Alumni Feature: Lyndsay Poaps, MPP 2008

By:  Eva Lewis

Tell me a bit about the path you took after graduating from the MPP program in 2008.

After graduation I wanted to work in municipal government and spent two years with Metro Vancouver researching solid waste and behaviour change. Specifically, looking at how behaviour change interventions can increase waste diversion in single and multi-family homes. After that I spent a year as a Toronto Urban Fellow with the city of Toronto, working in the affordable housing office and the City Manager’s Office. It’s a program I highly recommend to new grads. In 2015, I took on the leadership of Leadnow, an independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy.  Previous to joining the MPP program, I was founder and co-director of Check Your Head – a youth driven non-profit – so it wasn’t a leap for me to return to the advocacy space. Leadnow is a leading digital campaigning organization that uses cutting edge technology fueled by people power and it was an exceptional high-profile, high intensity experience.  After Leadnow, I wanted to focus on a specific policy area and the opportunity to return to zero waste and circular economy came about through this role as Executive Director of Recycling Council of BC.

What are some of the highlights of your career so far – both the rewarding and challenging parts?

I have had a varied career which has allowed me the privilege of seeing policies from creation to implementation. When I was a Park Board Commissioner, I led the work to have an ethical purchasing policy at the Vancouver Park Board. It was a huge accomplishment when it was passed in 2005 and an important step towards understanding the impact that municipal policy can have on systems outside of what the public normally thinks of municipal services.

In terms of challenges, being an executive director requires you to juggle a lot of balls. For me the key is figuring out which ones are rubber and which ones are glass because some will get dropped.  As an ED you don’t get to focus on any one thing as much as you would like and you have to switch gears multiple times a day. It can make it hard to find the time to focus on policy issues as deeply as I would like.

What influenced you in deciding to pursue work with not for profit organizations?

I am good at it! I like the issues, I like the people management, I like the variety of skills it requires. You often have to be ready to pivot and be nimble and be ready to respond. I enjoy the diversity of tasks and experiences. You get challenges thrown at you daily. It’s a dynamic environment and you are rarely bored.

What advice do you have for new MPP professionals who want to contribute to the not for profit sector?

Working in the non-profit sector can be great for your career or to spend some time during your career.  I have worked both in government and in the non-profit sector and I have found the non-profit sector experiences to be invaluable in understanding not only policy issues but to get a grounding in how the community experiences the issues. It can be a great place to have a wide variety of experiences.

You’re a well-connected person, both locally and nationally.  What tips can you offer MPP students and recent grads about building their network? 

I genuinely enjoy people and I’m curious. I understand how relationships and community build movements and how that can help advance common issues and action. Some of my strongest assets are my networks and it helps me to be the Executive Director I am – you can rarely know everything, but with a strong network I am more resilient in my work. I often reach out to those networks for help, and I look forward to helping others when I can. That’s how I approach networking. It’s about mutual aid and connection. I love being able to boost the work of others. I like learning from others. I think when you approach networking it’s important to be curious and put yourself out there. You are building relationships with people, not a rolodex.