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Our Programs Module 4

Module 4: Top Tips


  • Make your advocacy work participatory, involving partners, allies and supporters, to build interest and commitment.
  • There are both advantages and disadvantages to working in a coalition/alliance. So only take this decision after careful analysis.
  • If you form a coalition/alliance, create a small steering group of leaders to run it, ensuring that those chosen are deeply committed to the issue and the coalition/alliance itself.
  • Give careful consideration to whether, and how to, involve grassroots groups.
  • Take time to nurture and develop your supporters – ensuring that you educate them about your advocacy work and build them up to give their maximum commitment.

Further Resources



What makes an Effective Coalition

Beyond Intractability: Building Coalitions

Coalition Leadership

Civicus: Resource Guide for National Associations

Developing Effective Coalitions: An Eight Step Guide

Managing a Coalition


Managing a Coalition
Coalition Leadership

Managing a Coalition

Advocacy requires hard work and a long-term commitment. It is easy for people’s commitment and enthusiasm to wane. The synergy that comes from people working together productively on an important issue can sustain efforts, even through difficult times.

Coalitions exist to enable their members to co-operate and work together. They take time and energy to develop and maintain because they involve building relationships of trust with other people. Many advocates find this aspect of their work to be both the most challenging and the most rewarding.

Starting a coalition is the easy part… Maintaining and developing the coalition is more difficult! The following advocacy tool provides some useful advice on managing coalitions.

Advocacy Tool

Tool 28. Managing Coalitions
Advice on managing coalitions

Coalition Leadership

Coalition leadership can be shared (e.g. through a rotating co-ordination committee or steering group).

It is the role of the coalition leadership to ensure that the above suggestions are brought into action, and to:

  • Promote participatory planning and decision making
  • Delegate tasks
  • Spread responsibilities across all members to reduce workload and avoid burnout
  • Share information readily
  • Foster trust, openness and honesty among members
  • Motivate and empower members
  • Act as role models
  • Ensure that coalition members practice cooperation, not competition

The following may assist members to practice cooperation, not competition:

  • Share leadership functions within the group and use all member resources
  • Encourage members to take responsibility for their individual roles whilst valuing their team identity
  • Take an interest in each member’s achievements as well as those of the group
  • Remain committed to keep group communication on schedule, while allowing any disagreements to be solved
  • Promote constructive criticism and helpful feedback
  • Remain open to change, innovation, and creative problem solving
  • Foster a norm that calls for members to support and respect one another and remain realistic in their expectations of one another

It is also a function of the leadership to run meetings effectively and efficiently. Coalition meetings can be time-consuming and non-productive – particularly if the coalition contains a broad base of differing organizations and individuals. General principles of running effective meetings should be applied.

Advocacy Tool

Tool 29. Effective Meetings
This tool provides guidance on effective meetings

Supporters and Activists


Carrying Supporters Along the Path to Social Change
From Awareness to Engagement
Involvement of Grassroots Groups

Carrying Supporters along the Path to Social Change

Supporters are important stakeholders of your organization, who should be consulted and kept informed about your organization’s work. They are also a key power base in terms of political credibility.

Proactively educating supporters about your advocacy asks can really pay dividends – not only in terms of personal change, but also in terms of aligning these important stakeholders to your organization’s advocacy aims. Whilst some will remain passive supporters, many can be nurtured and developed into allies and active supporters of your cause.

The aim is to educate and motivate your supporters, and to develop these until they participate (and give!) to their maximum potential. This is shown in diagrammatic form below:

The objective is to move your supporters as far up the pyramid as possible. This process often starts when they respond to calls for written representations. Then, if their efforts are fruitful, they begin to watch the campaign and can become enlisted as ‘agents’ who watch for associated events and media (and even use these to obtain media coverage for the issue). Then, as they become more involved in the campaign, they may be willing to take an active part in advocacy activities, where their involvement rises over time. Finally, they can become fully committed activists for the cause.

The below are useful principles to assist with this process:

  • Encourage participation
  • Facilitate participation
  • Communicate and celebrate successes
  • Communicate appreciation
  • Build skills and involvement

From Awareness to Engagement

Awareness is not enough. Many people are already aware, but simply do not think the issue important enough to actively do something about it. To make a difference to people’s lives, you have to take people beyond ‘awareness’, to create a sense of urgency and need for change, and to help them to visualize a new future and empower them to play a part in the movement for change. In short, you need to engage them.

The seven-stage model for engagement is:

  • Ignorance
  • Knowledge
  • Motivation
  • Skills/Resources
  • Optimism
  • Facilitation
  • Reinforcement

Understanding this model is essential to the development of an effective advocacy campaign.

Involvement of Grassroots Groups

You may decide to involve grassroots groups in your advocacy work. This can help to spread the advocacy campaign, and to develop their capacity in the process. There are various approaches to their involvement, and the following tool may help you to decide on the most appropriate.

Advocacy Tool

Tool 20. Involvement of Grassroots Groups
For analyzing the most appropriate approach to the involvement of grassroots groups in your advocacy work.

Forming a Coalition


Do not duplicate the work of another coalition. If there is already an appropriate coalition, then you should join this and explore ways in which your organization can add value to the work of current members. But if there is no existing coalition, then you could bring together a number of key allies to propose a new coalition covering the issue.

The main elements needed in the formation of a coalition are:

  • A clear mission and purpose
  • The involvement of committed individuals and organizations that share this mission
  • Realistic objectives and tasks
  • Agreed participatory management, or decision-making structure - A joint steering group may be useful from an early stage.

A steering group may be useful from an early stage. This could be a joint steering group - including your organization and other leading organizations supporting advocacy on the issue.

Mission and Purpose
The first meeting should work towards achieving a common sense of mission and purpose. 

The mission and purpose of the coalition must be clearly stated, so that organizations that join will fully comprehend the nature of their commitment. Coalition members should openly acknowledge any differing self-interest, so as to recognize differences but promote trust and respect among the members.

A name will also have to be agreed, and a common ‘ask’ which each member agrees to respect.

The strategy should allow each group to contribute its unique approach, with different groups taking different angles and approaches. But it is important that groups work together on agreed priorities, rather than all functioning independently. Also, core messages – including the ‘ask’ – must remain consistent. It is vital that groups do not work against each other.

Member Skills and Resources Inventory
The steering group should ensure that the strengths of each partner in the coalition are used. This can be achieved by a skills and resources inventory, asking each potential member to assess their skills and resources, and to determine what they would be willing to contribute to the coalition.

Members will have different skills and approaches, and be able to achieve things in different ways. They will also have various resources (money, premises, vehicles, meeting facilities, equipment etc.). Different groups will also have different contacts. The comparative advantages of each group can be assessed, so these can be exploited, and duplication avoided.

The strategy should also allow each group to express and contribute its unique approach, with different groups taking different angles, perspectives and approaches (e.g. a NGO that works closely with government, such as a service delivery provider, can be responsible for documenting and highlighting ‘best practice’ examples; whereas a combative campaigning group can document and highlight failures – in a hard-hitting campaign). But it is important that groups work together on agreed priorities, rather than all functioning independently.

This process should lead to the identification of skill and resource gaps, and thus the need to mobilize funds and/or carry out capacity-building.

Establishing Roles and Responsibilities
Coalition tasks and responsibilities should be clearly defined and assignments equitably distributed on the basis of the members’ areas of expertise. At the heart of every successful coalition, there should be a small group of leaders who are deeply committed to both the issue, and to ensuring that the overall goals of the coalition take precedence over the narrow interest of individual member organizations. Regular meetings should allow opportunities for members to report on their progress.

Decision-Making and Communication Channels
The coalition’s structure and decision-making processes should also be agreed, since issues such as the level of contributions, involvement in decision-making, and leadership can sometimes cause dissent. More democratic methods, such as rotating leadership, can help although they may slow down decision-making and management.

Regular communication should be established. Make sure that all coalition members are updated regularly on what other members are doing, what needs to be done, and what progress has been made.

If the coalition is well organized in its early stages, unnecessary problems can be avoided. Everyone involved must understand and sign up to the coalition’s mission, structure, operating procedures, and tasks – as a bare minimum. A coalition’s power lies in its ability to present a united front.

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