Effective Strategies To Build Advocacy
Capacity Among Service Provider Coalitions
24 April, 2009
S. Gopikrishna (Gopi)
on behalf of the City of Toronto’s
Immigrant and Refugee Housing Committee
Scarborough Housing Help Centre
This workshop will explore
A. Birth, Life Cycle & Functions of
B. Traditional Membership of coalitions
C. Challenges before coalitions
D. Non-traditional member recruitment and
A. Birth and Functions of a Coalition
What is a coalition?
How are coalitions born? What is
the life cycle of a coalition?
What do coalitions do?
What is a Coalition?
“to grow together” – an alliance of people,
parties or nations pursuing a common goal
Defined usually as “a mutually beneficial and
well defined relationship by people and
organizations to achieve common goals “
Advocacy focus distinguishes coalitions from
“partnerships”, where the implied goal is direct
How are coalitions born?
What is the life-cycle?
Birth of a coalition:
Response to an immediate crisis e.g. HRSDC funding crisis of
A group of organizations/individuals looking to increase
their influence in decision making e.g. Ontario Medical
Decision makers initiate consultations to get community
feed-back and buy-in e.g. Ontario Early Years Centre tables
Life-cycle of a coalition:
Temporary- coalition dissolves upon achieving goal
Long term- coalition takes on new causes
Dormant-Active- Coalition takes on causes when necessary
What do Coalitions do? What are the benefits ?
A coalition may focus on information sharing,
birthing partnerships or advocacy
Draw attention to emerging issues and research
the impact on target population
Identify options and solutions to an existing
Lobbying governments /lawmakers to implement
What is the traditional membership of a
How does membership impact the work of a
How do members interact? What is the
decision making process?
Who traditionally are members of a coalition?
How does membership impact coalition work?
Organizations and/or individuals interested in a given
topic become members. In our work, most members
Members are the coalition’s biggest resource- even with
membership fees, coalitions are under resourced
Ability to negotiate common goals and implement the
goals by working as an “organization” is key to getting
How do members interact?
What is the decision making process?
Members meet regularly to discuss
issues, exchange information and make decisions
Decisions are made usually through consensus. If
consensus is not possible, then decisions are
made through a simple majority
C. CHALLENGES BEFORE COALITIONS
What challenges can a coalition face?
Can the challenges be classified?
How can coalitions address
Types of Challenges
Challenges classifiable into two types:
Internal and External Challenges
Agreement on a common goal
Progress is slow and frustrating
Lack of Resources
Concern about consequences of
advocacy – will I get into trouble?
Types of Challenges
Do the funders/community view it as a legitimate
How quickly can a coalition react to a situation
Understanding of policy formulation- decision makers
are concerned about financial impact, non-profit sector is concerned
about social impact
Characteristics of strong coalitions
Coalitions that speak for a cross section
of the community are seen as legitimate
Develop a common goal that reflects reality
Understand that progress is “relentless
Ability to state issues in the language of decision
D. Non- Traditional Members
What is the definition of non-traditional
members? What are examples of this group?
How will non-traditional members increase
Where and how can we recruit non-traditional
What are examples of non-
A non-traditional member refers to an organization
outside the service provider non-profit
sector whose beliefs align with our
Students and university professors
Journalists and radio/TV personalities
Bureaucrats and funders
How can non-traditional members increase
new perspectives in strategy,
research and policy
Ability to advocate without fear of direct impact
Increases legitimacy ( constituent concern) and
helps disseminate information outside the sector
Develop “Champions” – spokespersons inside
government to make subtle but important
Where can we recruit
To find “non-traditional members” to champion
your cause, consider:
Civil servants who know policy works
Academicians and Students- advocacy is a
given in academic life
Journalists/broadcasters - a voice to reshape
Unions who support social causes
How can we recruit
No magic formula for recruitment.
However, it is important to thoroughly understand
Impact of the policy in question on a group that you want
Do their skills and interest match and increase your
What can you offer them in return?
The IRHC story
A brief review of the experiences and practices of
City of Toronto’s The Immigrant and Refugee
Housing Committee (IRHC)
How did IRHC evolve?
What is the membership of IRHC?
What challenges did IRHC face? How did it
respond to the challenges?
How did non-traditional members assist IRHC?
Birth of IRHC
IRHC was born out of a consultation held by the
City to respond to an influx of refugees in 1992
Mandate is “Developing strategies and initiatives
to address housing needs of refugees and
Goals include: Addressing housing needs of
newcomers, collaboration, public education and
informing public policy
Membership consists of:
24 non-profit organizations active in the housing and
immigrant serving sectors, minutes sent to 120 agencies
Academicians and Researchers
IRHC has been supported by the Shelter, Support and
Housing Administration Division and meeting on a
regular basis for over 15 years
Works closely with other coalitions such as Canadian
Council of Refugees, Alternative Housing & Services
Challenges and IRHC
There was no comprehensive study of housing issues
among refugees and immigrants
Addressing the issue of who is a “newcomer”?
Addressing the perspective that the panacea to housing
Created credible reference material - “Refugee Housing
Study” (1992), the first study of refugee housing issues
Coordinated services by designing “First Contact
Program” offered by Red Cross
Non-traditional members and IRHC
IRHC’s refugee housing study was possible because of
the assistance from academecians
IRHC intervened with CIC to address the issue of
documentation for Haitian refugee claimants ( late 2007)-
City of Toronto participation crucial
IRHC intervened to get refugee claimants eligibility to
access the Rent Bank program
IRHC Welcomes New Members
Contact: Ms. Azar Farahani @
416 392 0068 or