How to Build an Effective Coalition

This week the NYC Coalition for a  Smoke-Free City will join public health colleagues from across the country for the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.  This year’s theme is Prevention and Wellness Across the Life Span.  Critical behaviors across the life span that will be addressed include healthy dietary habits, physical activity, stress reduction and avoidance of exposure to tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.

Taking lessons learned from our NYC Smoke-Free Parks and Beaches Advocacy Campaign, the NYC Coalition will share some effective strategies for coalition building.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg signing legislation making all NYC parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas smoke-free.

Building a community-based coalition requires working with a broad spectrum of community partners, including local and national organizations, government agencies, and community members. Rather than asking for support on various initiatives along the way, it’s important to collaborate with all your partners from the beginning and gain consensus on strategy, approach and tactics.  Work with a wide variety of partners, so you can tap into their diverse networks.  Meeting with elected officials and educating them on the issues will increase support for your coalition and initiatives.

It’s crucial that you use the most current research and data to create educational materials that will help build relationships with key stakeholders and the press.  Your fact sheets, talking points, and support material must be clear, direct and “on message.” This will in turn help secure more earned media and increase the public’s support for a policy. Sharing information through social media outlets also helps to raise awareness and support as well..

Of course, we will also discuss the potential challenges to coalition building and advocacy that you can face when developing a campaign strategy.  We will share our experience with working with different stakeholders with varied interests, competing policy priorities, and managing complex political landscapes.

We look forward to sharing our insights with public health advocates and hope the best practices we present will strengthen coalition building campaigns in all areas of public health.  For the latest updates from the APHA meeting (October 27-31, 2012), follow @APHAAnnualMtg on Twitter and follow the #APHA12 hashtag.