Chap 3

Coalition structure

As a coalition develops, the way that collective decisions are made and a collective voice is adopted will be fundamental to its campaigning effectiveness. Much will depend on how the coalition is structured, what different groups are responsible for making decisions, who is allowed to speak for the coalition and what rules or practices govern decision making. This chapter examines some of the different structural options available – recognising that all may have different strengths and weaknesses.

These are issues around which major tensions can develop – tensions that might slow down or stop a coalition in its tracks. If such tensions are to be overcome, relationships built around trust will be vitally important, whatever structures have been adopted.


Coalitions need to make decisions collectively and stick to them collectively. The structure of the coalition is fundamental to getting decisions made and, in turn, effective decision making is critical to successful coalition work. Decisions will relate, at different levels, to such things as the common call (what is the coalition working for?), strategy, specific policies and documents, statements, logos and structural questions about decision making itself.

Coalitions are first and foremost networks of communication. This section looks at how coalitions can be structured – the formal roles of membership, steering groups and coalition staff – but binding any of these structures together are the processes of communication that really form the coalition ‘in action’. It is important to emphasise this now because when looking at structures in detail we tend to focus on formal arrangements and while these are important they are not nearly so important as the flow of communication.

In order to make decisions a coalition will need some internal structures beyond simply membership. Likely additional components of structure include a steering group and perhaps some part- or full-time coalition staff. There are also important issues to consider of legal and financial identity (although these tend to be more significant considerations later in the life of a coalition).

Some general issues to consider:

  • Over time structures may need to change in response to external context and the dynamics of resources and need
  • North/south balance and pressure for regional representation, as well as different policy approaches, may be issues within structures and representative roles – and a leadership group will need to find ways to resolve these tensions
  • Consultation and communication is important to ensure good decisions are made but also as a process, to ensure people feel part of the coalition
  • Whatever structures are adopted, it is important that the members continue to feel a sense of ownership of the coalition. A leadership group therefore needs to bring the membership with them and promote a sense of inclusiveness
  • It is important also to understand what coalition members want from the coalition’s central structures. Too little in the centre can leave people feeling that the coalition isn’t meeting their needs
  • The coalition should be wary that the movement towards greater structure might drain energy away from a focus on activities. This doesn’t have to be the case, but there is always a danger that too much concentration at the centre leads to people losing touch with the wider community
  • Whatever structures are put in place, they must not compromise the ability of the coalition to respond with agility to changing external circumstances or opportunities. Relationships built on trust will be the key to making this possible

Will there be a steering group?

Most coalitions have some sort of steering group to direct collective work. Such groups vary in size (usually 5-20 organisations), responsibilities and mechanisms of selection or rotation. In addition to a steering group some coalitions have ’chairs‘ or ‘co-chairs‘, various sub-committee mechanisms for more specific streams of work, and wider ’advisory groups‘. It is often the steering group that is set up as the ’engine room‘ of collective strategy, planning and direction. In many cases it is the steering group that coalition staff will look to for assistance and there is an expectation on it to resolve the tensions that coalitions generate.

Why have a steering group?
Like any leadership body, a steering group becomes necessary when the membership is too big to make decisions at the frequency the coalition requires. This threshold is reached very quickly. This book looks at the formation of a steering group before the composition of a wider membership precisely because most coalitions develop from discussions between a small number of organisations that go on to serve, at least in the early stages, as a steering group.

A good steering group should also ensure that a link is maintained between any coalition staff and the wider membership avoiding – at least during the main campaigning phase – a drift towards the coalition becoming simply another NGO in its own right. It is important therefore to recognise that such a group is not necessarily the same as a company board of directors. There are many different models of board for different types of institutions, but a coalition’s steering group needs to be active in decision-making and very much part of the coalition membership.

Where will the steering group’s authority come from?
In many cases the authority of an initial steering group will come from the working commitment of the organisations that make up that group. Steering groups often come together organically as small groups prepared to commit to collective work on a certain theme or towards a certain goal.

Beyond such early formations, various mechanisms have been adopted for selecting a steering group within more mature coalitions. Some coalitions hold elections from the full membership, with service on the steering group being limited to a fixed term. Others have been effectively self-selecting, with no hard-and-fast limitations on how long an organisation can serve.

“A good coalition has a steering committee that is accountable and can be influenced or changed by the members. The whole set up needs to be something that the membership feels is good for them. The process of developing the structure can be as important as the structure itself.”

Richard Bennett, Effective Collectives

Some useful questions in considering steering group composition:

  • Is the coalition focused on specific time-bound outcomes or is it a long-term representative institution? If the latter, the formalities of governance may have greater significance from the onset.
  • What expectations have already been established regarding internal coalition processes? Are coalition members working on assumptions drawn from particular past experience?
  • Is there a group that has already been meeting in a role similar to a steering group? Does a variation of this group have the skills, time and representational balance to be supported by the members? Can a larger group meeting be used to provide a mandate to this group?
  • Do some choices reduce options in the future? It may be more acceptable for a self-selecting group to open up in future than for an elected group to break the links of accountability.
  • Will representational balance be formalised – i.e. set numbers of places for certain types of organisations (groups with a special stake in the issues of the coalition, such as victim’s associations) or regional representatives and so on.
  • Does steering group membership imply any legal or financial responsibilities with respect to the coalition? In some cases where the coalition is formally constituted as a legal entity, it is the members of the steering group that are the officers of that body.

The goal should be a steering group capable of doing the work required, of putting in the hours and the quality of contributions that will drive the coalition forward. In the absence of direct democratic accountability, factors such as commitment, expertise, gender, regional and thematic representation may all help to compose a group that will be supported by the coalition without it having been elected. In any case, clear, transparent and frequent communication will be vital to making the chosen course work.

Later in this chapter we think about how the components of a coalition might fit together. Under that section we consider further additional governance bodies, such as chairs, sub-committees, working groups and advisory boards.

It is very important for all partners in a coalition to keep in mind that the steering group organisations are also members, and very often some of the most active members. Likewise, people in the steering group must be wary of thinking of the wider membership as means to an end. A mind-set that separates these two groups too much can both indicate and contribute to serious tensions.

Who will form the membership?

A coalition is made up of members that are broadly united in their commitment to a common cause. There are really two fundamental formal questions that need to be addressed regarding a membership: who can be a member and what must members agree to? We also consider the importance of growing the network of members over time and expectations regarding the work of those members.

Who can be a member?

Different coalitions have different parameters of membership, some more formally defined than others. Most coalitions discussed in this paper have non- government organisations (NGOs) as the basic unit of membership, but others allow individuals, trade unions, local authorities and even UN agencies. Some coalitions, such as IANSA, have different defined categories of membership for different types of organisation or individual.

Some considerations:

  • For campaigning, having parameters as to who or what can be a member should make it more likely that the coalition can agree to a strong call and stick together for the duration required.
  • Basing membership around organisations rather than individuals is likely to change how the coalition represents itself – its motivation and justification is likely to come from the professional experience of the organisations that comprise it.
  • If based on institutions, is it necessary or beneficial to require proof of institutional status? In some countries, or sectors of work, there are numerous organisations that are essentially individuals operating under an institutional name, with little or no formal structure.
  • If individuals are excluded from membership, what do you lose? Many coalitions have benefited from the energy and expertise of individuals without institutional affiliations. Can mechanisms be found to keep such individuals engaged?
  • Working through national or regional coordinating bodies can be a powerful way of increasing the size of the membership while maintaining a sense of engagement and purpose among key members. Done sensitively it can help to avoid or manage possible tensions between members in one country. On the other hand it can create tensions between organisations competing for coordinating status.
  • It is important to remember coalition members will often have many other items on their agendas. While a certain level of engagement should be expected in order to be part of the coalition, this needs to be realistic in relation to the different demands that member organisations face.

Effective national partners are vital to the work of the coalition – so the development of the membership needs to include the partnerships that can facilitate the coalition’s goal through national advocacy.


Membership of the ICBL and CMC is open to non-governmental organisations. There is no membership fee. To become a member there is a three step process:
1. Endorse the ‘calls to action’ by the CMC and ICBL
2. Agree to abide by the ‘ICBL-CMC Membership Pledge’
3. Submit a completed ‘Application Form’
The ‘calls to action’ set out the basic purpose and objectives of the two campaigns. The membership pledge sets out what could be considered the rights and responsibilities of members. The application form covers contact details, information about the applicant organisation and asks for some details about what work the applicant organisation is going to do to further the aims of the two campaigns.

“Sometimes big organisations can struggle to understand that you cant always get what you want. Smaller organisations are often more used to accepting certain things on a pragmatic basis.
But that can be difficult for some organisationsto swallow – the idea of going with the majority.”

Daniel Mack, Instituto Sou da Paz

What must the members agree to?

As discussed previously, a coalition is likely to be formed around a common call; a shared language that serves both to direct the coalition and define its boundaries. Most coalitions require members in some way to endorse the express mission of the coalition as a whole. Beyond this basic step, other coalitions require members to accept and respect constitutional documents – articles that lay out the rights and responsibilities of members and the formalised administrative processes of the coalition. Some coalitions require members to pay annual subscriptions, but many don’t.

Expectations of Coalition Members:

  • A coalition should expect members to do some work for the cause and place them under some obligation to do so (on paper at least). Coalition membership can be made conditional on making efforts to respond to ’action alerts‘ and other appeals for assistance from the coalition. Of course, it might not be possible for people to respond to everything the coalition asks of them, but a mechanism can be put in place to encourage action and to ask questions of those that systematically fail to engage.
  • Beyond the call, or mission, it is quite difficult for a coalition to force centrally agreed policy on its membership, so good communication is needed to promote adoption of central policy. Alternativepolicy positions need to be engaged thoughtfully. Policy points around which there is ongoing concern or disagreement need to be sufficiently worked through with stakeholders before decisions are finalised.
  • While being wary of becoming overly bureaucratic, it is worth considering some rules regarding use of the coalition’s brand identity. Inappropriate use of the coalition’s name and logo by a member can reduce credibility with key partners and without rules to refer to, the coalition might have no ability to stop it from happening again.
  • In some coalitions, members must sign up to further commitments regarding conduct and behaviour if they are registering for meetings under the coalition umbrella or receiving funding through a sponsorship programme.
  • Although many coalitions don’t require members to pay subscriptions there may be advantages to such a requirement in addition to generating income. Pointing to the membership as a source of funding strengthens the coalition’s claim to legitimacy. Payment of subscriptions also requires authorisation from within member organisations and can help ensure that coalition membership has deeper buy-in. For many NGO coalitions subscriptions are likely to be complicated to administer and if sufficient to provide a base of income, probably off-putting for many would- be members.

Structure of the membership

Another important consideration is whether the coalition will promote its own representative bodies at national or regional levels. For example, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines benefited from the establishment of national campaigns, where one person or organisation coordinated a further coalition at national level. This provided a mechanism for clearly identifying campaign leaders in different countries, which creates efficiencies when much of the lobbying requires policy change at a national level. Such an approach helps international coordination and can greatly strengthen national level advocacy if those national level coordinators are in turn effective coalition builders at home.

For example, the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition (ANZCMC) is a national network of 24 local non-governmental organisations established on 22 March 2007 in support of the international call to stop cluster munitions from harming civilians. Coordinated by Mary Wareham, the ANZCMC worked to ensure that the New Zealand government took strong leadership in the ‘Oslo Process’ to create an international instrument banning cluster munitions.

How can we grow the membership over time?

A strong coalition should have sufficient breadth of expertise to represent the issue it is tackling in its different aspects. So for coalitions on weapons issues, organisations have provided expertise on development impacts, international humanitarian and human rights law, medical impact on individuals, survivor rights, post-conflict clear-up as well as the technical characteristics of the weapons in question.

Functioning as an expert group, a coalition does not need to have a very large membership in order to be effective.

Breadth of geographical engagement as well as thematic expertise not only projects wide support for the aims of the coalition but is also likely to be strategically important for lobbying towards international policy change. For many governments, policy change will start at the national level and so it is here that the campaign’s membership has a critical role.

People involved in growing campaign memberships have highlighted word-of-mouth recommendations of organisations and in particular individuals as fundamental to this work. Identify people with a track record of action at a national or regional level as targets for recruitment.

National and regional meetings are important tools for bringing people together, advocating the coalition’s mission to potential members interested in the themes being discussed, and building members’ sense of direct participation and engagement with the wider network.

Are the members sufficiently active?

Not all members of a coalition will be consistently active. The steering group and any coalition staff need to be sufficiently engaged with the wider membership to make sure members are taking the issue forward at a national level.

Proposals and suggestions for action, either from the central structure or the membership, should provide a basis for dialogue between members and coalition staff – although the latter needs to be constantly questioning whether they are promoting engagement by members or doing their work for them. Partnerships between wealthier steering group organisations and members in different regions can also provide a mechanism for strengthening capacity and engagement.

While small grants can change relationships between the coalition and the membership, they do provide an important mechanism for motivating member organisations. As we have noted already, many such organisations will have various demands on their time, yet for organisations in the global ‘South’ – operating on significantly more limited budgets than their colleagues in the wealthier ‘North’ – a modest amount of money can facilitate a substantial amount of work.

“In the end the economy of the world is dominated by the west. Most of the capacity is with northern, white organisations. People living in affected countries are experiencing most acutely the issues we are campaigning about, but often have no budget and zillions of competing priorities. So there is a limit to what can be done to rebalance coalitions. Sensitively handling this issue is key. All coalitions claim to speak on behalf of members but some have a greater claim than others.”

Anthea Lawson, Global Witness

Will there be a dedicated coalition staff team?

If resources allow, a coordinator, staff team or secretariat working on behalf of the coalition, rather than serving the interests of one of its members, can be a major asset. This is probably vital once a coalition is engaged in a political process towards international policy change. Such staff can exert a great influence on the way a coalition works. This can be a big strength but it can also be a challenge, creating a new centre of gravity in the coalition that can replace active engagement by member organisations and begin the creep from coalition to institution in its own right.

The importance of staff in developing a coalition

  • In the early stages of a coalition’s development, having one person with responsibility for furthering the coalition’s interests can make a major difference. Such a person might be employed by one of the members and might only have this role as a small part-time component of their work. The key requirement is that they are someone who can separate the coalition’s needs from the institutional interests of particular members and push forward the administrative requirements of that coalition. Likely key tasks would include calling coalition meetings, maintaining and updating email lists, circulating minutes of meetings and agendas for development. Such a role does not need to be considered a leadership position within the coalition, but it should be recognised as a position on behalf of the coalition.
  • Over time, and depending on resources, a full time coordinator and additional support staff are often put in place. Support staff roles can include logistics, finances, communications, support to campaigners and media functions.
  • As well as pushing forward the coalition agenda, staff can facilitate the work of the steering group and the membership. Staff can mediate between different organisations in a steering group and provide an impartial speaker for the coalition who is not affiliated with any one of the members.
  • A coalition coordinator might also have influence at a decision-making level, prompting the coalition to take necessary risks. As in any venture, an effective coalition will require difficult decisions to be made in uncertain circumstances. A coordinator can help to spur bold decisions from a steering group that might otherwise be more conservative.

The choice to employ staff will depend on financial resources available, but consideration should also be given to whether there is sufficient buy-in to the project from partner organisations. There is always a danger that staff will do all the work, with coalition members taking a back-seat role. For example, in coalitions where funding is very limited, having staff available to represent on behalf of the coalition may serve to limit the extent the steering group or wider members are able to take on such roles.

“We realised we had a specific window of opportunity and therefore a strict timeline so we needed a clear strategy. We appointed a coordinator who employed other staff as required. The team worked extremely hard especially in preparing and organizing the regional conferences. We did not spend time setting up a formal legal entity but we did have a Coalition member organisation take responsibility for managing our funds and accounts.”

Martin Macpherson, Child Soldiers International (formerly the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers)


There needs to be clarity about what the staff are there to do and what they need to be encouraging member organisations to do. Many coalitions have emphasised the facilitation and communication role of staff as being of primary importance – providing a ‘hub’ around which the work of members revolves. However, the ability of staff to work on the basis of the collective interests of the coalition first and foremost – and to perceive when decisions really need to be made – makes it important that, over time, they are empowered to spur action from the leadership group and so to the coalition as a whole.

With the primary role of such coalition work being to engage people in a broad process of change, a useful consideration for staff, leadership group and membership alike is the number of other people each individual is engaging in the work. The more people that an individual is reaching through their work, the greater the impact of that work is likely to be.

How are staff employed?

It is quite common for coalitions to house coalition staff within one or more member organisations, rather than establishing the coalition as an institution in its own right. This draws on established structures of employment, contracting etc. without requiring the coalition to undertake legal registration and establish its own formal institutional practices. On the other hand, such a move can cause tensions. It may mean one of the coalition’s members receives financial benefit from the coalition, or appears to have additional influence because of the close working relations. If a coalition is established as a legal entity it must be owned by some form of governing body (such as a ‘board’), taking full responsibility for its operation. This can indicate a high level of buy-in to the coalition project.

With trust between coalition partners, the host organisation and staff themselves, many of the issues raised in the box below can be easily resolved – but that should not be taken for granted. It is worth considering what would happen if a staff member filed an official complaint about some aspects of their employment and following through where the formal and practical responsibilities would lie.

It is also worth noting that with an active steering group, coalition staff can sometimes feel as though they have numerous managers. This needs to be recognised as a particular challenge for staff in this line of work.

“When you have coalition staff it’s easier if you have one NGO responsible for overseeing them, rather than having a seconded approach with staff coming from different coalition members. All of the problems with resources and fundraising and so on are amplified if you do that. The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (as well as the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect) are legally projects of the World Federalist Movement. The fact that 99 per cent of people don’t know that is a sign that we have been able to operate without this being an issue. This is part of why it works – big NGOs who are members can know that we are not going to steal the credit for the World Federalist Movement.”

Bill Pace, Coalition for the International Criminal Court


Housing coalition staff within a member organisation raises formal management challenges that need to be considered:

  • The staff are likely to be under contract to the host organisation not to the coalition (which may not be a legal corporate entity)..At the same time staff will need to have a line management relationship with the decision making body of that coalition (not simply with the organisation employing them).
  • The employer organisation will have legal responsibilities towards these staff (e.g. regarding leave allowances, sickness pay, notice periods etc.) that will need to be respected by the coalition.
  • While hosting a coalition team might be a source of income to an organisation (in administrative support costs at least), the host organisation may come under pressure to cover cash-flow shortfalls within the coalition.
  • While these risks may not seem significant if hosting is being provided for a single part-time post in a large organisation, in other situations a coalition staff team can grow to become a substantial part of the organisation it is embedded within.


A coalition may also take on volunteer staff or interns. If managed effectively, they can be a valuable boost to the coalition’s staff resources and a useful experience for people receiving training to develop their working skills. This is probably best done through structured intern arrangements where it is known that an individual will be able to commit to a certain amount of work over a fixed period of time. However, it is important to understand the legal obligations relating to such staff wherever they are being employed.

How will the pieces fit together?

How these components of staff team, membership and steering group work together will change over time, but there are some key themes that need to be taken into account. Central themes are likely to be around ‘decision making’ and representation on behalf of the coalition. Binding all of this together is the fundamental issue of communication.

Who needs to be involved in decision making

The ‘steering group’ should take the lead in defining the broad parameters of who will be involved in decisions of different types. Too much decision making in the hands of a staff team can leave member organisations feeling out of the loop, but too much member participation in decision making can lead to bottle necks and indecision.

Some examples of different levels of coalition decision might be as follows, in descending order of importance:

  • Revising the coalition’s call, fundamental policy decisions, changing the coalition’s major governance structures.
  • Approving annual plans and budgets, making decisions on coalition staffing.
  • Setting internal and external policy.
  • Approving press releases on behalf of the coalition.
  • Signing off coalition statements for conferences.

Issues that require the engagement of the full membership might still not be amenable for decision making by that group. In such circumstances, consultation processes with the membership can provide a mechanism for participation on decisions without taking items to a formal vote.

Other structures of work

Coalitions can generate workload challenges for people participating at the steering group level, especially given that those people usually have other jobs that they are being paid to do. This can pose a problem for staff teams if they start to find they are not getting responses and timely sign-off from that group for urgent work. Steering groups can also hoard work to themselves, preventing other members from being as engaged as they might be. Sub- committees, working groups and co-chairs can all be used to address these problems and provide more flexible and dynamic structures through which work can get done.


  • Sub-committees of the steering group can be used to drive work forward on particular streams such as human resources or finances.
  • By working through a smaller configuration there is more pressure on members to participate and pull their weight rather than sitting back and expecting others to engage.
  • Smaller groups can work on sensitive issues in a more discreet way.
  • Different sub-committees, of different compositions, can be used as a mechanism for trying to maintain active engagement by the steering group.
  • However, there is always the risk that sub- committees serve to pull more decision-making power into themselves, reducing the effective drive of the steering group as a whole.


  • A group of two or three individual co-chairs can be used to provide a rapid response to urgent needs from the staff team in situations where the wider steering group does not have time to respond effectively.
  • Co-chair roles can also link into representational roles, giving certain individuals or organisations an additional status within the group.
  • As with certain sub-committees, the danger is that these configurations take on more authority to the detriment of the steering group as a whole.

Advisory boards

  • Advisory board generally provides additional input on strategy and direction from outside the steering group. Such boards can be drawn from the wider membership or formed of high profile individuals (who might then have access to key decision makers etc.).
  • Such groups need active engagement if they are to be successful. Because they are not part of the formal management structure there is a danger that they are not referred to systematically.

Working groups

  • Working groups might be used to bring people and organisations that are not part of the steering group into a more active role on particular themes.
  • Such groups are most likely to be focused on particular areas of policy or campaigning strategy and action and can provide individual people as focal points on particular issues for key meetings.
  • The main requirement for working groups is that there are sufficient energetic individuals to drive them forward and maintain participation. Such groups don’t necessarily need to be bound to a particular membership but can be open to any who are keen to participate.
  • There is a risk with working groups that, through their formation, responsibility for an important area of work is partitioned off, so if the group doesn’t drive it forwards this area of work can become neglected.

Representational roles

Determining who speaks on behalf of the coalition on specific matters is an ongoing challenge. Some of the issues at stake in this include:

  • Some individuals are better prepared or more confident than others.
  • Some individuals might be over-exposed by being seen repeatedly on behalf of the coalition.
  • Speaking on behalf of the coalition can be a sign of status, offering both individuals and organisations a chance to gain profile for themselves – is this being sufficiently shared around?
  • Some organisations have stronger identities and their credibility can strengthen the voice of the coalition.
  • Diversity of voices illustrates the breadth of the coalition and the depth of its expertise.
  • The gender and regional background of speakers is indicative of the coalition’s orientation to equality issues, and will be noticed both by government partners and by the coalition’s wider membership.
  • Certain speakers, as a result of their background, will lend greater gravitas to certain topics of discussion.

Given these issues, deciding who will speak or who is given individual or organisational prominence in press releases and the like can be a tense affair. Added to this is the question of who decides what such people can say on behalf of the coalition. Again, mutual trust will have an important role to play in ensuring such issues can be worked through effectively.

Communication mechanisms

There are numerous channels through which a coalition can communicate internally. These need to be used in combination if the coalition is going to harness the full power of its members.

Many coalitions use email list-serves (automatic electronic mailing lists), sometimes multiple list- serves, as the basis for group communication. Such lists are free and easy to set up through a variety of online providers and allow a specific group to be mailed collectively. Subscription to the list can be easily controlled and the history of group communications is stored online as well as in the email inboxes of the individual members. Distinct lists might be used for the steering group, staff, different working groups and the membership as a whole.

  • It is important to ensure sufficient communication is going through the wider membership lists and that all of the conversations are not happening only at the level of the steering group.
  • It is important to keep communication on the lists, especially broad membership lists, reasonably focused on the work at hand. Such lists can be a very valuable way of building a sense of community, but they can also become rather congested if not operated within some boundaries
  • People should be encouraged to provide updates on their activities though the membership list as this builds the collective sense of working together and understanding the breadth of activities being undertaken.

Newsletters, often in electronic form, are a good way of compiling activities, providing a forum for people to feed into and provide people with a platform through which to feel part of the whole movement. By recording activities on an ongoing basis such newsletters can also be a useful resource when
the time comes to report back to donors on the coalition’s activities.

Conference calls
It is becoming increasingly inexpensive to hold conference calls. Such discussions can still be awkward to chair but they do allow for a more direct and interactive form of communication than is possible through email alone. They are more useful for smaller groups.

Face-to-face meetings
Face-to-face meetings are very important for building trust and mutual understanding. For a steering group, regular face-to-face meetings are essential for building up an effective working community, especially if the coalition is engaged in a political process. The cost of getting people together, finding appropriate space, and the challenge of congested calendars all need to be overcome.

Planning briefings
During the course of government conferences, morning and/or evening briefings can provide a mechanism for preparing people for the work of the day ahead and accessing information campaigners have acquired. Providing space for all people to take the floor (if they have been active in their advocacy) means such briefings are good for encouraging participation. Chairing such meetings can be rotated through members, helping to build the culture of leadership from within the group.

Campaign forum
When large numbers of campaigners are coming together in the same place, a campaign forum can be a vital mechanism for building the feeling of collective work, as well as addressing specific working needs. Such a forum may need significant logistical preparation, including a large room and microphones, but it offers an excellent way for people to speak out and engage each other as a group. Different people can be given the opportunity to facilitate different sessions and it can provide space for presentations, information sharing by steering group members and staff, and feedback and input from the wider membership. Within a political process, these meetings can be used both to prepare for, and wind-down from, campaign participation in government meetings.

“Once you lay down detailed organizational rules you risk becoming bureaucratised. Because we were so focused and had a strict time frame we couldn’t afford to get distracted on organisational issues.
The focus had to be on adopting declarations at each regional conference in support of a strong and effective Optional Protocol and advocacy at the UN for
that Protocol.”

Martin Macpherson, Child Soldiers International (formerly the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers)


This section covered key issues on how the coalition is structured, including the configuration of a steering group, the wider membership and – in time – a staff team.  How these components fit together will be critical to the success of the coalition and the most important element of their interaction will be the mechanisms of internal communication that the coalition employs.  Part of the coalition’s work will also be to keep these structures and their inter-relation under review, to ensure that as circumstances change over time the coalition continues to be organised appropriately.

An effective coalition needs to be driven forward by individuals working hard, communicating openly and being sensitive to their responsibilities for the wider group.  Structures can be changed if they are not meeting the coalition’s needs, but the culture of work and communication that a coalition adopts is harder to change.  This culture can transcend the formal structures and probably has to if a coalition is going to function as effectively as possible.

End of Chap 3