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Impact Coaching: Launching Life Coaching into the battle for the Sustainable Development Goals

Updated: Dec 23, 2019

I left the Financial Industry inspired about Impact Investing. I came to the Coaching Industry wondering how I could also contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while helping individuals.

The Background

I decided to enrol on a course to become a Coach to provide better help for people. I wanted to help individuals reconnecting with themselves and becoming their own Life Coach. I didn’t want to be a fixer or a rescuer any more but a facilitator of lasting positive change in other human beings life.

I remember the excitement when I told my friends that I wanted to become a Life Coach. They said it was a great idea, they knew people who struggle to lose weight, living with forms of phobia, someone who need support to get that 6-figure job, people who want to be more confident about themselves. The majority think that I could make so much money in the Financial Industry setting up workshops, and that was enough to make my bright, round, helium inflated dream of starting a career as a Life Coach becoming flat, dull and lifeless.

Don’t get me wrong, helping people is my driver and those were probably very good reasons to hire a Life Coach but I didn’t want to become that kind of Coach, the one who just “help”. I didn’t want to stop there, I wanted to help people to help the World. I wanted to use my coaching skills and knowledge to make a real impact. I wanted to make sure that the change has a positive long lasting effect on Society.

But how? Helping the people who are in a key position to make a difference in the challenges that the World is facing.

Why Impact Coaching?

Unless you are a Social Media Superstar Life Coach, with countless viewers and followers, the impact that Life Coaches make will be limited to their client's life. The result is identifiable: to reach X, Y, Z goals and the wider impact in the Society may not come into the equation.

But what if actually the missing link between Life Coaches and the Society to make a difference was not only in the way they coach and make their message heard (ie. Social media) but relied too on who they Coach (clients profile)? What if Life Coaches decided to take under their wings people who can disrupt a negative pattern affecting the whole Society? What if Life Coaches could make an impact on the many by helping a few selected individuals?

Impact Coaching could be pivotal in:

  1. Using the personal development of some individuals as a breakthrough which benefit to the whole Society. By coaching key people, Life Coaches not only empower them to grow as human beings and to become the leaders of their own lives but also to become leaders in their Community or Industry, an inspiration for others and instigators of positive change.

  2. Contributing to put an end to some Global challenges by involving Life Coaches, who are specialists in “Change”.

  3. Contributing to make a lasting positive social or environmental revolution. While Coaches may not specialise in Social and Environmental topics, they can empower people who are the experts or in the best position to make a difference on those areas.

At this stage, I could then define Impact Coaching as the fact to provide coaching services to a targeted group of people to disrupt a negative scheme affecting the Society and contribute to make a lasting positive social and / or environmental change.

Who are those targeted people?

Change can be influenced by a Top-down or Bottom-up approach, or both. Impact coaching is focused on individuals who may impact their peers, the mass, a community and beyond. This focus means that there is an element of selection. Impact Coaching is like picking battles carefully. To do so, rather than selecting a group of people and looking for a potential benefit for the whole Society, Life Coaches identify a particular challenge that the society is facing and then determine the key people who could make a difference.

For example, Women are in minority in some industries harmful for the environment such as Oil and Gas, but they are also key people because they are more likely than men to be concerned about the environment and have stronger pro-climate opinions.

The relationship between the above key people and the Life Coaches is nothing more than the usual coaching relationship between a client and a Coach. And of course, as a prerequisite, those clients need to have the personal qualities to be “Coachable”. There is no hidden agenda, the Life Coaches only help their clients to reach their own personal goals. But those personal changes can unlock a Social and environmental shift.

For example, waste is a major concern in the Society and the Fashion Industry is one of the Industry the most involved in pollution and waste. According to the Institute of Coaching, 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. From this example we can see that by providing coaching services to environmentally conscious people in the fashion Industry it could lead to an increase in awareness of environmental issues and trigger a change from inside.

Impact Coaching is ultimately driven by the will to have a purpose beyond oneself and to contribute to achieve the SDGs so it’s definitely not for the Coaches with a “Mercenary” mindset driven by money. Additionally, Impact Coaching can also result in an extra financial reward for the Life Coaches as according to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, clients care more about the things Business stand for. Shared values, similar opinion or common philosophy are the main driver for loyalty. If the Life Coaches and key people connect on the same values, it can result on more committed clients for the Life Coaches.

Which impact and how to measure it?

In short, Impact Coaching is about empowering the change makers who will make a lasting positive impact in the Society. Life Coaching will be not the only factor but personal growth is also a crucial element to trigger this change. It can be summed up as: “If I change, the World change” or “Be the Change that you want to see in the World”. A radical personal change can have a deep and lasting positive effect which open new doors and perspectives for everyone. As an example, tackling the problem of self-confidence for women allowed them to realise their innate potential and to speak out to end abuse, to dare choosing careers where they are a minority or to stand up to take leadership roles and show that there are alternative ways to exercise power.

The end result is a positive impact in the Society in the Social or environmental areas. The Whole Society is the collateral beneficiary. Let’s take the case of ex-offenders. According to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), two-thirds of homeless ex-prisoners reoffend within a year. Would it sound like a fictional story to consider that Life Coaching ex-offenders to set goals and have a new chance in life could reduce this sinister statistic, show a brighter alternative for other ex-offenders and ultimately contribute to a safer Society?

How to measure impacts is always a tricky question. Rather than an Impact Coaching evaluation program which would prove difficult to be implemented, alternative ways to assess the impact coaching can be used such as measuring the output: number of clients, raise of activity, increase of coaching articles mentioning social and environmental impact... or measuring the outcome: feedback from the clients, change in behaviour, change in awareness, change in trends, change in statistics, monitoring of the news, emergence of similar initiatives, raise in the recruitment of Life Coach in Charities and Organisations, surge of interest in Impact Coaching amongst peers and people….

But before thinking data, report and others, Life Coaches have to dive in and start doing something!

What can Life Coaches actually do to make an impact?

Life Coaches can make an impact by:

  • Finding a bigger purpose beyond themselves.

  • Being open to challenges outside their comfort zone.

  • Familiarising themselves with the Sustainable Development Goals and be innovative on how their own practice can contribute to achieve them. We can all make a difference without being an expert.

  • Contributing to democratise the personal development area reaching people with less resources.

  • Giving time and becoming a volunteer Life Coach for Charities who help people in difficulty, excluded, homeless, ex-offenders or anyone hungry for a second chance in life.

  • Raising funds for those Charities. For example, a fixed percentage of revenue goes to a charity.

From your experience, what else you could do as a Life Coach to make an impact? Let me know about what you feel about serving a bigger purpose and helping to reach the SDGs.

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