About Tom Wolff


Tom Wolff Coalition Building consultantTom Wolff, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized consultant on coalition building and community development, with over 30 years’ experience training and consulting with individuals, organizations and communities across North America. His clients include federal, state and local government agencies, foundations, hospitals, non-profit organizations, professional associations, and grassroots groups.

Tom has published numerous resources to help communities solve their own problems. His most recent book is The Power of Collaborative Solutions – Six principles and effective tools for building health communities  published by Jossey Bass-John Wiley in early 2010.His earlier writings on coalition building include From the Ground Up: A Workbook on Coalition Building and Community Development (with Gillian Kaye, 1997) and The Spirit of the Coalition (with Bill Berkowitz, 2000; American Public Health Association). He is passionate about looking at issues from a community perspective and empowering local communities to solve their own problems. His writings combine theoretical understanding with rich stories and on-the-ground experience.

From 1985 to 2002, Tom Wolff founded and directed Community Partners, a technical assistance and training program in coalition building and community development affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Tom Wolff is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, which granted him its 1985 National Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology and its 1993 Henry V. McNeil Award for Innovation in Community Mental Health. In 2000, he received the For the People Against the Tide Award from Health Care for All for his “outstanding efforts to energize and educate local communities in areas of health care justice.” He has held academic appointments at the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health, the University of Massachusetts Medical School Department of Family Medicine and Community Health and Wellesley College’s Stone Center. He received his undergraduate degree from Clark University and his doctorate from the University of Rochester.

Download Tom Wolff's current resume in PDF format.

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Collaborative processes are the key to addressing the critical challenges that confront our communities, our states and our nation in the new millennium. Through collaboration, individuals, organizations and communities become empowered to impact the world around them. Our work exemplifies the power of these processes.

For example, in the North Quabbin region of Massachusetts, a community collaboration mobilized the formation of a regional rural transportation system and a grassroots child abuse prevention program. In Worcester, Massachusetts, a Latino Coalition became the impetus for hospitals and HMOs to create medical interpreter programs. In Santa Barbara, an anti-violence collaborative brought police and youth into a successful partnership, dramatically reducing the violence and homicide rate. And, from Washington, DC, The National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention successfully launched ten collaboratives across the U.S. to reduce violence and promote peace by engaging the grassroots community in community empowerment.

These and hundreds of other success stories have been sources of inspiration and wisdom for us. Yet when we started this work over twenty years ago, we discovered that the task of creating successful coalitions was very challenging. Many energetic and well-meaning groups were struggling and failing. We loved their enthusiasm and wanted to help reduce their failures and frustrations.

As we began to work with these groups and discover the keys to success, we shared them with others across the country - through newsletters, tip sheets, consultations and trainings. The positive response to our efforts reinforced our core process - work closely with a wide variety of collaborative efforts, learn from them, create tools and processes to help them progress, and share these gems with others so that more communities can succeed.

These remain the core principles of Tom Wolff & Associates today. We are proud to offer the specialized tools and services that can help individual organizations and systems of coalitions work though the challenges of building and maintaining multi-sector collaborations. We aspire to bring greater joy and a deeper sense of spirit and purpose to those seeking to create healthy communities - places where we all want to live and raise our children.

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Selected Client List

  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • MacArthur Foundation
  • New Ventures in Philanthropy
  • The Boston Foundation
  • Center for Medicare & Medicaid Service
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Manitoba Public Health Institute
  • American Optometric Association
  • National Community Food Security Programs
  • Sierra Health Foundation of California
  • Maine Lung Association
  • Massachusetts Immunization Program
  • New York State Tobacco Use Prevention Coalition
  • National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention
  • New England Coalition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Connecticut Hospital Association
  • Health Care Forum
  • South Carolina DHEC Healthy Communities Program
  • Mountain AHEC of Asheville, NC
  • Maine Department of Mental Health
  • Wyoming Department of Mental Health
  • Highland Valley Elder Services
  • Toxic Use Reduction Institute
  • Martha’s Vineyard Health Council
  • NY State P’OWR Coalition
  • Catamount Children’s Coalitions
  • Southeast New Hampshire Health Center
  • Mental Health Services of Shelby, North Carolina
  • Berkshire Prevention Alliance
  • Connecticut MATCH Tobacco Coalition
  • Washington Medicare Savings Coalition
  • USHHS Region I New England Healthy Communities Program
  • Massachusetts Department of Education
  • Massachusetts Department of Social Services
  • Massachusetts Attorney General’s Hospital Community Benefits Program
  • Massachusetts Governor’s Highway Safety Bureau
  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health

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Recent Clients

  • Arts Extension Service, Univ. Mass.
  • Boston U. Sch. Public Health, Campus Community Partnership Program
  • CDC Division on Oral Health
  • CDC Project Escape, Violence Prevention
  • CDC Rape Prevention Education
  • Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, End Stage Renal Disease Program
  • Champions for Progress
  • Champions for Progress, Utah
  • Cleghorn Neighborhood Center
  • Community Catalyst
  • Connect to Protect, HIV Prevention
  • Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Hudson Falls, NY
  • Dept Psychology Georgia State University
  • Dept Psychology Wichita State Univ
  • Enlace, Holyoke MA
  • Health Communities Access Program, HRSA
  • Holyoke Planning Network
  • Institute for Community Peace
  • Institute for Educational Leadership
  • Institute for Non Profit Development Mt.Wachusett Community College
  • Kansas Health Foundation
  • Keeping Children Safe Downeast
  • Mary Black Foundation Spartanburg SC
  • Mass. SABES (System for Adult Basic Education Support)
  • MATCH, Tobacco Coalition
  • Meharry Medical College
  • Meriden and Wallingford Substance Abuse Council, CT
  • MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation
  • National Councils on Aging
  • National Parkinson Foundation,
  • Nevada Oral Health Coalition
  • New Hampshire Extension Service
  • New Hampshire Tobacco Prevention and Control Program
  • North Central Massachusetts Minority Coalition
  • North Quabbin Community Coalition
  • Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission
  • Prevent Institute. School of Public Health U North Carolina
  • Reach 2010 Coalition Boston Public Health Coalition
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • SAMHSA, Community Coalitions, Rockville, MD
  • State Solutions Rutgers NJ
  • Tennessee Dept of Health
  • US Breast Feeding Coalition
  • Vermont Conference on Addictive Disorders
  • West Central Initiative Community Change Fergus Falls, MN

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Feedback from Our Clients

“Our contacts with Tom have shown him to be dynamic, extremely knowledgeable and, most importantly, able to provide very clear, simple and practical techniques to help a coalition achieve its goals and vital tasks. Tom has a great style. He helped our group address difficult issues without becoming defensive. He provided us with important information without lecturing and acknowledged our accomplishments and achievements.”
Coalition Leader after a Retreat, Ohio
“I have worked in or with organizations for over 15 years and attended too many trainings to count. I have never before experienced learning without having to deal with some level (either underlying or overt) of classism or racism until this session. It was a blessing. Thanks.”
Training Participant, Massachusetts
“I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated the excellent work you did at this years Summer Institute on Population Health. The feedback we have received allows me to say that the Institute was a huge success and you were the reason for it. The participants especially liked the simulation exercise and the learning that came from it. Many thanks for a job well done.”
Training Institute Coordinator, Canada

“The most useful workshop I’ve attended at the conference.”

Training Participant, Chicago

Letter of Support for Tom Wolff
from The Institute for Community Peace

Tom Wolff has provided capacity building support to the community partnership and national office staff of the Institute for Community Peace (ICP) since 1996. In his role as technical assistant consultant, he has been responsible for the development of community based collaborative structures that could develop, implement and sustain primary violence prevention responses to locally identified problems. His work has been accomplished through individual coaching, site visits and direct training (i.e., through workshop sessions at conferences and training meetings) to site directors, community-based collaborative structures and national office staff.

We count Tom Wolff among our anchor consultants – and a tremendous anchor he is! I cannot imagine any other consultant, or any other person for that matter, who combines intellectual capacity with practical know-how in quite the way that Tom does. He has a tremendous fount of knowledge and he knows just what to do with it and how to help others use it. He makes quick connections to practice and research and vice versa. His kind and commonsensical manner means that his intellect is accessible even to the most uneducated and unpracticed. He understands well the rhythms of community based collaborative work and is able to tailor his assistance to local context and local personalities.

A strong believer in local control, Tom helps communities understand, define and celebrate success on their own terms, while ensuring that their work is based upon the best available research and practice. He shares his time generously, as well as the tools of his own trade and encourages those he works with to do the same – demonstrating his belief that the best way to improve practice is by wide information dissemination and generous counsel.

At the national level, Tom has helped us to carve out a niche for ICP’s work, providing key assistance in the development of our conceptual framework and developing some of the fundamental tools and practices that are the cornerstones of our training program. His thoughtful and logical approach to program development has been an invaluable assistance to our own thinking. Tom is also very adaptable, working well through staff transitions, able to form good working relationships with a variety of personalities and skill levels.

I have great appreciation for Tom’s passion for social justice, which is equaled only by his courage and commitment to progressive causes. These qualities make us aim high in our work and believe in the power of even a small organization to make a contribution to the development of a better nation. Perhaps as great a testimony to his work is the affection that we hold for him as a person, Tom is well-loved and respected by our site partners and national office staff. I cannot envision a time when I would not want to have a partnership with Tom Wolff. I recommend him highly and without reservation.

Linda Bowen
Executive Director
Institute for Community Peace
(Formerly National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention)

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