A network is a group of individuals and organizations whose missions align and who stay connected in at least an ad hoc manner. A coalition is a type of network that is more tightly orchestrated. Coalition members often work together to influence the trajectory of a specific problem.
To begin, this page considers the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing networks and coalitions as a policy advocacy strategy generally. The section is then divided into two sub pages. Participate in a Network or Coalition outlines the benefits of participating in a global coalition, and provides a case study on the key to successes. It also provides a list of relevant networks and coalitions relating to refugee rights. Organize a Coalition outlines the points to consider when deciding whether to establish your own coalition, and the steps needed to build a refugee rights coalition.
Benefits of networks and coalitions
- Joining coalitions and networks with a high degree of professionalism may help to legitimize a new refugee rights organization, and position you to advocate more effectively outside network activities.
- Can improve access to policymakers
- Can raise the visibility of a problem or proposed solution. Having multiple organizations vet a strategy for direct intervention typically makes it more effective, as a recommendation stemming from multiple organizations is typically more powerful than one stemming from a single organization.
- Can be used to safely address politically-sensitive issues
- Can conserve organizational resources
- Can have relationship and capacity building benefits. Joining calls and attending webinars help to meaningfully share information and ideas, and will allow advocates the chance to compare perspectives. Participation in the established networks is an important moment for relationship building and fundraising.
Drawbacks of networks and coalitions
- As divergent groups participate, the need to compromise may lead to the loss of autonomy. It can be time-consuming to build consensus.
- If coalition members’ mission do not directly align, they might not be actively engaged unless the organizer took initiative.
- In some networks and coalitions that involve the participation of organizations whose missions vary widely, it could be difficult to gather expert information. While your coalition might be able to gain more pressure and weight from the number of participants, it does not necessarily mean that you will be able to collect more expert information in the field.
- Some coalitions and networks suffer from a lack of direction. In such circumstances, progress can feel slow and messaging can be difficult. These drawbacks are best mitigated when a network or coalition is orchestrated by a core group of people who provide strategic directions and maintain momentum.
- Coalition management can be slow, complicated and inefficient. There can be logistical and internal communication challenges, e.g. poor internet connections, fuzzy conference calls, and off-hour meetings due to time zone differences.