We’re really excited that Dr. Gregory Norris, Co-Director of SHINE (the Sustainability and Health Initiative for Net-positive Enterprise), Harvard School of Public Health & Chief Scientist, International Living Future Institute will be a keynote speaker at the 2015 Net Impact Boston Career Summit on February 27. Sign up today for the event – here’s a sneak preview of what you’ve got to look forward to from Dr. Norris.
What inspired you to pursue a career with positive social or environmental impact?
Watching the movie “Gandhi” and documentaries on Martin Luther King during “Independent Activities Period” (month of January, between semesters) in my senior year as an undergraduate, it just hit me that I wanted to “give” my life rather than use it for myself. I wanted to use my life to do something beneficial for the world. I made that commitment then, and have never looked back; it has been my “north star” ever since. Of course, a north star works because it helps us continually re-evaluate our direction in reference to it. The currents of life have flowed in many ways pulling me towards more “normal” career objectives such as financial security, etc. But each time I have noticed this, I have reset my course and headed back in the direction I wanted to go. When Sept 11 attacks happened, it was a great shock and caused me to re-evaluate my work path, which lead to me launching a non-profit.
What’s the most interesting/most challenging aspect of your job?
I’ll take “interesting” and “challenging” separately. “Interesting” is all about the challenges of solving the big problems, finding solutions which will auto-scale, via exponential growth mechanisms built into them; finding and sharing positive sustainability memes that stick, and advancing rigorous frameworks around them, doing the technical/infrastructure work to foster their realization. That’s the thrill, and it never ends, never gets stale, just like kayaking a river that continually changes. The drag, the “challenge” in the negative sense, has been money – financial security, and finding ample resources to bring my ideas fully to life. Beta’s are cheap, but going beyond is a whole other world.
What advice would you give to those looking for a career with a positive social or environmental impact?
It’s funny that even though I’m losing my hair, I don’t yet feel untitled to give “advice.” But I can share that, for me, the combination of an adjunct or part-time academic career together with social entrepreneurship has been a fruitful platform in which to work, grow, learn, and evolve. Obviously, teaching and interacting with students continually teaches and refreshes us. And the creative, semi-activist freedom offered by leading a small nonprofit or small consultancy has been key. One of my early lessons was that I thrive when doing something I love, because when I present the results I can do so with sincere passion, which is infectious for colleagues and stakeholders and helps lead to the next opportunity.
The theme for the Career Summit 2015 is ‘Impact Across Industries’ – do you think it is important for different industries and sectors to come together to tackle social and environmental issues and why?
Unquestionably important, vital, essential! When one sector acts economically (e.g. produces, or changes its production in any way), it stimulates and requires action by nearly all the others. No sector operates independently, just like no person does. As a result, there is huge synergy potential from acting in collaborative ways across industries.
Sign up today for the Career Summit on February 27 and prepare to be inspired!