2021 ACTO Virtual Conference

Leveling Up: Integrating Equity and Inclusion with Excellence in Coach Training


We are delighted to announce the following Keynote Presenters for the Virtual Conference:

Opening Keynote: Robert Stephenson: Driving the Narrative: Creating New Stories to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in Coaching

Black, British, Male; Father, the first and only Black leader of a coaching school in the UK, a  performing arts background and love of stories and narrative led to many years of working with young people in the education system before training as a coach. Coach; trainer; facilitator; leader, thought leader, influencer and podcast host aiming to challenge the coaching profession and empower others to find more meaningful change.

Robert Stephenson is a Coach, Trainer, Mentor, Speaker and the Centre Director of Animas, a diversified coaching school in the UK and Europe.

Accredited by the ICF, AC, and ILM, Robert started at Animas by delivering specialist CPD courses, including the Certificate in Group Coaching and the Certificate in Youth Coaching, which he co-created with Animas Founder Nick Bolton. Robert’s true love in coaching is using the multi-sensory and multi-dimensional process of narrative coaching to allow new stories to emerge within a client’s world!

When he’s not presenting Animas lectures and talks, you can see him challenging diversity and inclusion in coaching, leadership and beyond as host of the Animas podcast, Coaching Uncaged.

We will explore the narratives of diversity within the coaching space and profession. Exploring the stories and narratives that we each hold, around coaching and our capabilities. In looking around at the coaching industry, big conferences and events, in not seeing ourselves necessarily represented, whether that’s represented in our race, age, gender, cultural background etc. what does that say to us?

And in leaning into that lack of representation and deciding not to attend etc. We can play into that and create a loop that continues to contribute to the issue. And how from a personal perspective we can challenge this by attending these events, and being the face that shows others what’s possible, but also as an organisation how we can encourage those that don’t see themselves in those spaces to show up and feel included and valued.

Closing Keynote: Monsoon Bissell: Coaching for Wholeness: A multi-polar world, a need for belonging and making the personal story count

I could describe myself as a bi-product :
bi-racial, bi-cultural, bi-continental, bi-sexual and certainly, non-binary!
I’m a storyteller at heart who discovered the magic of listening.
I grew up in India and studied mostly in the US. I often refer to myself as a WASP – White Anglo Saxon Punjabi – it either perplexes people or elicits a chuckle.
Tender Fierce is how one friend describes me.
I continually work on owning my own story and telling it as a path to personal freedom and collective healing.

Monsoon’s work in filmmaking, counselling, coaching, teaching and performing all have narrative work as a cornerstone. With an EdM in Multicultural Psychological Counselling from Columbia University and her Coaching certifications from New York University, Monsoon supports people in their healing and in redefining their narratives. As a passionate Training Group facilitator for over 20 years and the current Joint Dean of Professional Development for the Indian Society for Applied Behavioral Sciences she works with diverse populations to discover and shift behaviour patterns experientially. Explorations in Role and Identity is the course she teaches at India’s premier business school (IIM-Ahmedabad). Monsoon’s articles on gender and violence have been published in The Daily Beast, two of India’s leading journals Outlook and Tehelka and The Hindu Newspaper. Her commitment to girl’s education and providing economic empowerment to rural artisans is reflected in her work as a principle promoter of the company Fabindia, India’s largest retailer of indigenous craft based products. As the co-creator of the Two Women Talking performance and The Listening Conversation Workshops, she creates spaces for the restor(y)ing of personal identities.

Talk: Owning of one’s personal identity and belonging have everything to do with how stories are told about personal experience and how the narrative shifts by bringing the peripheral voices to the center. I invite you to A Listening Conversation. The crucial piece here is being the listener. If the listening container that exists has the potential to hold the telling, then the reciprocity that is created becomes a powerful act of inclusion.

This medium of sharing is unique for it provides this platform: In the specificity of our stories lies their universality. I intend to speak from my own multicultural identity lens – both in terms of the way my identities have informed my experience, in divergent cultural contexts but also how it has impacted my work as a practitioner in what I consider A Listening Profession. Let’s explore this reciprocal relationship between listening and telling in the context of low context and high context cultures and in the presence of a changing global reality. The layering that this provides is essential to excavate what we can self-identify and what is systemically placed upon us to adopt, assimilate or reject.

The exploration of this telling and listening narrative will also be a prism through which the trends in the world at large can be highlighted – are we more globalised and also more insular? Is self-representation more suspect as it gets more specific? Is collective grief and personal trauma work going to be a given as coaches support post pandemic transitions? This brings the broad question of what changes will coaching as a whole need to bring to its narrative when it listens to what the emerging times are telling us.


Click on the session title to learn more!

Racial Equity in Coach Training: Levelling Up the Playing Field for Excellence Begum Verjee

Mother, grandmother, married to her childhood sweetheart, Muslim and racialized, immigrant to Canada, heterosexual, ablebodied, coach and educator. Education was highly emphasized by my mother who was one of very few racialized women with a University degree during apartheid South Africa. She believed learning and speaking only English would ensure my success in a White dominated world. For that reason I rarely spoke my native language, and therefore lost part of my identity. First female in my family to obtain a doctoral degree. Life long learner; social justice advocate.

Finding Our Humility: Inclusive Behaviors You Can Use in the Moment Deanna Troust

Deanna is a White, cisgender female and 20-year resident of Washington, DC’s eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood. She lives with her Cuban husband, two bilingual teen daughters who embrace their heritage quite differently, and several behavioral health challenges. In her hometown suburb near Buffalo, NY, her dad ran the hardware store and while her Germanic heritage inspired a sense of belonging, she gravitated to the few around her of different races, ethnicities and religions. A lifelong ally-in-training, she spent a career tackling disparities — her favorite moments were spent with Native communities and youth in Rwanda. She is a church Elder, speaks mediocre Spanish and is obsessed with transforming tired spaces into distraction-free, pandemic-friendly places to work and learn

Descubre la nueva competencia 7 de la ICF EVOCA CONSCIENCIA. Aportaciones de la filosofía, la psicología y la espiritualidad Cris Bolívar

Desde pequeña tenía muy claro que quería estudiar Psicología, el misterio del alma del ser humano me fascinaba. Toda mi trayectoria profesional y personal se ha centrado en este descubrimiento, explorando cada vez con más profundidad y desde diferentes perspectivas la Consciencia y su Despertar.

Ese anhelo me llevó posteriormente a estudiar Filosofía, a vivir y profundizar en distintas corrientes místicas y a explorar el arte en distintas facetas.

Discovering the Power Within:  Learning to Use Coaching Competencies for Social Change Damian Goldvarg & Kimberly Freeman

Dr. Damian Goldvarg was born in Argentina and moved to the US in 1990. Growing up Jewish in a Catholic country, was his first experience with being different. Later in his life, coming out as gay, motivated him to emigrate to the US. After he arrived, he had to navigate the additional identities of being Latino and an immigrant. Over the years he has worked in more than 50 countries with different multicultural organizations including the United Nations, including the Secretariat, UNICEF, UNHCR (the refugees agency), and the WFD (World Food Programme) among others. He has trained coaches, mentor coaches, and coach supervisors from more than 30 countries.

A native Californian, Kimberly Freeman is a daughter, sister, aunt, friend who is an avid reader, relentless networker, compassionate community servant, and curious globe trotter. Freeman remains active in many organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc., and the African American Board Leadership Institute (AABLI). For her service to the greater Los Angeles community, she received the Community Hero Award from the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 and the Alumna of the Year Award from the Southern California Leadership Network (SCLN) in 2012. As a recognized leader, she has also been awarded fellowships from the HERS Institute, an executive leadership program for women in higher education, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Your Client is Swimming in a Sea of Social and Structural Phenomena Jonelle Naude & Wiebke Renner 

Jonelle Naude: I hold and portray many identity markers that I cannot always internally identify with, but that I do acknowledge, embrace and take ownership for in my journey as human: I am ethnically an Afrikaans, White, Bolandse ‘meisie van die Kaap’ of South Africa. I do identify as a cis-gender woman, heterosexual, and passionate pro-active global citizen.


Wiebke Renner: White European, woman, minimalist.




Beyond Niches: How to Develop Unique Coaches Rebecca Dorsey Sok & Jonathan Reitz

Rebecca Dorsey Sok: female, wife, mother, sister, daughter. In a bi-cultural, bi-racial marriage and raising a multicultural son. Raised in Oregon, lived and worked in Europe, lived in California and now Tennessee. I coach leaders all around the global and have collaborators in multiple countries. Dance enthusiast, runner, and survivor of multiple female-hormone diseases.


Jonathan Reitz: (he/him). A fourth-generation American. Lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife Joy and daughter Julia. Basketball enthusiast.



Coaching to Authentic Voice and Choice – Sensitivity to Systemic Context Jagruti Gala

Brown, upper-middle class, well educated, single (amicably divorced), woman in her early fifties who is the proud and joyful mother of two young men; she belongs to the minority religion of Jainism and yet enjoys the privileges granted to people of the country’s dominant religion Hinduism; she has love and affinity for her vast Indian heritage, spiritual wisdom, food traditions and culture; she is empowered by fluency in 4 native languages and in English and is a constant learner; she is fulfilled and awakened with friendships that represent rich diversity across the globe; she writes and has published but doesn’t dare to identify as a writer; truth, service and compassion are a part of her cultural and spiritual heritage and being.

Fifth Domain Coaching and the New ICF Core Competencies Sukari Pinnock-Fitts & Amber Mayes

Sukari is a cisgender woman and a member of the Black Diaspora. She is a heterosexual baby boomer, living with some degree of socio-economic privilege as a U.S. National. She has no religious affiliation, however, does strongly believe that the “universe provides.” She is the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and South Carolinian mother, and was raised with one sibling in a middle-class, multi-racial neighborhood in Los Angeles. Now residing in Northern Virginia, Sukari has been coaching, training and supporting leaders in the U.S. and abroad for over 20 years

Amber is an African American & Greek, Gen X, heterosexual, Cis woman. She grew up in the Boston area in a fairly racially diverse working class neighborhood. Raised in a multicultural household by an African American father from Georgia and a Greek immigrant mother, she developed an early passion for helping people communicate across differences. In the past 20 years Amber has developed a global leadership coaching and organization consulting practice that integrates issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is based in Northern California and is a proud auntie of the best 8-year-old on the planet!

The Role of Psychological Safety in training and coaching for DEIB Patrick Williams

White male, born 1950 in Midwest of Wichita Kansas. Raised with Methodist upbringing but was not confining. Education was big value and I went on the get many honors and completed Doctorate in 1977. Registered as Democrat since age 18 even though my father was Republican chairman for Kansas and speaker of the house, we always were praised for open minds. My high school had 2100 students, 30% black and 15% hispanic. Class president and student body president. I also provide mentoring/coaching to several men, formerly incarcerated in a federal prison, who were offered ICF approved training donated by the Institute for Life Coach Training, a long time ACTO member school.

Is Coaching The Great Equalizer In The Push for Diversity and Inclusion in Corporate C-Suites? Joyce Odidison

A Black Canadian, immigrated for a small eastern Caribbean island as a teenager, mother of two adult children and wife of a Black male police officer for 28 years. A Christian, lover of people, advocate for diversity and inclusiveness, resident problem solver, innovative thinker, a quick mind and entrepreneur for 25 years. A foody, who loves to experiment in the kitchen while I think of ways to motivate change and build bridges for those who lack opportunities.

Training Human Leaders & Coaches: Context and Lived Experience side by side Elena Armijo & Liz Zdunich

Liz: A white, Canadian and a woman who is a solo parent to two young children. Homeschooling parent for the last year during the pandemic. She was raised in an educated, middle income family with parents who immigrated to Canada just prior to her birth.

Elena: Bi-racial, American, woman who lives in Newark, NJ, orginally from New Mexico. First in her immediate family to have a masters degree, raised in a middle income family with parents who are white and latin. Traveled the world singing opera and has continued to stand for women in companies everywhere. Worked through speech impediments and undiagnosed dyslexia growing up. Passionate about inclusion and access for all.

How can I bring Coaching to more of my world? – An Experiment & Dialog  Peter J Reding

I am a Caucasian heterosexual male born into the Baby-boomer generation, by 2 loving parents who “instilled” (OK badgered me into) the appreciation of Life-long Learning, for which I now thank them. I am highly educated and Spiritual. I have a pioneering spirit that has served me and my Life Purpose to “create Bodacious Flourishing of Life” for those who I am here to Inspire. I and my S.O. Significant Other (female) have been each other’s best partner for over thirty years. I am able bodied, mobile, and healthy. I grew up in New England, USA and I am a Global Citizen. I love and work with Exotic Hardwoods to hand craft custom made pens.

Bringing All Voices Into The Virtual World Jennifer Britton

Canadian by birth, Jennifer has lived and worked out of six countries across Central and South America, the Caribbean and Europe for extended periods since the 1990s. She is accustomed to navigating differences, and is always learning as part of a multi-cultural and multi-racial family. Jenn’s preference for working virtually was initially precipitated by impact to her own visual abilities.

BE THE SOURCE: A Reflective Journey in Elevating Your Offer to Coaches Angela Cusack & Carol Harris-Fike

Carol Harris-Fike is a Strong West Texas woman raised with an understanding that rain is rare and the wind may blow you off your feet if you are not grounded. She came from an educated family that believed if you obeyed the rules and studied and worked hard, you could accomplish your dreams. Life sometimes slapped her in the face with experiences that didn’t follow those rules. Some of these events initiated her spiritual growth supporting a career change from public education administrator to coach, mentor coach, coach trainer, and now coach supervisor. Carol is the supportive grandmother of a trans-gender grandson.

Angela Cusack, Dreamer + Go-getter = Vagabond on a Mission. Roots in Appalachia, rural southern Ohio. Small family tobacco famer, 4-H’er, church-goer, do-gooder, cheerleader, and a bit of an alien. East Coast girl with a SoCal spirit. Mixed breed: Cherokee, Scott-Irish and German; Mormom, Christian, Catholic, Heathen and raised my daughter Jewish. First in family to attend college, move away and get divorced. Caregiver and Care-Creator. Street smart with gravatas. Ideator, innovator and shaper of futures that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Four moves, no job, no connections, seeing possibiltiies and finding greater connection, prosperity, peace and growth. Wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend to many. Influenced by my practices in writing, yoga, running, cycling, exploring the world and serving others.

CC = Core Competencies
RD = Resource Development

*Attendees will earn CCEs for each session attended.  Each session attended must be attended for the entire length, no credit will be given for attending partial sessions.