New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

Beth Lyons

member-of-the-month 1) What is your official current position and title?

Executive Director of the New Brunswick Women’s Council.

2) What is your educational background?

I have a B.A.(Honours) in English and Theatre Studies from Acadia. I’m also a rather proud grad school drop-out.

3) Talk a little about your career path? Where did your passion for the work that you do originate and how did it develop?

By the end of my undergrad studies, it was clear that my interests and passion were in social justice, particularly gender-based equality. It took a bit longer for me to figure out that my way of contributing to this work was going to be through research, policy, and advocacy. Post-university, I initially did a lot of direct service work, mostly with youth, but then had work and volunteer opportunities to dig into policy and advocacy-based work. I loved both ways of working, but recognized that my particular capacities and proclivities were pointing me toward research and policy. At the end of the day, I want to be working to enable folks in positions of power to do better on an institutional or systemic level.

4) Tell us about one or two of your current projects?

The council is currently co-leading a social innovation lab with NouLAB. This is both about learning a new way of addressing complex social challenges (via labs) and about tackling a particular issue. For this lab, we’re focusing on how we can work together to ensure that capable, qualified women are rising to positions of leadership in the emerging tech sectors in NB (think: sectors we’re seeing a lot of investment in and buzz around).

In terms of advising government and bringing issues to public attention, which is the heart of the council’s mandate, we’re doing a lot on mifegymiso – the medication that is used in non-surgical abortions. This medication isn’t on the market yet and there’s lots of uncertainty about how accessible it will be given the guidelines that Health Canada has attached to it. We’re working to ensure that government and the public know that mifegymiso could improve access to abortion in our province but there are serious barriers that need to be addressed for that to happen.

5) How do you see your work in terms of possibly contributing to evidence-based public policy?

The council’s work is about making sure that the public policy process prioritizes gender equality in decision-making. To do this, we produce and share gender-based analysis on issues arising in our province, as well as recommendations on how to move forward. The goal of this is twofold: to make sure that gender-based analysis of issues are available to government and the public AND to normalize seeing gender-based analysis as an integral part of the policy making process.

6) Discuss any past achievements that were significant to your professional path?  Have any contributed to the promotion of evidence-based public policy?

Prior to working with the council, I worked at YWCA Moncton. YWCA Moncton is a member of YWCA Canada (which I now sit on the board of) and YWCA Canada is a member of World YWCA. The lingo for this network of YWs is “the movement.” Through the YW movement, I’ve had opportunities to connect with women from around the world and hear about the work they’re doing and the issues they’re tackling. This has shaped my view of many issues, my ways of working with others, and my understanding of leadership. These experiences have also ensured that I work hard to never lose sight of the fact that public policy decisions directly and profoundly affect people. If that’s not motivation for rigorous, evidence-based, people-centred policy making, nothing is.

7) Describe in a couple of sentences your involvement with NBSPRN and how your relationship with the Network has contributed to your research/work and/or to social/economic policy?

NBSPRN isn’t just an amazing resource (and network of resources), it’s a community. This work can be isolating and wins are often incremental, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who can re-energize and re-focus you when need be. NBSPRN does that while also building the capacities of their partners through events like GovMaker and initiatives like NouLab.

Copyright 2013
A Ginger Design