The Hope Project

Hope is a strong motivational force for development; this project makes the seven different dimensions of hope measurable

Hope is a powerful and motivating emotion. People with hope are more likely to invest in the future, want to collaborate and are willing to change. In contrast, optimists see little need for change and pessimists have no confidence in possible improvements. So hope can be a powerful tool for social change. That is why the Goldschmeding Foundation wants to better understand this emotion.

Based on scientific research, ‘The Hope Project’ project increases knowledge about the building blocks and the motivating power of hope. In addition, the project makes hope measurable by means of a new instrument: the Hope Barometer. Policymakers and administrators can use the measurement results to guide change processes.

The Hope Project is carried out by researchers from the Institute of Leadership & Social Ethics (ILSE) in Leuven and the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO) in Rotterdam. In the first two phases of this project, research into the concept of hope was started and the Hope Barometer was developed.

In the current third phase, the researchers want to further deepen and refine the Hope Barometer and apply it as a measuring instrument in various municipalities, social organizations and companies. Furthermore, in addition to measurements in the Netherlands, there will also be measurements to hope in other European countries.

Hope and happiness often go hand in hand

The Hope Barometer has now been used four times in the Netherlands. The latest measurement shows that people have become slightly more hopeful in 2019 and come out with a score of 6.3 (on a scale of 1 to 10). At the beginning of 2018, the score was still 6.1 and in 2017 it was 6.4. The Dutch are slightly more optimistic about the future than last year, especially about life in general and social services such as care, education and security. Trust in financial institutions has also increased and we are seeing a small, but significant, increase in trust in strangers, the military and political parties.

There is also a considerable group of Dutch people who are not hopeful: 27% of the Dutch score below a 5.5 on the hope index. This mainly concerns people of middle age, households with a low income, the less educated, and people who are often lonely or in poor health. This year, the relationship between hope and inclusivity was also examined for the first time. And guess what: people who do not feel involved in society are also less hopeful. We see the same score (5.5) for people who feel they cannot keep up with society, find society unjust, feel discriminated against, have few social contacts or are financially limited. This applies to 1 in 10 Dutch people.

People who score unsatisfactory on the hope index find it less important to help others, are less committed to their community, are less likely to do something for their neighbors and recycle less. By focusing on a more inclusive society and by increasing tolerance, people will see their future more positively, making them more inclined to commit themselves to society. And to act in the interest of the other.

Photos: Indraneel Biswas and ILSE

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About 'The World Book of Hope'

Hope as freedom

People will take action and put effort into something when they are convinced that it will positively influence their future. In the economy hope can be interpreted as freedom and the opportunity for people to develop. In this perspective, people are generally regarded as a rational homo economicus.

Hope as virtue

Christian theology finds the ultimate source of hope in God. Hope is considered one of the theological virtues, along with faith and love which together focus on justice and happiness of one’s neighbour. In this, people

What we call hope influences different aspects of our lives; it changes the way we think, work and interact with others. In order to understand the complexity of this concept, it would not be sufficient to limit ourselves to the perspective of one discipline. In this project the focus will be on a scientific dialogue between economic and theological conceptions of hope, but psychology and philosophy will also be involved. To work with such an interdisciplinary concept, the central and distinctive characteristics of hope must be explored. Therefore, we cannot ignore the comprehensive worldviews that underlie this concept.

There is a positive correlation between hope at work, job satisfaction and good health

The multidimensional nature of the concept of hope makes it difficult to study it systematically and adequately in practice. But on the basis of current best practices, supplemented with insights from the conceptual assessment, it is possible to formulate good guidelines for measuring hope and thus develop a ‘hope barometer’. In the project ‘Hope as an incentive’ the ‘hope barometer’ will be used in a pilot project researching the experience of hope and happiness among employees and their functioning within an organisation.

The concept of ‘hope’ transcends the boundaries between academic disciplines, world views, as well as the rigid boundary between objective science and the normative, human reality. By studying with scientific accuracy what the structure, conditions and effects are of hope, this project aims to contribute to an increase in happiness, resilience, growth and innovation.

The project ‘Hope as an incentive’ is a collaboration between the Institute of Leadership and Social Ethics, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven (Prof. Dr. Patrick Nullens) and the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation, Erasmus University Rotterdam (Dr. Martijn Burger).


Prof. dr. Patrick Nullens
Prof. dr. Patrick Nullens Professor Systematic Theology and Rector, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven