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The first iACTivist: A Mindful Humanitarian Pathway Retreat

“An inspiring and educational weekend that helped me truly understand the complexities of humanitarian work and the urgent need to disrupt and transform the current system.”  

In November 2019, more than 25 people gathered at a home in Redondo Beach, CA as part of the first-ever, three-day iACTivist: A Mindful Humanitarian Pathway retreat. Although the idea for this training was born years ago, it was more recently supported as part of iACT’s evolution to ignite systems change in humanitarian work and as part of the Pathways for Peace Collaborative. 

iACT has always done things differently. This training formalized iACT’s practiced approach to listen first, create solutions together, and never forget the human being in front of us by focusing on cultivating the intangibles that have made our work different, special, and successful. When we embarked on creating this training, we asked ourselves “What are the qualities of character that we want iACTivists to have?” We can, of course, provide concrete trainings around developing skills or knowledge of a subject area, but it is in the approach of the application of these skills and knowledge that makes iACT different. What we settled on was this: iACTivists are curious, creative, comfortable with uncertainty (not to be confused with unprepared), flexible, and practice relational attunement. This last one surfaced through conversations with Trudy Goodman, founding teacher of InsightLA, iACT advisor, and a mindful humanitarian who has traveled to Chad with us. Relational attunement is the practice of listening, being present and in partnership with the person and community in front of you, and then, from there, beginning to co-create what might come next. 

The first iACTivist retreat training covered: Community-driven Process, Leadership and Facilitation, Systems Thinking, Trauma-Informed Approach to Humanitarian Action, Mindful Communication, Mindful Humanitarian, Implicit Biases Reduction, and Dangerous Speech and the Path to Violence. One participant noted, “[T]here was a lot of meaningful discussion about the refugee situations that iACT is involved with and the philosophy of respect and listening first that is having a positive effect in the humanitarian world. Mindfulness is woven throughout all of the work and the programs are having a very positive effect on all those involved.”

On November 11th, the first cohort of 19 leaders received iACTivist Certificates. Our goal is to offer this training to all those interested in traveling with iACT to refugee camps, donors and philanthropists, humanitarian partner organizations, and humanitarian peers. Over the past 10 years, iACT has equipped more than 875 refugee men and women around the world with the skills to be changemakers in their community; of these, 127 are directly employed by iACT. To date, 35,706 refugee children have been introduced to mindfulness activities, mindful movement, and wellness tools they can use to help themselves restore dignity, recover from trauma, and uncover their own empowerment lost in displacement. We have inspired more than 130,000 Americans to connect more deeply with communities affected by genocide and mass atrocities and offered them ways to take action. Since 2018, iACT has been implementing a systems-level approach to our work. iACTivist: A Mindful Humanitarian Pathway is an opportunity to create a healthier system when responding and preventing genocide and when facilitating humanitarian aid and service; a healthier system where refugees’ have agency, voice, and ownership over programs affecting their futures. 

To learn more about the training or to bring it to your school, team, organization, or grantees, please email us at  


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