Harnessing the "Power of Hope"

Nicholas Kristof writes in his column “The Power of Hope is Real” that for people who truly believe in the importance of development and aid, proving its efficacy can be a challenge. Communities and nations that require aid are complex, and change is not always as simple as we may like it to be.

Kristof calls out one element of aid, however, that extensive research has shown to have a dramatic effect on poverty: hope.  Interventions that focus on inspiring hope can empower people to see a positive course to their lives and to create a plan for the future. This shift in mindset not only has a positive effect on the individual, but also on her family and community.

Kristof tells of an extensive study involving 21,000 people in six countries that showed that a “graduation program” which helps people “graduate” from poverty was incredibly effective. Such graduation programs involve a sustainable resource (ie. bees or a cow) that allows people to invest in their futures. Kristof quotes Sir Fazle Abed, founder of BRAC—developer of the graduation program—who explains, “Poverty is not just poverty of money or income…We also see a poverty of self-esteem, hope, opportunity and freedom. People trapped in a cycle of destitution often don’t realize their lives can be changed for the better through their own activities. Once they understand that, it’s like a light gets turned on.”

Such programs are effective because they provide tangible proof that life can be better. Being hopeful in a place that is truly devoid of reasons to be hopeful is an unsustainable condition, however, and just telling people to be hopeful is not enough. Governments and organizations must help provide tangible pathways to enfranchisement, guided by hope, rather than simply using hope as a talking point and excuse for inaction.

At SHOFCO hope is in our DNA (and our name!). The idea for SHOFCO came to Kennedy from a place of personal hopelessness and desperation. He quickly realized the transformative power of hope in his life and in his community and decided he needed to act. Our first goal at SHOFCO is to inspire hope in people who have been conditioned to believe that they have no future, that they are predestined to fail. Our programs target sources of this insecurity with interventions such as entrepreneurship training, girls’ education, financial planning, and quality medical care. Empowering people to take constructive steps toward improving their lives, and giving them the resources to do so, has changed the futures of tens of thousands of our beneficiaries.

At SHOFCO we believe there needs to be a greater push toward programs and aid that taps into the innate human desire to be hopeful. It is through these interventions that people will truly be able to take charge of their lives and transform their communities.

Read Nicholas Kristof’s article about the power of hope, and let us know what you think in the comments!