How we moved Camp Fire forward in 2021: Part 2


As we discussed in Part 1, and as you’re well aware, 2021 was a weird one. Was it its own year, or did 2020 just…keep…going? While the pandemic continues to warp our experience of time, 2021 snaps into focus when we look at the progress we’ve made on the five goals driving our five-year vision. In Part 1, we covered the progress made on the first three goals (DEI and access, anti-racism and ending cultural appropriation) with Ben Matthews. Below, two more of Camp Fire NHQ’s finest walk us through the steps we’ve taken on youth participation and environmental stewardship.



Hannah Patterson, Evaluation Manager and Youth Advisory Cabinet /Mark Your Mark leader, has been a conduit for Camp Fire’s youth voice in 2021. Partnering with Thrive Paradigm, she and Ben Matthews led the new Make Your Mark initiative,  an outgrowth of Camp Fire’s work to address and end cultural appropriation in its organization.  Make Your Mark brought eight young people together (from different councils and geographical locations) for four sessions. The goal? Make recommendations on how to replace awards and recognition items that had been using appropriated designs or practices.

“We had really great engagement,” Hannah shares. “They showed how important it was for them to have a voice in these changes by showing up. We had some really heavy conversations around stereotyping and appropriation—some participants personally had gowns and appropriated items from their councils—but they kept participating.” 

The group came to a consensus on their recommendations—badges that visually represent the award topic and the need for councils to create meaningful, but non-appropriative, rituals for recognition ceremonies, for example. Their recommendations will go to the Youth Advisory Council, and the two teams will regroup in 2022 to vote on design directions. 

Hannah emphasized that the experience of the initiative was as important as its outcome. It meant a lot to these young Camp Fire members to be leading the process. “I loved the comfortable atmosphere to be able to express my opinions,” said one Make My Mark member on a feedback survey. Another shared: “I learned that Camp Fire involves youth in a lot of their decisions, and that they are more focused on the uniqueness of the child instead of a regimented organization.” 

The Youth Advisory Cabinet also underwent some important changes in 2021. The new cabinet just began meeting in November and will meet monthly with Camp Fire’s National Leadership Team. This direct tie-in with the leadership team and the monthly meeting cadence are updates that will help Camp Fire regularly, efficiently integrate young people into the decision-making process. “It’s the consistency of it,” Hannah says. “This isn’t just a one-and-done thing. We are consistently asking young people for their opinions.” 



One of the most important steps Camp Fire took on the environmental front this year was working with Informed Change to explore council approaches that were really working. The result was an in-depth report,  Exploring Innovative Nature Engagement Practices: Supporting Camp Fire’s Commitment to Promote Environmental Stewardship and Action

Nikki Roe Cropp, Camp Fire’s Director of Program Effectiveness walked us through why the report was pivotal for the organization’s progress: 

“The work Informed Change did for us really brought to life the innovative outdoor programs councils are offering and solidified that relationships are the essential thread that’s woven into all Camp Fire programs.  I had always thought of youth development as a tool to enhance nature-based learning—infusing positive youth development practices into nature-based learning—but the report helped me see how nature-based learning can be used as the tool to deliver positive youth development—that engagement with nature can be the catalytic agent for learning, developing social-emotional skills and building impactful relationships.   

I love, too, how the report shines a light on how many of our outdoor programs promote diversity, equity, inclusion and access in very intentional ways. Our network has a huge opportunity to learn from these councils and scale practices and programs that might be useful in other similar communities where Camp Fire exists.  The stories inspire all of us to take a look at our current programs, policies, and practices and ask ourselves how we can make them more inclusive and equitable.

Camp Fire NQ is excited to take the learnings from the report to re-envision the role of nature across Camp Fire programs.” 



What’s next in Camp Fire’s environmental journey? Nikki shares: 

  • “In the new year, we will be updating our foundational training for program staff to include specific consideration on how every Camp Fire program can engage more deeply with nature, while keeping equity and access at the center.  
  • We will also be co-creating a Thriving in Nature toolkit, providing programming around the four areas of engagement with nature mentioned in the report—comfort, connection, care and conservation.  
  • We are also updating our youth survey to include questions specifically about nature engagement to truly capture the impact it is having on Camp Fire youth.  
  • Most importantly, we are going to continue to engage our local councils in sharing ideas and creating these resources for the network; we acknowledge that they are the experts and that any product we deliver for them has to include them.”



How can you help Camp Fire moving forward? 

Donate to promote equitable, youth-driven, nature-focused programming

Volunteer at a council near you. 

Sign Up for our newsletter to stay connected 

November 30, 2021

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