When I entered the Coaching for Transformation (CFT) Pilot program in the Spring of 2012, little did I know what a profound impact the program would have on me and my work with social justice groups. Coming from a long background in racial justice, philanthropy and community organizing work, I was not sure what the program would have to offer me. But I knew, after many years of working on big policy and community change efforts that I needed something that would bring me closer to people—something that spoke to my politics and my view of the world, as well as to my need for connection and heartfelt impact.
With Belma González's urging I took a leap of faith and committed to the CFT training. I have to admit that I spent a lot of time on the first weekend wondering what I was doing in the program. When we got to the core CFT principles I remember feeling especially triggered by the one called Freedom, “When we remember that everyone has the freedom to choose their own path, we free ourselves from judgment and taking responsibility for them—for what we think is best for them.”
Based on many conversations within our group over the ensuing nine months, I was definitely not the only person who felt uncomfortable with this idea. Wholesale personal freedom flew directly in the face of a lifetime of work that we had been engaged in to name and challenge racism and structural inequality.
While it was easy to be critical of some of the core beliefs in traditional coaching, it was even more challenging to think about new concepts or paradigms that would be useful to us as activists and people working towards justice.
This “yearning” for something that would utilize the most valuable coaching skills and also honor our analysis of pervasive structural racism and inequality led seven people in that CFT cohort to create Coaching for Justice. Two years later we are still meeting every month and have built an informal organization to make professional coaching more accessible to people of color, social change non-profit organizations and leaders. Legitimizing self care, practicing compassionate yet firm accountability, and aligning personal vision with organizational vision are some of the ways coaching has been especially helpful for social justice leaders in particular.
We are continuing the conversation about the intersection of coaching and social justice in order to clarify the unique gifts coaching has to bring to our movement (and when and how to partner with other different kinds of movement building efforts).
In addition to the work that we do individually with leaders and staff, we have taken on innovative organizational clients including: SF Women Against Rape, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing and the Center for Domestic Peace. We take on projects that help make social justice real through coaching, often supporting advocates, organizers, coalition and network leaders, and other movement builders to bring a coaching mindset, and add applicable tools, to their existing skill set.
What are the connections you see between coaching and social justice work? What are the ways coaching can help us to think broadly about social change? What are the blind spots in traditional coaching? What are you doing right now to address those?
About the author:
Amanda Berger, CPC brings twenty-five years of social justice experience to her coaching practice. Amanda has an extensive background in progressive philanthropy and transformational leadership development through her work with the Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing, the Women Donors’ Network, Rockwood Leadership Institute and Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER).
Amanda brings practical experience, direct communication, compassion and accountability to her coaching sessions. In addition to her coaching practice, Amanda consults with foundations and social change organizations interested in fostering collaboration, learning communities, networks and policy change. She is a volunteer on a project to expand partnerships between colleges and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people in CA. Amanda is an affiliated coach with RoadMap, Rockwood Leadership Institute and a co-founder of Coaching for Justice. Amanda lives in the Bay Area, has two daughters and a “cat-dog” named Zuma.
Amanda is daring herself to be more light hearted and to go boogie boarding in the Pacific Ocean as often as she can (with a wetsuit).