Written by Aimie Kawai in collaboration with Brianna Jones:
Empowerment. It’s a word that came up repeatedly in my conversation with the Communities Rise Capacity Building Coaches. Empowering others and empowering ourselves. The crucial work of lifting one another up so that together we can overcome structural barriers and achieve our goals. It’s a value that is a pivotal part of how our coaches approach their programs and is displayed in their coaching styles and philosophies.
I was honored to have the chance to sit down with our Capacity Building Coaches, Bridgette Hempstead (also known as Ms. B) and Khyree Smith, to chat about their work. Ms. B and Khyree bring to CR a wealth of knowledge and experience in community building and leadership development, and center their work on relationship building. Both of them had prior experience as a participant in our cohorts, which greatly informs their perspective and coaching today.
Khyree joins us after years of experience in youth and sports programming. He spoke in depth about how important it is for him to get an understanding of more than just what an individual or organization’s goal is, but get to the why of the work and the whole picture of what they’re trying to achieve. A coach can notice ways goals are connected to one another and offer perspective on their context. For each coaching session, Khyree grounds the space for folks to bring their whole selves – noticing where people are in that moment, whether they’re ready for learning, figure out what they’re looking forward to, and what brings them peace and joy.
Ms. B has been coaching in various capacities for over 40 years, ranging broadly from professional to peer spaces, and joined CR as a coach in 2020. She emphasized the role of vulnerability in any of these relationships, and how important it is for it to exist both ways between the coach and individual. Ms. B is famous for reminding us that “this is heart work not hard work.” By building trust and getting to know one another right from the beginning of a coaching relationship, it is made clear that the intention is to support them and work together. This allows her to notice their work from a different perspective and “bring out the strengths that they may see as weaknesses.”
And the strength of both of their people-driven approaches to coaching speaks for itself. In this past cohort year, Ms. Bridgette supported all 8 of our Seattle-based cohort organizations in completing the majority of their work plan goals, as well as connecting organizations to over $50,000 in funding. Khyree worked with organizations in our Communities of Opportunity Cohort and assisted them in having hard conversations about mission/vision growth, organizational structure changes, and learning to thrive in the midst of leadership transition. These two have continued to do transformational work with organizations in our 2022 cohorts, and are excited to continue with their favorite part of the work – building a more empowered community by learning together and most importantly, building deep cross-community connections.