New Program: Peer Coaching for International Development Professionals

by Shana Montesol Johnson

UPDATE as of February 15, 2012: We now have over 150 international development professionals who have expressed an interest in being matched with a peer coach through the pilot program. If you’re interested in peer coaching, please read on, and fill out our survey!





A few months ago, I wrote a post about how development and aid workers can overcome isolation at work — through peer coaching. Here’s an excerpt:

A peer coach is someone who is at a similar level to you in your organization (or even in another organization).  He or she knows and/or understands your work context. While not trained as a coach, he or she is willing to coach you according to a simple (yet effective) peer coaching model. This involves actively listening without judgment, reflecting back what he/she is hearing, asking probing questions, and helping you generate concrete action steps to move you forward.

In my experience and observation, the only people in international development organizations who are offered professional coaching (paid for by the employer) tend to be those at the very top, e.g., executive leaders, country directors, managers at a certain level, etc. As an advocate of coaching who has seen the fantastic results it can bring about, I would love to see this trend shift toward more organizations supporting their staff, at all levels, with coaching opportunities. In the meantime, however, peer coaching can be an effective model to help international development professionals to overcome isolation, enhance their personal effectiveness on the job, and deliver stronger organizational results.

After reading the post, my friends at contacted me with the idea of connecting aid and development workers with peer coaches. I am collaborating with them to develop a no-cost program that would match people in international development with a peer coach at a similar level of experience.

Peer coaching is different than mentoring or advising – it is not based on the premise that your peer coach knows better or is more experienced than you. A peer coach’s job is not to give you advice or tell you what they think you should do. A peer coach’s role is to listen, to provide a sounding board, and help you find the answers yourself.

We are still in the design phase, and would like to get your thoughts through a short online survey. Please click here and give us your input. (Don’t worry, it takes less than 5 minutes to fill out.)

While the site tends to tilt toward the Gen Y crowd – young professionals, graduate students, and others starting out in aid and international development – I believe that people at all levels of experience (and ages) can benefit from peer coaching. So even if you’re not a Gen Y-er, if you’re intrigued by the notion of peer coaching and would welcome the opportunity to be matched with a peer coach at a similar level of work experience, I encourage you to go ahead and complete the survey.

I look forward to seeing this initiative unfold. Please let me know if you’ve got any questions!


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