Sustaining Hope

Hope requires clarity – seeing the troubles in this world – and imagination seeing what might lie beyond these situations that are perhaps not inevitable and immutable. 

Rebecca Solnit

How can we acknowledge the problems we face and still choose to remain hopeful? How can we stay hopeful in these times, when our problems are complex, and no one person or organisation has the answers? We do that through what Kathy Hytten calls hope that compels us to act thoughtfully and creatively to open up unimagined possibilities for the future — hope that is generative, resourceful, engaged, and communal.

She goes on to say that this kind of hope requires behaviours and habits that build community and social and political activism to challenge unjust systems.  Hope generated through action liberates us from despair and powerlessness. As Ernst Bloch says “The work of this emotion requires people who throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong”.


Social and economic change is hard and there is no easy road to success.  We get exhausted, lose faith in our ability, lose empathy, we are betrayed, there are failures, our spirits fade, we are told again and again it’s impossible, too complex, unsolvable,  it’s not worthwhile.

Also when you give yourself to a cause, it means putting your trust in the unknown and it can hurt when there are setbacks – you take it as personal failure, it is personal failure.  But the alternative, despair assumes we cannot solve the world’s problems and trying is idealistic.  When we decide to explain how a better future can be created, and try to build it, we reimagine what is possible.  We show that the choices available to us are many.


The beauty of the kind of hope Kathy Hytten is talking about is that it requires our creativity and imagination – the ability to see that it is hard but the imagination to see what is possible and the determination to act on it.

Despite 30 years of free market ideas, we still have a deep desire to live our lives as people deeply connected to each other.  We care about others.  Our justice system, libraries, parks, public roads, schools, NHS – are all examples of what we have created that is beneficial for all or/and achieved through citizenship, collective action, and active participation.

I just don’t want to forget that we have always been able to combine action, imagination and creativity to create for the benefit of all.   Below is a tiny sample of actions we have taken.  As Rebecca Solnit reminds us that ‘The power of individuals and unarmed people is colossal, to recognize the momentousness of what has happened is to apprehend what might happen.’

November 8, 2016

After huge opposition, government plans to water down laws that protect vulnerable children are defeated

July 7, 2016

The government scrapped their plans to sell of the Land Registry to private companies after protests

January 1, 2014

The Campaign for Social Housing (SHOUT) starts to promote the building of more genuinely affordable social housing

January 31, 2013

Government dropped plans to sell off publicly owned forests in England after people rallied against their proposals  

January 15, 2011

Wikipedia: a free-access, free-content encyclopedia that is a great example of peer to peer cooperation and collaboration

December 1, 2006

Transition Town Totnes established: explores and develops ways we can stop depending on oil and other fossil fuels    

May 30, 2004

Growth of the sharing economy where people are easily able to share resources, such as equipment, services, and skills  

November 30, 2000

Following a 60 year campaign led by the Ramblers, walkers won the ‘right to roam’ over wild, open countryside in England

May 30, 1997

Crowd Funding: funding projects by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, via the web  

November 8, 1995

Disabled people took to the streets to change the law – chained themselves to public transport and blocked the streets

March 31, 1991

Civil Disobedience: millions of British people broke the law and refused to pay the poll tax  

May 16, 1986

Slow Food: a global, grassroots movement linking the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment

August 20, 1976

Grunwick Dispute: Workers – largely Asian and female – go on prolonged strike demanding better conditions and union recognition

December 3, 1974

Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation were the first to articulate the social model of disability

December 30, 1964

Fair Trade Movement: simple shopping choices that offer better prices, working conditions and fair terms of trade for farmers & workers

November 12, 1964

The Campaign Against Racial Discrimination founded in 1964 to lobby the Labour government for anti-discrimination laws