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Creating Safe Spaces in Community Coaching

By Leslie Brown  March 27, 2014

“We are witnessing an enormous shift of collective consciousness throughout the world. We are at the precipice of great transformation within our culture and government.” Zachary Quinto

Community ChangeMakerAs I recall my most recent community coaching convening, I can see the room filled with coaches, staff and volunteers and can remember being struck with the feeling that I was witnessing a metamorphosis.

I knew that the changemakers before me were tasked with supporting a very vulnerable population but in the moment, through coaching, I saw them transform from a team wanting to help “at-risk” individuals, to a team supporting the development of stronger neighborhoods.

After the session, I thought about what made the impactful coaching training possible, and I realized that it had a lot to do with creating safe space.

How can you create a safe community coaching space?

Community Space StepsFirst, prepare to show up authentically as a coach and facilitator.

Facilitating a community coaching session allows for the coach to play multiple roles. Coaches should be prepared to participate as both a teacher and learner during the day, in other words prepare to engage as the authentic you! Word to the wise – Don’t try to be cool…it will read as inauthentic.

Second, build shared leadership into the coaching communities co-design.

Coaching in communities allows for a lot of flexibility in the design. One of the major benefits of co-design is that coaching supports the shift of power in teams from the facilitator to participants when co-design is promoted. Word to the wise – People engage more when they feel heard and their ideas are supported.

Finally, promote confidentiality to support the teams exploration and learning.

Like all coaching, confidentiality is essential to community coaching. When convening the team for the first time, allow time to discuss confidentiality in detail. Encourage the team to discuss boundaries around any information shared outside of the group. Word to the wise – For groups convening that require report outs/notes for other stakeholders discuss how to support both exploration and safety for team members.

In my community coaching practice, I find that more and more individuals, teams and organizations are getting interested in creating collective change—they are curious around the deeper questions that get at the root of community transformation. These changemakers are looking for fresh approaches like coaching that support them moving beyond their current systems and toward nontraditional structures that encourage innovative ideas and promote new opportunities. Community coaching is providing the spaces for these changemakers to convene, connect, explore and create.Community Space Circles

As a field we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible when coaching in communities. As new populations are introduced to coaching, ideas for how to incorporate and support coaching in communities is changing dramatically.

As more and more changemakers look for fresh approaches, it’s up to me, the facilitator, to provide the appropriate space for these changemakers to convene, connect, explore and create.

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About the author:

Leslie BrownLeslie Brown, Principal of Blooming Willow Coaching, currently serves as a Community Coach and Trainer in the Bay Area. She also serves as a member of Leadership that Work’s Coaches Circle, a group that is dedicated to supporting leadership development within the field of coaching.

Leslie’s work focuses on supporting next generation leadership. She believes that through coaching, communities will be transformed by the people who understand the unique needs the most--fellow community members. Her coaching and training supports individuals and teams to boost impact--while integrating a coach-approach that propels growth and innovation. For more information about Leslie check out www.bloomingwillow.com.

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