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2017 PolicyWorks Institute

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 to Thursday, July 20, 2017
San Francisco, CA
Hotel Nikko
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Its a Wrap!

More than fifty PSO staff and volunteer leaders gathered for the PolicyWorks Institute in San Francisco following our Annual Conference. The Institute is the annual opportunity for those working in advocacy and policy to come together to strengthen their policy muscles through exchange and learning from their peers and experts in the field.

The packed day and a half Institute included sessions on state and federal policy issues, navigating the current environment and how we engage our board and members in policy work. This year we welcomed several of our new national PSO colleagues to the Institute and will continue to work to integrate them into our longstanding programming and meet their specific needs.   

One of the most vibrant discussions and exchange happened during a presentation by Joe Grady of Topos Partnership on framing our issues in this new political environment. We were also fortunate to have the wisdom of leaders like Fred Ali from the Weingart Foundation and Wendy Garen from Ralph Parsons Foundation. Most importantly, we highlighted the strength of the network through the contribution of our members.  

Additional great content was presented by our colleagues including Eric Weinheimer, Alexis Anderson-Reed, Emily Katz, Debbie McKeon, Rob Collier, Claudia Herrold, Remy Trupin, Michael Remaley, Daranee Petsod, Alfonso Wenker and Seyron Foo as well as volunteer leaders Bill Engel from the Union Foundation and John Mullaney from the Nord Family Foundation.  We closed out the Institute with an amazing panel on how we forge new partnerships between philanthropy and the media in turbulent times which featured John Diaz from the San Francisco Chronicle; Ethan Lindsey with KQED Public Media and Laurel Rosenhall with CalMatters moderated by Mike Smith, Director of Communications, James Irvine Foundation. The content and conversations were rich and the motivation and learning vital to building our skills and energy around policy work.

In an effort to ease the conference length and to encourage additional volunteer leaders to be part of the 2018 PoilcyWorks Institute, we are moving the Institute to be adjacent to Foundations on the Hill so mark your calendars! The 2018 PolicyWorks Institute will be held March 11-12 and 2018 Foundations on the Hill will be March 12-14 in Washington, DC.

Special thanks to the 2017 PolicyWork Planning Committee -Seyron Foo, Southern California Grantmakers, Chair; Kari Boutell, Iowa Council of Foundations; Bill Engel, The Union Foundation; Theresa Jacks, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers; Michael Remaley, Philanthropy New York and Ellah Ronen, California Community Foundation.

See Who Attended

Did you register for this year's Institute? Check out who else was in San Francisco! Remember to update your profile with a picture and up-to-date contact information. You must be logged into the site to view the roster as an attendee of the Insitute or a member of the Forum to access the event roster.

See the registration list



Check out some photo highlights from the event. 

Please use #PolicyWorks17 for any social media posts around the conference. 


Please contact Matt Hennessy (202-759-6920) with any questions about the event.

Schedule at a Glance

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2:00 - 6:00 pm: Registration Open on 25th Floor

2:30 - 3:45 pm: PolicyWorks Institute Opening

3:45 - 5:00 pm: Navigating the Road Ahead

5:00 - 6:00 pm: Reception

6:30 pm: Dine Arounds

Thursday, July 20, 2017

7:00 am - 3:30 pm: Registration Open

7:30 - 8:00 am: Breakfast

8:00 - 10:00 am: The Insiders Perspective on Key Federal and State Policy Issues

10:15 - 11:15 am: Framing Our Issues in the New Political Environment

11:15 – 11:45 am: Break/Grab Lunch

11:45 am - 12:45pm: Policy Peer Community: Strategies that Work

1:00 - 2:15 pm: Laying the Groundwork for Action 

2:30 - 3:30 pm: Philanthropy & Media: Forging New Partnerships in Turbulent Times

Check out the full agenda
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Who is Speaking

Fred Ali,  Weingart Foundation,

He will lead off the Navigating the Road Ahead session with his thoughts on the role of foundations in advocacy and policy work. How much do we stay the course and how much do we find alternative routes given the current political atmosphere?  Who should our partners be in this work and how might we engage new collaborators and champions? How should foundations think about measuring their impact from advocacy and policy investments? Fred was elected president of Weingart Foundation in June 1999 and named chief executive officer of the Foundation in 2006. He more than 35 years of senior management experience with nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and government. 

Joe Grady, P.h.D., Topos Partnership

The Framing Our Issues in the New Political Environment session will include a presentation and interactive discussion with Joe Grady, co-founder of Topos Partnership, whose mission is to explore and ultimately change the landscape of public understanding where public interest issues play out. As a cognitive linguist whose academic research and publications have focused on the role of metaphor in thought and communication, Joe will shed light on how to improve your policy-focused communications so that you are heard.

About San Francisco

San Francisco- Cable CarsSan Francisco is best known for its scenic beauty, cultural attractions, diverse communities, and world-class cuisine.  Measuring 49 square miles, this walkable city includes landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz and the largest Chinatown in the United States.  A stroll of the city's streets can lead from Union Square to North Beach to Fisherman's Wharf, with intriguing neighborhoods to explore.  


San Francisco is one of the easiest cities in the world to navigate. Because the city is so compact, there are plenty of transportation options abound, including its world-famous cable cars, public transportation and ride-sharing. Find out more


Each of San Francisco's major neighborhoods has its own district culture and charm - from shopping around Union Square to dim sum in Chinatown. Check out an introduction to the city's most prominent locales.


San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any other major city in the U.S. Local chefs combine the best of local ingredients with authentic international flavors. Every day, fishing boats supply the freshest seafood in the world. Local farms provide produce and meat stock that is unparalleled. 

Conference Hotel

Hotel Nikko Lobby

Hotel Nikko

222 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Located just steps from Union Square in the heart of San Francisco, the Hotel Nikko is an urban retreat with easy access to plenty of dining, nightlife and shopping options. Hop on the cable cars a block away and explore the city sights and nearby museums. Stroll along Fisherman's Wharf and marvel at the famous sea lions that lounge on Pier 39, or hop on the bus and plan a picnic in Golden Gate Park. Located in the midst of Union Square, our hotel gives you instant access to San Francisco's most iconic destinations.

Visit Hotel Nikko website for details
Benefits for Our Guests

Attendees who book a room at the discounted rate in our block at the Hotel Nikko will also receive:

  • complimentary wi-fi in your sleeping room
  • complimentary access to the hotel's 10,000 sq ft health club accessible 24/7 ($25 value)

Book Your Room

Our room blocks are now closed. We do have a few rooms that are still availabile, please contact Mary O'Neill for more information.

Planning Committee

  • Seyron Foo, Southern California Grantmakers (Chair)
  • Kari Boutell, Iowa Council of Foundations
  • Delia Coleman, Forefront
  • Bill Engel, Hyde and Watson Foundation
  • Theresa Jacks, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers
  • Karla Mercado, Southern California Grantmakers
  • Michael Remaley, Philanthropy New York
  • Ellah Ronen, California Community Foundation
  • Christopher Wilbanks, Robert and Polly Dunn Foundation