Abstract

In democratic, pluralistic societies, diverse constituencies need ways to collectively negotiate for their interests. Coalitions are one way that stakeholders can collectively solve problems and negotiate for change on behalf of their constituencies. But often, coalitions fail to achieve their goals. How can coalitions more effectively create change? This literature review synthesizes research from across academic disciplines to identify the practices that make coalitions effective. The features that make coalitions effective are intangibles: member buy-in, commitment, trust, and agency. But these do not appear by chance. Rather, they develop directly from the early and ongoing investments that a coalition makes in its architecture—or the structures, practices, and processes that the coalition collectively creates to organize itself, its work, and its relationships. Three main features of good coalition architecture are democratic governance, processes for learning and flexibility, and practices that create clear roles and trusting relationships. These design choices facilitate negotiation across difference and, ultimately, allow coalition members to advocate more productively for their interests in the public space. Although the design choices laid out in this article do not and cannot guarantee success, they can create the conditions for more effective coalition work in the immediate and long term.

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