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Professional Coaching, Plato’s Cave and the Sociology of Knowledge

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The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Singapore is part of the global Vincentian family. In Singapore, the society was inducted in 1951. Currently it has nearly 700 members whose aid extends to 3,200 vulnerable and poor families. Assistance is provided by volunteers who are attached to FINs (Friends-In-Need). These Vincentian volunteers journey with their families for long periods of time. The type of assistance provided is mainly financial and befriending in nature. Due to the mission of the society, the engagement usually entails regular home visits to ensure that assistance is rendered in a caring and dignified manner–based on Catholic social and spiritual teachings.

Evolution of the modern world has created a new challenge in adapting historical approaches. FIN issues have become more complex and challenging: aid to the poor must be mitigated beyond the current scope. FIN programs can’t simply be sustained, especially in cases involving long-terms assistance. This rapid change has made exploration of the family’s social ecosystem an essential and vital component. Needs must be carefully assessed to facilitate the attainment of self-reliance. However, the historical precedence is one of engaging clients without an evidence-based approach or model. Within this framework, members of the organization feel that “if it ain’t broken why fix it.” This is quite a challenge for the Executive Director of St. Vincent DePaul in Singapore. How might this leader be assisted in working with resistent members of his organization–including the volunteers? What might be the role of a coach? We will turn to the four perspectives and suggest ways in which each perspective relates to the challenges being faced by this Vincentian leader and members of his organization.

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