Help I am trapped in a Coalition and can’t get out: Meet Dr.Coalition September 26, 2011Posted by tomwolff in : Coalition Building, Collaborative Solutions , trackback
So let’s ask Dr Coalition about what traps us in coalitions where there is a failure to act and what we can do to turn that around.
Dear Dr. Coalition,
I am in a coalition that talks, talks, talks but never acts. This failure to act makes me feel trapped. The members of our coalition can talk about issues endlessly. If anyone suggests taking action they urge them to first do a careful needs assessment, even though we have shelves of these assessments already. It is almost as if they don’t know how to take action or are afraid of taking any action. What can we do?
Exasperated in Ohio
I’ve seen it all as well– coalitions are creative in finding ways to put off being catalysts for community change and moving to action to change programs, policies and practices in their communities. I have seen coalitions:
- Spend a year writing by-laws and incorporating (to what end?
- Conduct another round of needs assessments when they already have all the data they need
- Write reports summarizing their findings – reports that get placed on the shelf next to earlier reports but no one plans actions to follow up on the identified needs
- Spend all their time networking and exchanging information with each other without ever moving to the next levels of collaborative functioning – coordinating, cooperating and collaborating – these later three can create actions that move towards actual community change
So how do we get stuck coalitions to move to action? Here are some ideas:
First, identify that the lack of action is a problem that many members are experiencing (just ask them!). The literature on successful coalitions says that one of the key variables in successful coalitions is that “outcomes matter”. So tap into that sentiment among your members – that they joined the coalition and continue to commit time to it in order to create community change.
Then together identify some “low hanging fruit” – easy win situations where they can start to act together – they need to see that the core premise of coalitions will work for them – namely “That they can do together that which that they cannot do apart”. They won’t believe that until they act together and get something done.
One helpful tool is “The Continuum of Collaboration Worksheet”. This allows a coalition to assess whether they are mainly doing “networking” which does not involve taking action or whether they have moved on to other more powerful forms of coalition action – namely “coordination” “cooperation” or “collaboration”. This tool, based on Arthur Himmelman’s definitions, is available in The Power of Collaborative Solutions p. 52 ( http://www.tomwolff.com/healthy-communities-tools-and-resources.html) and also on my website (http://www.tomwolff.com/collaborative-solutions-newsletter-summer-05.htm#resources).
In future blogs Doctor Coalition will tackle other common coalition issues, such as:
- Lack of a common vision
- Failure to provide and create collaborative leadership
- Costs outweigh the benefits
- Minimal organizational structure
- Turf and Competition
- Bad history
- Not engaging self-interest
- Over-coalitioned communities
Please send Doctor Coalition the coalition dilemmas and issues that you are struggling with.
Comment on your ideas on how to address failure to act or pose your own dilemma below.Add a comment