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Coalition Building: Setting Priorities

This is one of the most challenging aspects of coalition building. Even if you think you have narrowed your priorities, there is a good chance you will have to prioritize your priorities. For example, I’ve spent many years working on the priority of “increasing colon cancer screening.”  Although this may seem like a focused priority, there are so many different components involved with making this change – there is convening partners, policy change, provider education, health systems changes, community awareness and outreach and so much more. As a matter of fact, one very specific priority we have discovered is the need to address “coding challenges” with colon cancer screening and even within that, we have needed to focus on specific audiences who can make the greatest impact. So how do you choose?  Join me this week as I provide three questions to consider when selecting your priorities.

  1. What can you only do together than you cannot do on your own?  When we are working in partnerships and coalitions focused on common goals and objectives, many different organizations and people are working on specific aspects of the potential priority. As a coalition, it’s important to ask the question and figure out the kinds of things that can only happen when you work together instead of independently. When you consider those “what you can only do together that you cannot do on your own” options, it can help you decide how to prioritize your coalition’s priorities.
  2. Where is there a need, momentum, interest, support and/or funding?  When selecting priorities, it’s important to consider several elements that can support the work that you select. If you only have a need but not interest from partners, momentum or funding, this may not be a good priority to select. Alternatively, if you have a need, energy and momentum, interest from partners, political support and funding, it will make sense to select this area as a priority. You want to choose something that you can take collective action on in order to make that difference that can happen together that could not happen if you worked independently. I recommend considering your options and then evaluating them based on criteria that you select as important for decision making. They could be similar to what I mentioned (need, interest from partners, political support or funding) or you could have other criteria that are important to your coalition or partnership. Use the criteria to consider which priority to select.
  3. What resources are available to support these efforts? Although this may be a consideration in #2, it’s important to spend additional time once you develop your priority to consider you “sub-priorities” and what is needed to accomplish these priorities. If you missed my post on “staff vs. volunteers” check it out because it provides some guidance on what to expect from each group.  It ALWAYS takes more time than you expect to convene and collaborate partners as part of a coalition, partnership or team, so it’s important when setting priorities that you consider the resources, particularly staff, who are able to devote time to making progress toward the priority. Simply “scheduling meetings” can be an incredibly time intensive task so be sure to consider the time it will take to address the priority (and probably add extra time because you probably didn’t account for all the unexpected challenges that will take extra time)! 

So what about you? What have you found helpful when selecting priorities? Or if you haven’t yet selected priorities, which of these three considerations will be most important for you?

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