The State of Hope in Thurston County

HOPE Thurston

Throughout human history, educators, poets, and philosophers have written about the immense power of hope. But from a scientific standpoint, it’s still a relatively new topic of discussion. In 2018, Thurston Thrives came together with Dr. Chan Hellman from the University of Oklahoma to create the Hope Thurston initiative. Hope Thurston’s goal was to take the often vague and ephemeral concept of hope and find out exactly what it is, who has it, and what its direct effects are on a community. To do this, Hope Thurston developed a hope-related survey, and garnered 684 participants. On September 17 at South Puget Sound Community College, Dr. Hellman and Jon Tunheim (Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney) presented their findings.

Hope Thurston’s survey measured two types of hope: individual and collective. Individuals in Thurston County were shown to have, on average, moderate–high hope, with 44.3% measuring as moderately hopeful and 49.3% measuring as highly hopeful. Collective hope (that is, hope for one’s community as a whole) is high in Thurston County as well, with 64.1% of respondents indicating a high collective hope.

Hope, as Jon Tunheim explained, is simply the belief that the future will get better, and that we have the ability to make it so. He emphasized the second half of this sentence, explaining that a strong sense of agency is what separates hope from mere optimism. A hopeful person under this definition will feel empowered and motivated to look for specific paths to reach their goals. Thurston County’s high scores indicate residents’ desire to improve their community, and an inclination towards collective action to accomplish that. In fact, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Dr. Hellman ran his first Hope study, a higher hope score was associated with a higher voter turnout. Hope Thurston is still analyzing associated data, but similar results here aren’t unlikely.

With this in mind, Dr. Hellman noted that many organizations in Thurston County — Thurston Thrives in particular — are already doing the work to build hope in our community and mobilize those who are already hopeful. Congratulations to Thurston County for continuing to foster healthy, hopeful communities!