YES, HOPE IS A STRATEGY
John Berry, CEO, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia
A few weeks ago I was talking with someone about the work we do at St. Vincent de Paul Georgia. In the conversation, the concept of ‘hope’ came up. Our Mission Statement uses the term prominently:
Respecting the dignity of each person, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia brings hope and help to those in need so they may achieve stability and move toward self-sufficiency.
The person I was speaking with said something along the lines of ‘Well, you know hope is not a strategy.’ And I thought; “What an incredibly stupid thing to say.”
Yes, hope IS a strategy. It may not be a tactic but it is darn sure a strategy. Because the plans and actions that someone must devise and put in place cannot and will not succeed without an underlying confidence that they have a chance to succeed. That is where ‘hope’ becomes a vital and important strategy.
Let’s get technical a minute. Merriam Webster’s defines ‘Strategy’ as: “3. an adaptation or complex of adaptations (as of behavior, metabolism, or structure) that serves or appears to serve an important function in achieving evolutionary success.” And it defines ‘Hope’ as: “1. to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true.” The two concepts can, and do, exist together and in close relation to each other. When it comes to changing people’s lives, you could say that they cannot exist without each other; or at least they cannot succeed without each other.
People who desire to change their lives must have some deep-seated desire for change before they can take the necessary actions and do the necessary things to adapt and achieve success. That is why ‘Hope’ is such a critical part of the strategy of changing lives. And that is why so many cookie cutter programs fail. Hope is not a strategy unless it is paired with personal human contact and concern. When people are treated like numbers and statistics that only satisfy some outcome measure to validate the requirement of a funder or government agency than they will never be able to dream and aspire and have someone tell them ‘Yes, you can.’ Someone to give them hope.
Just as importantly, the strategy of ‘hope’ requires honesty and openness and the willingness to help people understand that not all dreams are achievable; and to understand that the ‘strategy’ of hope requires the willingness to recognize that not all adaptations will result in achieving success. So, let’s work together to devise a new plan that can succeed.
To those who would prefer that we deal with those in need in a cold, calculating, ‘show me the numbers’ manner I would say that we cannot expect to change people’s lives without recognizing that they are people. Each unique and special. As summed up best in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu: “Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.”
Ultimately ‘Hope’ may be the most important strategy of all.