By Sarah Wall

No matter who they are or where they come from, women all over the world are changemakers. Through their careers, families, and communities, women influence positive change that is sometimes seen and often unseen. But to catalyze this work into community change often takes structure, collaboration, partnership, and a little training. That’s where The Policy Circle comes in, and with their upcoming (free!) summit, every reader of SWSM can be a part of their movement.

“The Policy Circle is a 501(c)(3) grassroots organization,” describes Stacy Blakeley, the organization’s Executive Director. “Our reach is national, but our focus is local impact. Our mission is to provide pathways for women to become better equipped to be effective civic leaders in their communities. We want women to develop allies, find their focus, and most importantly, take ownership of solutions at the local level.”

Since its founding in 2015, The Policy Circle has swelled to 6,000 members across 44 states, and “policy circles” are their foundation. Made up of anywhere from five to 50 women, policy circles are groups of women who gather to discuss a problem they see in their communities; every discussion is based on a common set of facts encapsulated in a Policy Circle brief. Stacy explains, “These groups meet, select from one of our 55 briefs, and have a disciplined but welcoming roundtable discussion, one that is focused on the facts and very solutions-oriented. They will then use these circles to have a conversation with different stakeholders in their community.”

As these women become increasingly active and engaged civic leaders, The Policy Circle equips them with an additional set of tools. “This year, we launched our Civic Leadership Engagement Roadmap – CLER for short,” Stacy says. “CLER is really about equipping women who are ready for that next step. They’ve identified an issue they care about, or they see a need in their community, and then they go out and do something. One of the activities is to meet with some of their local officials, elected or appointed. CLER gives them the skills and knowledge-set they need to be credible and effective when they step into the arena.”

Alongside these community-focused discussions and events, The Policy Circle has also broadened its reach into virtual programs. The largest of which is their upcoming 2021 Leadership Summit from November 3rd through the 5th. The theme for this year’s summit is focused on energy, encapsulated in Power and Water. “We wanted to make sure our policy focus enabled women to get a better understanding of an issue we think is going to be front and center for years to come,” Stacy explains. “You can’t even look at the news without seeing a story about energy challenges, from China and the UK to Congress’ infrastructure bill.”

In addition to these critical policy-focused conversations, panel discussions and keynotes include some of the most prominent women in media, business, and policy spheres. “We have women who have been on Fortune 10 boards,” she describes, “all the way to running local food pantries, giving us that whole scale of where you find your place and how can you be more effective.” One panel will feature Laura Cox Kaplan, the creator of the She Said/She Said podcast; The Policy Circle founder and chairman of the board, Sylvie Legere; and the creator of SmartHER News and former Fox News anchor, Jenna Lee. Other keynote speakers include Dina Powell McCormick, the Global Head of Sustainability & Inclusive Growth at Goldman Sachs, and Tiffany Smiley, a military wife whose husband lost his sight in combat and is now running for public office.

The team at The Policy Circle wants more women than ever to join the conversation at the Summit, and beyond because the need for community-focused, solutions-oriented discourse is greater than ever. “I meet women from every phase of life,” Stacy reflects, “who share this common goal of making their communities better for everyone. They love what this country stands for, and they’re willing to do the work. I’m always amazed by them, and I feel pretty lucky I get to talk to so many of these women. They really are the changemakers at every level.”

Sarah Wall is a contributing writer for Smart Women Smart Money Magazine. For questions or comments, email