Partners in Policymaking (PIP) is a free program. In this program, people with developmental disabilities (DD) and their family members learn advocacy and leadership skills.

PIP graduates use their voice and knowledge to change policies and programs. Their voices help people with disabilities to get the support they need to live their best life.

Become a Partner in Policymaking

Participants in the program are talented, motivated and dedicated. They want to make a difference in their communities.

PIP participants are people with DD and parents of young children with DD. The program requires a commitment of time and energy. Participants should be motivated. They should be ready to work and to advocate for change. We will recruit for the next PIP class in January 2025. The class starts in September 2025 and ends in April 2026.


Partners in Policymaking (PIP) was started by the Minnesota DD Council in 1987. Virginia’s first PIP class graduated in 1995. Now, there are more than 700 PIP alumni in Virginia. There are thousands of PIP alumni across the country. Participants learn how to make a difference every day for themselves, their families and their communities.

The PIP program is made up of seven sessions. The sessions begin in September and end in April. Each session lasts two days. Sessions start on Friday afternoon and end on Saturday afternoon. The sessions include advocacy training, skill building, expert speakers and much more.

Photo of Nicci Dowd at PIP

PIP participants learn about best practices and current trends in many areas, including:

  • History of Disability Movements
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Independent Living
  • Inclusive Education
  • Supported Employment
  • Person-Centered Planning
  • Building Inclusive Communities
  • Natural Supports
  • Assistive Technology
  • Communication & Team Building
  • Legislative Process and Strategy


A Partner must have a developmental disability (DD) or be the parent of a young child with a DD.

A “developmental disability” (DD) is severe and constant. A DD is often lifelong. It can be mental, emotional, sensory or physical. A person has a DD before age 22. It affects a person’s ability to:

  • take care of oneself
  • understand language
  • communicate
  • learn
  • move
  • self-direct
  • live independently
  • earn money and support oneself.

People with DD often need services and supports. They may need services and supports their whole lives.

We choose participants through a statewide application process. A panel reviews applications and selects participants for each class. Then, we send a letter to all applicants. The letter will tell applicants of their status. We make sure that each class includes people with diverse experiences, backgrounds and disabilities. If you’re not selected, we encourage you to re-apply.

We pay all costs. We pay for lodging, food, materials and individual support. Support can include sign language interpreters, personal care assistants and childcare, if needed. We help to arrange and pay for transportation for those who need it. We also give mileage reimbursement for people who must travel a long distance.

Partners in Policymaking participants learn how to talk with legislators, policymakers and others. Partners get hands-on experience through presentations, group activities and more. They learn about policy and service systems. Partners think of ways to improve our systems. They also learn about ways to fully engage in community life. Finally, Partners meet leaders in the disability rights movement and learn from their journey. They join the movement and form friendships that last a lifetime.

The Partners in Policymaking program requires a commitment of your time, motivation and energy. Your attendance is required at all sessions. Attending all sessions helps you get the most out of the program.

The PIP Training Program is held in a hybrid format. Three of the seven sessions are held in person. Four sessions are held virtually through Zoom. The in-person sessions are at a hotel. We share the location of the hotel and dates for the in-person sessions during recruitment. We recruit for the next class in January 2025. Sessions for the next class starts in September 2025.

For more information on PIP, please contact:

VBPD Training Programs
(804) 786-3441

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