YDI and Flourish Agenda Promote “Radical Healing” for Youth Practitioners


YDI is proud to have partnered with Flourish Agenda to co-host their first Radical Healing Retreat on the East Coast. Based in Oakland, California, Flourish Agenda and their leader, Shawn Ginwright, are on a mission to engage and heal young people of color and unleash their potential. The Retreat was an opportunity to bring together youth development professionals to introduce them to the Flourish Agenda framework and experience deeply its core concept of radical healing.

For Flourish Agenda, radical healing is a process that acknowledges the trauma caused by social oppression, and places healing at the center of the work required to recover, achieve well-being and promote long-standing institutional change.

The Radical Healing Retreat was held the weekend of October 19-21 at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, NY. The idea behind the Retreat is to provide space for youth development professionals to come together to reflect on how they themselves may need to heal, and to use this self- awareness to enact change in their personal lives and in their work that will ultimately lead to a change for the young people they work with.

The Retreat focused on a framework referred to as CARMA, representing Culture, Agency, Relationships, Meaning and Aspirations. Over the course of the three-day retreat, participants worked together in large group and small “village” settings to dive deep into these framework principles through discussion and activities that encouraged participants to personalize and internalize the concepts. Facilitators supported villages to each create their own norms and values and become intimate learning communities for healing insights. Village facilitators helped weave the content presented in the large group format into meaningful moments of reflection, learning and healing. For example, participants created vision boards to imagine and make concrete what healing would look like in their personal and professional lives. They planted “soul” flowers – seed bombs that will become a tangible artifact of a vision created at the retreat that can be cultivated once home. CARMA collages got participants thinking about the relevance of the principles to their life and prepared them to start thinking about how they can create change and build capacity in their work sites and personal lives after the retreat. 

One of the most challenging of the retreat concepts was “Othering.” Ginwright explained that othering is a pattern of attitudes and behaviors people tend to adopt when identifying with their “tribe;” those people who feel most like them. When we “other” people, we are polarizing ourselves as the good “us” and the people being othered as the bad “them.” Ginwright argues that we can challenge this with the idea of “belonging” wherein we eradicate the “us” and “them” and find instead our commonalities and shared humanity.  Facilitators encouraged participants to examine how they have “othered” people and what it would look like to instead, “see the humanity and build capacity even in those we despise.” This discussion triggered a pivotal point in the retreat where the framework and its components came together and participants became ready to implement the radical healing framework outside of the retreat setting.

On the final day of the retreat, using the radical healing framework and tools, participants identified tangible goals they wanted to cultivate after the retreat, the assets and resources they already had available to them to support making these goals a reality, the CARMA principles they wanted to use to build capacity and create change in their lives moving forward, and how they would build community to sustain change over time.