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Through years of caring for survivors of torture and other forms of trauma, Phoenix Zones Initiative co-founder and CEO Dr. Hope Ferdowsian has witnessed surprising, enlightening glimpses of optimism, strength, and resilience from people and animals who have risen from the ashes even after the worst circumstances.

In observing these transformations from despair to triumph and hope, she has identified several central principles that Phoenix Zones are built upon.

Phoenix Zones are physical and virtual spaces that advance the rights, health, and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet, and enable individuals and communities to thrive. Phoenix Zones are built on acts of courage and a commitment to six key principles:

1. Liberty

Phoenix Zones go far beyond meeting basic needs and toward the freedom to make our own choices, test our own limits, and determine our own fates.

2. Sovereignty

All of us seek to be free from being controlled or harmed by others. And, like us, animals do not want to be subjected to unwanted trespasses over their bodies.

3. Love and Tolerance

Some of the most important contributors to resilience include the healing power within and across species bonds, friendship, and connection. And practices of extreme love—in the form of altruism and forgiveness—can help people and animals heal even after the most severe abuses and atrocities. Empathic, altruistic, and forgiving behaviors are biologically contagious—and they can protect against conflict in society.

4. Justice

Some populations, such as children and animals, are far more vulnerable than others, and some individuals become even more vulnerable because of their circumstances. Justice is built on correcting these inequities, and justice demands that we provide greater protections for vulnerable people and animals who bear the burdens of society.

5. Promise and Opportunity

As Phoenix Zones show, we will only realize our potential as a society if we are each given the opportunity to live up to our individual potential—whatever that may be.

6. Dignity

Dignity simply refers to worth or value. Phoenix Zones recognize the dignity of each and every one of us.


All of these principles are critical to whether we can rise from our deepest vulnerabilities, regardless of race, nationality, gender, social group, or species. But these are not new concepts. They are universally revered principles in ancient philosophy, in religious texts, and throughout democratic societies.

However, we rarely consider how these principles apply to our daily lives, choices, and actions and how we can use them to create solutions that are bigger than the problems they are meant to solve.

All individuals deserve the opportunity to thrive, which is why Phoenix Zones Initiative’s policy agenda and programs take a structural approach to remove the violent institutions that contribute to suffering among the most vulnerable.

Join us. Together, we can create a world of Phoenix Zones.

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