8 Questions with Paula Thornton Greear | Net Impact

8 Questions with Paula Thornton Greear

This ongoing Q&A series profiles a few of the speakers we're looking forward to seeing at this year's Net Impact Conference. Paula is a seasoned marketing communications and relationship management executive and will be speaking in our Corporate Impact track.

If you could spend 15 minutes with one impact hero past or present, who would it be and why?

If I could spend 15 minutes with one impact hero, it would be with someone with whom you may not be familiar. During his senior year in high school on Chicago’s South Side, Kevin Stonewall looked for a way to cure colon cancer. As a student working at a Rush University lab during his senior year, the teen from Chicago’s South Side (Ashburn neighborhood) found a critical age-related drawback in an experimental vaccine aimed at preventing colon cancer in mice, according to a report from DNAInfo. Currently a sophomore and biomedical engineering major at the University of Wisconsin Madison, he is continuing to research a colon cancer vaccine that can be used on the elderly, and ultimately, might be a cure. Kevin is an unsuspecting transformational hero who is not only poised to cure cancer and inspire other young people to follow suit, but is already helping shatter stereotypes of young Black men, as did heroes of yesteryear such as Charles Drew.

What’s one surprising stat or emerging trend anyone looking to make an impact in your field should know?

I believe that we will see a rise in the number of young men and women of color, at a grassroots level, advocating for change. From social justice to environmental sustainability and economic opportunity, young Black and Latino men and women will identify platforms -- such as Black Youth Project 100 -- to bring about change not only within their respective racial and ethnic demographics, but also within society as a whole.

What do you love about your work?

My father shared the following quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with me when I was a young teenager. It has informed my love of advocating for positive social change ever since:

“I'm concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice; I'm concerned about brotherhood; I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.”

What's the single biggest challenge in your work?

Technology. It is a wonderful blessing and a torrid curse. Abbreviated dialogue can often lead to cursory understanding of an issue or feigned and temporary commitment. Of course, getting people beyond the “like” – is where you find your engagement blessings!

What's your best advice for someone who wants to create positive change through their career?

A movement alone is not enough to create change. To be effective in changing social norms and public policy, there must be an organized coalition rather than a haphazard response to issues or events. Coalition building is critical.

When have you found yourself breaking boundaries in your work? (Breaking boundaries is this year’s conference theme.)

I’ve found myself in the position of breaking boundaries within organizations with respect to cultural competency. How can you effectively address an issue if you are not communicating across cultures? For example, the caucasian A-list movie star may have a higher Q Score and name recognition with the Board of Directors, but it just may be that the hip-hop singer or a telenovela star is the most effective person to engage the young teen struggling with literacy, hunger, etc.

How has being part of the Net Impact community or attending the conference in the past made a difference in your work?
I’ve not had the opportunity to attend a Net Impact conference in the past; however, I am extremely excited to do so in November! Engagement begins with just one conversation. The multiplier effect of Net Impact will be something to behold. I can feel it already!

What’s your best advice for first-time conference attendees?
As a first time attendee and presenter, my best advice is to do as I plan to do – recognizing that I may not be able to attend all the sessions, I’m going to find myself a conference buddy so that we can cover more ground and share what we learn! 

About Paula

Paula Thornton Greear has extensive experience applying strategic planning, project management and creativity to deliver clear, concise communication solutions to meet stakeholder needs. Over the course of her career, she has held positions on both the client and agency sides, working with a broad portfolio of companies in a full range of growth stages from global brands to start-ups, including Feeding America, Target, Motorola, Lands’ End, and Discovery Communications. She is currently engaged as a senior consultant for Tunheim, with a focus on nonprofit and early childhood education initiatives. She is speaking at Beyond the Like: Marketing for Sustainable Action at this year's conference.

Want more? 

This year's conference is over, but you can also catch up with video of several sessions on our site. Watch now!