We’re re-envisioning “thriving”


Part of the work of being an alive, evolving organization is to revisit the big stuff regularly. If you don’t question why you exist, what your work is, and what you believe every so often, it’s easy to get stagnant. We’ve been talking about our updated why (growing up is hard!), mission (we connect young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves), and values throughout the past year. Another important part of our continued growth is re-envisioning thriving – which is central to our vision (a world in which all young people thrive!).

But what does that really mean?

Thriving is a big topic in the positive youth development movement. In the late 20th century and early 21st, social scientists began outlining what positive inputs helped young people not just avoid harm (addiction, violence, dropping out, early pregnancy, etc) but live big, bold, rich lives. The Search Institute has a list of 40 Developmental Assets, or “building blocks,” that can give you an idea of what kinds of things help kids thrive. It’s everything from having adult role models to a sense of purpose. 

While this earlier research remains valid—and valuable—the work we’ve been doing to become an equitable organization inspired us to revisit how we define thriving at Camp Fire. We wanted this to be clear: There is no thriving without equity. There is no thriving without welcoming and affirming young people’s full selves. 

Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma

We reached out to Dr. Kia Darling-Hammond, whose research puts the “overlooked and underserved” in the center of thriving conversations. As her Bridge to Thriving Framework points out, “designing for the most impacted improves design for all.” With guidance from Dr. Darling-Hammond, we wanted to create a definition of thriving that describes what Camp Fire dreams for all young people.

You tell us: Did we get there? 


Our new definition of thriving is: 

When young people are thriving, they are connected to others, to nature, and to themselves with a loving awareness of their identities, dreams, passions and needs. They are invited to imagine their whole selves and to grow, learn and achieve in a self-determined, purpose-driven way. 

For young people in particular, finding a place where they can simply be—where they can exist fully—can be very difficult, especially when who they are is challenged by society. That’s why Camp Fire designs identity-affirming, accessible environments in which youth can experience the relationships, fun, inspiration, acceptance, safety and support they need in order to thrive. 


We’ll be talking to Dr. Darling-Hammond in more depth for an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, tell us what thriving means to you!


August 1, 2022