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Community coalitions


While the lectures of the third week were all about different power imbalances within the Political Economy Framework, the fourth week centers around the dynamics of community coalitions, that form out of the need to correct such imbalances. Community coalitions can – for example – be focused on public health issues – such as the so-called Community Partnerships for Health (CPH).

A community coalition is basically a group of people who are combining their skills and resources to achieve a particular, clearly defined goal. As coalitions grow, they increase their visibility within as well as outside their respective communities and may reach a critical mass, attracting more and more supporters as well as help and attention from the outside.

There are three basic types of community coalitions:

(1) Grassroots coalitions: Grassroots coalitions usually form as (political) pressure groups that attempt to address or adjust a specific problem. They are usually just short-term formations.

(2) Professional coalitions: A professional coalition is a volunteer organization of professionals (e.g. physicians, nurses, engineers) that combine their know-how and influence. Professional coalitions are usually meant to last long-term.

(3) Community-based coalitions: In a community-based coalition, elements of grassroots and professional coalitions are combined in order to form an effective, long-term alliance.

Whether a coalition is successful, depends on a number of factors:

  • Successful communities need to have a clear set of realistic, reachable goals (motivation)
  • Successful communities depend on a clearly communicated set of rules and good leadership
  • Newly founded communities need some quick (low-level) successes which hold them together
  • Diversity makes communities effective – e.g. bringing together people with different resources, influence, skills, inside and outside contacts etc. for a combined effort
These lecture notes were taken during 2012 installment of the MOOC “Community Change in Public Health” taught by Prof. Dr. William R. Brieger of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at Coursera.org. Prof. Brieger blogs under www.malariamatters.org and can be found on twitter as @bbbrieger.
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