Most likely, you will need to form or join a coalition of a sort to support your advocacy. The more complicated the issue you are dealing with, the more you need to join forces with others. Joining forces with other groups and organizations takes different forms.
We use different names to describe joining forces with other entities and often use these names interchangeably, including coalitions, alliances, and networks. Although this interchangeable use is not a big offense, it is good to describe these forms to know what options we can consider for our advocacy . Claire Reinelt, 2016; Networks, Coalitions, and Leadership: A Brief Conceptual Overview for Advocacy Networks, p. 1 NetworksCoalitionsLeadership (1).pdf (leadershiplearning.org), Accessed on … Continue reading
|DESCRIPTION||A temporary union of distinct entities committed to taking joint actions aiming to achieve a particular focused goal. “Coalitions are ‘networks in action mode’” Ibid, p. 1. E.g., Coalition to pass the child protection law||A formal union of autonomous entities with common goals, values, and standards. E.g., The Red Crescent||A non-formal gathering of entities and individuals to nourish relations and exchange ideas, experiences. resources, interests, and passions around a broad area of interest E.g., the Iraqi Network of CSOs|
|PURPOSE||Very focused on a particular purpose||Generally focused on a broad interest||Broad|
|AUTONOMY||Binding in actions related to the coordinated effort||Moderately binding in some actions.||Non-binding and lightly coordinated efforts|
|LIFE SPAN||Ends with the end of the coordinated effort||No specific life span||No specific life span|
|DECISION-MAKING||Fairly centralized in the hands of a small group||Moderately coordinated and binding to members||Loosely moderated decision-making with non-binding decisions.|
|INTENSITY OF DEMAND||Very demanding||MModerately demanding||Lightly demanding|
We strongly recommend that your team consider the different forms of working with other groups before forming or joining other groups. This will help you select the best fit for your cause, your organization, and the environment you are working in.
For the purposes of this toolkit, we often use the word “coalition” as an umbrella term to indicate any form of working together with other groups to achieve a common objective.
Coalition Advantages and Disadvantages
Intuitively, working in coalitions makes much sense for so many reasons. The question here is, “if it makes that much sense, why is it that we do not work in coalitions that often?” The answer to this question is not that easy. Working in coalitions has its pros, but cons make it hard for people to follow their intuition.
Pros and Cons of Coalitions Adapted from Institute for Sustainable Communities, 2007, p.47. Advocacy Resource Handbook. Originally developed by Advocacy Institute, 2005; and
Following is a list of some of the pros and cons of working in coalitions:
|● Generates more resources to accomplish your goal: alliance members can pool human and material resources and achieve much more.
● Increases credibility and visibility: decision-makers and the broader public are more likely to pay attention to a force of ten organizations than they are to one or two.
● Expands the network of member organizations.
● Produces safety in numbers: it is more difficult for the state to crack down on several groups than to harass one.
● Broadens your support base: joining forces brings together the different constituencies that each member works with.
● Creates opportunities for new leaders: when existing leaders assume positions in the alliance, they can create opportunities for others.
● Creates learning opportunities; Working together on an issue provides lessons in democratic culture.
● Broadens the scope of each organization’s work.
● Enriches skills and knowledge through exposure to other coalition members’ expertise.
|● Distracts from other work: the coalition’s demands can neglect other organizational priorities.
● Generates an uneven workload: weaker coalition members benefit from the hard work of the stronger members who may become resentful.
● Requires compromises to keep the coalition together, which some feel dilutes their objectives.
● Causes tensions due to inherent inequalities of power: because members differ in terms of resources, skills, experience, etc., there are power imbalances; a few powerful organizations may dominate, even when weaker ones have a lot to offer.
● Limits organizational visibility: each member may not be recognized sufficiently for their contributions.
● Poses risks to your reputation: if one member has problems, there can be guilt by association; one member can hurt the coalition as a whole.
● Provides a challenge of who will claim the leadership among the different leaders of all organizations.
Characteristics of a Successful Coalition This part is taken directly from Jared Raynor, TCC Group, 2011. What Makes an Effective Coalition? Evidence-Based Indicators of Success. What-Makes-an-Effective-Coalition.pdf (tccgrp.com). Accessed … Continue reading
In his excellent piece on effective coalitions, Jared Raynor, TCC Group puts together three sets of factors that determine the effectiveness of a coalition: What Makes an Effective Coalition? Evidence-Based Indicators of Success, 2011, P. 15. What-Makes-an-Effective-Coalition.pdf (tccgrp.com). Accessed 02/25/2022.
- Capacity of coalition members
- Capacity of the Coalition
- Outcomes/Impact of the Work of the Coalition
CAPACITY OF COALITION MEMBERS Ibid, P. 14
Initially, coalition members make up the units of the coalition. Members’ capacity and willingness to make the coalition successful are the first determinant of that success. Building a strong and strategic coalition starts by recruiting the right entities to join. Following is a list of member capacities you need to look for:
COALITION CAPACITY Ibid, P. 14
There are five core capacities for any coalition that contribute to its success:
Leadership capacity refers to the ability of a coalition to create and sustain the vision, inspire, model, prioritize, make decisions, provide direction and innovate, all in an effort to achieve the coalition’s mission.
Adaptive capacity refers to the ability of a coalition to monitor, assess, and respond to internal and external changes. Advocacy coalitions must be highly adaptable to be effective in ever-changing environments over the long term. Inherent in many leadership capacities is the flexibility and adaptability of the coalition.
Management capacity refers to the ability of a coalition to use its resources effectively and efficiently. Management in advocacy organizations incorporates the hallmarks of any well-run concern: good communication, good people, and good resource management.
Technical capacity refers to the ability of coalitions to implement organizational and programmatic functions necessary to complete the work.
Organizational culture refers to the unique history, language, structure, and set of values and beliefs. These cultural elements all serve as the context through which organizations define, assess, and improve their effectiveness. There are five cultural characteristics that emerged from our research as important to coalitions: trust, respect, safe dissent, unity, and sensitivity to power differences.
A Special Emphasis on Adaptive and Cultural Capacities
While it is important to strike a healthy balance between these five sets of coalition capacities, Reinelt Tanya Beer in Clair Reinelt, 2016; Networks, Coalitions, and Leadership: A Brief Conceptual Overview for Advocacy Networks, p. 1 NetworksCoalitionsLeadership (1).pdf (leadershiplearning.org), … Continue reading Stresses that two of these sets often receive less attention than they deserve: the Adaptive Capacity and the Cultural Capacity. She presents the following good practices related to each of these capacities:
Adaptive Capacity Indicators:
- Conduct regular needs and resources assessment, ongoing environmental/systems assessment, and risk and opportunity assessment;
- Regularly appraise targeted change agents, allies, potential allies, and the opposition;
- Seek diverse perspectives and perceptions of the system;
- Put learning processes in place to reflect regularly on the implications of external scans for strategy;
- Adjust actions in an ongoing way to respond to the environment;
- Build connections and collaborate with strategic allies;
- Recognize the complementarity of assets between partners;
- Put processes in place for collecting and reflecting on metrics for progress;
- Create decision-making structures to support the quick redeployment of financial resources and staff time;
- Have access to significant amounts of unrestricted funds;
- Encourage risk-taking, experimentation, and creative thinking;
- Balance emergent strategies and planned strategies; and
- Act proactively, not just reactively.
Cultural Capacity Practices:
Cultivating cultural capacity is extremely important for advocacy networks as they seek to engage multicultural partners with different perspectives, beliefs, frames, language, and cultural values. John Everett Til Till, John Everett (n.d.) in Clair Reinelt, 2016; Networks, Coalitions, and Leadership: A Brief Conceptual Overview for Advocacy Networks, p. 1 NetworksCoalitionsLeadership (1).pdf … Continue reading Describes strategies for building an effective multicultural coalition.
- Listen and learn from those whose experiences are different from your own
- Engage leaders to support intentional efforts to undo cultural biases and deal directly with cultural conflicts
- Put processes in place to address cultural conflicts both inside organizations and in the network
- Establish norms and rules together, and clarify roles and decisionmaking
- Expect values conflicts
- Loosen control over branding, and enable partners to communicate values, issues, and action ideas in ways that resonate with their constituencies so they will help disseminate messages more broadly
The Outcomes/Impact of Coalition Work
Like any advocacy work, coalition success includes a number of interim achievements such as network development, skill-building, and incremental gains in policy development. As a result, coalitions need a continuum of measures and indicators. Clarifying goals from the start and measuring them regularly allows for true lessons learned rather than retrospective justification. Since clarity of purpose is one capacity upon which there is widespread agreement, it seems like an appropriate place to search for evaluation criteria. As coalitions and external stakeholders (including funders) evaluate coalitions, they might focus on the extent to which a coalition is making progress on goal destination (issue) and/ or the coalition as the value proposition (the right vehicle) both discussed below.
The following table presented by TCC Group summarizes some prominent indicators for evaluating coalitions in each area.
Coalition Task Needs Vs. Maintenance Needs
VeneKlasen and Miller VeneKlasen, Lisa, and Miller, Valerie, 2002. A New Weave of Power, People, and Politics: An action guide for policy and citizen participation. P 316. World Neighbors, Oklahoma, USA. Present another way of examining the different needs to manage coalition through the following two sets: “Task Needs” and “Maintenance Needs.”
Coalition Decision-Making Dilemma: Consensus, Majority Voting, or Executive Leadership
An underlying assumption is that coalitions have shared and transparent decision-making processes. Raynor Jared Raynor, TCC Group, 2011. What Makes an Effective Coalition? Evidence-Based Indicators of Success. What-Makes-an-Effective-Coalition.pdf (tccgrp.com). Accessed 02/25/2022. P. 19 argues that “transparency and equity” in decision-making does not always mean “consensus.” Advocacy coalitions strive to achieve two purposes at the same time. On the one hand, they want to be inclusive and provide an equal opportunity for sharing in making the decisions. On the other, they want to be mindful of having the best strategy to achieve what they are coalescing about. It is the tension between being inclusive and being effective. Using consensus in making decisions for the coalition has its pros and cons, as shown in the table below.
Groups can fall apart over seemingly minor or even trivial issues! Note that the two groups support having a moustache! Some of our worst enemies agree with us on the end goal but disagree on the strategy.
Coalition: Role Composition
Any advocacy effort must have a plurality of leaders, filling a cabinet of distinct yet complementary leadership roles. The list below presents twelve key players in any campaign for change. Adapted from: Leadership Roles Within an Advocacy Movement. Advocacy Leadership Center, Institute for Sustainable Communities. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States. License … Continue reading
- Visionaries – Visionaries set goals that nobody has ever imagined or seen as realistic. Visionaries challenge the conventional view of the possible, aim high, take risks, and rethink priorities.
- Strategists – Strategists sort out that part of the realistically attainable vision and develop a roadmap to get there. They anticipate obstacles and ensure that activities remain headed in the right direction.
- Statesperson – Statespersons carry the flag. They are the “larger than life” public figures who embody authority, trust, and credibility.
- Experts – Experts ensure that all arguments and public policy positions are well reasoned and grounded in fact. They possess special skills and knowledge that lend credibility to and back up positions.
- Sparkplugs – Sparkplugs are agitators. They operate outside of conventional, political (or other) establishments, free of the ties that bind “inside” players, sparkplugs churn up our collective conscience and annoy us into action.
- Inside (Insider) Advocates – Inside Advocates understand the political process and are positioned to influence key policy-makers. They often occupy seats of power or open doors to the people in those seats.
- Strategic Communicators – Strategic Communicators are public teachers and masters f the “sound bite.” They translate complex information and basic concepts into powerful messages that the broad public can easily grasp
- Generalists – Generalists have knowledge, skills, and interests in all areas but no special knowledge that ties them to a specific role. They are great supports because they can usually assist all other roles.
- Historians – Historians are the archivists of the issue and coalition. They hold the stories and maintain documentation of all significant dates/events over time.
- Movement Builders – Movement Builders are the quiet heroes who tirelessly build a broad heterogeneous base. They bridge differences, make linkages, create space, initiate new approaches, and circumvent turf wars.
- Honest Brokers – Honest Brokers are key movement builders who excel in negotiation and managing conflict, can ferry information among parties, and can be counted on to give you the bottom line.
- Cultural Activists – Cultural Activists are the poets, writers, visual artists, and dancers that bring our movements to life. Through metaphor and performance, they open up a sense of possibility and ground us in the power of culture.
|↑1||Claire Reinelt, 2016; Networks, Coalitions, and Leadership: A Brief Conceptual Overview for Advocacy Networks, p. 1 NetworksCoalitionsLeadership (1).pdf (leadershiplearning.org), Accessed on 02/25/2022.|
|↑2||Ibid, p. 1.|
|↑3||Adapted from Institute for Sustainable Communities, 2007, p.47. Advocacy Resource Handbook. Originally developed by Advocacy Institute, 2005; and|
|↑4||This part is taken directly from Jared Raynor, TCC Group, 2011. What Makes an Effective Coalition? Evidence-Based Indicators of Success. What-Makes-an-Effective-Coalition.pdf (tccgrp.com). Accessed 02/25/2022. Reference to specific pages for different sections is indicated in other reference notes.|
|↑5||What Makes an Effective Coalition? Evidence-Based Indicators of Success, 2011, P. 15. What-Makes-an-Effective-Coalition.pdf (tccgrp.com). Accessed 02/25/2022.|
|↑6, ↑7||Ibid, P. 14|
|↑8||Tanya Beer in Clair Reinelt, 2016; Networks, Coalitions, and Leadership: A Brief Conceptual Overview for Advocacy Networks, p. 1 NetworksCoalitionsLeadership (1).pdf (leadershiplearning.org), Accessed on 02/25/2022.|
|↑9||Till, John Everett (n.d.) in Clair Reinelt, 2016; Networks, Coalitions, and Leadership: A Brief Conceptual Overview for Advocacy Networks, p. 1 NetworksCoalitionsLeadership (1).pdf (leadershiplearning.org), P. 8, Accessed on 02/25/2022.|
|↑10||VeneKlasen, Lisa, and Miller, Valerie, 2002. A New Weave of Power, People, and Politics: An action guide for policy and citizen participation. P 316. World Neighbors, Oklahoma, USA.|
|↑11||Jared Raynor, TCC Group, 2011. What Makes an Effective Coalition? Evidence-Based Indicators of Success. What-Makes-an-Effective-Coalition.pdf (tccgrp.com). Accessed 02/25/2022. P. 19|
|↑12||Adapted from: Leadership Roles Within an Advocacy Movement. Advocacy Leadership Center, Institute for Sustainable Communities. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States. License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/.|