As each new year rolls in, Jayma is known to choose a word to serve as her North Star for the journey ahead. This year, we are both also drawn to a phrase that our colleague and mentor, Bill Sharpe, has shared with us: deep realism and active hope.

Looking out at the start of 2024, it can be easy to slip into the despair of our daily news feeds. Yet beyond the disheartening headlines, there is also evidence of incredible progress — both globally, and within the communities and organizations around us.

At the global level, we’ve seen significant reductions in the past year in child mortality and the number of those living in extreme poverty. We’ve made big leaps towards eradicating diseases like polio, and we’re seeing exponential change in renewables and electric vehicles at rates faster than predicted.

At the regional and local levels, we see inspiring leaders who are innovating courageously to make progress, often under the radar and in the face of great odds. This includes people in the Leaders’ Quest community with whom we are privileged to spend time, learn from and call our friends:

  • In the face of unimaginable loss and trauma, the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is a coalition of over 160 organizations — including tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians — that is working to build cooperation and mutual understanding. ALLMEP’s community of leaders is meeting this moment with deep empathy and the conviction that peace is possible. Experience some of their stories from the field.

  • Akshaya Patra is an organization based in Bangalore that prepares and delivers two million meals to children in 20,000 schools across India every day. The team applies a sense of mission to build the world’s largest school lunch program, showcasing purposeful ambition and innovation at scale to combat food insecurity and malnutrition.

  • Sweden-based Northvolt is a global leader in battery technology that is using its capacity for innovation to transform supply chains and transportation. Emma Nehrenheim, Northvolt’s Chief Environmental Officer, is working on delivering the world’s greenest battery. Her TED Countdown Talk in Detroit last July is an inspiring summary of what’s possible through clean energy, and how we can vastly reduce environmental impact while powering the future.

These stories demonstrate how facing the truth of our circumstances does not negate hope, but fuels it. We highlight these not to detract from the conflict and crises we face collectively, but to remind ourselves that human beings can accomplish extraordinary things when we choose agency over despair. Drawing from the insights of author Joanna Macy, Bill Sharpe defines hope as ‘the belief that in acting from our own sense of human integrity we are creating the possibility of a wider pattern of human renewal around us’.

Our intention for 2024 is to use deep realism and active hope to guide our choices at LQ. We see it as a leadership muscle to build daily – to stay awake to the challenges in the world, while seeking out examples that demonstrate extraordinary change is possible and is happening around us every day.