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The Power of Collaborative Solutions – the early foundations January 24, 2011

Posted by tomwolff in : Coalition Building, Collaborative Solutions , trackback

Coalition beginnings and why they matter

How did your coalition start up? What was the driving force? And does that piece of history really matter now?

Coalitions start up in many ways. Some emerge organically from the community in response to a crisis. Others result from a funding opportunity that requires a “partnership”. So does it matter how your coalition began and what the driving force was? Can it still matter years later? The answer is emphatically “Yes”. History matters.

I recently presented at a conference on coalitions, “Stronger Together: The Power of Collaborative Solutions for Building Healthy Communities”, organized by the Non-Profit Center of Milwaukee. Following my keynote I was the discussant for a panel of local coalitions. Our first question for the panelists concerned the driving force that led to their coalition starting up. The answers were fascinating for their variety:

As our discussion proceeded it became apparent that history matters. As a clinician I was trained to understand the histories of my clients, so I brought that assumption to my coalition work and found that here too we need to understand the history of our communities and our coalitions.

Some examples:

The early role of the grassroots: Coalitions that start from grassroots community action carry that legacy and its’ commitment to having residents at the table as powerful partners. Even as they add the provider community that legacy remains. Whereas coalitions that begin as agency or government driven will often add residents later on but their history of being aa after thought often has residents feeling as if they are second class citizens and can be hard to overcome (although I have seen it done).

The early role of funding: Some coalitions start around funding; others start around a community need and have no money. This also creates a legacy. When the funded coalition loses its money it often closes down – it cannot imagine doing business without funding and staff. Whereas grassroots coalitions that get money and then lose it can return to its original roots of operating without funding.

So how has history of your beginnings left a legacy for your coalition?

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