Build a Coalition

Work with others to strengthen your efforts.

What is a coalition?
A coalition is a group of organizations and individuals working together for a common purpose. Coalitions may have a “one issue” focus or a “multi-issue” focus. Most likely, many of you are concerned about many issues relating to child and family wellbeing. Therefore, your coalition may not focus on just K-12 education, but on a number of issues affecting children and families, including early childhood education, child welfare and access to health care, poverty, etc.

Why are coalitions important?
There is power in numbers! By joining forces with others with similar priorities, you are likely to get more accomplished. Coalitions have several advantages:

  • Coalitions can reach a broader base.
  • Coalitions generally have greater credibility and can have more leverage by demonstrating tangible, broad community support.
  • Coalitions can offer better access to policy-makers and connections to influential decision-makers through a strong united voice.
  • Coalitions create networking and partnership opportunities for your organization.
  • Coalitions provide economies of scale and cost-efficiency, conserving resources for each member organization.
  • Coalitions have the potential to provide media attention and public profiles that member groups may not be able to achieve alone.
  • Coalitions offer access to greater expertise by calling on a range of organizations and individuals.

Where to Start

Step 1.  Identify Potential Local Allies
Are you school-based? Start by networking with other school parent groups. Ask your district to host a meeting for school-based parent groups to talk about forming a Task Force.

Contact your school district’s communications office to find out what your district is doing and what other local schools and community groups are working on public education issues. Request contact information.

Find out who’s working with children and families in your community. Consider local nonprofits, ECFE sites, faith-based organizations. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce and business groups to see what they’re doing to support public education. Find out how to contact them. Start with a phone call to see if there’s enough common ground, then follow-up with a one-on-one meeting. If there seems to be enough local interest, organize a coalition planning meeting.

Examples of groups with local chapters concerned about public education include:

A good resource for finding local nonprofits is the Nonprofits Yellow Pages maintained by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.  It’s searchable by region, just be sure to check “All Categories” in Step 1 to get results.

You might also check with your local political party office to find your Senate District Chair.

Step 2.  Get Together and Define your Goals
Determine your long- and short-term goals. Why are you forming this coalition and what do you hope to accomplish? Come to agreement on some general guiding principles for the coalition’s work. Begin by creating a mission statement on which your coalition members agree. As the coalition is developing its goals, keep in mind that goals should be:

  • Believable: They should describe conditions that the coalition believes can be achieved.
  • Attainable: It should be possible to achieve the goals in the designated time frame.
  • Tangible: The goals should be concrete and capable of being fully understood.
  • On a Timetable: A completion date should be included in the goal statement.
  • Win-Win: The goals should allow all members of the coalition to experience some level of success.

Address issues up front so that all perspectives can be brought to the table. Remember that this is a collaborative effort (that’s the whole point of a coalition!) and that means acknowledging and respecting differences, and being able to compromise.

Always designate specific tasks to be done and set benchmarks for completion of coalition activities.

It’s also important to determine how often, when and where your coalition will meet, and who will attend each meeting. Once these logistics are worked out, consider announcing your coalition to the public. By releasing a joint statement or holding a press conference, the coalition can make policy-makers and the general public aware of its existence.

Step 3.  Take Action and Keep the Momentum Alive
The advocacy coalition should meet regularly to coordinate strategies. Different members will contribute different strengths and it is important to capitalize on those strengths. You need to keep all coalition members informed about the ongoing advocacy efforts, so that they feel a sense of involvement and investment in the coalition. You may consider a regular newsletter to all coalition members. Email is also an easy and inexpensive way to stay in frequent contact. Encourage feedback and suggestions from coalition members.

Step 4.  Build Alliances at the Regional and State Levels
By cultivating relationships and involving others, you will be able to make significant gains in increasing support for public education. Check the Parents United Directory of Organizations to learn more about the people working to support public education in Minnesota.