Igniting the sparks of meaningful change

It starts with a glimmer. An idea so rich in potential, you break out in goosebumps. Your emerging idea has the potential to create positive change for vulnerable people in your community. Maybe you want to improve transit, housing, child care, or access to other essential services. Over time, your vision begins to take shape and you share it with your friends and family. Everyone nods their head in agreement: it’s a beautiful concept and you’re the best person to bring it forward. Inspired, you take detailed notes, conduct research and begin to formulate a campaign.

Then you hit a snag. How to get your magnificent idea in front of the people that can make it happen? Navigating different levels of government can be daunting, especially if you don’t know the protocols.

Enter United Way’s Public Policy Institute (PPI).

Every year, PPI welcomes a diverse community of 25 individuals from across British Columbia. Together, they learn how to better understand and influence the public policy process in the province.

public policy institute

2020 PPI session now underway

The 2020 cohort kicked off on January 23, 2020 and participants are exploring a wide range of topics including: policy options, making your case with compelling evidence, engaging the right people in your campaign, and implementing your strategies to affect change.

Policy projects to be explored over the next six months include:

  • improving wages and working conditions for workers struggling in the gig economy (BC Federation of Labour)
  • helping non-profits better serve seniors caught in the housing crisis (Brightside community Homes Foundation)
  • Better supporting former youth in care, from early education through to post-secondary (UBC student Chris Rambaran).

Graduates from 2019 see results

“Thanks to the opportunities, connections and learning afforded by the PPI, including the huge support of Melinda Markey from CAI, a PPI alumni, we were successful this fall in achieving our PPI policy goal of funding a free community counselling program out of four neighborhood houses,” said 2019 participant Siobhan Powlowski, Senior Director, Gordon Neighbourhood House.

“We extend our utmost thanks to the United Way and wonderful faculty for helping us reach our goal- many people stand to benefit from the program.”

Tesicca Truong, pictured below, was also part of the experience and says she gained tremendous knowledge and inspiration.

“The PPI Program helped me understand how to drive policy, budgetary, and political changes at the various levels of governments,” she says.

Tessica Truong

Best in class faculty to lead cohort

Participants will learn from experts and present their final projects to Institute faculty. Instructors include former premier of British Columbia Mike Harcourt, Brenda Eaton, Elizabeth Cull, Liz Whynot and newcomer Dana Hayden.

Dana brings a wealth of experience in public policy leadership. As Chair of Board of Partnerships B.C. and a Director on the boards of TimberWest and Mosaic Forest Management, she also provides consulting services to a variety of public and private organizations and served in the British Columbia public sector for 30 years. Dana was inducted into Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame in 2016, is a Diversity 50 awardee, and received the Vancouver Influential Women in Business award in 2014.

Community support

The ongoing success of the Public Policy Institute would not be possible without the support of Premier Sponsor Vancity and Venue Sponsor UBC Robson Square with help from UBC Community Engagement.

Katie McCallum, Manager, UBC Community Engagement notes: “UBC’s vision is to inspire people, ideas and actions for a better world, which is essentially what the Public Policy Institute is all about. We are proud to be sponsoring this impactful program for the 9th consecutive year.”

“PPI plays an important role by supporting leaders in the non-profit sector to continue their learning, building the depth of knowledge and experience in the sector that is needed to tackle issues of pressing importance in our region. A real strength of the program is the discourse and knowledge exchange that happens between leaders from various BC organizations and experienced policy experts. Together, they come up with brilliant ideas and tactics for advancing public policy issues. We are thrilled to host this engaging program at UBC Robson Square.”

Vancity, like United Way, believes that effective and progressive public policy is one of the outcomes of a strong and vibrant civil society.

“Supporting progressive, comprehensive and systemic change is at the heart of Vancity’s commitment to being a values-based financial institution,” says Catherine Ludgate, Senior Manager, Community Investment. “PPI acts as an incubator for change-makers to both improve their skills and connect to a vast network of like-minded people working for the public good.”

“We know that the best way to ensure future public policies are comprehensive, inclusive and thoughtful is to support individuals from the affected communities to be leading the movement for change,” says Catherine


Interested in public policy? Want to know how to have your idea heard? Connect with us here.