EMCC Global Provider Summit

24-25th November 2020


EMCC Global Provider Summit

24-25th November 2020


Jo Birch

Jo Birch: Have I got something wrong here? Opening a conversation about culture … starting with me and you

Session on 25 November 2020 07:30 UTC - View on timetable


  • How confident are you in opening a conversation about culture and difference?
  • How might you introduce the topic?
  • When is it appropriate?
  • What are the possible consequences of not having the conversation?

This is an experiential session in which we will explore our own cultural stories; how our culture impacts our work; and how we might open conversations with others.

In recent months, my fearfulness has increased. I feel afraid I might say the ‘wrong’ thing, cause distress, not know enough about theories and models of cross-cultural work or miss some unwritten language rules. This fear rising in me serves no-one. So, let’s listen and talk.

Our ability to understand the nuances of our own culture so that we might better appreciate others’ is an essential building block in achieving an inclusive society. This workshop will not end racism, or other forms of oppression that exist within our societies and systems, however it is designed for you to gain confidence in illuminating the dynamics of ‘difference’ that could play out within your work.

I’ve lived and worked in ethnically diverse inner cities most of my adult life – with friends and colleagues from local communities, originating from Ireland, Africa, Caribbean, Bangladesh and particularly women from Pakistan – at work, in friendship, celebration, birth and death.

During my Masters’ I studied lesbian voices in counselling, alongside my closest friend who focused on experiences of Black counselling students. We laughed and cried through our discoveries in our separate, yet connected, research – illuminating the impact of challenging ‘what is’, and of fear, prejudice and misunderstanding.

It is probably no coincidence that my coaching and supervision portfolio is diverse in every way! I open conversations, often in subtle ways, sometimes explicit, always intentional, about culture and draw out different world-views, perspectives and values.

Illuminating our different ways of experiencing the world can serve us in seeing more clearly intra- and inter-personal dynamics already at play, and notice wider systemic influences on our working partnerships.

Let’s listen to ourselves, let’s listen to others, and let’s talk. Taking one step at a time, with genuine childlike curiosity, gaining understanding, allowing surprise and holding each other with love and compassion….no matter what.

Learning Outcomes


  • Attune to our own cultural stories
  • Notice what happens when we talk and listen
  • Explore practice, assumptions and judgements
  • Consider ways to open conversations with our clients (coachees and supervisees)
  • And then what?


Jo Birch is an accredited coach, coaching supervisor and psychotherapist, having enjoyed an early career in nursing, specialising in child and family neuro-psychiatry, and a decade designing community health services. She now lives in Scotland, the origins of my own cultural story. Jo is fascinated by our stories and what we make of them as we go through life.

Jo is an active contributor to professional discourse. Previously Chair of BACP Coaching, she is on the Board of Association of Coaching Supervisors (AoCS); and European Association of Supervision & Coaching (EASC); a member of Special Interest Groups with AC (Supervision) & GSN (Supervision of Supervisio /Ethical Coach Co-ordinator). She holds one Public Appointment with Scotland’s Children’s Hearings and is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufacture & Commerce (FRSA)

Publications include Co-Editor of EMCC Mastery Series Coaching Supervision: Advancing Practice, Changing landscapes; Series Editor of Thinking Global in BACP Coaching Today; regular articles in professional journals, and Editor of Coaching Supervision Groups (Routledge) due out in paperback Summer 2021