An Open Letter in Response to Questions Regarding the ICF Credentialing Program

November 16, 2009

Thank you for expressing your thoughts and concerns about the proposed enhancements to the ICF Credentialing process. We appreciate your dedication to the credentialing program and welcome your engagement in an open, collaborative dialogue moving forward.

To provide clarify and updated information, we have organized this letter as follows:

  • Board Actions Regarding the ICF Credentialing Proposal and the Transition Process
  • Status of the Existing Three Levels of ICF Certification: ACC, PCC and MCC
  • The Process for Open Discussion and Feedback
  • Credentialing Forum – An Open Discussion at the ICF Annual International Conference
  • The Coaching Knowledge Base Advisory Board
  • ICF Leadership: Moving Forward 

We want to reassure you that the only decision we have made is that the credentialing program needs to be enhanced. No final decisions have been made on what those enhancements entail. The proposal we presented was crafted to generate feedback and comments from ICF members, credential holders and other stakeholders.

Many coaches have already shared their questions, ideas and observations about the proposal. They have participated in the scheduled phone calls and in other ways. Their collective thoughts have helped to educate and inform us. The open comment period to provide feedback on the proposal continues through December.

We have found much common ground in our discussions. We recognize that the current system and its examination processes are labor intensive and operationally inefficient, resulting in frustration and delays for applicants. We also agree that evaluating and changing the credentialing process is an enormous undertaking that requires careful and considerable research and validation by a variety of qualified professionals. Although much work has been done, there is still work to do.

We would like to share with you some of what we have done to date. The process began in 2007 when the ICF Board engaged in a knowledge-based approach to strategic planning. The Board asked themselves the following questions: How can we build on the excellent foundation we have to ensure that our credentialing program meets future needs? Is globally consistent, fair and administered in a timely fashion for our worldwide membership?

1. Board Actions Regarding the ICF Credentialing Proposal and the Transition Process 
The only decision we have made is a commitment to enhance the ICF Credentialing process. We recognize that the system for administering knowledge tests must be internationally respected, impartial and adhere to internationally recognized and respected standards. After evaluating several options, the ICF Board sought to have the credentialing program meet the globally recognized standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies and operates hundreds of standards. Specifically, ISO 17024:2003(E) serves as a framework for evaluating the credentialing process and procedures for individuals.

Two important points regarding ISO: ISO provides guidance that promotes the operation of a consistent, objective and credible program, it does not dictate the specific content or prerequisites required to be granted a credential. In other words, ISO standards strive to ensure good, sound management practices are in place for the administration of a credentialing program. Secondly, ISO sees credentialing as a means to measure competency around a body of knowledge. As such, aligning with the ISO 17024 standard would not affect the content of our body of knowledge, but would rather affect the testing or validating of a coach’s understanding of our body of knowledge. ICF would remain in charge of the number, criteria and content of the credential.

There has been confusion in regard to transition planning as we look at enhancing the ICF Credentialing program. Naturally the Board has had preliminary discussions around the need for a transition plan as part of their due diligence process. A transition plan will be fully developed when a path forward has been identified based on the counsel of all stakeholder groups.

2. Status of the Existing Three Levels of ICF Certification: ACC, PCC and MCC
Nothing has changed or will change before final decisions are made by the Board. The three levels of the ICF Credential remain in place, applications continue to be accepted and examinations scheduled as planned. Marketing and public relations activities will continue. We will continue to encourage coaches to pursue the appropriate level of certification as a means to enhance their own careers and to strengthen the profession as a whole.

3. The Process for Open Discussion and Feedback
Since 2007, we have engaged and worked closely with numerous coaches – subject matter experts - in various phases of the project. We have had extensive conversations as we worked collaboratively on tasks relating to role delineation, test specification and item writing. In addition, we have conducted surveys generating more than 2,000 responses from ICF members, ICF Credential holders, members of other coaching associations, schools and academic institutions.

The surveys provided support that the role of coach and the required knowledge and skills are perceived in similar ways by a diverse audience of coaches. The body of knowledge represented by the ICF Core Competencies and Code of Ethics were strongly validated as the important foundational knowledge that is currently utilized by those serving as professional coaches

The current open comment period has been enriched through dialogue – among task force members, on scheduled telephone calls, through the ICF blog and Web site, and through other external channels. Visit to find dates for the ongoing teleconferences, audio recordings of past teleconferences and more information on the ICF blog.

What’s next? The open comment period will continue through the end of the year. A full report summarizing all the comments we’ve received to date will be posted on the ICF Web site on or about November 23. After everyone has a chance to review and comment on the report, it will be updated and presented to the global Board of Directors in January 2010. The Board will decide on the path forward based on the total of what has been learnt from the input of all stakeholder groups during the consultation period.

4. Credentialing Forum—An Open Discussion at the ICF Annual International Conference
A Credentialing Forum has been scheduled for Friday, December 4 during the ICF Annual International Conference in Orlando. We want a large group of our members to consider and discuss the responses we have received to date. This allows individuals to share anything they believe still needs to be considered. To prepare for this conversation, we will share a summary of all the comments, ideas and concerns expressed to date through all identified channels (through our open teleconferences, emails sent to and the comments on the ICF blog as well as conversations on Linked In and Coaching Commons). The report will be posted on the ICF Web site on or about November 23rd.

The Credentialing Forum will allow for smaller group discussions and open microphone reports on the main points of each group’s discussion. We will recruit volunteers from each group to capture the discussion in writing. We will videotape each of the group presentations and post them on the ICF Web site as soon as possible after the event. We will ask volunteers to help us carry the conversation from the Forum forward to the December open telephone calls. We welcome and encourage your participation in this process.

If you are unable to attend the Credentialing Forum, we have scheduled open telephone calls in December following the Forum to allow interested parties to comment on the summary of feedback. We invite you to comment on the report: publicly on teleconferences scheduled in December or on the open ICF blog; or if you prefer, privately by sending an email directly to us (a specific email address will be created for this correspondence). All comments will be incorporated into the summary report.

5. The Coaching Knowledge Base Advisory Board 
We recognize the need for and encourage a rich dialogue around defining the knowledge base for credentialing. As such, a Coaching Knowledge Base Task Force will be appointed in 2010 to make recommendations to the Board to examine the existing body of knowledge beyond the ICF Core Coaching Competencies, Code of Ethics and definition of coaching, that can be tested for validity and reliability. We want to continue to engage a wide representation of the coaching community in the process, from both inside and outside the ICF membership, current ICF Credential holders and those who aspire to hold the credential in the future. We also believe it is very important to engage strategic organizational and academic partners in our deliberations. As we move into 2010 a more detailed process will be developed and communicated to stakeholders.

6. ICF Leadership: Moving Forward
When we began this process almost two years ago, we realized it would be critical to engage many people in the process in many different ways. It has always been our intent to be inclusive in this project, as it is our practice for all our work as a Board. The ICF leadership is committed to open and transparent communication with all stakeholder groups.

We may have relied too heavily on our core communication vehicles and didn’t adequately capture the attention of all of our stakeholders as we shared information about the process as it unfolded. We understand that people are busy and materials sent from ICF may get set aside with the best of intentions for later review. When we realized the lapse, we immediately implemented more communication tools and tried to engage in conversations taking place elsewhere. We do regret the lapse in communication and will continue to implement systems and tools to engage and inform members. We encourage you to keep up the level of constructive dialogue as well.

We will continue to follow this open and inclusive process actively soliciting the input of all ICF Credentialing Program stakeholder groups through focus groups, surveys and open comment periods and will openly share the feedback.

This level of transparency is also strived for in the organization’s governance and decision-making processes. In addition to the ICF Web site and Coaching World, special member and credentialed coach updates will continue to keep our global community up to date on all Board and committee activity. A comprehensive communication strategy is being developed to ensure that the membership is consistently updated on the ICF’s strategic initiatives while providing multiple outlets and opportunities for input and feedback.

An annual membership satisfaction survey is planned and will be distributed in mid January 2010. This will track both explicit and implicit stakeholder attitudes on the value of major ICF activities and benefits. The Board will monitor this key performance indicator (KPI) to address any issues that emerge as well as to continue to enhance the value of ICF membership. This survey will give us a clear view of opportunities for organizational operational and process improvement.

Thank you again for your strong commitment to credentialing. I sincerely ask you to continue to be engaged, to attend the Forum in Orlando and be actively involved in the comment period to assist us in this important enhancement process.

Respectfully yours,

Karen Tweedie, PCC, on behalf of the ICF Board of Directors