Building Coalitions

What is a Coalition?

A coalition is a group of organizations and individuals working together for a common purpose. There are two types of coalitions:

1."One issue" or event coalitions only have to agree on one particular issue. The coalition is dissolved when the issue has been solved or the event has been coordinated.

2. "Multi issues" coalitions have related issues, such as nutrition and health, child care needs, elderly health care, or the environment. This more permanent type of coalition recognizes the value of mobilizing together for action over a longer time. To be effective the "multi issues" coalition should have a date set for work to be completed. The coalition can always be reorganized if there is still a need.

The Value of Coalitions

Coalition building is needed when one organization recognizes it alone does not have the technical capability or people power to have a real impact on an issue.

Coalitions assist in:

  • Setting priorities for action

  • Helping to identify specific data and informational needs from other groups and agencies

  • Sharing resources and expertise

  • Broadening the development of new audiences

  • Improving the chances that the issue (or issues) will get coverage in the media

Analyze Your Own Organization Before You Begin

The self-interests of your own organization should be analyzed before asking other groups to join a coalition.

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • What can be gained from joining with others?

  • Will the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

  • How can we best communicate the demands of other groups to our members?

If You Join a Coalition, What Are You Promising?

Troubleshooting problems as an ongoing effort increases the chances for successful coalition building. The following rules for commitment should help keep all groups on the same track.

  • Each organization must be committed to the problem.

  • Each organization must be committed to coordinate to solve the problem, not just gain public recognition.

  • Each organization must be committed to the belief that every other organization has the right to be involved.

  • Each organization must be committed to open communication.

  • Each organization must be committed to coalition recognition, not individual recognition.

Getting Started with a Plan

Certain tasks must be carried out by a coalition, regardless of the type, in order for it to function efficiently.

These include:

  • Naming a facilitators or coordinators

  • Obtaining commitment from members

  • Assessing needs and gathering background data

  • Writing a mission statement

  • Determining short or long-term objectives

  • Evaluating the work as the coalition progresses

  • Exploring opportunities for additional funding

  • Carrying out the plan

  • Determining ways to orient new members

[Excerpted from "A Process for Building Coalitions" by Dr. Georgia L. Stevens with modifications by the editor.]

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