Uniting ICF Chapters During Tragedy to Evoke Positive Social Impact - International Coaching Federation
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Uniting ICF Chapters During Tragedy to Evoke Positive Social Impact

When Marlene Thomas’s phone rang in March of this year, she had no idea the war in Ukraine would be on the other end of the line. It came in the form of a fellow ICF coach who had a special understanding for the humanity of individuals living through a tragedy many people around the world might barely comprehend.

The caller was Larysa Homans, former president of the ICF Ukraine Chapter. Though she was calling from her home in Virginia, she had an acute understanding from her many years in the country that Ukrainian coaches were in deep turmoil. Their homes were being invaded, their families separated, and their lives and country were at risk. Even those lucky enough to avoid the greatest peril were still faced with losing their income and access to credit.

In their conversation, Larysa shared these challenges with Marlene, and suggested that, as president of the ICF Metro DC Chapter, Marlene could be a vital asset in bringing their Ukrainian colleagues much-needed support. Marlene was excited at the idea and reached out to the Metro DC Chapter’s Pro Bono Program Director Kenny Leahman for additional assistance. Together, they started planning.

Taking Quick Action

The fastest way for the Metro DC Chapter to offer support to their Ukrainian colleagues was through pro bono peer-to-peer coaching in English. Marlene and Kenny sent a call to action to all Metro DC Chapter members. In response, they received interest from more than 65 coaches volunteering their services.

“Larysa helped us form a deeper understanding of what the requirements were for the Ukrainian coaches seeking support,” said Kenny. “Neither Marlene nor I could even begin to presume what they were experiencing, and we needed the kind of clear awareness that Larysa was able to provide.”

Following the success of the initial peer-to-peer coaching, it was evident that there was value in expanding this partnership further. Based on the number of volunteer coaches, as well as the level of interest from Ukrainian coaches seeking support, Marlene and Kenny felt compelled to find ways to expand the program.

Ultimately, the offering evolved to include pro bono group coaching in addition to individualized engagements, first in English and later in Ukrainian. Through these additional elements, the Metro DC Chapter was able to support 19 more Ukrainian coaches, this time in their native language, albeit with the aid of translators provided by the Ukraine Chapter.

The Coaching Difference

Tetiana Lepekha — an ICF-Credentialed coach based in Kyiv, and one of the ICF Ukraine Chapter founders — was among those whose lives were upended by the Russian invasion. When hostilities began, she didn’t know what was happening. All she knew was her family and friends living elsewhere were calling her frantically. Less than three weeks later, Tetiana made the difficult choice to shutter her coaching practice. Many of her colleagues, especially those with children, left Ukraine.

“The real partnership that this collaboration created was through the group coaching sessions,” Tetiana explained. “The ability of individuals to share their experience led to a true shift in our coaches’ capacity to cope with the current circumstances.”

Tetiana sees a long future for the partnership between the two chapters. With this as an example, she is hopeful that similar collaborations will occur between other ICF Chapters.

“Such coaching partnerships create a real sense of community, led by shared values and a focus on humanity,” said Tetiana. “By using these aligning values to drive coaching activity, it is apparent why many members choose to be part of the ICF community — they can live the values they affirm every day.”

“It truly takes a village,” added Marlene. “As long as an ICF Chapter has the passion to help drive social impact, this beautiful partnership can be replicated around the world. It starts with a chapter’s board of directors. You’ve got to have a board that wants to roll up their sleeves, get involved in the community, and really commit to the work it takes to make this kind of change.” In the Metro DC Chapter, every board member is a volunteer coach in at least one pro bono program.

The Measurable Value of Collaboration

As of September 2022, 19 Metro DC Chapter coach volunteers had donated 190 hours of pro bono coaching to support 35 Ukrainian coaches.

The collaboration between the Metro DC and Ukraine Chapters led them to become close-knit and highly integrated, redefining the way chapters can work together to achieve greater successes. Now, other ICF Chapters and members are encouraged to discover where else initiatives like this can be activated throughout the world.

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