Turning A Shared Vision Into A Values-Based Coalition Structure

You’ve agreed on your vision and values and come together in coalition. Now you’ll need a structure for organizing your members before you begin doing this work together.

Your structure should include options for different levels of engagement for members and should center the folks most impacted by the issue you work on. Coalition structures should be built so that the right people have the right information at the right time.

The importance of this is twofold:

  1. Coalition deployment will be more effective and streamlined if information, asks and decisions are clearly and effectively communicated across pre-established channels.
  2. Clear information sharing builds trust and transparency in a coalition and helps to maintain a balance of power between members. The structure of the coalition should ensure that all members – and especially those members who are directly impacted by the issue the coalition works on – have a strong say in the values of the coalition as well as the day-to-day decision making.

Coalitions structure is important because members need to participate in unique ways and the structure allows them to do that. Coalition structures ensures that the right people have the right information at the right time and helps maintain a balance of power in the coalition by ensuring equal access to information and equal say in decision making. Finally, coalition structure will evolve as your coalition grows and shrinks, allowing you to deploy based on who is at the table.

Strong structure allows for effective information sharing and collaborative decision making. Political groups and operatives often depend heavily on gossip for information sharing. There’s an in-group chatter that folks often rely on in lieu of clear structures for communication. Gossip and chit chat are not the same as clear structure and accountability.

To effectively structure your coalition, you’ll need the following:

  • Coalition Tracker: This is your master sheet! A membership tracking sheet should include all relevant information to track coalition members, organizations, workgroups and priorities. This tracker will allow you to monitor and deploy your coalition effectively.
  • Email List: You should have an email list for your coalition to communicate with them regularly. You may want to have subgroups or an update list as well. Emails can include action alerts, information for coalition members and scheduling updates.
  • Regular Meetings: Coalition meetings should happen at a regularly scheduled time that most members can attend. Meetings are a key location for information sharing, values re-alignment, and decision-making. The cadence, length, and content of the coalition meetings should reflect the cycle of work and goals of the coalition.
  • 1:1 Meetings with Members: In order to stay connected to members, you will need to make time to speak to them individually. Individual meetings with member organizations are an important way for the coalition manager to build strong relationships, gather coalition input, and ensure continued engagement.
  • Tiers: Your coalition might need tiers of engagement that allow for different time commitment and capacity of coalition members. It’s important to be very clear and transparent about what decisions get made and what information gets shared in each tier.
  • Workgroups: You may need subgroups in your coalition that focus on a particular project or a particular kind of work – like communications. These subgroups will help structure the work so that small teams can effectively advance a goal while reporting back to the larger group.

The structure of your coalition will depend largely on the size of your coalition. If you have 6 members to start, you might begin with a single tier of engagement with all members being equal and no workgroups. If you have 100 members later, you might consider a structure with multiple tiers including a steering committee of some kind as well as working groups for particular scopes of work. The structure will evolve along with the coalition but needs to always ensure that folks have access to information, ways to coordinate and work together and a clear path to join and leave the coalition so it can continue to grow and evolve.

In our next post– how you get to work building your coalition up!