Report from the More To Life Trainer Conference
Atlanta, May 2017
[Click image to enlarge and see names]
An Overview by David Templer
This was a Trainer Conference like few others I recall – a powerfully connecting, inspiring and productive gathering, thanks in part to the intentional vision of each person who was there, and in part to Sophie Sabbage’s deeply engaged leadership. The sourcing partnership she created with our new Managing Director Bill Thatcher and Senior Trainers Elaine Alpert and Clare Vivian-Neal meant the whole event was co-led with sensitivity, patience and grace throughout.
Sophie’s outline was both interactive and experiential, and managed to touch on each issue that had been previously proposed by the More To Life Trainers. Sophie made the trip to the US in the midst of yet another crisis on her journey with cancer, and witnessing the quality of her personal work in the face of her current challenges was a searing, evoking and unforgettable experience in its own right. Her presence was unfailingly judicious, passionate and responsive, while her courage and commitment to the continuation of our work was a source of inspiration that set the bar high for all present.
The process of working with 30 Trainers and Trainer Candidates from the US, UK, SA, and NZ, with Bill Thatcher alongside us as a fully integrated member of the group, is engraved in my heart. It was a confirmation of our shared values and our collective vision, and an affirmation of our intention to work together as one entity in the future.
This was the largest Trainer Conference we have ever had: we worked with 14 new Trainer Candidates and 2 new Associate Trainers as they took their next steps on the Trainer path; we confirmed Vijay Reddy from South Africa as a Senior Trainer; and we welcomed back John Coats, who has helped to source this Programme from its earliest days in 1981. He now returns to his role as a Senior Trainer after 23 years focusing on his writing career. As a group we emerged reinvigorated and newly resourced.
Part of our time together included reviewing and redefining our organisational roles as Trainers and agreeing various next steps – from taking on new Trainer Agreements to supporting new marketing and product development plans. We also worked on lingering ill will and hurt about past events, including the departure of our former training partners two years ago.
During this process a great deal of personal grief was released, and one immediate outcome was a new determination to live out our values by accepting things just as they are and choosing to embrace the possibilities. This included recognising that MTL students always have a choice about how they work and with whom: we committed to acknowledging this freedom, rather than trying to limit it in any way.
Shea Collins, our new Interim Marketing Director, presented a comprehensive new digital marketing strategy and gathered input on our context as a Programme, our unique selling proposition, and our core values in order to inform the development of the strategy and the creation of new outreach materials.
After a long period of confusion over changes to the format of the More To Life Weekend, we were able to quickly bring together the various different perspectives and agreed to produce a single version of the Trainer Manual together with revised Mastery and Team Manuals. We also committed to continue the collaborative and flexible leadership process which has replaced the previous role of Director of Training.
This was an awe-inspiring, life-affirming and unforgettable conference which included deep personal work by all who were there. It ended with a outpouring of loving energy, collective enthusiasm and passion. I think it marks a whole new phase in the development of the More To Life Foundation.
A Message from Sophie Sabbage
It was one of the privileges of my life to design and lead this conference. I felt sourced in profound ways from start to finish. Having been unable to get through a day without resting since brain surgery two months ago, I felt alert, present, and energised throughout. I was literally held up by something far greater than myself. I attribute much of this to That Which Sources Us, but also to my partners and pathmates in the room. I am especially grateful to:
- Elaine Alpert for co-leading this event with humility, mastery, love, flexibility, and profound responsiveness to what life puts in front of her. She is one of the bravest human beings I know.
- Clare Vivian-Neal for being my other co-leader. She stepped into the role from her very full life and flowed with the river, owning the parts I asked her to hold with complete commitment and creativity, while upholding me personally in many small but significant ways. Pure love.
- Bill Thatcher for being the leader we have been waiting for, inspiring our confidence, trusting me to lead this event, and collaborating closely in its creation.
In addition, the Trainers brought themselves to this experience with immense good will, wide open hearts, discerning insight, mutual respect, palpable humility, and the willingness to dig deep into their darkness that they may claim yet more of their light.
Yes, I am deeply proud of how I led this. Having plumbed the depths of my fears in recent years, I felt remarkably fearless throughout. I trusted myself deeply. I owned my gifts. I accepted my limits and forgave my mistakes. Mostly, I followed the Lifeshocks and bowed to Life. But this was a truly collaborative experience – the result of weaving all our talents together in a perfect dance.
Did we miss some things? Sure. Are there details to attend to? Of course. But I feel truly hopeful about this Programme, perhaps more than I ever have before. It reminded me of the magic that manifests when we do deep personal work in a spirit of profound mutual respect while focusing on getting a big job done – self, others, and context working in balance and harmony. The work was alive in us. Brad’s legacy was alive in us. We are standing on solid ground.
A Message from Bill Thatcher
For me the May 2017 Trainer Conference was a watershed event because it offered a set of fundamental – if not unprecedented – choices for the Trainers, both individually and collectively. The pre-conference Trainer Zoom call earlier this year provided a long list of topics and issues needing attention and provided a high bar against which to gauge our success. Succeed, we did!
The Trainer Body is, in my estimation, one critical part of the “treasure” found in MTL. As Managing Director, I stated clearly and unequivocally how critical it is for the future of More To Life that we have a healthy and functioning Trainer Body.
We want our Trainers to be engaged in more than delivering courses. In the conference the Trainers identified nine specific areas in which to be engaged in MTL, in addition to delivery of courses. But our Trainers went beyond merely identifying these nine areas; they stepped forward and placed their names beside the areas in which they felt most called to be engaged. For me it was a moving statement of “We are all in!” But there is more.
The Trainer Body chose to embrace the Legacy 2022 fundraising campaign that will be rolling out into all of our MTL communities this fall. Their goal is to raise $10,000 in a combined pledge for 2017, and I have agreed that, if they raise that amount in pledges by 31 May, we will match it from the Legacy matching fund already created by a handful of our largest donors.
There is more to share with you, and over the next 2-3 months we will be writing more about the conference outcomes and the Trainer Body work going forward. The conference matters will be the theme of our next Community Engagement Zoom call on 3/4 June 2017 (see information directly below).
I’ve shared what I have written above from my perspective as Managing Director. I close by speaking of the impact that the Trainer Conference had on me personally.
First, I was deeply touched – expressed through my tears at times – by the many ways I felt welcomed and included. In both words and deeds I saw the visible expression that said, “We are a Team together! We are clearly in this work together, each with our own gifts to offer in service to others.” I get emotional just writing that statement. I was embraced, included, and (definitely) supported!
Second, I felt very privileged to see our work in action, modelled humbly by our Trainers. More than one person commented on how much the conference was like our very best advanced trainings. I can’t speak personally to that because I won’t take my first advanced course – WOW – until later this year. But if that assessment is true, I can hardly wait!
Finally, the conference gave me an even greater hope for our future together in MTL. We are creating a strong container that will hold our work in integrity, compassion, and witness for the many thousands of new students who will be encountering us in the next few years. I believe this is our time and we are preparing well this life-giving explosion. I feel so very blessed to be a pathmate on this with you!
Next COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT CALL
on 03 June (4th June in AUS/NZ) 2017:
Theme: Trainer Conference | DETAILS & REGISTRATION
We are thrilled to welcome back Senior Trainer John Coats
Copper-dipped feathers created by a New Zealand based artist
and sourced by Clare Vivian-Neal and Diana Makens as a gift for all Senior Trainers.
Congratulations to all the Trainer Candidates
we have named during the past year
Lei-Anna Bertelsen – USA
Melodie Brier – USA
Cindi Cameron – USA
Andrea Constantine – UK
Hilde De Volder – Belgium
Mindy Guthrie – USA
Sylvia Hebert – USA
Crystal Kiss – USA
Robyn Madden – NZ
Beth McAlpine – SA
Ross Pierkowski _ USA
Mary Reynolds – SA
Jeff Rose – USA
Richard Swartz – USA
Amycla Webb – USA
Congratulations to our new Senior Trainer
Vijay Reddy, South Africa
Congratulations to our new Associate Trainer
Ulrich Berger, New Zealand
Farewell and thank you to Senior Trainer Jan Matney
After many years of service Jan Matney has chosen to stop training so she can focus on other important commitments in her life. We took time to thank her, acknowledge her and wish her well. It was very evoking. If any of you have been touched by Jan we encourage you to let her know how. Thank you Jan for all of it.
A more detailed report will follow, but we want to share one of the outcomes of the conference to give you a taste of what we achieved. Trainers are not employees with job descriptions and a corporate management style; we are self-employed entrepreneurs with a shared calling and diverse skills, passions, and talents. We neither want nor are we able to serve in the same ways, but are aware of some expectations within communities for more consistency in how we behave and what we deliver.
During the conference we identified several roles Trainers could play in the Program, which aim to meet real needs while being realistic about our personal situations. When resources are thin it is important to play to our strengths and serve where we feel most drawn. For example, some of us excel at sourcing (supporting, empowering, and leading) communities. Others, not so much. As such, we agreed that we want a few Trainers to source many communities rather than ask all Trainers to do this in their local areas (though we would all aim to play a part). To achieve this, the role needs to be paid, and Bill agreed to make this a paid role in future if we achieve our fundraising target. This is now part of the strategic plan.
These are the 10 key roles we defined. Trainer commitments to follow in a more detailed report. Some roles will be supported with an appropriate budget.
- Delivering Our Courses
This outlines the responsibilities of a Trainer when delivering a training so communities are clear about what they can expect. We created three categories: essential, optional (at the discretion of Trainers), and situational (things that vary in different places).
- Serving and Supporting Communities
Communities are the lifeblood for sourcing MTL courses. We will develop a strategy placing the “care & feeding” of communities at a high level of priority. Where communities do not have a resident Trainer or where the local Trainer is engaged in other focused work for MTL that precludes deep community-building activities, we want to create a system of building those communities.
- Scheduling Trainers and Determining Advanced Courses
We want a Trainer providing advice and reviewing all desired courses for scheduling in each of our countries. For advanced courses we also want Trainers to work with MTL Operations on a worldwide strategy of placement and frequency. This group will allocate Trainers to all courses worldwide.
To be led by: Sophie Sabbage in the UK, Clare Vivian-Neal in NZ, Vijay Reddy in SA, and Peggy Jarrett in the US, with Mary Reynolds in supporting role.
- Designing New Products
MTL wants to create a course on training people (Trainers, Mentors, others) to develop new courses and products both for MTL and for channelling people toward the MTL Weekend. ‘Train the Designer’ would be designed and delivered by Sophie Sabbage, who was taught to design by Brad Brown over many years. Different levels of skill will be required for different products. In essence, she would deliver it online over multiple weeks, during which time participants will actually create new products/courses (in line with strategic plans and customer needs). A review process will be built in to ensure high quality. This training will be open to students (outreach courses and products) as well as Trainers (core and advanced courses).
- MTL Champions
The recent decision by Bill Thatcher and Anne Brown to free up the Intellectual Property is being advanced through an agreement with students of our work who are entrepreneurs in their own right and wish to use the course processes in their own work. The concept has been to begin to phase in arrangements which will both increase the visibility of these entrepreneurs – we are calling them Champions – within MTL, as well as reward them for sharing the work of MTL with their client base.
- MTL Ambassadors
One of our ongoing aims is to have people available for the organisation to call on from time to time for media interviews, specialty topics, occasional blog posts, or other forms of outreach in representing the organisation.
ALERT: MTL Champions is potentially the subject of July 2017’s Community Engagement Video Call. Look for details soon on the More To Life International Calendar, social media, and details in mailers from your respective regions. Date & details TBA
- Supporting Marketing Projects
The MTL Interim Marketing Officer, Shea Collins, seeks advice and counsel on the context of MTL courses and culture. Her role will be greatly assisted by Trainers willing to share that context as requested and underpin her understanding of our product.
- Raising Up New Trainers, Outreach Trainers (e.g. Mentors), and Mastery Teachers
In anticipation of greater growth in both the number and frequency of our course offerings, we will continue expanding the Trainer Body. We aim to develop a clear strategy for greater capacity as we head into the future. This will include a new type of trainer called ‘Outreach Trainers’ – people who want to take it into the world in different ways rather than become Senior Trainers within the Program. Mentors would be in this group.
- Communicating with Communities
There is a two-fold aim for the Trainer Body to share with the MTL communities what has come out of this conference, as well as to provide ongoing communication concerning the work that will be undertaken as we move forward. Much of this conference has been to lay out an agenda of work we have before us. We will, with intention, continue our reporting to communities on our progress. We are committed to transparency in this matter.
More Trainer Comments
“For those of us who have been around a long time, that may sound like something we have all heard before, but as one of those who was skeptical and unsure of what was emerging, I can tell you whole-heartedly I am confident this time as to what is already in motion.” Warren Kahn