Public Health Community Partnerships and Coalitions
by
Michelle C. Kegler
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0050

Introduction

Community coalitions and partnerships are vehicles for engaging multiple sectors of a community to work together to achieve a common goal. Members can represent constituencies, factions, or organizations within the community. The terms community partnership and community coalition are often used interchangeably, although partnerships can involve as few as two partner organizations. Community coalitions, in contrast to partnerships, are often characterized by the diversity of their membership with representation from both professional and grassroots segments of the community. Coalitions and partnerships can be formed at community, regional, national, and international levels. Most of the literature has focused on community-level coalitions and partnerships. The use of coalitions and community partnerships in health promotion has grown rapidly since the 1980s. Successful coalitions bring diverse groups of people together, expand and leverage complementary resources, address a problem of community concern, and implement solutions that are more effective than a single group or organization could achieve on its own. This article identifies resources related to the formation, management, and evaluation of coalitions and community partnerships. Both wisdom literature and research findings are included.

Textbooks

Only a handful of textbooks focus exclusively on community coalitions and partnerships, such as Butterfoss 2007, Braithwaite, et al. 2000, and Backer 2003. More commonly, texts focus on community-based approaches to health promotion, and they include a chapter on coalitions or discuss a planning process applicable to coalitions or other collaborative models of health promotion. Textbooks on interorganizational relationships, such as Alter and Hage 1993 and Gray 1989, are also useful for understanding how coalitions and partnerships form, how they function, how they achieve success, and the benefits and costs of such collaboration.

  • Alter, Catherine, and Jerald Hage. 1993. Organizations working together: Coordination in interorganizational networks. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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    Provides a useful typology of interorganizational relationships and networks. Also discusses how environmental determinants influence network systems and structural properties of networks (e.g., centrality, size, complexity) and conflict. Although not written for health promotion coalitions or partnerships, many of the same principles apply.

  • Backer, Thomas E., ed. 2003. Evaluating community collaborations. New York: Springer.

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    Provides an overview of methods for evaluating coalitions and partnerships. Explores multicultural issues, the human side of evaluating coalitions, and practical approaches to evaluation. An example of an evaluation framework developed for collaborations in youth violence prevention is also provided.

  • Braithwaite, Ronald L., Sandra E. Taylor, and John N. Austin. 2000. Building health coalitions in the black community. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

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    This text starts with a historical analysis of collaborative efforts in African American communities, then describes several national coalition initiatives. Specific types of coalitions are also described, followed by case studies and a discussion of how to build, maintain and sustain coalitions.

  • Butterfoss, Frances Dunn. 2007. Coalitions and partnerships in community health. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    This is one of the only texts devoted fully to coalitions and community partnerships. It provides a historical perspective on coalitions, provides a rationale for a collaborative approach, introduces the Community Coalition Action Theory, then summarizes what is known about how to build and sustain effective coalitions and partnerships.

  • Gray, Barbara. 1989. Collaborating: Finding common ground for multiparty problems. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    This text does not have a health promotion focus, but covers collaboration from the perspective of public, private, and nonprofit organizations. Chapters cover the impetus to collaborate, the collaborative process, and specific challenges that can arise in collaborative relationships.

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