Spark is educating and training the next generation of philanthropists to invest in the advancement of gender equality around the globe. For over ten years they’ve been engaging millennials in fundraising and crowd-sourced grantmaking programs—now they’re taking on policy advocacy.
On May 3, 2016, a group of 10 young professional Spark members took time off work to embark on a day-long workshop at California’s state house in Sacramento. They meet with assembly members, legislative aids, appropriations committee members, and California Senator Jerry Hill. This was a first-time opportunity for many of the participants to learn about the process of how a bill becomes a law—everything from creating an idea for a bill, to finding an author, to getting it to the governor’s desk.
“Having the opportunity to have joined Spark and the WPI during lobby day was inspiring and educational. Being able to speak with representatives to advocate for the bills we were passionate about and learning the political process was an eye-opening experience.” – Spark Member
Spark partnered with the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) to train these Spark members to be policy advocates and champions for women’s rights and equity. They were guided by alumni from WPI’s fellowship program. WPI is a year-long program where women of diverse backgrounds and experiences within the community are paired with mentors to implement policy projects at the county and state levels. In 13 years, the WPI has witnessed the successful signing of 26 bills.
Through replication projects, WPI has spread its impact to women and girls in Rhode Island, Georgia, Illinois, and New Jersey. Stephanie Davis, former executive director of Georgia Women for a Change, shared that their work with WPI helped lead to the state of Georgia implementing “rape kit testing laws, a Safe Harbor law to decriminalize minors involved in the sex trade, and tighter curbs on financial abuse of the elderly.”
Together the Spark members and WPI alumni focused on advocating for SB 1157—”Strengthening Family Connections – In-Person Visitation,” a bill to protect in-person visitation rights in California county jails and juvenile facilities, ensuring that video visitation cannot replace in-person visitation—and SB 1014—”Pregnant and Parenting Pupil Rights,” a bill authorizing parental leave and ensuring that education curriculum is offered for home-review for pregnant and parenting students.
Spark members left understanding how to be heard and how to affect change at the policy level.
“Legislatures are really open to hearing your case, and why you feel personally invested in the bill. The more personal you are, the better,” says Amanda Brock, interim Executive Director of Spark.
—Karia Young-Eagle, Partnerships Manager, Women’s Funding Network
Spark and Women’s Foundation of California are long-time members of Women’s Funding Network.