Networking - Building a Coalition
Whether your club focus is social interaction or working to save your favorite wheeling area, members are what make it possible. It starts with membership in a local club centering on a shared goal. Soon, you find that others share common concerns about their area of interest and you begin sharing information. You have started "networking", the basic building block of a creating a coalition.
Networks, or coalitions, are devoted to increasing participation by people sharing similar views on issues they face. If you want to have an impact on these issues at any level, local, state or national, answering the questions listed below will help you to achieve your goal. You can do this as a citizen, as a member of a club, as an employee in a business, or as a member of a trade or professional group. The starting point is less important than your willingness to reach out to find and accept others who share your goals and objectives.
Grassroots networks are coalitions of people with diverse interests sharing common goals. While you may disagree on some points, you have shared interest in some common points. Networks and coalitions are about politics. And, politics is about inclusion, not exclusion. Grassroots networks and coalitions are about creating a role for everyone to participate and contribute something to reaching the goal. Matching a willing person's skills to the needs of the task is what builds a grassroots network.
Forming a coalition requires compromise. Each group brings strengths and weaknesses. Together, they are greater than the individuals. Each group agrees to sacrifice some of its preferences and accept some of their partner's preferences. This compromise increases the chance that together, the strength of numbers and geographical reach, will produce a greater probability of winning on any issue.
Coalitions often combine groups which are traditionally on opposite sides of most issues. Ignoring their differences, they agree to come together because they share at least one interest in common. The agreement to work together sends a powerful message to legislators and public administrators. The message is that on the these issues, the groups are speaking as one. By combining their memberships, they have constituents, voters, consumers and citizens in a larger number of Congressional and/or state legislative districts. This fact alone provides the coalition with more coverage, more access to representation, and more power.
Organizations are formed because two or more people realize that they are not likely to succeed alone but may succeed if they work together. A grassroots coalition is formed because two or more clubs realize that they are not likely to succeed alone but may succeed if they work together.
It begins with asking: "Will you help me?"
Answering the questions below will get your grassroots Coalition/Network started in the right direction.
1. What are the critical issues you wish to address?
2. Can your group handle these issues alone? Will you need to combine with other groups to handle these issues?
3. Can you identify the groups facing similar issues which would make them candidates to form a coalition?
4. How should you form the coalition? Will the work by done by volunteers? Will paid staff be needed?
5. How will the coalition be financed? From what sources should you accept financial support?
6. Who should lead the coalition? What are the specific qualities needed for a credible leader on these issues?
7. How should this coalition relate to existing industry groups, trade associations, or other grassroots organizations?
8. How should your coalition approach your State Legislature? The Governor? The Congress? The Executive Branch Agencies? The White House?
9. How do you construct metrics and monitoring systems to determine if the Coalition/Network is doing what it should and being effective?
10. How do you establish mechanisms to recognize and handle membership dissatisfaction while building the Coalition/Network?