SOME ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF

COALITION DEVELOPMENT

 

THE FOUR "C"s [1]

 

 

Four key components of coalition-building --conditions, commitment, contributions and competence -- must be assessed at each stage of development.  First, political, economic and community conditions  must be right. Second, there must be a core group of people committed  to achieve the goal.  Third, they must be able to contribute and/or recruit from others the necessary ideology, power, and resources to reach the goal; and fourth, have the competence to manage both the social change strategy and the coalition's internal development.

 

 

CONDITIONS 

 

Conditions must be right in order to successfully form a coalition or collaboration. Some conditions to consider include:

·        Ability of the initiating groups to muster broad support

·        Community climate and receptivity

·        Feasibility of winning

·        External political and economic realities

·        Past experiences with interorganizational relationships

·        Past relationship with social change target

·        The timing of coalescence and activities

·        The urgency of the social change goal

·        Relevance of the issue

·        Type and level of resources available to the participating organizations

 

 

 

Once a coalition begins, other conditions become pertinent:                              

     Is the relationship between the coalition and the social change target  adversarial, neutral or advisory?

 

     Does the goal generate momentum, support and sustained participation amidst  changing conditions?

 

     Do external or internal factors hinder or enhance participation by collaboration  members?

 

     Is the coalition leadership competent at managing the collaboration? 

 

 

COMMITMENT

 

Coalition progress requires a core group committed to stay with the effort until the goal is achieved.  Since coalitions are by nature diverse, not all member organizations have the same incentives for participation.  There are usually differences in the type, source,  level and intensity of commitment brought to a collaboration by different members.  Recognizing and addressing these differences can be vital for coalition development.

 

TYPE OF COMMITMENT:

 

    Pragmatism/ Self-interest: quest for resources and power

     To obtain something for their organization or constituency

     To obtain something tangible for themselves as an individual

     To enhance agency or professional reputation or credibility

     To gain protection in a shared stance

     To obtain information or contacts

 

Ideology/ Altruism: value-based commitment to a cause or public interest

     To do innovative or creative work

     To promote a particular political or religious ideology

     To do good work to benefit others

     To further civic duty or pride

                                   

SOURCE OF COMMITMENT:

     Commitment to the cause/goal  (collaboration is a means to an end)

     Commitment to the process of collaboration  (collaboration is an end in itself)

 

LEVEL OF COMMITMENT:

    High / low

    Short term / long term

    Initiating /  sustaining

 

INTENSITY OF COMMITMENT:      (This can change over time)  Participant views the collaboration as:

     a top priority

     one of many activities

     of limited interest

     useful only for appearances

     politically necessary, but uncomfortable

                             

 

TO MAXIMIZE COMMITMENT TO THE COALITION:

 

·        Structure opportunities for multiple levels of commitment.

 

·        Clarify what kind and level of commitment is desirable and how it should be  demonstrated.

 

·        Encourage collaborators to articulate the basis and extent of their commitment.

 

·         Provide a variety of incentives to sustain participation, addressing the actual motivation of the members.

 

·         Plan for fluctuations in commitment over time.

 

·         Address the need for protection of members.

 

CONTRIBUTIONS

 

What does the coalition need to succeed?  The joy of collaborating is that different parties bring different kinds of contributions to the joint effort.  Good planning will ensure that the collaboration contains a winning "mix" of contributions. Contributions may be categorized as resources, ideology, or power.

 

RESOURCES

                       - access to key individuals / social change target

                       - access to large constituency

                       - contacts with additional coalition members or allies

                       - legitimacy, reputation

                       - expertise in coalition work

                       - expertise on the issue

                       - financial support or fundraising capability

                       - managerial skills

                       - media contacts and expertise

                       - political influence with the social change target

                       - space, equipment

                       - competent staff, volunteers

 

IDEOLOGY

      - a broad framework or vision for the collaboration

      - a tone for the process of interaction and decision-making

      - beliefs that fuel lasting commitment 

      - strong values

      - credibility, moral suasion

 

POWER

       - money

      - large organization

      - important constituency

      - control of punishment, rewards, symbols, information

      - authority

      - influence

    

Over time, the need for different types and levels of contributions changes. Once incorporated, these new constellations may alter coalition structure and dynamics.  If contributions are insufficient, the coalition will have to:

 

·        compromise its position, settle for less, or limit or change its      goal.

 

·        rearrange, replace, or recruit membership and/or  increase or

recruit new  contributions.

 

 

BALANCING DIFFERENTIAL CONTRIBUTIONS:    It is unrealistic to assume that contributions will be made to the coalition without expectations about both the cost and rewards to the contributors.  Decisions about the distribution of pay-offs or rewards for coalition involvement must be made.

 

To avoid conflict over differential contributions and rewards from members:

 

·        Assess the amount and kinds of contributions needed at each  stage of development.

 

·        Clarify expectations about minimum contributions and ratio of  contributions to rewards.

 

·        Find ways to make different types of contributions equivalent.

 

·        Balance contributions with rewards so that participants can each feel  appreciated and share ownership of the project.

 

 

COMPETENCE

 

Coalitions require different types of leaders and different kinds of leadership skills.  Leadership can be paid by the coalition,  donated by member organizations or provided by a sponsoring agency.  Leaders must approach collaborations in a nonhierarchical manner, and possess good "process" and strategic skills.

 

LEADERSHIP ROLES TO INCLUDE IN A COLLABORATION:

Facilitators/chairpersons - to guide meetings, clarify agendas, suggest approaches, coordinate  the work to be done and keep the group moving ahead.  Often it is the chairperson who serves as main point of contact for the collaboration.

Communicators  -- to maintain open, multidirectional lines of communication between the coalition itself, its members and their organizations, by calling, meeting, and sending written materials, or otherwise engaging in a communication exchange.

Process (feelings) watchers  -- to pay attention to the emotional climate,  to maintain equality of participation among members, and to suggest changes to keep the group functioning harmoniously.

Note Takers  -- to record process and outcome of coalition deliberations.  Since there are diverse interpretations of reality, and many parties to share in communications; this increases the importance of good minutes and records.

Representatives from each level of the collaboration -- to integrate the work being done at each level, and to represent the ideas and issues of each dimension  to the others  -- e.g. to represent committee work at the steering committee or Board level.

Spokesperson -- to deal with and present the  coalition’s position / image to the public, the social change target, the media and outside groups.

Visionary -- to inspire diverse groups to unite around a common issue.

Strategist  -- to help establish goals, targets, tactics, drawing upon good political and negotiating skills.

 

EFFECTIVE COALITION LEADERS KNOW HOW TO:

·        cultivate internal harmony among collaborators, as well  as progress toward external goals.

·        help diverse participants achieve consensus on goals, strategies, actions, and other coalition  business.

·        find ways to interest and sustain the participation of  diverse collaboration partners.

·        design effective strategies that allow differential  participation among   members.

·        tactfully air and mediate conflicts.

·        possess good negotiating skills.

·        maintain and enforce a vision of the whole collaboration, while paying attention to each part

·        create a sense of ownership and empowerment among  coalition members.

 

Varied COMPETENCIES are required for different collaboration leadership functions.

 

SKILLS NEEDED TO GET THE JOB DONE (TASK SKILLS):

        relating to and addressing the media

        advocacy and lobbying

        communication

        delegating responsibilities

        fundraising

        leading productive meetings

        management

        negotiation

        political and strategic acumen

        planning and forecasting

        public speaking

        research and needs assessment

        sense of timing and strategic ability

        writing

 

 

SKILLS NEEDED TO WORK EFFECTIVELY WITH OTHERS IN THE COLLABORATION (PROCESS SKILLS):

        balance different priorities.

        elicit everybody's input and craft a common plan of action

        manage conflict

        perseverance and patience

        sensitivity to racial, ethnic, class and gender differences

        strong interpersonal abilities

        vision and articulation of a larger whole in which each

         participant can contribute what they do or know best

 

 



[1]  Adapted from Mizrahi, T. and Rosenthal, B. (1986).  Social change coalitions: toward a synthesis of theory and practice. Unpublished Paper.