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Without the Coaching Commons, Who Will Ask the Hard Questions and Provide an Independent Forum for Discussion?


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It is with some regret that we wind down the Coaching Commons. For many years I have felt that the coaching profession has become large enough and important enough to warrant its own regular news coverage.

Several years ago I published the Coaching Insider.  A professional journalist produced it and we quickly developed a good following. We were able to highlight some of the scams that were showing up in our profession.

Unfortunately we couldn’t sell enough ads to allow the publication to continue. Equally perplexing was that we contacted the many providers (training schools, publishers, associations, etc.) and asked them to keep us posted on their events and news. The lack of response was surprising given our readership, and that we were providing free publicity for them!

Fast forward a few years and with some coaching from Kennesaw State University’s Center for Sustainable Journalism on the new frontiers of Community Supported Journalism, The Harnisch Foundation launched the Coaching Commons to take over what the Coaching Insider started. We hired another talented journalist who quickly learned the coaching beat and covered the relevant issues during his tenure.

While we have lots of readers and coaches who follow the Coaching Commons, when it came time to determine how valuable it really was, fewer than 200 people stepped forward and indicated they were willing to pay!  Given the vast numbers of coaches out there, this is too small a percentage to warrant The Harnisch Foundation continuing to invest its resources in keeping the Commons going.

So as we wind down the Commons I am asking myself these questions about coaching and journalism.

-          Given the ever growing number of schools/vendors/associations, why do so few of them generate press releases, or have information that they want others to know about?

-          Is there just not a lot going on?

-          Does coaching need journalism?

-          When issues like the ICF’s credentialing changes come around again, who will ask the hard questions and provide an independent forum for discussion?

-          I think these things matter, do you?

There are 9 Responses so far...

Jonathan Sibley on January 11, 2011

When the ICF credentialing issue came along, Coaching Commons provided one of several platforms where concerns about the path the ICF was taking were discussed. It was not the only venue, and I believe it would be myopic to believe that the disappearance of the Commons would mean that an issue like credentialing would no longer be discussed.

Fewer than 200 people were willing to pay for the Coaching Commons in its current format. No vision was shared about how the Coaching Commons might evolve in the future, and I don’t believe that a compelling case was made for why the burden should be shifted from the existing funding to a broader base of coaches. There may very well be a compelling case, but I think the evidence suggests that, if so, it wasn’t made.

And, perhaps it was too late, but when questions were raised about the business model of the Coaching Commons and whether other business models might be viable, there was no public dialog.

It seems to me that the current narrative is “our readers just didn’t appreciate us enough to fund us”. Perhaps there are other discussions that are not public, but I think there are questions that are potentially interesting, in addition to the ones raised above.

Perhaps, the Coaching Commons met a need, as evidenced by the existing readership, but not enough of a need, as evidenced by the lack of willing donors. If so, does that mean it wouldn’t have been possible to create greater value? Was the best possible case made about why the current funding wouldn’t continue and why others should contribute, taking the place of the foundation? Was there any reason to expect that a thousand readers would contribute $40? Was there any research to support that?

It is sad to see the Commons go – but not just the Commons as it has evolved until now, but the Commons as it might have continued to evolve – yet there was no indication about what that evolution might have looked like.

In the end, I would love to see a dialog that includes a greater sense of shared responsibility for what has happened, and perhaps a greater dose of curiosity about what might have prevented having to wind things down.

I say this along with continued gratitude for what we have shared, and what the Harnisch Foundation and others have contributed over the past several years.

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Noel Posus on January 11, 2011

David, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments, frustrations and concerns. I’m also deeply saddened to witness what is currently happening with The Coaching Commons.

On reflection of some of your questions, and with respect to the 20 years I’ve been involved in the coaching industry in one form or another, I continue to get the impression that coaching schools, industry bodies and other groups are continuing to “fight” for their piece of the pie instead of working together to create a bigger pie.

The market is big enough for all of us and when we work together, including supporting the incredible work of The Coaching Commons, we’re able to create dramatically positive shifts in society. We can do this either one person at a time, groups, our industry and even our society.

But fear must be getting in the way…and in lots of different ways.

To share my own biggest frustration with the industry: It has been how often I have tried to encourage collaboration and cooperation and have either had it shot down, or fail, due to one or more parties making choices to act, or not act, based on fear.

I feel that fear is getting the way again, and in such a drastically negative way that The Coaching Commons may be the casualty.

To everyone reading this, please consider how you can help.

Promote The Coaching Commons and the pledge drive.

Make a commitment, even if it’s only $5. (I haven’t been able to contribute as much as I might like to either due to some recent health costs, but I was able to pledge something.)

Please help us turn around the current situation and help us to demonstrate the value of The Coaching Commons to others, so that they might also help.

Cheers and much love to Ruth Ann and the team at The Coaching Commons!

Noel Posus
Sydney, Australia

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CURT KAMPMEIER on January 11, 2011

David Goldsmith —

I absolutely agree that these things matter.

Given the number of subscribers to Coaching Commons, I am astonished at how few responded to your request for support. Especially since, as I read, a dollar from each one would have provided the funding you needed to continue.

Although I’ve been doing business, executive, and life coaching since 1973 (more than 30,000 billed hours), I’m too new to Coaching Commons and ICF to know why there is this strange anomaly. Nor do I have a solution.

But I would surely support the continuation of Coaching Commons.

Thanks for writing.

Curt Kampmeier CMC, FIMC
Columbus, Ohio
(614) 488-4401

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Elta on January 12, 2011

I wholeheartedly agree with these comments, frustrations and concerns. I’m also deeply, deeply saddened to witness what is happening but didn’t expect it so soon…

I agree with you Noel: Add to fear also envy, there are turf wars in every profession – and like you what I encountered in this industry was the most awfull professional jealousy. Yes, there are always a few collaborators with a spirit of abundance… and they deserve our gratitude.

And call me cynical for I’ve have seen this happen before and in too many orgaizations. What does this however say about the future of coaching as a prtofession?

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Liz Hall on January 13, 2011

Does coaching need journalism? Absolutely. What is the score in terms of coaching schools and associations offering up news and information?

I think this is partly because of a lack of media-savviness which still prevails in the coaching world. I think it’s partly because against the current economic backdrop, they have enough to do to survive, and yes, it is partly because they are fighting for turf.

However, I think we are seeing more collaboration- certainly in the UK anyway. As editor of Coaching at Work ( since its launch in 2005, I have seen the various professional bodies in the UK including the ICF, Association for Coaching and the European Mentoring & Coaching Council really step up their collaborative efforts.

There is still work to do- the Poor Practice survey carried out last year by Coaching at Work with the main coaching bodies showed that collaboration across the bodies was still very high on the agenda for most coaches- they wanted to see associations work together on a code of ethics, a complaints procedure etc. But it is happening slowly.

I would add to previous posts my sorrow to see Coaching Commons go and my gratitude for what you have done thus far. I never saw you as competition, the more the merrier and I applaud your in-depth investigative journalism, especially around the ICF credentialling.

Who will ask the difficult questions and provide an independent forum: Coaching at Work! We have been doing so since our launch and even more so since I bought the magazine/website from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development nearly two years ago. It’s very cheap to subscribe for a monthly newsletter, six magazines a year and free registration on our global coach list or you can join for free our Coaching at Work LinkedIn group- there are some fascinating debates going on right now.

All of you out there who want to keep the spotlight on coaching to keep it accountable and to help it become the best it can be, do consider joining the LinkedIn group and/or email me at with hot news or hot potatoes. Thanks again, Ruth-ann and all the team at Coaching Commons. Liz Hall

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Molly Gordon on January 17, 2011

Jonathan raises two important points: that the CoachingCommons provided an essential service and that the current narrative about how to shift funding is inadequate to the task. That’s not to blame anyone for the narrative, it’s just the way it is right now.

I know that I am more likely to support a venture that has a robust business model. The way the future of the Coaching Commons was presented, it felt like an invitation to participate in a shoe-string operation. There was something heavy about it and the vision for the future was insubstantial.

I see now that I might have voiced this concern earlier.

I’d be strongly inclined to support with my dollars a future with a viable financial model. There’s a chicken and egg conundrum here: without ample supporters, how can the model be viable? But I think those supporters would be more likely to show up when specific numbers and projections are laid out.

Finally, there is so much information, knowledge, and wisdom to track online. It is increasingly difficult to differentiate among these. With limited time and mental/emotional bandwidth, and with the evolution of communities on LinkedIn and Facebook, supporting a subscription service has less appeal than it might otherwise.

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michael stratford on January 17, 2011

While I feel like the forum was useful as one of many about the ICF, I can honestly say, I spent little if any other time at the website.

Perhaps the situation isn’t a question of value as it is a question of who are we as coaches? And my first answer is, that despite a ‘feeling’ of community, and collegiality, at heart, we’re Ronin…Masterless Samurai who may join a campaign if it suits us but are inherently independent to the degree that we feel no compelling collective energy strongly enough to ‘get behind’ a website to the tune of $40K a year to support a single person to do the updates,/reporting/etc and make it a part time or full time job.

It could be just that simple. And while there may be a cadre of people who enjoy the discussion, those discussion are available elsewhere in other forums, gatherings, conferences, and even occasionally at facebook.

Clearly though, in a crowd sourced world, the ‘crowd’ has said no.

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Rey Carr on January 18, 2011

It’s with great regret we have to acknowledge the passing of The Coaching Commons. We’ve relied on the their stories, articles, ideas, and their ability to identify such diverse sources. The quality of the writing has always been excellent, and when we pulled quotes and citations or noted resources from the Coaching Commons in our magazine, they always contributed to the value we could provide our members.

David has wondered who will ask the tough questions or where will independent discussion take place? It certainly won’t be within the purview of the largest coaching association to take that role. As a matter of fact it was distressing to note that not one mention of the fate of the Coaching Commons (and their donation campaign) was acknowledged in the recent newsletters of the largest association. However, to be accurate, virtually no other coaching organization, service or resources is ever mentioned in their newsletters unless there is some kind of financial partnership.

But there is an emerging venue for what David thinks will be missing when the Coaching Commons disappears: LinkedIn. There are virtually dozens of groups interested in or associated with coaching that have developed on this social networking site. While many of the questions and discussions that appear on LinkedIn are self-serving and business promotion oriented, there have been and continue to be excellent opportunities to create, read and comment on issues, trends, research and resources associated with coaching.

Long live the Spirit of the Coaching Commons.

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Vahedeh on January 19, 2011

I am so sorry to see The Coaching Commons disappear like this!

I am surprised WHY the users ans supporters of this very useful site LET this to happen!!??

It was such a pleasure to get beautifully written articles on the Latest Happenings in the coaching world, easily accessible to EVERYONE on The Coaching Commons site EVERY DAY!!

It will be greatly missed.

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