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Networking - Working with Coalitions

Coalitions, or networks, are bound together by a common interest. Coalitions range in size from a handful of people to a large number of organizations involving many people. Each group is a distinct organization. As a coalition, they are concerned with a focused mission such as blocking proposed legislation threatening their common interest. Both can work independent of other groups or in collaboration with groups which share the same or similar interests.

Coalitions have the potential to be far more powerful and more skilled than any single organization acting alone. Coalitions bring groups with diverse interests together on a common interest. Their strength lies in the diversity. As the geographical size and complexity of an issue increases, the need to form a coalition increases.

The strength of a coalition is its diversity. That diversity means compromise is necessary. No two groups can be as unified in their thinking as one group is alone. Each group joining a coalition 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.

The most common method to forming a coalition is identifying other groups who share similar interests. They may share some or all of your interest. They are diverse and their strength is diversity. As long as there is some common objective shared by the groups, potential exists to form a coalition.

The most powerful coalitions are coalitions of "un-likes." These coalitions 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. When they agree to work together, that agreement sends a powerful signal to legislators, appointed officials, land managers, and the public. The signal is that on the common issue, these groups realize they need each other. They understand that combining their memberships will mean 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 right to representation, and more power.

A common concern for groups in a coalition is how to maintain their separate identity and the confidentiality of their membership lists. Privacy can be maintained for each group by permitting them to handle all internal mailing and contact for their organization. Or, a common outside vendor can be used. The common outside vendor (mailing house) would sign a confidentiality agreement and act as an "escrow agent" to maintain the privacy of the individual organization data.

Grassroots organizations are formed because two or more people realize that they are not likely to succeed alone but may win if they work together. Grassroots coalitions are a natural extension of individual organizations; more involvement and a larger reach. Coalitions bring two or more organizations together on a common interest to increase the potential for success.

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