The Training You Need to Win
by Ben Head, Jan Schakowsky Campaign Academy, @RepSchakowsky

Whether you’re an experienced campaign veteran looking to refresh your skills or a newcomer looking to start making change, there are great options to get a variety of professional political training for little or no cost right here in Illinois.  Below you’ll find trusted training programs and organizations that can give you the tools and experience to be an effective advocate for our shared values.

IWIL Training Academy: The Illinois Women’s Institute of Leadership Training Academy selects twelve women each year to participate in an eight-month fellowship which focuses on leadership development, advanced fundraising techniques, public speaking, media & communications training, digital media strategy, and voter contact training.  This program is based in Chicago, Springfield, Washington D.C., and other parts of Illinois. 

IDCCA and NDTC 2018 Bootcamp: This free, in-person weekend bootcamp is held once a year by the Illinois County Chairs Association in partnership with the National Democratic Training Committee.  This seminar-style weekend training focuses on the fundamental nuts-and-bolts aspects of running a campaign, including fundraising, messaging, digital communications, and field operations.  This program is based in Springfield.

Schakowsky Campaign Academy: Since 1998, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and her campaign team have trained a generation of progressive activists, operatives, and candidates.  The Campaign Academy is currently accepting applications for fellowships and internships.  Interns and fellows will receive training in community & electoral organizing, political communication, event planning & hosting, voter database management, and more, with a focus on applied, project-based learning.  This program is based in Evanston and northern Chicago. 

Build the Bench: Build the Bench is a selective, all-day candidate training seminar for Illinois Democrats hosted by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and local community partners. Build the Bench focuses on teaching messaging, grassroots organizing, fundraising, and digital strategy from a candidate’s perspective.  This program is held in different locations throughout Illinois—apply at the link below to stay up-to-date on the next training.

Build the Bench Sign Up

NLC: The New Leaders Council is a selective nationwide organization dedicated to identifying, training, and supporting the next generation of millennial progressive leadership.  The NLC Chicago Chapter, among the oldest and largest in the country, consists of a full weekend one a month for five months and focuses on leadership development, fundraising, political management, digital strategy, lobbying techniques, and more.  This program is based in Chicago.

Truman National Security Project: The Truman National Security Project is a nationwide membership of diverse leaders inspired to serve in the aftermath of 9/11, which includes over 1,700 post-9/11 veterans, frontline civilians, policy experts, and political professionals who share a common vision of US leadership abroad.  Truman is focused on shaping the foreign policy debate, fighting for policy change, and supporting rising leaders who share their values.  This program is selective and based in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Disclosure: The author is a 2013 NLC Chicago Fellow and former board member, a 2018 Truman Fellow, a past trainer at the IDCCA and Build the Bench programs, manages the Schakowsky Campaign Academy, and is a supporter of IWIL.  Specific questions about any of these programs can be directed to