Hope: A New Strategy for Our Region

Do you agree that we need to improve opportunities for all of our region’s population?

While technical skills and work ethic contribute to individual and organizations’ success, hope is also a critical factor — one that is often overlooked.

Recent research indicates that hope is a better predictor of achievement than intelligence, personality, previous success, and ACT or LSAT scores. Hopeful people achieve at higher rates than non-hopefuls. And Dr. Shane Lopez, Senior Scientist at Gallup, notes that hopeful people are more productive than non-hopeful people.

For some, hope is a touchy-feely concept that is difficult to articulate and easy to overlook within an academic or work-related context. Yet researchers define hope as the conceptualization of goals, the establishment of strategies to achieve those goals, and the motivation to pursue those goals. Lopez describes hope as “the belief that the future will be better than the present, coupled with the belief that you have the power to make it so.”

So how do we instill hope back in to the DNA or our region?

For a growing number of regions, the answer is the Ice House Leadership Program, an experiential, problem-based course designed to expose people to the fundamental aspects of entrepreneurial thinking, its broad applicability, and the limitless opportunities it can provide.

Inspired by the life-story of Pulitzer nominee Clifton Taulbert and the influence of an “unlikely” entrepreneur, people learn how an entrepreneurial mindset provides a powerful framework for thinking that can empower them to succeed, regardless of their circumstances or chosen path.
Participants in the Ice House Program begin by articulating the future they would like to create. Using their vision as a guide, they are then immersed in entrepreneurial experiences that encourage them to take ownership of their actions, seeing — perhaps, for the first time — how engaging in their experiences can directly contribute to the lives they endeavor to create. Throughout the program, participants are also exposed to video case studies featuring a variety of unlikely entrepreneurs who have overcome adversity by embracing an entrepreneurial mindset.

Several recent pilots demonstrate the power of such an approach. Two of which were for dislocated workers that had recently been laid off from GE Transportation.

The Ice House participants learned to view themselves and their experiences in a new way. Reflecting on her experience as a co-facilitator of the program, Beth Zimmer noted, “When we learn that we have choices to better our life, we are more apt to own our future and become active directors of it. We thrive, rather than survive as bystanders simply meeting minimum requirements. Participants start to just change who they are as a person. If nothing else, they change and focus on the fact that they can really believe in themselves; that they don’t have to depend on somebody else to solve their problems.”

An entrepreneurial mindset offers a new perspective, one that exposes opportunities, ignites ambition, and fosters the creativity and critical thinking, the perseverance and self-determination that leads to success — in life. The shared experience of others who have overcome adversity is a powerful tool that reinforces the belief that one has the ability to accomplish one’s goals.

President John F. Kennedy once said: “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our Nation.”

While our region’s people may be diverse or inadequately prepared, it is important to acknowledge that we all arrive with a dream, in search of better. It is also important to remember that it is in our region’s best interest to help each other succeed. By instilling an entrepreneurial mindset, we can inspire and empower, instilling hope — the belief that the future will be better than the present and that we have the collective power to make it so, right here in northwest PA.