Coalition Barometer: Development checklist

Coalitions come and go

Coalition development doesn’t always proceed in a planned manner along pre-described paths. Coalitions may arise in unexpected ways. Some coalitions emerge as a result of non-planned internal and external influences, events and changes. Coalition forming is therefore not always a process that can be understood rationally.

Age

In order to understand the development of coalitions and to act to make them more fulfilling and beneficial to their members it is important to identify and become aware of their position in the life cycle. Coalitions do not perform right from the start. Goal orientation, dynamics, leadership, the challenges coalitions are facing, their ability to manage processes of social change and the results they can achieve differ depending on the ‘age’ of the coalition. Coalitions are groups and their development has to be understood within the framework of group development, that follows a predictable pattern. In most groups the same sorts of issues arise over time, even though this may vary within certain cultures and contexts. This pattern often involves five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning (Tuckman).

A poor match is hard to reverse

To understand the development of coalitions we add in our analysis the stage of pre coalition because this stage lays the fundament under the forming and results of the coalition. An important search starts the moment the idea of beginning a coalition arises which opens doors to cooperation, more influence and meaning, new results and knowledge, and risk spreading. Being in a rush is detrimental to this search. Mismatches (wrong people/organisations involved) and unstable composition (constantly changing people involved) undermine the coalition process. No coalition benefits from rushed decisions on coalition participation, the wrong match of coalition partners or confusion as to the coalition’s added value. It is therefore essential to ensure coalition forming is not accidental and random. After all, once the coalition partners have sat down together, a poor match is hard to reverse.

Natural progression

In practice, expectations concerning coalition results or judgements on the functioning of coalitions are often not attuned to the natural progression of group processes. People then want too much, too soon or have little patience with the time it takes some coalition partners to find their place in the coalition and fulfil a relevant role. Rapid development can ultimately lead to the coalition process stagnating and to frustration among coalition partners. Stagnation or relapse in the coalition development process occur when motivation turns to de-motivation, pro-activity into passivity, unity into dividedness, cohesion into chaos, when diversity becomes a threat, when members feel uncomfortable and lost, or as a result of changes in composition or expectations, a downturn in results, a change in atmosphere, loss of legitimacy or conflicts.

The Coalition Factory assists coalitions in the process of forming and joining a coalition and in creating the right conditions for success.

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