An Interview with BII Board Member, Lisa Owens, Executive Director of Hyams Foundation

In conversation with Sabrina Nunez-Diaz, BII Impact Investing Associate

What were the pivotal moments that led you to where you are today?

The pivotal moment was being part of an incredible youth-led community organization. When I was 11, family members in Roxbury created an organization called “Free My People”. They trained us to fight for international and Black liberation as a life mission, way before it was a job. They taught us how to organize. Our first organized campaign was against the Boston Police Department and their stop and frisk policy around the time of the Charles Stuart case. As young people, we were trained to be socialist community organizers with the skills to run a community-based organization. 

You were previously the Executive Director at City Life / Vida Urbana, what was your biggest lesson from that work about community development and control in RE?

As ED of City Life / Vida Urbana, I learned more deeply the importance of the long, slow, steady, consistent work of building a base. Organizing isn’t just about mobilization, it’s being in contact with people day in and out, knowing their stories, and being committed to their ongoing leadership development and political education. When an organization commits to that fully, that’s where the power is! I continue to carry those lessons with me.

How do your interests and personal mission intersect with your role on the BII Board?

I love that BII is working to build our community’s political power and is committed to transformative change through innovation & experimentation. I’m most interested in community wealth building and am excited about BII’s new fund and its willingness to explore ways to finance these types of projects. 

What is your vision for the future?

My vision is to help strengthen broad movement infrastructure so that social movement groups can do more than just survive. The goal is for our groups locally to play an active role in, and ultimately win, broad transformative systems change in the state and nationally.