In this guide, we’ll show you how to work together with your peers in other organizations to come up with similar (and sometimes new) ideas and actions to benefit your causes. Together with on- and off-campus partners, you can create tangible, positive change in your community.
What is a coalition?
A coalition is a network of different individuals and organizations that work together to benefit all members and their constituencies.
Why should I make a coalition?
Whether they are well-established or just starting out, all organizations that aim to bring transformative change can run into similar problems:
- “Do we have the tools we need to take that action?”
- “We need more people to show up to our event!”
- “How can we attract new members?”
- “Our budget is too tight to pull off this event!”
- “Can we put enough effort into this plan without cutting back on our other vital work?”
- “We need more organizers to help so we don’t burn out!”
- “Do we have the space for that?”
- “This issue is important to us, what should we do next to tackle it?”
Coalitions are useful because they recognize that each member group has its own strengths and weaknesses. By working together, they can watch out for each other, get past organizing roadblocks that are difficult to navigate alone, and more effectively address the issues that are most important to them.
What groups can be part of my coalition?
Below are some examples of potential partners you could reach out to on and around your campus:
It’s likely that some professors on campus have expertise related to the issues your organization aims to address and even teach classes about them. If you have a professor in mind, introduce yourself and your organization via email and ask to schedule a meeting to chat more. You can find faculty members’ contact information on your school’s website or through their academic departments.
If you’re not aware of any professors who share your interest, reach out to the chair of one or more academic departments that are related to it (such as political science, sociology, gender studies, etc.). Most likely, the chair will know of one or more faculty members who would be a good fit and would be happy to provide an introduction. You can find department chair contact information on your school’s website or the department’s webpages.
Non-academic departments can make great coalition partners as they often have a lineup of events planned for the semester ahead. Departments can include anything from student life to career advising–basically, any group dedicated to student success. Reach out to them to find out if your organization can co-sponsor one or more of their events, which could lead to greater turnout for all parties involved and additional chances to collaborate. Contact information for non-academic departments is usually available online. Check your school email and keep an eye out for flyers around campus to see if these departments are planning any events/information sessions/email blasts. These can be a perfect segue to introduce your organization to these non-academic departments
Other clubs and student organizations
You can probably find other campus clubs or student groups that have an interest in addressing work similar to yours or are looking for meaningful ways to organize. The best way to reach out to other clubs/student organizations is to email all their board members (can include president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, media person, etc.) to ask to set up a meeting. If you can’t find their contact information or you’re not sure which clubs could make vital coalition partners, try looking them up on your school’s website or reaching out to the office that oversees student clubs/organizations. It’s not a good idea to just show up to one of their scheduled meetings to introduce your organization—you don’t want to unintentionally derail the main focus of their meetings for their members.
Are you in a college town, an urban setting, or a suburb? Is your university mostly a commuter school? What is there to do around your campus? Are there any big community events coming up? Is a local restaurant having a social night this week? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself to try to learn about the off-campus community. You can also get a better sense of the community through social media. Follow local groups, restaurants, and businesses. When you’re ready to start building a coalition, you’ll have a good way to identify optimal partners in your community.
The local structures that govern a school’s community can vary according to location, but all of them are made up of elected officials who serve the needs of their constituents. If your organization is addressing an important issue, you want your local elected officials to feel it is important to them, too. One common misconception is that elected officials have to like a group in order to listen to it. In fact, elected officials respond to pressure from the voters they represent, so regardless of how you think they perceive your cause, make an effort to inform their offices about your important actions via email. They may show up to your events, and they might also take the time to address your issue if they see a huge turnout.
Local community-based organizations
No one knows your local community and the issues that are most important to them better than community-based organizations. They often know how to organize effectively, and they are always looking for new partners and constituents. Look up the community-based organizations in your area and find out about their mission statements and recent demands/work/events. Reach out to ask if they do teach-ins with your organization or co-sponsor an event.
Remember that not every connection will lead to a partnership.
Reaching out to a group or meeting with another group’s leaders doesn’t always lead to a partnership or a plan for a major joint event right away. Coalitions are all about making connections and knowing whom to contact in the future. If you don’t do anything together this semester, you can always try again for next semester!
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