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9 - Coalition Assessment

Coalition Assessment tool 1)

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.

  1. Visionaries – Visionaries set goals that have never been imagined or seen as realistic. Visionaries challenge the conventional view of the possible, aim high, take risks, and rethink priorities.
  2. Strategists – Strategists sort out that part of the vision that is realistically attainable and develop a roadmap to get there. They anticipate obstacles and insure that activities remain headed in the right direction.
  3. Statesperson – Statespersons carry the flag. They are the “larger than life” public figures that embody authority, trust and credibility.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Strategic Communicators – Strategic Communicators are public teachers and masters f the “sound bite.” They translate complex information and basic concepts into powerful messages that can easily be grasped by the broad public
  8. Generalists – Generalist 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 are usually able to assist all of the other roles.
  9. Historians – Historians are the archivists of the issue and coalition. They hold the stories and maintain documentation of all of the significant dates/events that have occurred over time.
  10. 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.
  11. Honest Brokers – Honest Brokers are key movement builders who excel in negotiation and managing conflict, are able to ferry information among parties, and can be counted on to give you the bottom line.
  12. 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.
  13. Other –………….
Leadership Descriptions Who Plays This Role in Your Coalition? If No One Plays It, Who Could? How Will You Recruit for Missing Roles?
Outside Sparkplugs
Inside (Insider) Advocates
Strategic Communicators
Movement Builders
Honest Brokers
Cultural Activists
Other ……………
Pros and Cons of Coalitions

Note: 2)

Intuitively, working in coalitions makes much sense for so many reasons. The question here is “if it really 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 it also has its cons that make it hard for people to follow their intuition.

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 so achieve much more Distracts from other work: the demands of the coalition can lead to neglect of other organizational priorities.
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. Generates an uneven workload: weaker members of the coalition benefit from the hard work of the stronger members who may become resentful.
Produces safety in numbers: it is more difficult for the state to crack down on several groups than it is to harass one. Requires compromises to keep the coalition together that some members feel dilute their objectives.
Broadens your base of support: joining forces brings together the different constituencies that each member works with. Causes tensions due to inherent inequalities of power: because members differ in terms of resources, skills, experience, etc., there are imbalances of power; a few powerful organizations may dominate, even when weaker ones have a lot to offer.
Creates opportunities for new leaders: when existing leaders assume positions in the alliance, they can create opportunities for others. Limits organizational visibility: each member may not be recognized sufficiently for what it contributes.
Creates opportunities for learning; Working together on an issue provides lessons in democratic culture. 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.
Broadens the scope of each organization’s work. Provides a challenge of who is going to claim the leadership among the different leaders of all organizations.
1) Adapted from: Leadership Roles Within an Advocacy Movement. Advocacy Leadership Center, Institute for Sustainable Communities. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States.
2) Adapted from Institute for Sustainable Communities, 2007, p.47. Advocacy Resource Handbook. Originally developed by Advocacy Institute, 2005.

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