“[Hope] is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart…The more unpromising the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
– Vaclav Havel, Czech statesman and former dissident under communism
What does it look like to hope in the midst of crisis?
The question is not an intellectual exercise. Like most, our mission and deeply held convictions have been put to the test.
Earlier this week, a partner in a regional pediatric emergency room told me, “We’re seeing some of the worst cases of domestic violence, child abuse, and sex trafficking we’ve ever encountered.” Her comment was another harsh reminder of COVID-19’s impact, especially on the most vulnerable.
We grieve the suffering and change the pandemic has unceremoniously and unsympathetically doled out. We also are inspired by acts of profound courage and dignity. Holding that tension is not easy. Four principles are guiding our work and keeping us focused as we rise to meet the moment:
- Lead with our values
Values remind us who we are and how we act. Three of ours are front and center right now. Justice, which we define as “working to make things right”. Similar to Vaclav Havel’s characterization of hope, we pursue justice because it’s the right thing to do, not because the outcome is guaranteed. Community, which means prioritizing people and place (see #2). And Innovation, which means imagining new possibilities and fostering creative problem-solving in response to daunting challenges (see #3).
- Show up for partners and survivors
The shelter-in-place order was disorienting and we’re still adjusting to the “new normal.” Allies is in a financially healthy position (thanks to many of you) and our programs have not required drastic change. That’s given us the privilege to come alongside our partners and survivors in new ways. From giving a partner “host” access in our Zoom account so they could virtually facilitate dozens of statewide meetings, to curating and connecting pandemic resources for organizations in the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking, our team is showing up to serve the people and places we work.
- Deploy Lighthouse as quickly and widely as possible
Digital strategies and tools to care for vulnerable populations are more critical than ever. As human trafficking increases, Lighthouse is a timely technology solution for frontline professionals like nurses, case managers, and police officers who need to identify and care for victims, especially while social distancing measures are in place. Earlier this month, we finalized a strategic partnership with the Office of the Texas Governor and the WestCoast Children’s Clinic to get Lighthouse into the hands of over 60 organizations across the state. We’re building capacity to support that scale as 2020 is turning into our biggest year yet for Lighthouse.
- Plan for the world beyond COVID-19
Some things will return to “normal” once the pandemic passes, but other things won’t. We’ve learned a lot about what matters most. We’ve had to make tough choices about what is no longer necessary. We’ve had to go the extra mile to sustain our teams and serve survivors. We’ve gained more appreciation for both efficiency and relationships. We’ve had to rethink sustainability. Our Board and team are documenting these lessons to carry our learning into the next 2-3 years, not months. The turn of phrase “never waste a crisis” speaks to the opportunity we have in this moment create a better future together.
So what does it look like to hope in the midst of crisis? For Allies, it looks like holding grief in one hand and inspiration in the other while we work harder than ever to protect freedom and dignity. And it looks like standing with you, wherever you find yourself right now.
John and the Allies Team