What we do & why we do it
At Images & Voices of Hope (ivoh), we believe that media can create meaningful, positive change in the world. Our global community includes journalists, documentary filmmakers, photographers, social media specialists, gamers and more. Our common thread as a nonprofit is the desire to effect positive change through our work in media.
To this end, our mission is to strengthen the role of media as agents of world benefit.
To us, positive change is about focusing on the world we want to live in – not only problem solving the world we have. It’s not about glossing difficult truths. It’s about amplifying the best in human nature and whenever possible shining a light on the steps we can take towards the future we want.
The work we do:
- In 2015, we launched a new Restorative Narrative Fellowship program, which provides five journalists with a stipend to spend six months telling Restorative Narratives in various communities. One of our goals with the fellowship is to deepen our understanding of Restorative Narrative — a term we coined to describe a genre of stories that show how people and communities are learning to rebuild and recover in the aftermath, or midst of, difficult times. Throughout the fellowship, we want to give more media practitioners the opportunity to tell these narratives — which locate the opportunity in disruption and move beyond questions of “what happened?” to questions of “what’s possible?” We highlight Restorative Narratives on our website and also hold discussions about why these narratives are important to society. Along these lines, we are also interested in Solutions Journalism, Peace Journalism and Constructive Journalism.
- We publish several stories a week that highlight how the media is having a positive, meaningful impact in society. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with the media industry, (plenty of people and websites do that) we focus on media that is strengthening people and societies. We also identify stories about people and communities that are finding a way forward after tragedies and other difficult times. Our website fills a gap and an important need.
- We hold an annual media summit, our signature event, in the Catskill mountains in New York. At the summit, we convene media practitioners to engage in a dialogue about strength-based story development. We integrate reflective practice into our dialogues and offer a separate retreat day for those interested in learning to meditate. The summit has attracted people from around the world who care about the media’s role in society.
- We hold local conversations that are similar to our summit but shorter and focused on a particular city. These conversations are at the heart of our belief that it’s important to give media practitioners an opportunity to reflect on their work and the impact it has. Kuala Lumpur, Halifax, Chile and Miami are just some of the places where we’ve held conversations. During these conversations and at our summit, we ask strength-based questions that help media makers to reflect more deeply about the work they do — on their personal mission and the social impact they want their work to have.
- As we grow our organization, we are exploring ways to support the work of journalists, filmmakers, photographers and others who want to create restorative narratives and other forms of strength-based narrative. We’ve started to do some training around Restorative Narratives and how the media can create positive change. We are also working with the University of Oregon on research related to Restorative Narrative.
Why we do it:
Since 1999, ivoh has been dedicated to our mission of strengthening media coverage — and thereby the communities that the media covers.
We pursue our work with the understanding that media has a significant impact on communities — in both positive and negative ways. A 2014 study from the University of California at Irvine found that repeatedly consuming traumatic news can cause acute stress.
“We suspect that there’s something about repeated exposure to violent images or sounds that keeps traumatic events alive and can prolong the stress response in vulnerable people,” one of the study’s authors wrote. “There is mounting evidence that live and video images of traumatic news events can trigger flashbacks and encourage fear conditioning. If repeatedly viewing traumatic images reactivates fear or threat responses in the brain and promotes rumination, there could be serious health consequences.”
ivoh is considering how media might create stories and images that go beyond tragedy and trauma — to recovery and resilience. By telling more stories about people and communities that are exhibiting resilience, the media can support their latent strength and recovery and empower other people and communities to be resilient. Research shows that resilience is an acquired skill.
Research has also found that uplifting news can motivate people to do good in the world. A 2011 study in the Journal of Psychology and Personality and Social Psychology looked at the warm, uplifting feeling people get from watching someone act with compassion or courage — a feeling that psychologists refer to as “moral elevation.” This feeling of elevation supports people’s belief in the goodness of humanity, induces positive emotions, and inspires people to act more altruistically.
Similarly, positive psychologist Barbara Frederickson has found that witnessing and hearing about positive emotions such as kindness and generosity can “broaden the scopes of attention, cognition and action and build physical, intellectual and social resources — enduring personal resources, which function as reserves to be drawn on later to manage future threats.”
As evidence of the impact of images and messages of strength continues to mount, we want to share the research and help build the capacity of those in media to work as agents of benefit to the world. This goal inspires us and is woven throughout our work.
How we got started:
Images & Voices of Hope (ivoh) was founded in 1999 with a media dialogue among 180 professionals in Manhattan. At the time, a shared interest in the media’s impact on society brought together three organizations: the Visions of a Better World Foundation, the Brahma Kumaris, and the Center for Advances in Appreciative Inquiry at Case Western Reserve University. The result of their shared interest was ivoh, which became an independent 501C 3 in 2008. We remain committed to a strength-based inquiry into media’s impact on the world and to expanding the capacity of media to strengthen societies they cover.
Click here to read more about ivoh’s history