Beyond Paper Tigers Presenter Showcase! Working on the Leading Edge: Laura Porter’s Wisdom from the ACEs Movement


“I get the most emotional about the courage the people have, when people step into a void and try something new,” Laura Porter responds to a question about what lights her fire, what keeps her going during the difficult chapters. Laura will be giving the closing plenary lecture at the 2018 Beyond Paper Tigers conference, and her knowledge of ACEs science, community resilience, and social change is extensive.

For many years, Laura has worked with Rob Anda, a principal investigator of the original ACEs study. Together, she and Rob designed the ACE Interface to educate and coach communities about ACEs. She does business in 26 states each year, investigates community solutions that fit, and works to build a common language around this science.

She is inspired by those who surround her, whom she calls “community leaders.”

“One of the reasons I’ve loved working with Rob Anda is because [at the CDC], he didn’t just see disease as disease; he saw something more fundamental to look out. He was completely out of the box,” Laura recalls. “He and Vincent Feletti really stood against the wave of scientific belief about how you do scientific inquiry. If they hadn’t had the courage to do that, it could have been decades before anything would have changed.”

Laura’s words highlight the audacity required to work on the leading edge and her observation of the deep impact of that work.

“Change is uncomfortable, and we have to be willing to be in that discomfort,” she states.

Part of the change of which she speaks is a shift in authority. “My biggest hope is that the people most affected by childhood adversity will receive respect and honor that they deserve. They’ve been viewed as clients and patients and I view them as leaders,” she humbly wishes. In Laura’s eyes, those who have experienced ACEs have displayed incredible strength, they’ve had their own “aha” moments, and their voices are wise and central to progress. Her proposal is that, “people with positional authority will realize they’re in supportive roles,” that those in civic positions will support what emerges from natural community leaders.

However, Laura notes that, “when we change from one state to another we go through a chaotic period. For example, if we want to turn water into steam, we have to add a heat source. And as it becomes closer to steam, it becomes very volatile. If we want a new social state a new cultural state that nurtures and respects people we have to turn up the heat, and it’s going to be very uncomfortable.”

Leading social movements requires great courage- to work outside the box, to stand in the wave of old beliefs, and to tolerate the volatility of state transition. Yet some feel it as a life mission.

“I am most humbled when I hear people say that they felt a calling, that they felt somebody had to be trying,” Laura expresses, her voice sincere and encouraged. “When they say, ‘I shouldn’t wait for somebody else. I should just try.’ Those stories have magnificent results.”


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