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What Is A Coalition? How to Build Your Coalition
Why Build A Coalition? Pitfalls and Remedies


What is a Coalition?

A coalition is an alliance of separate organizations formed to execute a particular campaign. Remember that you don't have to agree with your coalition partners on everything - just on the immediate issue that has drawn you together.

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Why Build a Coalition?

..........• Bring together a wider range of skills, ideas, experiences and connections
..........• Address large issues that demand a lot of public support
..........• Strength: you’re stronger as a large group than as small, isolated groups
..........• Better media coverage
..........• Easier to get funding
..........• Share responsibilities, resources, equipment, supplies, space
..........• Don’t just form a coalition for the heck of it – you should have a reason to build a coalition, and the groups involved should be not only interested but committed as well.

Potential Problems:
..........• distracts from organization's work
..........• weak members can't deliver
..........• too many compromises
..........• inequality of power
..........• individual organizations may not get credit
..........• dull tactics
..........• time-consuming
..........• internal problems among groups
..........• increase vulnerability
..........• lose support
..........• lack of accountability

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How to Build Your Coalition

The biggest potential drawback to forming a coalition is the time, energy, and dedication that it will demand. Once you form a coalition to run a campaign, you surrender control of that campaign and turn it over to the coalition; the coalition leadership should be made up of leaders from each member organization. The coalition may require that you compromise with other coalition members. This can be frustrating, but it can also be a great growing and learning experience for your group.

Find out what organizations are out there. And don't immediately rule out unlikely allies.

Determine which groups you don’t know very much about and research them. Find out whether they have specific leaders; if they do, find out who those people are. Also, find out how active the group has been on campus. What previous activities have they been involved with?

Get in touch with a group leader or member and ask if your Students for Bhopal chapter can have a representative at their next meeting. Prepare some literature to pass out at the meeting and give a short, enthusiastic pitch about the campaign and the potential coalition. And bring visual aids, and food! Repeat with all the groups on your list.

Invite the interested groups to come to an introductory meeting. At the meeting, discuss what each of you would like to get out of the coalition & what you want from each other. Don’t allow any one organization (including yours) to dominate the coalition. One good way to prevent this is to arrange an executive board comprised of a representative from each of member organization.

Write out the terms of your coalition, which may include a coalition mission statement, goals and objectives. Also write a set of coalition rules and norms that specify what you’ll do together, when you’ll meet, how to make decisions, how you’ll speak to the media and general public (and who will do this), the responsibilities you’ll have, how you’ll resolve conflicts, etc.

Meet weekly as a coalition, and develop working groups independent of member organizations' working groups. Your Students for Bhopal chapter should, of course, continue to meet regularly in addition to the coalition meeting.

If, in the end, your group decides not to form a coalition, your campaign can still benefit from endorsements and loose alliances with other clubs. You should ask organization leaders if you can table or speak at their meetings, and work to enlist their memberships to support your campaign effort.

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Pitfalls & Remedies

Pitfall: Where do we start?

Remedy: Set numerical goals
..........• Identify target organizations
..........• Evaluate target organizations & resources they can bring
..........• Pitches tailored to organization's self-interest

Pitfall: Expecting each group to do the same amount of work

Remedy: Consider 3 types of involvement
..........• Paper - part of coalition in name
..........• Associate - attend meetings + share resources
..........• Full Member - leaders, making decisions

Pitfall: Power struggle/no direction

Remedy: Coordination
..........• Make a clear decision-making process

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The international student campaign to hold Dow accountable for Bhopal, and its other toxic legacies around the world.
For more information about the campaign, or for problems regarding this website, contact
Shana Ortman, the US Coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
Last updated: April 30, 2008


"The year 2003 was a special year in the history of the campaign for justice in Bhopal. It was the year when student and youth supporters from at least 30 campuses in the US and India took action against Dow Chemical or in support of the demands of the Bhopal survivors. As we enter the 20th year of the unfolding Bhopal disaster, we can, with your support, convey to Dow Chemical that the fight for justice in Bhopal is getting stronger and will continue till justice is done. We look forward to your continued support and good wishes, and hope that our joint struggle will pave the way for a just world free of the abuse of corporate power."

Signed/ Rasheeda Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Employees Union
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal