WELL UnTapped Fellowship Program
Water is one of the most important public policy issues in California and local Latino leaders are now emerging as key contributors in the water policy arena. Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL) was founded in 2012 with the goal of strengthening the voice of local Latino leaders, ensuring they have context for and participation in water policy decisions.
Latino and other people of color have been historically locked out of decision-making and leadership roles, particularly on the issue of water policy. Latinos represent nearly 40 percent of California’s population but only account for 2 percent of elected water officials and water policy professionals. WELL believes that the next generation of leaders should reflect the diversity of California and that they should have the knowledge and expertise about water issues that will make them more effective in leading water policy.
Building on its success in water education, WELL launched WELL UnTapped, a selective, six-month program for local elected leaders aimed at helping participants make an impact on California water policy while addressing individual community water challenges. The UnTapped program creates an opportunity for local leaders to engage with water issues through a comprehensive and active exploration of history, governance, public policy, geography, and economics and their relationship to human rights and climate change.
The overarching goal of the WELL UnTapped fellowship program is to give local elected officials a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of water policy and governance. UnTapped sessions are held at different watersheds throughout California, and session content includes lectures given by water professionals and skill-based exercises that help participants ask better public policy questions and strengthen public leadership and relational skills. Upon completing the program, fellows will have gained the following skills:
Public Narrative: An evidence-based method to engage others in organizing work. The method, developed by Marshall Ganz, an organizer and lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, comes out of his theory of strategic capacity. Through practicing what Ganz coined the Story of Self, Story of Us, and Story of Now, fellows hone critical public leadership skills and learn how to recruit important allies to build a team of concerned and willing leaders. Through the process of Public Narrative, WELLos share what motivated them to become a local elected official and what prompts them to continue. This motivation engages like-minded individuals to join them in not only improving their community’s water situation but improving the outcomes for all kinds of issues.
WELL Method of Inquiry: The Method of Inquiry is modeled after established teaching models that develop analytic skills to deal with complex fact situations. It is assumed that UnTapped fellows already possess many of these skills acquired through experience and common sense problem-solving in their personal and professional lives. The Method of Inquiry will build on those skills. It is also assumed that while fellows may have the experience to varying degrees in dealing with complex water issues, they do not have the time to become experts in the field of water policy and management in California or even experts within their own communities. The objective of the Method of Inquiry is to give each fellow the skills needed to ask questions of water experts, organize the relevant facts, recognize what is unknown, find out where to get the information needed to make intelligent choices about complex water policy and management issues, and as necessary, how to lead communities in better planning and managing water supplies and water quality.
Legislative Water Workshop Project: Led by UnTapped Fellowship graduates, the Legislative Water Workshop capstone project gives graduates an opportunity to work with their California state legislators to share educational discussions with the local elected officials in the legislative district regarding the water issues impacting their region.
Once fellows graduate from UnTapped, they are inducted into the WELL UnTapped Network (WUN), where they can continue engaging in learning and training opportunities about California water policy. Graduates of the WELL UnTapped Fellowship program are referred to as WELLo’s and to date WELL has graduated a total of 45 elected officials from throughout California.
Join WELL UnTapped’s statewide network of Latino elected leaders. Learn from each other. Leverage the Power of UnTapped. Together we can make a difference in our communities and help address one of the most critical issues of our day.
“After spending six months learning about California water, I feel more confident in addressing the water challenges my community faces. The relationships I developed with my peers support me—and my district. The UnTapped Fellowship program has prepared me to address the challenges and seek out opportunities on this essential statewide public policy issue.”
– Leticia Gonzalez, Supervisor – District 4, County of Madera, and UnTapped graduate class of 2022
“This course has not only given me a new toolbox to solve water issues in my community; It has changed the trajectory of my career and solidified my commitment to learn, organize, educate, and to lead within my community”
– Oscar Ortiz, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Indio, and UnTapped graduate class of 2022