Partners in Policymaking® Leadership Institute Tennessee

Training Disability Change-Makers for More than 30 Years

Partners in Policymaking® is a FREE leadership and advocacy training program from the TN Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Over the course of 8 months, Partners scholars will learn skills and resources to answer: 

  • What does a good life look like for me, my family, and other people with developmental disabilities?
  • What is needed for that vision to come true?
  • How can I help make change toward that vision?

Partners is for Tennessee residents who are:

Partners is based in the Developmental Disabilities Act values of:

  • Self-determination
  • Independence
  • Inclusion

You will learn practical skills and resources to use and advocate for these values in all areas of life:

  • Advocacy and engagement
  • Daily life and employment
  • Healthy living
  • Community living
  • Safety and security
  • Social and spirituality

(Why these areas? Our curriculum is organized according to the Charting the LifeCourse Framework Life Domains. Partners scholars will learn more about LifeCourse – including how to use LifeCourse tools to plan for a good life.)

Partners won’t make you an expert in every disability issue or program. Partners WILL help you know:

  • how to work on solutions for disability barriers and needs,
  • where to go for information and help, and
  • how to use the power of your voice and story for change.

Partners will help you use what you learn to benefit the wider disability community.

The end goal: voices of people with disabilities and their families bringing positive change to every Tennessee community and to all the systems and services that affect their lives.
  • Partners is an 8-month program (September – April).
  • You will meet for class sessions once a month:
    • September 16, 2024 (Monday) – virtual evening orientation
    • October 4-5, 2024 (Friday-Saturday) – 1.5 days in person at a hotel in Middle Tennessee
    • November 7, 2024 (Thursday) – virtual 1-day live session
    • December 5, 2024 (Thursday) – virtual 1-day live session
    • January 9, 2025 (Thursday) – virtual 1-day live session
    • February 7-8, 2025 (Friday-Saturday) – 1.5 days in person in Middle Tennessee
    • March 6, 2025 (Thursday) – virtual 1-day live session
    • April 4-5, 2025 (Friday-Saturday) – 1.5 days in person in Middle Tennessee, including graduation

Partners in Policymaking is for all types of learners. We will work with you to provide any accommodations you need to fully participate.

  • Before each class session, you will:
    • Watch and answer questions about recorded content – for example, video stories or presentations from experts that you can watch on your own time
    • Explore our “Go Deeper” library of resources on the topics you’re learning about
    • Complete occasional homework – for example, scheduling a meeting with your state legislators for Disability Day on the Hill
  • During each class session, you will:
    • Attend (with camera on for virtual sessions) and engage in class discussion
    • Work with 1-2 class partners on a group project: your Group Advocacy Action Plan
      • You will have class time and support from Council staff to work on your projects.
      • This project will be your plan for how you will use what you learn in your class sessions in the 6 months after you graduate from Partners.
      • Your group will have the option to sign up for Partners mentors – previous Partners graduates who will help you use your Advocacy Action Plan after you graduate.
  • After graduation, you will:
    • Work together with your project group on using your Advocacy Action Plan
    • Engage with the TN Partners in Policymaking graduate network by:
      • Reading and using content in the Partners newsletter
      • Sharing updates with the Council about how you’re using what you learned in Partners
      • Contacting the Council when you need help to work on disability barriers or issues
      • Continue learning and accessing resources through our “Go Deeper” library

Examples of specific topics include:

  • Disability history
  • Disability policy, including how to talk to legislators
  • How to tell your story – including media skills
  • Employment and daily living supports – including how to use LifeCourse tools to find supports and plan for a good life
  • Housing & transportation barriers and resources
  • Preparing for Disability Day on the Hill
  • Tools for behavioral health – for you and your loved ones
  • Criminal justice and law enforcement issues for people with disabilities
  • Building decision-making skills at any age
  • Tools for financial security
  • Using technology to grow independence
  • Much more!

No! We are able to cover or reimburse all your costs.

  • Your hotel room and meals will be provided for in-person sessions.
  • The Council on Developmental Disabilities will reimburse your allowable travel expenses to and from in-person sessions.
  • The Council may be able to reimburse you for personal assistance care for yourself or respite care for a family member at home during your Partners sessions (including virtual sessions, if needed). These reimbursements will need to be approved ahead of time.  

You will need to have access to internet service and a computer with a web camera in order to participate in virtual sessions and complete the Partners coursework.

Follow our news updates for more on Partners! 

The application window for the 2024-2025 Partners in Policymaking® class is currently closed. Subscribe to our Council
and follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn for updates for the 2025-26 Partners class.  

Questions? Contact Cathlyn Smith, Director of Leadership Development, at or 615-686-3142. 

This Page Last Updated: May 29, 2024 at 3:08 PM