Researchers of hope gather virtually for world conference

According to the myth of Pandora, even when all the evils of the world were unleashed — hope was protected. Although the power of hope is recognized and honored as a powerful skill in navigating life’s challenges and opportunities, it seems to attract greater attention during setbacks and uncertainty.

Whether it be a pandemic, epidemic, world or civil war, hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, plague, wildfire, holocaust or other catastrophes, hope is often the guiding light. History has demonstrated time and again that hope demands that we share its powers.

It was that understanding — hope needs to be shared — that launched Kids at Hope and Arizona State University’s Center for the Advanced Study and Practice of Hope to imagine the first world conference focused on the energy, dynamic and strategy known as hope, and its importance to the lives of children, their families and community. 

The conference was first conceived as an in-person gathering of scientists and practitioners from around the world, but COVID-19 had other ideas. However, hope would not be quarantined.

A steering committee made up of ASU academics, researchers, graduate students and practitioners, who represented the partnership between ASU and Kids at Hope, designed a virtual conference instead. The event last fall attracted over 500 people from around the globe, including Canada, Uganda, Africa, India, two Indigenous nations and the United States, representing academia, education, juvenile justice, behavioral health, medicine, child welfare, early childhood education and community-based child and youth development agencies.

Regardless of one’s theoretical or spiritual perspectives, the concept of hope as a positive force has been universally accepted as a dynamic worthy of study and understanding. By understanding hope as a cognitive function rather than a loose set of emotions, science is unraveling its mysteries. Hope theory and research examine the elements of hope that include the importance of goals, pathways in pursuit of goals and the agency or energy required to achieve goals through perseverance and grit. 

The World Conference on Hope and Youth stated objectives were to be: 

  • A forum where researchers and practitioners intersect to advance knowledge and practice.

  • A forum where young academics can connect to recognized scholars and leading voices in hope theory and practice.

  • A forum to discuss the formation of a Hope Science Network.

  • A forum where practitioners can learn from each other’s experiences.

  • A forum that inspires and empowers all to advance their work.

Video of World Conference on Hope and Youth 2

The virtual world conference was a one-day event on Nov. 13, 2020, that began with a tribute and memorial to two pioneering hope scientists — Richard Snyder and Shane Lopez — followed by spoken word poetry shared by poet Jordan Janey. 

Matt Gallagher from the University of Houston and co-editor of the "Oxford Handbook on Hope" was the conference’s opening keynote, offering a perspective of hope theory, past, present and future. 

Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor, University of Wisconsin, and author of "The Dreamkeepers — Daring to Dream in Public," presented the conference’s afternoon keynote. 

Other sessions included: "From Research to Practice and Practice to Research," "Hope Through an Equity Lens" and "A World View of Hope." 

The conference concluded with an inspirational video that included Ugandans reciting the Kids at Hope treasure hunters pledge, committing themselves to ensuring every child succeeds, and a youth student from Tacoma, Washington, sharing her voice of hope.

Other featured speakers included: Joseph Kelroy, director of the Youth Services Division of the Arizona Supreme Court; Rick Fabes and Crystal Bryce from ASU; Valerie Calderon, former senior consultant with Gallup Poll; Paul Tighe, superintendent, Saddle Mountain Unified School District, Arizona; Rosemarie Allen, director, Center for Equity and Excellence, Metropolitan State University, Denver, Colorado; Andrea Ettekal, assistant professor, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University; and Rick Miller, founder, Kids at Hope.

“I trust the seed we planted to premiere this remarkable conference will inspire us to continue to bring people together from around the world so that hope continues to be shared as a positive strategy for all humankind,” said Miller, conference chairman and clinical director at ASU’s Hope Center.

Shelley Linford
slinford@asu.edu