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Managing competition and turf in coalitions: Ask Dr. Coalition November 15, 2011

Posted by tomwolff in : Coalition Building, Collaborative Solutions, Uncategorized , add a comment

Dear Dr. Coalition,

In my local coalition all the organizational members talk about working for the good of the community. But in reality they are driven by their own self interest. They spend much of their coalition time protecting their territory. Turf wars seem to dominate.

So we really don’t identify what the community needs and coordinate our resources for the good of the community

Any ideas?

Frustrated by turf wars in Illinois

Dear Frustrated,

A clear and explicit goal of coalitions is often to promote coordination, cooperation and collaboration. – to do together that which we cannot do apart. But it comes as no surprise that turf, territoriality and competition among coalition members is a major barrier to coalition success. The capacity of one organization to feel competitive with another often amazes me.

This competition can be just among health and human service agencies as the compete for clients and contracts , but it also can be between private sector and public sector, between local government and state government, or between local government and the community. A new request to provide a service might be issued by the state and two or three different agencies – all members of the same coalition- might begin to compete for that contract, seemingly undermining the coalition’s goal of cooperation.

One would hope that having declared themselves wanting to be part of a coalition, these turf battles would decline – but instead they often escalate.

So what can we do?

A good clear first step is to create a common vision (see The Power of Collaborative Solutions for an easy visioning exercise). This will set up your common goal for all to see.

Then identify (brainstorm) the steps that are needed to reach the vision. This will set out some doable steps that you can take together.

Use priority dots to pick your starting point. Next you are off and running in a direction to meet the community’s needs and hopefully reduce the turf issues.

Here is the bottom line: I know it may sound like heresy to say this, but we need to get competition out of the helping system; it seems to cause much more harm than good. Competition and helping do not necessarily go well together. We need to replace competition with cooperation and collaboration.

Dr Coalition

Dear Reader: What would you suggest to Frustrated in Illinois?

And what coalition dilemmas are you struggling with?

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