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Americans United: Student Affiliates

Supporting church-state separation from campus.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

How to Start a Coalition

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it’s probably also a close relative of coalition-building. All that’s really necessary for a coalition is a recognition that several groups working together—formally or informally—may be able to accomplish something that might be difficult if attempted alone. Reaching out to like-minded groups is probably easier than you think—simply glance at your school’s student groups pages or attend the activities fair most schools have at the beginning of semesters.

Coalition Formation

  • Analyze the issue that you are trying to change. What exactly do you want to change?
  • Determine and identify other groups with which you might work in coalition.
  • Determine the best course of action. How can you educate others?
  • Send representatives to the meetings of these other groups.
  • Meet with the leadership of these other groups.
  • Invite members of these other groups to make presentations to your group.
  • Hold a meeting of the leadership and representatives of all groups to talk about common concerns, common goals, and/or a common action.
  • Work to establish an open, diverse membership for your coalition.
  • Establish a committee of some kind (planning, steering, coordinating, etc.) to continue the work of the coalition.
  • Along the same vein, try to involve all of the ‘key players’ such as faculty and staff, elected officials, school board members, religious officials, etc...

Maintaining a Positive Coalition

  • Be an active listener.
  • When you are developing the objectives, make sure that all goals are discussed and shared by all members of the coalition.
  • Keep a constant look out for new members or member groups
  • Keep your promises. If you’re not sure you can do it, don’t offer to do so.
  • Be persistent. You can make a difference, but it won’t happen over night.
  • Evaluate what you have done: what went well and what needs to be changed.

Above all, remember that a coalition is meant to make achieving a goal easier. If being in a coalition or forming one is becoming difficult or is hampering your efforts, it might be easier to operate alone.