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What is coalition-building?

Coalition building: definition & types of coalitions
3 min read
Last update: Jul 1, 2023

In this guide, we explain what coalition building entails. In addition, we discuss different types of coalitions.

๐Ÿ“š This guide is part of a series on coalition building.

The long history of activism has shown that it is crucial to communicate, cooperate and become more connected when it comes to movements. It is not only beneficial to the main goal, which is desired to be achieved but also to the movement itself, for its members.

First of all, the more cooperation we have, the better it is for achieving common goals. Building and creating strong connections is going to help us make a powerful โ€œwebโ€ of activists all across the globe, therefore the process of achieving goals is going to be significantly faster and lessoverwhelming. This is a global aspect which is considered as the main reason when talking about โ€œWhy should we establish and develop stronger relations between movements?โ€. But there are also many other, not that โ€œsurface-levelโ€ kind of aspects.

There is a noticeable tendency that the left is more divided than right. It also really affects social, political and other movements in a bad way. But it is important to remember - even though many movements may have similar but not the same goals, it is still important to find compromises rather than arguing whether the goals the other movement is having are valuable. It is about setting priorities. Prioritizing achieving goals, enjoying the process rather than prioritizing aggressive arguing, conflicts, etc.

Also important to mention- creating tighter relations between movements is going to be relevant for exchanging experience, making the work process more productive. Basically cooperation and supporting each other is going to help developing movements faster and in a more effective way. It also kind of contributes to the idea of the strong web of activists.

Recap. How to achieve tighter relations between movements:

  • Finding compromises

  • Discussing but not arguing

  • Highlighting common goals

  • More joint activities (study sessions, projects, meetings)

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Types of coalitions

Traditional coalitions are heavily focused on building consensus among members, most often on very specific policy goals. Getting a set of diverse groups, who may align around a broader shared purpose, to align on specific asks and plans leads to slow and often exasperating decision-making processes. Focusing on narrowly defined issues also means that traditional coalitions have a tendency to fizzle out once the issue is out of the media or policy cycle.

Traditional coalitions are often characterised by top-down, centralised planning processes, in which a core group of coalition partners develop a joint strategy that members are then expected to adhere to. This means that coalitions can be slow to adapt to the dynamic contexts in which they operate and their plans can quickly become obsolete when these contexts change. Focusing on rigid operational plans also limits the abilities of coalition members to innovate on the ground.

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