Advantages and Disadvantages of Working in Coalitions
Coalitions are invaluable in advocacy because they create structures for organizations and individuals to share ownership of common goals. Advocacy work can be strengthened considerably through the use of coalitions. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to forming or joining a coalition.
Decisions on joining a coalition should only be taken after careful consideration following research and risk analysis. Decide whether working with the coalition is the best way to solve your problem, and whether your values and approaches can be shared.
Working with coalitions may have the following advantages:
- Enlarges your base of support, networks and connections; gives strength in numbers: you can achieve more together than you can alone.
- Provides safety for advocacy efforts and protection for members who may not be able to take action alone, particularly when operating in a hostile or difficult environment.
- Magnifies existing financial and human resources by pooling them together and by delegating work to others in the coalition.
- Reduces duplication of effort and resources.
- Enhances the credibility and influence of an advocacy campaign, as well as that of individual coalition members.
- Helps develop new leadership skills amongst members.
- Assists in individual and organizational networking.
- Facilitates exchange of information, skills, experience, materials, opportunities for collaboration etc.
- Brings together a diverse range of people and organizations. Diversity can strengthen a campaign by broadening perspective and understanding of the issue. It can also assist outreach by appealing to a wider population base with differing priorities and interests.
- Provides peer support, encouragement, motivation and professional recognition.
Some of the disadvantages of forming or joining a coalition are given below:
- Can lack clear objectives, or be difficult to agree common objectives.
- Forming and managing a coalition can be a very time-consuming and bureaucratic process that can take away time from working directly on campaign issues and organizational tasks.
- May be dominated by one powerful organization. Power is not always distributed equally among members; larger or richer organizations can have more say in decisions.
- May require you to compromise your position on issues or tactics.
- Shared decision-making can be slow and may paralyze progress.
- Can often be constrained by a lack of resources.
- Potential for donor interference (e.g. a donor is interested in funding certain activities but there is a danger of planning activities only because you know you can get the funds).
- You may not always get credit for your work. Sometimes the coalition as a whole gets recognition rather than individual members. Or certain members get or claim more recognition than others, causing conflict and resentment.
- If the coalition process breaks down it can harm everyone's advocacy by damaging members' credibility.
- Coalition activities can be difficult to monitor and evaluate.
Health Warning! All these problems can be overcome and are not reasons to not get more involved in coalitions - they just things to be wary of.