What You Should Know Before Creating Community Coalitions

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So, you want to create an effective community coalition to ensure your local area is a healthy environment where youth can thrive. Before embarking on this journey — one that will be difficult and stressful, yet immensely rewarding if successful — it would be wise to use the successes and failings of previous community coalitions to help guide you down the right path.

The pathway to a successful and sustainable community coalition can be informed by examples of previous efforts at creating effective coalitions. The first thing you need to know before creating a community coalition is what exactly a community coalition is and what it isn’t.

A coalition is an alliance of individuals and organizations, sometimes referred to as an “organization of organizations,” that come together to address a specific problem or issue and reach a common goal(s). Goals that focus on system-wide changes and collaborations and require a variety of expertise are particularly well suited for coalitions.[1]

Some things within that definition via the University of Kansas Community Toolbox require further examining. The “focus on system-wide changes” is one, while addressing a “specific problem or issue” is another. Often a community coalition doesn’t zero in on a single specific issue, nor does it seek to change entire systems. It’s better to be targeted and systemic rather than broad and supplemental. Having a clear vision — with a clear mission statement — is paramount for the success of any community coalition.

You Need Clear Objectives

“Once an organization has developed its mission statement, its next step is to develop the specific objectives that are focused on achieving that mission. Objectives refer to specific measurable results for the initiative’s broad goals. An organization’s objectives generally lay out how much of what will be accomplished by when. For example, one of several objectives for a community coalition might be, by 2020 (when), to decrease vaporizer use (of what) by %25 (how much) in teens in grades 9-12 who reported use in the past year.

Depending on what your objectives are, the groups you decide to partner with and the funding opportunities you choose to target will change. Your objectives will guide almost every important decision you make. The objectives will lead to the strategy which leads to the results. If you don’t have clear objectives, your strategy becomes muddled, and your results become difficult to realize.

You Will Need Partners

You must also identify potential partners. Remember, this is a coalition, not so much a cohesive team. You’ll need to bring in groups whose goals might align, but whose day-to-day activities may differ. Who would benefit from your stated goals? Who is in a position to help you achieve them? Also, you must identify whether or not your stated objective demands the creation of a coalition.

“It is important to note that a coalition is not appropriate in every situation and is only one of a variety of effective tools for accomplishing organizational goals. A lead agency should consider carefully the responsibilities of developing and coordinating a coalition. The success of a coalition is usually uncertain. In addition, lead agencies tend to underestimate the requirements needed to keep coalitions functioning well, especially the commitment of substantial staffing resources.”[2]

There Will Be Barriers

“Coalition organizers may face a range of problems when attempting to work together with a diverse group of organizations and personalities. Organizers should anticipate these problems and be prepared to address them before they become barriers to a coalition’s success. These problems should be considered in the context of a specific community.”[3]

Obviously, resources will be one major barrier, especially human and monetary capital. Before creating a community coalition, you must have a clear-eyed perspective on the amount of capital your organization will need to sustain and thrive.

When thinking about standing up a community coalition, make sure there’s space for one. Are there competing organizations or coalitions? Can you partner with them rather than competing with them for funding? Securing funding is difficult. That should be obvious, which means any time organizations compete with one another for the same pool of funds, feelings can be hurt, which doesn’t help anyone who either coalition seeks to help as that competition may lessen the desire to work with one another down the road.

“The first step in forming a strong working group is to provide concrete examples of how coalition stakeholders might benefit from working together. Organizers should provide specific examples of funding opportunities that would only be available to a coalition and review the benefits listed above tailoring them to the specific characteristics of their community.”[4]

Our Data Can Help Inform Your Coalition

At Pride Surveys, we know how hard it can be to stand up a coalition and sustain it. We’ve been working to help educate community leaders about precisely what’s going on in their student communities for more than 30 years. The data our surveys collects can help coalitions leverage support from stakeholders and be used as a baseline for grant funding as well as a tool to increase awareness in the community. Having access to this data can be vital for the long-term success of your coalition. If you’re looking for tangible, actionable data directly from the youth community in your area to help strengthen your grant applications, contact us today and we’ll discuss what surveys your community can benefit from, and what data is most important for your potential coalition.

[1] “Coalition Building I: Starting a Coalition,” Community Tool Box: Part B, Retrieved on August 12, 2019 at http://ctb.ku.edu/tools/

[2] “Developing Effective Coalitions,” Prevention Institute, Retrieved on August 12, 2019 at https://www.countyhealthrankings.org/sites/default/files/eightstep.pdf

[3] “Building Effective Coalitions,” Retrieved on August 12, 2019 at https://files.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/BuildingEffectiveCoalitions.pdf

[4] Ibid

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