Establishing and maintaining effective coalitions is no easy feat. Through our experience working with coalitions of various sizes, structures, and purposes, we have found that there are some common ingredients that are necessary in order for coalitions to thrive. Like a cake, coalitions will sink (or even collapse!) if essential ingredients are missing from the mix. We are committed to helping organizations and collaborations grow, reach their full potential, and make an impact. The following are some key components that we recommend coalitions have in place or work towards establishing in order to be as effective as possible:
1. A clear, shared mission statement, goals and objectives that are understood and supported by all members, and form the basis for all work that the coalition carries out.
2. Strong, committed leadership that have clearly defined roles, understand and meet their responsibilities, and are willing and able to devote the time necessary to lead the coalition.
3. Structures, policies, procedures, and bylaws that are clearly written and followed.
4. A fair decision-making process that is consistently used and allows all members to provide input and engage in the decision-making.
5. Clear communication between and amongst the leadership and membership, and a commitment to keeping all members informed of new opportunities or challenges.
6. A collaborative approach to meeting community needs and an openness to working with other organizations or groups addressing the same issues in the community. It is important for members to act on behalf of the interests of the group as a whole, not their individual organizations.
7. Structured meetings on a regular basis that follow agendas, stay on topic, and are goal and outcome-oriented.
8. Ongoing and consistent participation and commitment from members to meet timelines, do the grunt work necessary, share the workload, and deliver on promises in order to meet their goals efficiently and effectively. Some members may not be able to commit much time and may choose to participate by paying dues and/or supporting paid staff instead.
9. Active planning, implementation, and evaluation of projects that meet the coalition’s goals, and flexibility and willingness to revise and redefine strategies as necessary.
10. Respect for differences in opinions and a fair approach to negotiating and resolving conflicts both within the coalition and between the coalition and other community groups and stakeholders.
As I researched for this blog post, I came across some amazing resources online to help coalitions and collaborations stay relevant and effective. Here are a few that I found most useful:
- CoalitionsWork has many guides, resources, and assessment tools on their website, including a great Coalition Effectiveness Inventory checklist
- The TCC Group wrote a comprehensive guide “What Makes an Effective Coalition? Evidence-Based Indictors of Success”
- Oak Ridge Associated Universities has a Coalition Building Primer that may be helpful for those who are considering forming a coalition or are in the early stages of coalition-building