17 A Coalition Model for Community Action
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17 A Coalition Model for Community Action FRANCES D. BUTTERFOSS MICHELLE C. KEGLER 309 The development of community coalitions has escalated rapidly over the past thirty years. Thousands of coalitions anchored by government or communitybased organizations have been created to support community-based, healthrelated activities across the United States. For example, coalitions of health-related agencies, schools, and community-based action groups have formed to prevent tobacco use and promote healthy weight and physical activity among youth. Advocates for environmental issues, such as asthma and lead contamination, have rallied to highlight their issue or promote favorable policy and legislation. Civic and faith-based groups have developed coalitions to ensure adequate housing for the elderly and health insurance for low-income populations . Coalitions develop when different sectors of the community, state, or nation join together to create opportunities that will benefit all their partners in achieving mutual goals. The best of these coalitions have been vehicles to bring people together, expand available resources, focus on a problem of community concern, and achieve results better than those that any single group or agency could have achieved alone. Coalitions, however, are not a panacea. Although they are usually built from unselfish motives to improve communities, coalitions still may experience difficulties that are common to many types of organizations, as well as some that are unique to collaborative efforts (Dowling et al. 2000; Wolff 2010). With the initiation of a coalition, frustrations can arise. Promised resources may not be made available, conflicting interests may prevent the coalition from having its desired effect in the community, and recognition for accomplishments may be slow in coming. Because it involves a long-term investment of time and resources, a coalition should not be built if a simpler, less complex structure will get the job done or if the community does not embrace this approach. Coalitions are now commonplace in community-based efforts to improve health. Clearly, communities are committed to the practice of building coalitions. However, it is equally important to forge and refine a comprehensive theory of community coalitions. The community coalition action theory, complete with constructs and propositions, has been developed to increase our understanding of how community coalitions work in practice (Butterfoss and Kegler 2009). Before this model is presented in detail here, its underpinnings will be highlighted, beginning with the rationale for collaboration. Collaboration Collaboration begins when a perceived need exists and two or more organizations anticipate deriving a benefit that depends on mutual action (Gray 2000). Collaboration is “a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve common goals” (Mattesich et al. 2001, 7). These organizations often enter into a formal, sustained commitment to mutual relationships/goals; jointly developed structures; shared responsibility; mutual authority/accountability; and shared resources/rewards. Collaboration represents the highest level of working relationships that organizations can experience. Collaboration changes the way organizations work together—it moves them from competing to building consensus; from working alone to including others from diverse cultures, fields, and settings; from thinking mostly about activities, services, and programs to looking for complex, integrated strategies; and from focusing on short-term accomplishments to broad policy, systems, and environmental changes (Butterfoss 2007). Despite their rewards, effective collaborations must acknowledge and respect each organization’s self-interest (i.e., structure, agenda, values, and culture), relationships, linkages, and how power is shared and distributed (Gray 2000). Three types of working relationships build on each other and may lead to collaboration : networking, cooperation, and coordination. These relationships exist across a continuum in which (1) linkages become more intense and are influenced by common goals, tasks, rules, and resources; (2) purposes become more complex as information sharing gives way to joint problem solving; (3) agreements become more formal, with operating procedures and policies; and (4) relationships take more time to develop and involve greater risks and rewards (Himmelman 2001). Coalitions: Effective Vehicles for Collaboration Coalitions are formal, long-term collaborations that are composed of diverse organizations, factions, or constituencies that agree to work together to achieve a common goal (Feighery and Rogers 1990). A coalition is action oriented and focuses on reducing or preventing a community problem by analyzing the issue, identifying and implementing solutions, and creating social change (Butterfoss et al. 1993; Butterfoss and Kegler 2002). The best coalitions bring people together, expand resources, focus on issues of community concern, and achieve better FRANCES D. BUTTERFOSS AND MICHELLE C. KEGLER 310 results than any single group could achieve alone (Butterfoss and Kegler...

Subject Headings

  • Health promotion.
  • Community health services -- Citizen participation.
  • Community organization.
  • Community development.
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