Long term, it is better to avoid turf battles than to have to deal with them. Before initiating or becoming a member of a coalition, there are certain things to remember:
A group's goals are never 100 percent compatible with the goals of each organization or person involved. The "domains" are not likely to overlap totally. Accordingly, each member must be prepared to compromise or modify his or her commitment to specific goals and to help other members adjust as necessary.
Enough time should be spent at first to clarify coalition goals and develop each member's commitment to them. The group should establish a consensus on the "domain" of action for the coalition and how the resources of members might relate. The higher the sense of common purpose, the higher the probability of harmonious relations between members.
Clearly relating the needs discussed to the potential available resources can help build early momentum and cooperation. It can avoid tackling a large, vague problem and create a positive climate by being capacity-centered or resource-centered rather than problem-centered. This can be especially important in coalitions designed to operate in a small, geographic area. (McKnight and Kretmann 1991)
Knowing the relationship between the members' personal goals and the group's goals can suggest potential sources of agreement and disagreement and show results. Organizations should think twice before inviting groups that have only a partial or marginal relationship to the coalition mission to join the group. Consulting newspaper files, and interviewing organizational representatives and residents can be good sources of basic information. (Cener 1988) It also can suggest future avenues of positive involvement for some members.
Large groups usually have an advantage in the information giving and "brainstorming" phases of problem solving. Still, they can be a potential disadvantage when the consensus needs to be reached. Between-meeting communication before a proposed action with major parties helps avoid surprises and helps make meetings more productive.
Structured subgroups may eliminate the disadvantage of limited interaction time between members of large groups who might need more clarification of points.
Negative feedback (whether verbal, nonverbal, a combination of both or silence) should not be permissible, especially when there is no attempt to compromise or come to consensus. Effective listening and speaking skills will eliminate misunderstandings. Raising questions versus stating one's opinion(s) will help reduce disagreements. (Hague)
Building Coalitions: Turf Issues, University of Florida Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, pages 4-5, April 2002.
This series on Coalition Building was developed by The Ohio Center For Action on Coalition Development for Family and High Risk Youth, Richard Clark, Ph.D., Director. It has been adapted for County Extension Faculty in Florida to facilitate work with local and regional organizations and groups such as non-profits, cooperatives, county extension associations, and others that might benefit from a plan for working together to achieve support for mutual goals.
This document is FY506, Part 14 of the 16 part series adapted for use in Florida by Elizabeth B. Bolton, Professor, Community Development and Lisa Guion, Assistant Professor, Program Planning and Evaluation; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611-0310.
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