, but here's a summary:

  • To earn your certificate for course 1 (Governing Context), complete the required number of localization exercises (35% of grade), engage in a set of discussions with the cohort (35%), take a set of quizzes (20%), and complete the pre & post course survey (10%). 
  • To earn your certificate for course 2 (Current Policy Issues), complete the required number of localization exercises (15% of grade), engage in a set of discussions with the cohort (15%), complete the post course survey (10%), and, most significantly, complete the capstone exercise (35%) and briefing book (25%). 

As an early participant in this course, we ask you to commit to providing periodic feedback during the course and agree to brief interviews with training staff to learn about your experience.

In order to start course 2, you must complete course 1.  However, for those wishing to only take course 1, you may still earn a Certificate of Achievement for just that 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 feel like I now have narrative AND strategy. These two sides feel like the resulting action will be wise and informed and also human and compassionate... How we went from stats to narrative and back to stats was incredible to me. Suddenly, the numbers had human power behind them.

I am absolutely blown away by the amount of content presented in this course, how well it was presented, and how applicable it is. This will make for better conversations overall, and ultimately will allow us to better serve our constituents.