Tools and Resources for healthy communities


The efforts of your coalition or system may also benefit from one of our popular publications.

The Power of Collaborative Solutions by Tom WolffThe Power of Collaborative Solutions: Six Principles and Effective Tools for Building Healthy Communities
by Tom Wolff

Published by Jossey-Bass/John Wiley in February 2010. Book is now available.

Foreword by Neal Peirce – nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group

All books sold from this web site will be signed by the author.

Click here for the Table of Contents

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Praise for The Power of Collaborative Solutions:

  1. Click here for a review published in The Community Psychologist
  2. Click here for a review published in The Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice
  3. Click here for a review published in the National Civic Review

The Power of Collaborative Solutions from Loren Feinstein on Vimeo.

The Power of Collaborative Solutions is the culmination of thirty years of community work that I have participated in. My goal in writing the book is to help other people discover the amazing power I have witnessed in communities that work together to solve their own biggest problems. Inside you will find six key principles for success in building health communities, along with easy-to-use, effective tools and inspiring stories of ways that people have rediscovered democracy and turned their communities around.

The Power of Collaborative Solutions is timely—because we need solutions to serious social problems now. The collaborative process is innovative because it includes the full broad spectrum of community members, offering methods of empowering all citizens to be capable actors in their personal and community lives.

This book, like the work it encourages, is based on a broad and deep vision of community. I hope that in these pages:

  • Grassroots leaders will find both encouragement and methods they can use to address community issues.
  • Community residents will discover the inspiration to tackle the local issue that they have been mulling about, whether that is building a new playground, reducing violence, improving school, or finding a way to help and be helped by the isolated elderly members of their neighborhood.
  • Professionals in the helping system will be inspired to address the dysfunctions in that system and to make their existing coalitions far more effective and enjoyable.
  • Community problem-solvers will see the strengths of a collaborative approach and will find new tools to help them reach their goals.
  • Anyone who designs systems for communities will see the urgency of working across “silos,” thinking of the community as a vital whole rather than a collection of detached parts.
  • Teachers and students will encounter principles, stories, and tools to invigorate their classes and to help them keep their ideals alive when they take theory into the real world.

There is a strong spiritual component to my journey and to the work of community collaboration. Seeking collaborative solutions calls on us to engage communities with acceptance and appreciation, to work with various groups with deep compassion, and ultimately to understand our deep interdependence on each other. When we pursue our spiritual purpose in this work, we come to understand that indeed we are one, and that we can do together things we cannot do apart.

(the above is an excerpt from The Power of Collaborative Solutions)


Wow!  . . . I literally couldn't stop reading...not something one normally says about a book by a professional in any field! 

 This  is a truly transformative book and a “must read” for anyone concerned with overcoming the limits of the possible through collaborative action.  Tom Wolff crafts a path to change that is at once visionary and achievable.  Interweaving poignant stories and hard facts, he reminds us of what’s at stake – and shows us the dramatic difference we can make by committing to bold new visions of collaboration and community.

          Meredith Minkler, Professor of Health and Social Behavior,  University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of Community-based Participatory Research for Health (Jossey-Bass, 2008)


If you want to bring about sustained positive change in your community, read this book. The stories will inspire you, and the lessons will shine a light on your leadership path.

          Tyler Norris, Founding President, Community Initiatives


Why collaborate? Because that's how to make change, now and in the future.

Here you'll find not just theory, but also the hard-won, down-to-earth detail on how to make collaboration work where you live and act.

If you are a practitioner or academic looking to energize and strengthen your collaborative skills, Tom Wolff's The Power of Collaborative Solutions will pay dividends many times over.

          Bill Berkowitz, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Lowell


Tom’s passion for social justice is equaled only by his courage and commitment to progressive causes. Tom 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.

          Linda Bowen, Institute for Community Peace, Washington, DC

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From the Ground Up: A Workbook on Coalition Building and Community Development

Coalition building and community development are two powerful interventions to create healthy communities. This helpful workbook is a complete toolbox for effectively building these complex, community-wide processes. It shares field ideas, frameworks and exercises that have evolved from the authors' work in communities across the country.

Renowned authors in the field of community development wrote the chapters for this book, including: David Chavis, Stephen Fawcett, Vince Francisco, David Foster, Gillian Kaye, Beth Rosenthal, and Tom Wolff.

"Looking for a 'toolbox' for building coalitions and developing healthy communities? I've finally found a workbook that brings it all together. From the Ground Up! speaks to the everyday work of coalition coordinators and community organizers Organizers!" Chapter titles include:

  • Barriers to Coalition Building and Strategies to Overcome Them
  • Involving and Mobilizing the Grassroots
  • Dealing with Conflict in Coalitions
  • Community Assessment: A Key Tool for Mobilization and Involvement
  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Coalition Activities and Successes 200-pages, paperback

Includes hands-on worksheets

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The Spirit of the Coalition

“A lively and highly accessible book filled with real world illustrations and a wealth of practical tools” —Meredith Minkler Dr.P.H., University of California, Berkeley (259 pages, paperback)
Order from The American Public Health Association
or Click here to order


Sustainability Tools:

Sustaining what has already been developed and shown to be working is uppermost in people’s minds. However, when our only way of thinking of sustainability is finding replacement dollars for our present funding then we are in serious trouble in an economic downturn. I have preached a four pronged approach to sustainability for many years. A full description of the process with all the tools and worksheets is available for free through the Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice at

Through the approach I have described we can understand sustainability as going beyond seeking dollars and think about sustaining our work through:
            Policy change  Example: Anti smoking coalitions created bans on smoking in restaurants that continued after the coalitions faded away
            Institutionalizing our programs in other organizations in the community. Example: With careful preparation and negotiation, after school programs successfully created by coalitions or agencies, can be adopted by community institutions like the YMCA.
            Community ownership – helping the community to create the norm changes that will eliminate the need for our programs. Example: Once smoking cessation activities took hold in a community, the community became the voice for banning smoking in many settings. The norm had changed. The community no longer tolerated smoking.

Two particular worksheets from the article summarize the two major questions and will be especially helpful to you in your sustainability planning: The two questions: What do you want to sustain? How will you do it?

Click here for the Internal Outcomes: Roles Filled by the Coalition Worksheet

Click here for the External Community Outcomes Worksheet

Coalition Empowerment Self-Assessment Tool

This tool, which was originally published in From the Ground Up: A Workbook on Coalition Building and Community Development (Wolff and Kaye, 1995, helps a coalition examine empowerment as an aspect of all its work: goals and objectives, membership, communication, decision-making, leadership and leadership development, use of resources, coalition activities, and coalition outcomes.

Levels of Assessment Tool

A comprehensive Levels of Assessment Tool has been developed that describes the range of questions we can choose from when we document our coalitions’ work.  We use this list to help clients decide what they want to learn about through documentation and evaluation. In a collaborative participatory evaluation process, the members of the coalition and the community can review these questions to decide what is most important for them to know. This helps ensure that the evaluation is aimed at the key needs of the coalition’s members.

Coalition Member Assessment Tool

The Coalition Member Assessment tool is a variation of earlier satisfaction surveys that allow members to rate their coalition on a 1-5 scale, from agree to strongly disagree. The instrument has 44 rated questions and a few open-ended questions.

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Customized Resources and Published Materials

As programs develop, many organizations need customized training manuals, curricula or other written materials tailored to support specific initiatives. We have developed these customized materials for many organizations who are using them in communities across the country.

The Boston Foundation – Boston Community Building Curriculum- Principle V “Ensuring Access to Fundamental Opportunities” This comprehensive training module covers – creating a vision, community organizing, creating a coalition, developing a and tactical plan. Part of a seven-part curriculum.

American Cancer Society – Community Development Manual – Curriculum for ACS outreach staff across the country based on training workshops delivered by Tom Wolff and Gillian Kaye.

Free Resources

Adobe link imageMany of our free resources are provided in Adobe's PDF format. If you don't already have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you may download it at no cost from Adobe Systems.

The following Coalition Building Tip Sheets are two page summaries of key points on many critical issues in seeking collaborative solution. They were originally published as inserts in the Community Catalyst, the newsletter of Community Partners. They have been used and reproduced widely over the past ten years.

The three articles that follow are recent publications by Tom Wolff that review the field of practice and research in community coalition building, healthy communities and collaborative evaluation.

Recent Articles by Tom Wolff

  • Community Coalition Building – Contemporary Practice and Research (pdf)
    Published in the American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 29, no.2, 2001
    Introduction p. 165-172 A Practitioner’s Guide to Successful Coalitions 173-191
    These articles identify nine key dimensions related to coalition success and delineate best practices.
  • A Practical Approach to Evaluating Coalitions (pdf)
    Chapter in Evaluating Community Collaborations Edited by Thomas Backer, Springer Publishing, New York 2003
    To purchase contact Springer Publishing
    This chapter answers your key concerns in designing an evaluation of your collaborative and provides nine useful tools for both process and outcome evaluation of coalitions.
  • The Healthy Communities: Movement a Time for Transformation (pdf)
    National Civic Review, Vol. 92, Number 2, Summer, 2003, p.95-112
    This recent article looks at some of the challenges that the healthy communities movement faces and draws on the experience of Healthy Communities Massachusetts to suggest ways that practitioners can reenergize their efforts.
  • Collaborative Solutions: Building Community in New Orleans and Across America, Tom Wolff Ph.D. (pdf)
    American Psychological Association Convention, Invited Address, 8/12/06
    In this invited address Tom Wolff spells out the six components of Collaborative Solutions with community stories to illustrate each component.
  • My Life as a Community Activist, Tom Wolff Ph.D.
    Chapter in James G. Kelly and Anna V. Song, Community Psychology in Practice: An Oral History through the Stories of Five Community Psychologists. Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, v. 35, no. 1. New York: Haworth Press: 2008, pages 61–80.In this chapter the author recounts his life as a social justice activist and community psychology practitioner. He shares his upbringing, family, and education and his experiences working in a variety of settings. The story shows an evolution from working with individuals to working with whole communities, from working on issues of remediation to working on prevention and finally focusing on empowerment, social change, and social justice.

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