Foundations In Resilience Education
The Foundations In Resilience Education Fellowship (FIRE) is an immersive learning journey for young adults, designed to weave together spirituality, social justice, nature connection, and leadership for relevant action.
FIRE aims to support young leaders, ages 18-30, to deepen their foundation in practices for resilience and emergence, and thereby increase their capacity to respond to the needs of their communities, and the world. The fellowship brings together a diverse cohort to create a common space for growth, renewal, collaboration, and action. As a collaboration between The Ojai Foundation (TOF) and Youth Passageways (YPW), FIRE is not so much a program as it is an investment, in leaders and in relationships, as we collectively respond to the cultural and ecological challenges and opportunities of our times.
Who Can Apply?
The fellowship is designed for cohorts of up to 18 fellows. Fellows are selected through an open application process. While the fellowship is open to all, we strongly encourage people who have traditionally faced barriers to education to apply. We also encourage individuals from the same community or organization to apply together, to build in ongoing support during and after the fellowship. Our inaugural year is primarily focused on the Central and Southern California bioregion. Priority will be given to applicants with relational and professional commitments in this region.
The application period is now closed.
FIRE is based primarily at The Ojai Foundation, a 36-acre land sanctuary in Ojai, California.
We recognize that access to education is a privilege not equitably available to all people. With this in mind, FIRE is designed to remove economic barriers to access, and is built on the principles of a gift economy. Fellows are awarded their tuition costs, room and board, and gifted a $2000 grant toward a service project of their choice. Fellows are asked to engage in stewardship practices, and to commit time, energy, reciprocity, and to “pay it forward.” Paying it forward includes helping to raise funds for future fellows, service work, stewardship of the campus, and support of the public offerings that weave throughout the fellowship. Initial funding for FIRE is provided through a generous seed grant, with the aim to build momentum and engage a broad cohort of funders, including individuals and foundations.
The fellowship is designed for both deep immersion and self-directed learning. In this way, there is an in-breath and out-breath for the group, coming together and going apart, which is also designed to support incorporation. FIRE is comprised of four in-person sessions, video-based conference calls, and a final session at the one-year anniversary of commencement. One of the best practices for incorporating big changes, as we have learned it, is to mark the one-year anniversary of a threshold or initiatory experience. In this vein, fellows will be invited to return one year after their completion, both for a reunion and for witnessing of one another, one year later, as well as supporting the baton passing and community building with the next year’s cohort of fellows.
The inspiration for FIRE arose quite literally out of the ashes of the Thomas Fire at TOF, and later through partnership with YPW, an organization born out of the fires of cross-cultural conflict and collaboration. In the wake of these transformative experiences, the idea of education for resilience emerged as a meaningful response. As we have explored and experienced fire, and reckoned with its profound impact on our planet and our work in the world, we find ourselves called to deepen our relationship with this element and its transformative power. So too, are we called to deepen our relationship with the foundational practices that have grown and sustained us and our broader communities, namely council, rites of passage, and intergenerational mentorship. Through these efforts, and in this time of global climate crisis, we seek a more balanced relationship with fire.
The FIRE Fellowship is intended to be a learning journey, centered around a learning community. It contains a body of work that is a combination of practices and knowledge transmitted and learned through intergenerational relationships, ecosystems, frameworks developed by the guides, and emergent curriculum. Throughout the fellowship, the guides will work to acknowledge sources of ideas, practices, and other elements of the curriculum.
What follows is the basic framework that informs the overall structure of The FIRE Fellowship curriculum. We offer these as a beginning place for our collective inquiry into deeper relationship with fire, place, and community. These include:
Core Intentions of FIRE
Four Faces of Fire
Principles of Resilience
Core Intentions of FIRE
The FIRE Fellowship is designed to strengthen the capacity of individuals, organizations, networks, and ecosystems—to sustain, to respond, and to enhance wellbeing. While we know that we cannot predict with certainty the outcomes of our actions, we also know the power of intentions. What follows are the underlying intentions for FIRE—for the fellows, the guides, and for the participating communities and organizations:
We aim to deepen our relationship with fire, and through it, our relationship with the Earth.
We seek to develop and deepen relationships amongst a diverse cohort and strengthen the broader network supporting collective change work.
We envision an exchange and evolution of practices and skills, and their implementation in meaningful service projects in diverse communities and organizations.
We strive to foster resilience in individuals and human communities, as well as in the greater ecosystems of which we are a part, that we may ever move toward collective wellbeing.
Four Faces of Fire
Like all of the elements, fire is made up of many faces: lightning, flames, electricity, the Sun, and more. Beyond these more physical manifestations are the many additional ways that we as humans engage with, speak about, and understand fire as an integral part of our experience of the world. The FIRE Fellowship begins with an exploration of four of these faces, to serve as gateways for our deepening understanding.
The Relationship Our Ancestors Had With Fire
The human relationship with fire is possibly one of the most significant markers in the birth of our species. While we recognize that every being has a unique skill set and gifts to offer, we know of no other species that utilizes fire as we humans do. What is the evolution of this relationship? What do we know of the many different personal, cultural, and ecological ways of being with fire? In what ways do the old practices–from fire-making, fire-tending, cooking over fire, and sharing stories around fire, to broad scale land-stewardship through fire–inform our humanity, our place in the order of things, and our future?
The Quiet Fire Burning Within Us
The fellowship offers time and space to tend to the inner life. This includes a guided nature-based solo and fast: a time to go within, even as we go out onto the land. This supports us to explore fire not only as an external element but also an internal one. In order to build and strengthen the foundation of inner resilience, we ask: What are the personal fires that we tend? What are the inner fires that burn steadily, motivating us in our daily work? What else is needed in these realms as we build our bundles of resilience and deepen our capacity to serve?
The Global Fire Burning Around Us
The age of information has left little doubt about the severity of the global fire burning around us, which at times has been called “global warming.” With ice caps melting, sea levels rising, desertification, and the accompanying political and social crises, denial and hope seem equally misplaced. As we midwife systems collapse and plant the seeds of health and justice in the wake of destruction, we see the possibility for those operating from the stable base of a resilient inner sanctuary to reach outward, and serve our communities. It is from this place, of deep humility and emergent possibilities, that we seek to act; it is from this place that we ask fellows to design and implement a service project in their community or organization, with individual mentoring and support from the fellowship. With this core work of the fellowship, we bolster the foundation of stewardship, not only of our places but also of our communities, and in so doing we support the integration of health in ever-wider circles.
The Spiritual Fire Guiding Us
Fire, while capable of immense destruction, also has the capacity to serve as our light in the darkness. When unable to see what is ahead, or what is around us, we humans have turned toward the bright light of a candle, a torch, or an open flame to illuminate our path. Not only the light emanating from the fire, but also the fire itself, has the capacity to guide us. Thus, as the launching point into the unknown beyond the final session of The FIRE Fellowship, like the final threshold in an initiation, we explore guidance, and next steps, stories, and our continued work, to help us navigate what is coming. We look to fire as both a source of our current crisis and also as a potent guide, recognizing that this crisis carries with it the possibility of bringing us closer to our humanity, and into greater balance with this Earth, than we might otherwise achieve.
Principles of Resilience
The following principles support a foundation for inner and outer resilience, as we move forward in uncertain times. These guide and inform the curriculum of the fellowship.
Place relationship at the center: relationships with self, people, place, planet, and the elements. Honor intergenerational exchange and collaboration. Center those whose perspectives are often pushed to the margins.
Court the arrival of something unexpected, and greater than the sum of the parts. Avoid trying to solve problems with the same thinking that created them.
ENGAGE NATURE AS TEACHER
Learn from the principles of nature, including in design, rhythm, interconnection, and cycles.
GLOCAL CARE & ACTION
Witness the linkages between the big story and the small story, the global and the local–the glocal. Acknowledge personal choices as political actions.
Honor a pace and approach that supports recharge, regeneration, and rest. Cultivate inner and outer places of refuge.
Emphasize incorporation of transformative experiences and learning. Prioritize integrating practices back into local communities, networks, and projects.
The Story Behind The FIRE Fellowship
On December 4, 2017, The Ojai Foundation (TOF) found itself on a living edge of monumental change as the Thomas Fire, then the largest wildfire in California history, took to the ridge TOF has called home for more than 40 years. In less than 12 hours, the fire destroyed 80 percent of The Foundation’s structures, altering the human and natural landscapes. This was a tremendous loss to The Foundation, destroying much of what had been built, stewarded and tended by many people over many years. With the sudden loss and change, most of the staff were out of a job, and a place of deep refuge for many–including individuals, schools, and organizations–was rendered temporarily unavailable and permanently changed. Through it all, though TOF sustained sudden and heavy damages, the foundation offered by the core practices supported the greatly reduced, bare-bones staff to remain engaged with the community and TOF’s mission and vision, even as the doors closed to onsite programming and major recovery efforts ensued. The Thomas Fire was part of an initiation for TOF and the current leadership into the next phase of the organization’s work and service. Among the gifts of these years is a more deeply embodied understanding of resilience—in the natural and human landscape. The Thomas Fire inspired both the birth of the form of The FIRE Fellowship and its name.
For over four decades, TOF has been a meeting ground and spiritual crossroads, hosting a multicultural, intergenerational learning community. As such, TOF has been the site of many important convergences, including one that gave birth to Youth Passageways (YPW). In 2013, TOF hosted a meeting of cultural practitioners, community organizers, and rite of passage guides. This network would come to be known as YPW. TOF has been in partnership with YPW since its inception. Since 2013, YPW has provided partners an opportunity to deepen and build relationships, share transformative practices, and evolve cross-cultural protocols for ceremony, all while weaving stronger circles of community to navigate times of global transformation. As a diverse, intergenerational meeting ground, YPW was born out of the fires of cross-cultural conflict, and bonded through a shared commitment to supporting young people’s development toward mature adulthood.
Both TOF and YPW are committed to supporting young and emerging leaders and strengthening communities of practice. The FIRE Fellowship is a collaboration between these two social-profit organizations, engaging our opportunity to deepen partnerships and relationships among the next generation, while connecting them with mid-life leaders and visionary elders. This fellowship aims to help emerging leaders prepare to carry forth the legacy of cultural visionaries who have come before—with the new gifts of the times that allow for bold action and new depths of interconnectedness.