Charis Coaching

Charis Coaching: Gender equality in the workplace, the home, and the community

London, United KingdomLondon, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Gender-based violence is found worldwide, and we address its pattern of revictimisation over the course of a relationship, a lifetime and over generations. We help women affected by abuse and trafficking break these episodic and generational cycles and lead full, empowered and violence-free lives.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could break episodic cycles of abuse, in order for children to witness healthy relationships as the norm, and eradicate generational cycles of abuse?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

1 in 3 women experiences abuse, including 1.4 mil in the UK last year. The rate of revictimisation is higher than any other crime. Repeat clients at a shelter I managed asked more than once, ‘Do I have a sign on my forehead that only violent men can see?' This is codependency; victims and perpetrators fill unhealthy, unaddressed needs in each other. Victims' agency has been systematically stripped from them. They often live their childhood norms.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

By changing a woman's life, we change her children's lives. Domestic abuse is a learned behaviour and response. The ethos of coaching, with the client as the expert, supports the learning of independence and interdependence, and the unlearning of codependency. There is no research on coaching and abuse; it remains a massive gap. Coaching has been associated with related outcomes, including decreased depression and anxiety; increased resiliency; increased perception of control; increased goal attainment; greater orientation toward change; and increased self-esteem. Research shows that codependency acts as a master variable for many of these measures. Applying coaching in the context of abuse is innovative, and begs to be tested further.


UnLtd 'Do It' Award
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Eva* leaves an abusive partner and has her immediate needs met by a GBV agency. When she is ready to look for a job, she doesn't know what she wants to do, and doesn't believe she'll achieve employment. She attends Charis's Confidence & Career workshop and identifies her strengths. She becomes clear on direction and next steps. Follow-up One-to-One Coaching over six months helps Eva form goals and follow through. She learns to enjoy talking about her challenges, having previously self-medicated. She has a non-judgemental space in which to explore the idea of returning to her ex-partner, who she sees often as they share custody of their child. She finds a job and her coach supports her in the transition. She rebuilds her life violence-free.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Charis's pilot coaching programme showed a decrease from a high range to a mid-range of codependency on the Spann-Fischer scale after 6 months. None of the 4 clients returned to abusive situations, despite opportunity and previously expressed desire to do so. In a pilot coaching workshop, all participants reported feeling more in control of their lives; prepared to face challenges; and confident in their direction. The decrease in codependency is hypothesised to be correlated with a decrease in victimisation and stable over time. If this is true, by scaling, women across the UK and the world would not feel trapped in abusive situations. Generational cycles of abuse would be broken as children would no longer witness violence. Coaching could be offered to men and women, victims and perpetrators of violence, who experience codependency in different ways. Lives would be saved.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In its corporate work, Charis targets multinational companies in the finance, tech, legal & energy sectors to enable geographical expansion of all operations, particularly into European trafficking destination countries. Charis aims to be part of policy design and implementation particularly for those affected by trafficking, providing a platform for primary beneficiaries to inform service delivery. Charis will increase its number of clients by increasing its partners and provide coaching for GBV staff to build capacity. It will create a GBV training programme for coaches outside of Charis.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our Buy One Gift One business model enables companies to build corporate responsibility into their supply chains. For each training programme or coaching package purchased to support emerging and female talent and gender balance toward robust succession pipelines, we deliver an equivalent services pro bono for individuals affected by gender-based violence.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While individual coaches work with those affected by GBV, Charis is the only organisation to do so: at scale, pro bono, with an evaluation. A number of GBV agencies, who are ideal partners, provide essential services. Their specialist services (e.g. therapy) are complementary to ours, with a differing focus (therapy tends to be past vs future focused) and ethos (therapist as expert vs client as expert). A client on our pilot one-to-one coaching programme stated, without prompting, that coaching was different from her therapy or in-house programming, providing a 'different kind of motivation'.

Founding Story

Nicole is a former manager of a shelter and crisis line for abused women. The triumphs and struggles of the women and families she served stayed with her after she left. In 2013, Nicole received coach training and witnessed the life-altering impact of relating actions to goals and motivations to values, revealing blind spots (such as codependency) and questioning limiting beliefs. It made her wish she'd had such tools while working with women at the shelter. She sought to volunteer as a coach for those affected by domestic abuse, and was offered 80 clients by one London-based domestic abuse charity to help them achieve employment. There was a need, and a pilot proved coaching could meet it.


Our CEO & Founder, Nicole Berg, is Charis's full-time sole employee. She is a professional coach, having received her training from the industry-leading Coaches Training Institute, and she also holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics. Nicole has nearly a decade of previous experience in non-profit organisation management serving vulnerable populations, including women experiencing domestic abuse; immigrants and refugees; people with disabilities; and young people involved in the criminal justice system. The Board of Directors provides governance as well as strategic and practical support. It includes: • Annette Andrews, HR Director, Lloyd’s of London • Danielle Ballardie, Head of Cash Markets, Deputy Head of Markets & Global Sales, Euronext • Sharon Pickford, Members & Donors Director, National Trust (former COO, Wayra) • Dr Tuula Nieminen, international law and policy expert; UN Women UK, UN Women Europe & Central Asia Charis's team of contracted coaches and facilitators have over a century of combined industry and coaching experience and assist with programme design and delivery. Charis has benefited both from ad hoc volunteers, and from a small team of committed volunteers which includes website and graphic designer Gray Akotey and freelance editor Rebecca Lewis. Over the next three years, Charis will focus on building a strong base in the UK upon which to expand its structure, programme and location. Once it has built its capacity, Charis plans to hire support staff, more coaches, and an additional CEO for an anticipated split into a for-profit and a non-profit entity, with the former providing funds for the latter. (Nicole will remain with the non-profit entity.) This will enable each entity to fully focus on a singular mission, working closely toward a shared vision.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

MOE Foundation

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

CEO & Founder

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Gender Equality.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

From January 2013, Nicole was part of a start-up team of 3 at a UK-based non-profit that provides coaching to people in the criminal justice system, which experienced unprecedented growth with 8 clients in Year 1 to over 100 in Year 2. After overseeing their operations for 18 months, she knew she wanted to start her own initiative and began to create it on paper. Less than one year on, she began working full-time on Charis. She now leads an incredible team of leaders - trustees, coaches and volunteers - in pursuit of a shared vision of gender equality and empowering individuals through personal and professional leadership. In addition to pioneering coaching initiatives at scale for individuals affected by GBV, Nicole is now an internationally recognised thought leader in workplace gender balance.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Charis has benefited from pro bono services provided by DLA Piper, EY, BURN Marketing, Coaching at Work, the Aspire Foundation, the Coaches Training Institute, London South Bank University's Investment Escalator programme, and coach Jess Heading. Charis is an active part of Coaching at Work’s Campaign for Gender Equality. Charis has worked with organisations, and champions within organisations, to inform design of and to pilot our programmes, including Euronext, Solace Women’s Aid, the Sophie Hayes Foundation, Tower Hamlets Metropolitan Police, and the Lloydminster Interval Home Society.