Tool 3: Tips for Improving Coalition FunctioningTool 3: Tips for Improving Coalition Functioning





1. Individual Members

  • members are confident in each others’ skills
  • diversity of ideas/perspectives
  • creativity
  • humour
  • openness to feedback, new ideas and criticism
  • willing to give and take re: time/profile/work/ information/ expertise


  • personal agendas; people who are in it:

–  to enhance image

–  to gain access to resources

–  to sabotage efforts

–  to push a certain idea

–  make them feel good

  • passive-aggressive personalities;
  • different levels of passion - real or perceived
  • undermine decision-process
  • personality conflicts
  • control issues
  • lack of flexibility
  • lack of understanding of health promotion concepts
  • tension between professionals and volunteers


  • look at potential coalition members to evaluate suitability; look for commitment towards outcomes and motivation and believe in the objectives of the coalition
  • terms of reference should include process for conflict resolution; use/increase skills in conflict management
  • get to know others on coalition
  • elect chair with good facilitation skills to manage disruptive members
  • provide skills training; orientation to members
  • create a “space” for community volunteers; differentiate role from professional members; provide time on agenda for their input and feedback.

2. Group Process

  • trust
  • respect
  • shared power
  • shared ownership
  • teamwork
  • team “check-ins”
  • defined roles
  • understand investments and benefits
  • mutual care and concern
  • have fun
  • wealth of resources within the group’ members willing to share resources


  • varying expectations
  • use of jargon, systems that some non-professional members do not understand or are not comfortable with
  • lack of understanding of stages of group development
  • role confusion
  • unequal resources of members
  • lack of respect for others’ viewpoints
  • lack of investment
  • lack of commitment to take on tasks, to work towards outcomes
  • lack of accountability
  • distrust
  • power imbalances
  • racism/sexism
  • resistance to change


  • set terms of reference or agreement that defines roles, investments,  benefits
  • take time to build good group process
  • set “ground rules” for how group members relate to each other
  • share ideas, life, “check-ins”, build in activities that show care and concern
  • let people offer what they can instead of expecting a certain level of participation
  • recognize value of coalition regularly/annually through evaluation and  celebration of accomplishments
  • address issues openly; re-identify goal and objectives, members roles; clarify values, principles, ground rules; if insufficient “common ground”, evaluate whether the group has what it takes to go on – consider disbanding.

3. Leadership

  • understanding of leadership and role of facilitator/chair


  • negative leadership style (e.g. controlling, not allowing input)


  • develop understanding of leadership and role of facilitator/chair
  • ensure all have input
  • work to consensus
  • have annual elections for leadership positions

4. Decision-Making Process

  • everyone has input
  • work towards consensus


  • hasty or inequitable decision-making


  • chair has  good facilitation skills
  • actively seek input from all members (silence is not the same as approval)
  • allow time for discussion; explore reasons for differences of opinion

5. Relationship With Member Organizations’ Senior Management


  • direction given by outside manager who doesn’t know what goes on inside the coalition
  • members not being able to make decisions - have to take it back to  own supervisor/board


  • need to obtain “buy-in” from senior management of member organizations
  • request delegation of authority to staff representative on coalition
  • members sign agreement that states investment, decision-making process, etc.

6. Achieving Objectives

  • accomplishment
  • creating positive change in community
  • good reputation
  • involvement of target group
  • access to resources
  • community buy-in
  • clear focus/purpose


  • lack of direction
  • different agendas
  • lack of resources
  • lack of follow-up
  • lack of evaluation



  • Lack of direction: develop strategic plan involving target population
  • Different agendas – diffuse and change/increase number of members with similar  commitment to group goal
  • Lack of resources:

    - go to agency CEO’s to request resources
    - members identify own resources to see what  they can contribution
    - review potential membership and their resources
  • Lack of follow-up: find out why - may be the person lacks skills/ knowledge/ experience: mentor with someone who is learning; if due to forgetting/ disorganized, provide check list to follow
  • Lack of Evaluation – create evaluation plan

7. Recruitment of New Members

  • new members join coalition to bring in new ideas, perspectives and resources


  • need to find new members due loss of members or to obtain needed skills, experience, access to resources, etc.


  • identify potential benefits of membership
  • plan outreach/communications strategy
  • make use of existing members’ contacts


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