Skills training offered for Minnesotans with disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities

Published 8:00 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

Comprehensive advocacy training course, Partners in Policymaking®, is now taking applications from Minnesotans with disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities. There is no cost for this program. Starting in September, the nationally recognized leadership training is presented in eight sessions over nine months.

“We will help individuals be more effective in advocating for their needs. The result is self-confidence and understanding of disability law and policies,” said Dr. Colleen Wieck, executive director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. “As they gain experience in speaking up for people with disabilities, many have become leaders in their own communities.” 

The Minnesota-inspired program is also offered in most states and several foreign countries. 

National experts are invited to present and guide group participation exercises to emphasize learning.  This highly acclaimed leadership training is finely tuned to increase critical thinking, awareness of laws and procedures and effective communication skills. Over the 35-year history, more than 1,100 Minnesotans have become leaders in their own communities, many have described it as “life changing.” Participants become effective advocates for themselves, their children, and others with disabilities.

Sessions cover the history of disability and self-advocacy movements, inclusive education, supported living and competitive employment. Individuals consider how to influence county, state and federal legislative processes. For convenience, the monthly two-day sessions are held on Fridays and Saturdays, from September to May (with no session in December). The March session is on a Sunday and Monday, when participants prepare for, and meet with legislators at the Capitol.

Costs for the Partners program are covered by a federal grant. Child care and respite allowances are given, and overnight accommodations are provided for those who travel from outside the metro area to attend. Mileage is reimbursed, and meals are provided. Sessions are held at the Crowne Plaza Aire, at 3 Appletree Square in Bloomington, near Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Limited to 35 Minnesotans, participants are selected by a panel of Partners graduates and representatives of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. The first session for the 2022 to 2023 program year is Sept. 16 to 17.  Local experts and nationally recognized leaders in school inclusion, community organizing, governmental processes and disability issues are among the presenters.  Applications, at, are due by July 15. 

“This program is based on the belief that systems change is best brought about through the efforts of those most affected by them, and we seek to arm these individuals with the tools needed to be successful in the public policy arena,” said Wieck. 

Those selected to participate in the program must attend all sessions and complete homework assignments. For further information on class expectations, or to get an application form, go to or contact Brenton Rice at, or 651-242-6589.

The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities introduced the Partners in Policymaking program in 1987, and, through expansion to other states and countries, has trained more than 27,000 people worldwide.