Coalition Building

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By Brad Spangler  /June 2003

What is Coalition Building?

A coalition is a temporary alliance or partnering of groups in order to achieve a common purpose or to engage in joint activity.[1] Coalition building is the process by which parties (individuals, organizations, or nations) come together to form a coalition. Forming coalitions with other groups of similar values, interests, and goals allows members to combine their resources and become more powerful than when they each acted alone.[2]

Why is Coalition Building Important?

The “ability to build coalitions is a basic skill for those who wish to attain and maintain power and influence.”[3] Through coalitions, weaker parties to a conflict can increase their power. Coalition building is the “primary mechanism through which disempowered parties can develop their power base and thereby better defend their interests.”[4] Coalitions may be built around any issue and at any scale of society, from neighborhood issues to international conflict.

The formation of a coalition can shift the balance of power in a conflict situation and alter the future course of the conflict. People who pool their resources and work together are generally more powerful and more able to advance their interests, than those who do not. Coalition members may be able to resist certain threats or even begin to make counter threats. Generally, low-power groups are much more successful in defending their interests against the dominant group if they work together as a coalition. This is certainly more effective than fighting among themselves and/or fighting the dominant group alone.[5]

Environmental groups in the United States have long understood the power of coalitions. Rather than taking on powerful industries on their own, leading environmental groups have often formed coalitions to challenge big business in the ballot box, at the legislature, and in the courts. They have succeeded in getting environmental candidates elected, and strong environmental protection laws passed. Without having many environmental groups working together, industry would have had a much stronger hand in the fight over environmental protection in the U.S.

How Do You Build a Successful Coalition?
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