The Wisconsin Women's Network Policy Institute

We are pleased to announce our eighth session of the Wisconsin Women’s Network Policy Institute and are now accepting applications for the 2019-20 class. The Institute is a program of the Wisconsin Women’s Network, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the status of women and girls in Wisconsin through communication, education, advocacy, and connections.

The Wisconsin Women’s Network Policy Institute provides hands-on leadership, communications, and policy advocacy training to 30 women from around the state every year. The Institute provides intensive intersectional advocacy and leadership training for women with the potential to actively advocate for the advancement of women and girls in Wisconsin. Applications are welcome from women from all sectors and backgrounds, including individuals working or volunteering in nonprofit organizations, academia, philanthropy, labor unions, and government.

The Policy Institute is committed to increasing the number of Wisconsin women who have the confidence, skills, and strategic knowledge to successfully engage in their local and statewide communities on policy issues that matter to Wisconsin women and girls.

Through a series of four two-day retreats in Madison, participants are organized into small teams which select a specific, real-world policy advocacy project that closely relates to the Institute’s mission of improving women’s health, safety, and economic security. Through specific trainings provided to the group, participants form and develop the skills to develop, drive, and advocate for policy changes, focusing those skills for future advocacy, and learning how to apply those skills within their own organizations and communities once the Institute’s formal training has concluded. Most important, they make real change in the process and may impact state legislation during the four month course. Participants get hands-on assistance and coaching from experienced mentors. Participants must commit to attending all days of all four retreats, which for 2019-20 will be:

  • Retreat 1: Friday, December 6, 2019, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, December 7, 2019, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

  • Retreat 2: Friday, January 3, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 4, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

  • Retreat 3: Friday, February 7, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, February 8, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

  • Retreat 4: Friday, March 6, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 7, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Wisconsin Women’s Policy Institute Provides Hands-­On Training:

  • In-depth, behind-the-scenes lessons on how state-level legislative & biennial budget processes really work;

  • Presentations and discussions about bias in policy-making and the challenges and opportunities surrounding advocacy for women’s health, economic security, and safety;

  • Hands-on experiences building support to advance a real-world proposal through the legislature;

  • Training and real life experiences testifying at legislative and local hearings as well as meetings with elected officials;

  • Lessons and tips for engaging in local level policy advocacy;

  • Practice and feedback on effectively engaging the media on issues; and

  • Extensive networking skills and opportunities.

When participants graduate from the Institute they are able to take what they’ve learned back to their communities and organizations where they will continue to engage in policy advocacy and educational efforts that advance the status of women and girls in our state.

The Wisconsin Women’s Network is committed to training women who represent all segments of Wisconsin’s diverse population. Women of diverse socioeconomic, educational, LGBTQ+, racial, ethnic, generational, and geographic backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply! It is the policy of the Wisconsin Women’s Network to ensure equal opportunity without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, national origin, or any other characteristic of identity or background. Residency in the state of Wisconsin is required for participation in the Policy Institute.

The application period for the 2019-2020 Policy Institute is closed. Participants who have been accepted into the Institute will then be notified of their selection by Friday, September 27.

I am so happy we made this investment in our staff. Our staff described this experience as not only transformational, but something with an immediate impact on their daily work. I appreciate the thoughtful dedication to teaching, networking and requiring active participation. You are truly creating powerful leaders in our community.
— Maureen Fitzgerald, Hunger Task Force

A special thanks to  all of our generous donors who make the Policy Institute possible, including the Evjue Foundation and Greater Milwaukee Foundation for your grant contributions to the 2018-2019 Policy Institute.

Policy Topics


  • Banning the shackling of pregnant inmates

  • Supporting school breakfast programs

  • Ensuring safe harbor for child victims of human trafficking

  • Providing teen dating violence education in schools

  • Allowing a one-year dispense of birth control


  • Teen Dating Violence

  • Eliminate Lunch Shaming

  • Paid Parental Leave for School-related Events

  • Protect Pregnant & Postpartum Inmates

  • Foreclosure Protection for Tenants

  • Pay Equity


  • Emergency assistance and homelessness prevention

  • Lead poisoning mitigation

  • Dating violence curriculum for WI schools

  • Medicaid coverage for Doula care

  • WI Well Women Program


  • Address confidentiality program for victims of sexual assault (PASSED INTO LAW in 2016!)

  • Homestead tax credit, making housing affordable for low-moderate income residents

  • Breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace

  • Access to local, healthy food options for Wisconsin residents




“Sisterhood; New friends; Confidence in myself and my ability to do this work; Resolve to make the path easier for my daughter and granddaughters.” -Linda Garcia Barnard, Milwaukee


The 2016-17 participants visited to the Capitol where they met with 31 legislative offices and dropped off their policy issue one-pagers at another 37 offices. A great day of advocating for women and girls in the state capitol!


The 2015-16 participants visited offices in the capitol to advocate on behalf of the Address Confidentiality bill ending in a bipartisan group 18 senators and 41 representatives signing on as co-authors, the eventual passing of the bill, and the creation of an Address Confidentiality Program in Wisconsin. 

If you'd like to read more about what we accomplished in 2018, read our Annual Report!

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"I am involved with the Wisconsin Women's Network because WWN's Policy Institute is a shining example of women empowering women, a unique and powerful program that gives women the skills they need to tackle real problems in their communities and in Wisconsin."



"I have gained so many friendships, sisters and connections! I am forever grateful to the Wisconsin Women's Network Policy Institute for believing in women and investing in them, and for opening the door for a girl who didn't even know there was a damn hallway..."



"More than anything, the Institute has taught me that the policy world is accessible to me. I am able to, as a citizen, go  be influential in any given issue, that i don't need any special credentials. that's the message I'm going to pass along to friends: you can learn it, you can do it."