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4 elements of successful coalitions

Two women smiling.Now that you’ve established your coalition, you want to make sure that members work well together and they stay involved in the group. There are some key elements that make coalitions work well together:

 

1.  Diversity and inclusion

Recruiting is an ongoing process. Always think about who is not at the table and what kinds of skills or viewpoints need to be included.

With diverse groups, it’s essential that everyone is valued and respected. Otherwise, people may feel unwelcome and may not return. If members of a certain group are invited but never show up, or don’t return to the coalition meetings, reach out to them personally and try different strategies for recruiting coalition members from that group.

 

2. Shared leadership

Each coalition member should know what role they play in the dialogue-to-change effort. Shared leadership is essential because all of the work cannot be done by one person. Each member brings a valuable contribution to the work. Think about ways that they can support each other, especially for the most challenging tasks.

All members should be active participants, with the best of their abilities. People from all backgrounds should have a chance to bring their particular leadership skills to the group, not just those who have frequently been seen as leaders.

 

3. Equity lens

Applying an equity lens, especially a racial equity lens, can help the group work more equitably and inclusively. This will ultimately lead to a strong coalition that can address problems in an honest, respectful way.

An “equity lens” isn’t necessarily a specific tool – it’s a way of examining all aspects of the work from group dynamics to how the meetings are run to the language that’s used on communication tools. When doing the work, it’s important to take some time to ask the group, “Will everyone in our community feel welcomed and included when they use this tool or attend this meeting?”

Here are a few markers of groups that are using an equity lens:

  • Group members share information and treat each other as allies, with respect.
  • People are encouraged to share their stories and cultural traditions with each other, and to develop trust so that they can have the difficult conversations they need to have.
  • People work together across differences of racial/ethnic background, and across other kinds of divisions.
  • People of color are given the opportunity to take on leadership roles.
  • People speak for themselves and are not asked to speak on behalf of a particular group.
  • People understand the history of racism and other forms of oppression in their community, and they take time to talk about how those dynamics could play out in their coalition and community efforts.

 

4. Transparent decision-making

As a group, it’s important to decide together how decisions are made. Here are some key questions to answer:

  • How are decisions going to be made? By consensus? Voting?
  • What happens if some people don’t agree with the rest of the group?
  • Who needs to sign off on public messages?
  • Who should speak for the group in public settings?

If there is an institution that is leading the effort, you also need to establish what kinds of decisions can be made without consulting that organization.

Everyone in the group should understand where they can have a voice, and where their voice might be limited in its impact. Throughout the process, continue to clarify roles and responsibilities, as well as who is responsible for making certain decisions.  During the close of each meeting, check in as a group to see if others feel the decision-making was inclusive.

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Connecticut Civic Ambassadors are everyday people who care about and engage others in their communities by creating opportunities for civic participation that strengthens our state’s "civic health."

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.