Building and Sustaining Effective Coalitions Presented by Jonathan Poisner For the State Environment Leadership Program April 2011
A BOUT J ONATHAN P OISNER S TRATEGIC C ONSULTING Services: Strategic and Campaign Planning Facilitation Coalition Development Fundraising Communications Organizational Development Executive Transitions Executive Coaching
W HAT WE ’ RE GOING TO COVER Best practices for launching Different types of coalitions Best practices for sustaining
W HAT WE ’ RE NOT GOING TO COVER Why coalitions Details on governance Differences between large and small coalitions Many other topics that could turn this into an all-day webinar
W HAT IS A C OALITION ? My plain english definition: A coalition is a set of organizations that have chosen to work together for some shared purpose.
H AVE YOU EVER BEEN IN AMEETING WHEN SOMEBODY SAID : “We should form a coalition!
D ETERMINE THE CORE This is the list of people who need to be in the launch meetings. It’s not your ultimate coalition membership, but it’s the essential players
TAKE THE C ORE ’ S TEMPERATURE Series of 1 on 1 conversations to take the temperature Prefer 1 on 1 because you want candor and no group-think and peer pressure If there isn’t enthusiasm, be prepared to pull the plug
I F IT ’ S STILL A GO , MEET TO ANSWER 5 KEY QUESTIONS Not a single meeting Could be anywhere from 2-4 meetings
Q UESTION 1:W HAT ’ S THE PURPOSE OFTHE COALITION ? Is the coalition about a specific piece of legislation, or an ongoing issue where the group wants to make progress over time? Is the coalition about building the capacity of its members separate from any specific policy goal?
Q UESTION 2:W HAT TYPE OF COALITIONMAKES SENSE GIVEN THEPURPOSE ? More on this in a minute It can be good to put the answers to Questions 1 and 2 in writing.
QUESTION 3:GIVEN THE PURPOSEAND TYPE OFCOALITION, WHATSYSTEM OFGOVERNANCE MAKESSENSE?
Q UESTION 4:W HAT ARE THE INITIALPRIORITY OR PRIORITIESFOR ACTION ? Don’t come together if there isn’t at least some initial action item for you to collectively take over the next 1-12 months
Q UESTION 5:W HERE DO YOU GET THERESOURCES FORCOLLECTIVE WORK ?
M ORE ON Q UESTION 2:W HAT TYPE OF COALITIONDO YOU WANT ?
FIVE TYPES THAT ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY GROUPS TYPICALLY USE Networks Associations Coordinated Project Campaign Coalition Ongoing Partnership/Strategic AllianceAdapted from materials created by Institute for Conservation Leadership
N ETWORKS Groups coming together Primary purpose is sharing information Ad hoc help where interests overlap Decrease duplication of effort Very informal governance
A SSOCIATIONS Membership-type alliance Primary purpose is to serve the long-term interests of the membership More focused on capacity building than policy goals Tends to have formal governance and separate incorporation Example: SELP
C OORDINATED P ROJECT The primary purpose is a specific project. Examples: passing legislation, stopping a bad “thing”, creating/publicizing a report Coalition members tend to take on specific tasks within the project Rarely involves formal governance or separate coalition finances
C AMPAIGN C OALITION Primary Purpose is a specific action you want some outside entity to take. Such as voters passing a ballot measure, the legislature passing a bill, or a corporation to take some action. Usually with an end-date (election day?) Shared, written plan for what needs to happen e.g. the campaign Usually a pooling of resources into single campaign budget
C AMPAIGN C OALITION Continued Usually centralized staff or volunteer campaign leadership who’re accountable to the campaign, not individual member groups Tends to have own governance, bank accounts, and campaign-specific fundraising
O NGOING PARTNERSHIP / S TRATEGIC A LLIANCE Longer-term around an issue or goal Example: Reduce use of toxic chemicals in Oregon over the next 5 years. Shared “strategic” planning Tends to develop Campaigns or Coordinated Projects as appropriate to meet long-term goals
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH IS APPROPRIATE? Identify the potential coalition parties Identify why the coalition is being proposed Pick the most appropriate type of coalition collectively; don’t prejudge before you talk to potential coalition partners Be flexible – don’t feel you have to pick one of these; you can create your own model
WHY DO SOMECOALITION LAUNCHES FAIL? Number one reason: Lack of individual leadership! That’s why the temperature taking is so important. I’ll give you two examples from my own experience.
G ROW O REGON PARTNERSHIP Started with a general meeting of folks interested in sustainable food systems after a series of 1 on 1s Brought in outside facilitator to talk about whether to form an agenda to pursue a common legislative agenda Did 2 more meetings that formalized the coalition governance and selected initial priorities The Partnership is thriving.
SMART GROWTHCOALITION IN A STATE I WON’T NAME Had me facilitate two meetings of a set of individuals/organizations who were interested The participants agreed upon forming the coalition, its purpose of the coalition, its governance, and an initial policy priority But then it fell apart.
W HY DID IT FAIL ?B ECAUSE NOBODY WASPREPARED TO STEP UPAND LEAD . The group instigating the initial meeting wasn’t prepared to lead They just hoped somebody would “step up.” Had not done 1 on 1s to take the temperature. Nobody wanted to be chair of the coalition or make it a major focus
F OUR K EYS : Communications Power Planning Behavior
C OMMUNICATIONS Failure to communicate can lead to schisms Insiders and outsiders Systems to make sure that those not in the core know what’s happening Enough meetings for all to feel engaged. But not so many that things bog down.
P OWER Coalition partners aren’t all equal Especially if the coalition has groups of dramatically different size Acknowledge and think about this openly when setting up the governance. There is no one right solution to power imbalances.
P LANNING S YSTEMS Failure to plan can lead to problems Just like with organizations Really important to agree upon strategies Not all the organizations in the coalition will have the same strategic thinking You may have coalition partners who mostly pursue legal strategies in with partners who mostly pursue grassroots strategies.
P LANNING S YSTEMS Continued Need a conscious plan/strategy regarding coalition membership Before growing, ask why you want a larger coalition membership The “why” should tell you who to invite, if anybody Need to build in planning processes that engage coalition members if you want them to invest in the coalition Can be long-term strategic plan Short-term campaign plans And everything in between
B EHAVIOR Transparency Share information broadly within the coalition Don’t mask disagreements within the coalition Confidentiality Keep plans of individual groups confidential Don’t air dirty laundry
B EHAVIOR Continued Taking and sharing credit Dispute resolution procedures Codes of Conduct as potential mechanism.