Saturday, January 12, 2019

Measuring Hope in Thurston County

Above: A crisp Saturday afternoon brought walkers to Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia. 

A community survey is being conducted to assess the level of hope in Thurston County. The Hope Thurston survey process began in June 2018. 

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

At the beginning of a new year, many people reflect on the past, present and future. 

Opportunities are explored and new goals are set. Its often a time full of anticipation and renewal.

But sometimes, the death of a loved one or challenges with onehealth, finances, employment, or housing makes some of these life course changes for us.

Regardless of the situation, we often hope things will get better, right? Not always.

Although research shows that hope is instinctive, some people feel hopeless. Manifesting itself as apathy, some see no vision for the future. Mental illness is a barrier to hope. Hopelessness can lead to depression, addiction, and suicide.

What does it mean to hope? How hopeful are you?

Working closely with children who have suffered abuse, trauma and neglect, Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim has seen the impact of adverse childhood experiences.

Discovering the concept of hope theory while attending a domestic violence conference several years ago, he has become a student of its principles and has since delivered over 100 “hope talks” throughout the South Sound community.

Last week, he spoke at the Hawks Prairie Rotary monthly meeting in Lacey.

“Hope is the belief that the future can be better than the present and the ability to make it so,” said Tunheim.

“Hope contemplates that we have the ability to influence our future: one, to set goals and create a vision of goals and success; two: to have the ability to create strategies and pathways to achieve goals, anticipate barriers, and see alternatives; and three, to have the willpower to achieve goals. That’s what moves you forward – goals and strategies,” he said.

Research indicates that hope is the single best predictor of a person’s ability to thrive and flourish.

“Hope is a way of thinking, not feeling. It’s cognitive, not emotional. It’s figuring out the strategy to get there. It’s contagious, taught, learned, and measurable,” said Tunheim.

Above: A little girl catches sight of a great blue heron taking flight at Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia. Applying the science of hope can help facilitate positive community change.

Measuring Hope in Thurston County - Hope Thurston

Separate from his role as prosecutor, Tunheim is the public safety and justice chair with Thurston Thrives, a public-private community council with action groups that examine the root causes undermining public health.

Through a county wide survey of residents, Tunheim is assessing hope in Thurston County. Applying the science of hope can help facilitate positive community change, he says.

Communities are starting to measure hope at an individual, organizational, and community levels.  

Hope Thurston is modeled after the work of Dr. Chan Hellman at the University of Oklahoma –Tulsa who created a community map of hope called, “How Hopeful is Tulsa?” 

Hellman will measure and analyze the survey data to establish Thurston County’s “Hope Score.”

Hellman is also involved in analyzing hope survey data gathered by Kitsap Strong, a community-based organization similar to Thurston Thrives based in Kitsap County.

The Thurston County survey is at Written in plain language, it takes about 10 minutes to complete and does not require your name.

What It Means to Build a Hopeful Culture

The Hope Thurston survey process began in June in partnership with Saint Martin’s University, The Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the Thurston Chamber Foundation.

The project’s work is funded through a grant from the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound. 

A variety of methods are being used to conduct the survey. Nonprofit organizations are engaging with their clients to survey their level of hope.

To reach out to the population they are serving, the Family Support Center has already incorporated an index of “hope language” questions about their client’s goals and pathways, Tunheim said. This will help determine their clients’ “hope score.”

Tunheim says the idea is to identify why someone is feeling hopeless and target resources in the community where there is less hope.

The report produced by the survey will help direct Thurston Thrive partners for three to five years.

“We want to make Thurston County more hopeful and figure out how to reduce those barriers to feeling more hopeful,” said Tunheim.

What would it mean for Thurston County to have a higher “hope score?”

“A higher hope county is a safer county. One is more productive at work and less vulnerable to stress. Hope is the best predictor of college, higher grade point averages, healthy, lower rates of depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome. 

In the justice system, it means a lower risk of recidivism. It’s about making the community better,” Tunheim responded.

The survey will close soon and a final report is expected by the end of 2019.

The survey is downloadable and printable as a PDF. For more information about the survey, contact Jesse Knudson, Community Engagement Specialist, Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, Thurston County, at (360) 786-5540, ext. 4272.

For more information about Thurston Thrives, go to

For crisis intervention, resources or referrals, contact The Crisis Clinic at (360) 586-2800 or 1(800) 627-2211, 24 hours a day. A list of community resources is available at

The National Suicide Hotline is 1 (800) 273-TALK. Veterans, press 1

Above:  Walkers at Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia on Saturday afternoon.