i am ynpn boston: liz powers.

Name: Liz Powers
Profession: Founder and Director
Organization: City Heart and LIFT Bike Project

Name: Liz Powers
Profession: Founder and Director
Organization: City Heart and LIFT Bike Project
Favorite Quote: “When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.” -Buddha

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”  -Mother Theresa

Best Way to Relax After a Long Week: A bubble bath.

Describe Your Professional Journey:

The majority of my professional life has been working with homeless and low-income individuals on addressing gaps in the social services. From 2007-2011 I volunteered at a nonprofit called LIFT, and I worked one-on-one with homeless and low income individuals on securing jobs and housing. Through working closely with homeless and low-income individuals, I identified two vastly different needs; the Cambridge community had a lack of free recreational activities and transportation assistance for low-income individuals. I created two social entrepreneurial programs to respond to these gaps in social services.

Many of my clients at LIFT had told me that they were unable to go to job interviews or access existing social services because they could not afford the subway. To respond to this problem, in 2009 I created the LIFT Bike Project, an "earn-a-bike" program in which individuals must volunteer at least 10 hours and attend a mandatory bike safety session to earn a bicycle, helmet, and lock. The program has provided 130 homeless and low income individuals with free, sustainable transportation.

In addition to transportation, many clients identified extreme loneliness as a hurdle that prevented them from leading happy, confident lives. I created art groups so that homeless and low-income women could have both a creative outlet and a safe space to support each other. With support from the Pforzheimer Postgraduate Public Service Fellowship from Harvard, I spent 2010-2011 developing beading, painting, drawing, and sewing groups for homeless and low-income women in Cambridge, MA.

After running art groups for a year, I realized that a major need within the Boston community was a venue for homeless and low-income individuals to exhibit and sell their work. I met with every art director in local shelters and learned that their artists were producing a lot of work but were frustrated that they had little opportunity to share it with the community. After learning about this need, I decided to create City Heart, a collaborative art show for homeless and low-income artists from 8 different shelters. City Heart is held annually in the Prudential Center.

In short, my professional journey has been a series of identifying problems in the community and then finding (small but effective) solutions to them. In order to create achievable solutions, I helped one person at a time and capitalized on the amazing community of volunteers to scale the effect.

What Does Professional Development Mean to You?

Professional development means an insatiable sense of curiosity and willingness to learn from everyone around me. My experiences founding art groups and the LIFT Bike Project helped me hone leadership skills and forced me to evaluate needs in the community through talking to homeless and low-income individuals, social workers, and other professionals. In order to continue to develop professionally I am learning from not only colleagues in my field but also individuals in vastly different fields. Progress happens when we go outside of our normal bubble and learn from others who have different backgrounds, professions, and experiences. This can be learning from interns who are experts at the tricks within excel or learning from a homeless individual who can help me teach a quilting class or listening to a CEO about how to build a successful team culture. Professional development occurs most rapidly when there is an extreme sense of openness.

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

I plan to continue developing social enterprises that solve problems within our communities. My goal is to learn about financial sustainability from business experts and use this expertise to find lasting solutions to local social problems.

Pro Tip: Create partnerships whenever it is possible.

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