Community Coalitions Toolkit

What is a coalition?

In simplest terms, a coalition is a group of individuals and/or organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal. That goal could be as narrow as obtaining funding for a specific intervention, or as broad as trying to improve permanently the overall quality of life for most people in the community. By the same token, the individuals and organizations involved might be drawn from a narrow area of interest, or might include representatives of nearly every segment of the community, depending upon the breadth of the issue.

Stakeholders

  • Those most affected by the issue
  • Formal and informal helpers, those charged with carrying out community functions related to the issue and others affected by what the coalition might do

In situations where issues are too large and complex for a single organization to address, a coalition of groups and individuals working together may be the solution. A coalition can develop a coordinated response to an issue, increase the efficiency of service delivery, pool community resources, create and launch community-wide initiatives, build and wield political clout to influence policy, and work effectively toward long-term social change.

Benefits of Collaboration

In nearly all community initiatives, finding other groups & organizations with similar interests, that are willing to work with you on common issues or projects, is strategically advantageous. Benefits that can result from collaborating with others include:

Synergy: Groups working collaboratively will yield greater accomplishments than each group working on its own could achieve. Working separately will fragment the efforts & the resources, possibly leading to less accomplishment.

Community Awareness: Increased participation leads to increased community awareness. By involving a number of organizations, your issue or message can be transmitted to a great many more people, and, through word-of-mouth with their associates, to an exponentially larger pool of people.

Share resources: The sharing of resources and expertise can make daunting tasks more manageable. Also, it may be that you require technical expertise, knowledge or facilities that your own organization cannot provide.

Overcome Obstacles: Obstacles faced by one group may be overcome by another group.
Effective Representation: A partnership, coalition or network has more power to influence policy than a single organization because a larger and broader section of the community is represented.

Avoid Duplication: Working together can help ensure efforts and services aren’t being unnecessarily duplicated, and that there is an appropriate distribution of resources.

Access to Constituents: Sometimes one partner will have a high degree of organizational capacity for planning and implementing programs, but has not developed a trusting relationship with the community it wishes to serve, such as people with disabilities, aboriginal groups, grassroots community groups or particular ethno-racial communities. They may benefit from partnering with others who serve as a bridge into the community.

Access to funding sources: There may be grant opportunities for which your organization is not eligible, but one of your partners is. By working as a collaborative these funds can be accessed to support your initiative.

The Continuum of Care

(1) Promotion involves interventions (e.g., programs, practices, or environmental strategies) that enable people “to increase control over, and to improve, their. The focus of promotion is on well-being, according to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, with the goal of enhancing people’s ability to (a) Achieve developmentally appropriate tasks; (b) Acquire “a positive sense of self-esteem, mastery, well-being and social inclusion (c) Strengthen their ability to cope with adversity.

The National Prevention Strategy concurs, Emotional well-being, “Allows people to realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, and make a meaningful contribution to their community.” Further, since childhood experiences can have a lasting impact on a person’s life promoting wellness in the early years can help “build a foundation for overall health.”

(2) Prevention focuses on interventions that occur prior to the onset of a disorder and which are intended to prevent the occurrence of the disorder or reduce the risk for the disorder. Prevention is also about striving to optimize well-being. Prevention interventions, according to the Institute of Medicine, can be designed to address three levels of risk: universal, selective and indicated.

  • Universal prevention interventions focus on the “general public or a population subgroup that has not been identified on the basis of risk.” Examples: Community policies that promote access to early childhood education, implementation or enforcement of anti-bullying policies in schools, education for physicians on prescription drug misuse, and social skills education for youth in schools.
  • Selective prevention interventions focus on individuals or subgroups of the population “whose risk of developing behavioral health disorders is significantly higher than average. Examples: Prevention education for new immigrant families living in poverty with young children and peer support groups for adults with a history of family mental illness and/or substance abuse.
  • Indicated prevention interventions focus on “high-risk individuals who are identified as having minimal but detectable signs or symptoms” that foreshadow behavioral health disorders, “but who do not meet diagnostic levels at the current time.” Examples: Information and referral for young adults who violate campus or community policies on alcohol and drugs; and screening, consultant, and referral for families of older adults admitted to emergency rooms with potential alcohol-related injuries.

(3) Treatment interventions include case identification and standard forms of treatment (e.g., detoxification, outpatient treatment, in-patient treatment, medication-assisted treatment).

(4) Maintenance includes interventions that focus on compliance with long-term treatment to reduce relapse and recurrence and aftercare, including rehabilitation and recovery support.

(5) Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.