A coach's thoughts on co-designing a better future for all The recent European Election results for Northern Ireland, with three female politicians being elected, has been hugely encouraging for some women involved in The Next Chapter as the outcome of the election cuts straight to the aim of the project: to inspire and enable more women to enter community, public and political life. As part of the ongoing free capacity building training programme Next Chapter participants on all ten Chapters, from Louth to Foyle, have benefitted from engaging with a professional Coach to hone their vision and focus their many ideas to create the impact they wish to see for their community and wider afield. Photo: Next Chapter participants attending the #BalanceforBetter event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont Here are the thoughts of one of the coaches, Fiona Molloy: "Despite our collective experience as coaches, it is fair to say that we were unbelievably impressed by the drive and indeed the wisdom of the participants who have embraced this opportunity with great enthusiasm and took best advantage of the four sessions of coaching provided by The Next Chapter project. Many women have reported significant breakthroughs as a result-both in their work and in their lives." “The coach has helped me recognise my achievements so I can now focus on how I am going to achieve my future goals.” Next Chapter participant "Coaching is a unique form of support and differs from mentoring, counselling and many other interventions in the sense that the coach sits ‘alongside’ the coachee (the person being coached) to lead and to raise whatever discussion that they feel will benefit them the most. Coaching is a ‘no experts’ approach and it is the role of the coach to provide a reflective and non-judgmental space where coachees can bring their issues and ideas with a view to being properly listened to and heard. Central to this is the belief that a coach holds in the potential of the coachee and the certain knowledge that the coachee holds the answer to their own problem." “The space provided in coaching sessions with my coach really helped me to reflect on the issues that were important to me and allowed me to cement the best course of action in my own mind and how best to go forward with it .Fiona provides an effective non-judgmental sounding board for important discussions and I have benefited greatly from this gaining greater clarity, purpose and resolve to go forward.” Next Chapter participant "There are a number of key tools and strategies that a coach can employ to help the coachee to consider their problem. However, I believe that it is ultimately the belief that a coach holds in the wisdom of the coachee which creates a positive power dynamic in the relationship and which ultimately draws the potential of the coachee to solving their own problem. It is well known and accepted that we have greater ownership of solutions that we have a hand in devising for ourselves and the process of coaching ensures that the ownership of the way forward sits squarely with the person taking those forward steps." “My coach was very welcoming and we had a great rapport from the start. She listened intently and was able to subtly push me to explore and come up with answers to my own questions. I was able to plan a way forward with clarity.” Next Chapter participant "It was therefore entirely apt that a coaching intervention should be considered as the best means of support for a group of powerful and motivated women who are considering a greater involvement in community and political life. These women, like many others want to see change, but unlike many others are not prepared to just talk about the change they wish to see. These women want to make the change and become part of other movements which create and drive societal change and this is why coaching was such an appropriate form of support for the project. Coaching is both action centered and future focused. We may look back to the past and consider what we might have done differently in our lives and hopefully we take the learning from this which can be applied forward. But the bulk of our challenge can be in acknowledging the wisdom and resources that we have accumulated already and which can be used to resolve issues and can then be applied to creating the future we want to see both for ourselves and for our communities. This takes energy and coaching is designed to be an energizing experience. I have experienced coachees go away fully fired up to change the world and it is the harnessing of that energy that will create the change we want to see in our society." “I have been unsure about where I wanted to go in life with regards to my career and how I could reach my goals. My coach is full of knowledge and experience that I find inspiring and so she was able to provide me with the relevant information and a plan for the steps I need to take in order for me to get the best fulfillment in life. I always leave my sessions feeling confident, reassured and motivated.” Next Chapter participant "It is important to us as coaches that we equip participants with some tools that they personally can use as coping strategies to create and maintain a more positive mindset. One of these is around understanding your “Sphere of Influence” and to be able to recognize which situations you are able to control and which are outside of your control and therefore not to something we should waste our energy on. We also look at how challenges and difficulties can be re-framed so that the benefit and the learning can be retrieved from these." “The coach is very professional and knowledgeable in her role and she is a very effective listener who inspires and motivates you to be the best version of yourself. She provides tools for you to visualise and achieve your goals and uses your strengths to assist you in pursuing what makes you happy and productive in your life.” Next Chapter participant Fiona Molloy is an AC Accredited Executive Coach and runs FM Coaching. Fiona is one of a Panel of five Coaches working with CO3 to deliver on this project for The Next Chapter. Next Chapter participants can avail of up to four one to one coaching sessions and to date over 140 women have taken up the offer of coaching. The Coaching Panel consists of: “All in all, coaching The Next Chapter participants has been a hugely rewarding experience for the coaches involved,” explained Tracey McCreanor, CO3’s Corporate Services Manager. “By focusing on the women’s individual growth and development, we have been able to see how the new found confidence and learning has been applied to community projects across the region. The recent European Election has been a very positive start in the cause to get more women involved in political life and we should be hugely encouraged that initiatives such as the Next Chapter will bear more fruit for the future.” CO3 Chief Officers 3rd Sector is a leading membership-based organisation that focuses on supporting, developing and connecting Third Sector leaders in Northern Ireland we currently have just under 850 members. CO3 has run its own Executive Mentoring Programme for almost 15 years and has worked in partnership with a range of partnership organisations to deliver coaching and mentoring including the NI Assembly, Halifax and Ulster University. The Next Chapter project is funded through the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for The Next Chapter project is provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.