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NC State Extension

Community Coalition Building

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It’s difficult to bring about social, economic, or community change when working alone. For example, tackling wicked problems like poverty, health disparities, racial, class, and gender inequities, and the like cannot be done solely through government programming. On the contrary, a diversity of perspectives and energy must be tapped in order to build the momentum and capacity needed to bring about real change.

Whenever a community chooses to enter a planning process, it should be open to inviting a variety of stakeholders to the planning process. Local government, NGO’s, higher ed, as well as representatives from the private sector, should plan to partner with neighborhood groups, faith-based communities, and other less-organized manifestations of community residents. Targeted beneficiaries must be included in the planning process from the beginning.

But what happens after the plan is complete? Too often the plans are put on a shelf or the work of implementing the plan strategies falls to an understaffed government agency or non-profit entity. How do we ensure that plans are implemented? By investing time, energy, and resources into the implementation phase as well as the planning phase.

One way to tackle the implementation of plan strategies is to form a community coalition. Stakeholders are informed at the outset of the planning process that their involvement does not end when the plan is complete. In fact, it is only just beginning, and they are expected to stick with the plan until the desired change goal has been achieved or modified.

Several theories of community coalition building exist but all of them are intended to  create collaborative confidence, build community capacity, and foster change at the local level. The key to a successful community coalition, as with any form of collaborative, is frequent and transparent communication and an understanding of the roles within the collaborative, as well as the rules by which they engage with one another. The collaborative’s choice of governance model will address all of these factors. Cultivate NC staff facilitates discussions of governance when assisting a community’s coalition building.


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