Who's at your table?

Nov 13, 2019

Dr. Jocelyn Elders, Surgeon General during the Clinton Administration, once described a coalition as “an unnatural act among non-consenting adults." While we may all may smirk at her comment, we know there is a more than a hint of truth in her observation.

Yet, the first piece of advice we are given when we decide to try creating system-level change is, "You need to form a coalition." And if you ask “What does it need to look like?” the answer is, "Get all the key stakeholders around the table." This is not enough.

We need to ask, "What do each of these stakeholders bring to the table?”

Only if we ask this question will we be able to determine what we are capable of doing (what is our capacity to create change?) and what seat do they deserve at the table (as not all seats are equal).

I am most familiar with two tools that can help with this assessment: Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and the Community Catalyst System of Advocacy.

The Asset Based Community Development approach was developed by Jody Kretzmann and John McNight. They believe communities can no longer be thought of as complex masses of needs and problems, but rather diverse and potent webs of gifts and assets. Each community has a unique set of skills and capacities to channel for community development.

ABCD categorizes asset inventories into five groups:

  • Individuals: Everyone has assets and gifts. Individual gifts and assets need to be recognized and identified. In community development you cannot do anything with people’s needs, only their assets. You cannot look at just what is in their job descriptions. Look at their talents and skills.
  • Associations: Small informal groups of people, such as clubs, working with a common interest as volunteers are called associations in ABCD and are critical to community mobilization. They don’t control anything; they are just coming together around a common interest by their individual choice. What groups are they members of? Book clubs, rotary, Kiwanis, softball leagues.
  • Institutions: Paid groups of people who generally are professionals and who are structurally organized are called institutions. They include government agencies and private business, as well as schools, etc. They can all be valuable resources. The assets of these institutions help the community capture valuable resources and establish a sense of civic responsibility.
  • Physical Assets: Physical assets such as land, buildings, space, and funds are other assets that can be used.
  • Connections: Who are people connected to? Who they do have relationships? Which decision-makers will take their call?

A good place to start is have each member of your coalition create an inventory of their assets. It will be longer and more diverse than you imagine!

Based on their research of successful coalitions and collaborations, Community Catalyst identified six key “capacities:

  • Campaign Development: The ability to plan and coordinate advocacy campaigns including anticipating opportunities and threats and synchronizing advocacy tactics to evolving dynamics.
  • Communication: The ability to communicate persuasively and use the media and other communication strategies to build public and political support and counter opposition arguments.
  • Resource Development: The ability to generate resources from diverse sources to build organizational, capacity, maintain core functions and implement campaigns.
  • Analysis and Advocacy: The ability to compile, analyze, and synthesize policy and develop policy options and conduct legislative and administrative advocacy.
  • Coalition and Structural Alliances: The ability to bring together large numbers of different organizations and stakeholders in coordinated campaigns.
  • Grassroots Organizing: The ability to engage people at the local level and to put a human face on the need for better.

After you have inventoried your resources you can better determine how best to apply them to meet these valuable capacities.

First we identify a need, problem or issue to be addressed. Then we mobilize people and groups interested in addressing this need, problem or issue. Together we develop a strategy.

However, between mobilization and strategizing, if we do not do an asset assessment (using a tool like one of these) we are missing a key step.

Related Issues & Ideas

Website

The United States Prosperity Index 2021

View The United States Prosperity Index 2021
Guide

Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap

View Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap
Website

Frameworks Institute: Changing the conversation on social issues

View Frameworks Institute: Changing the conversation on social issues
Website

Framing best practices with Topos Partnership

View Framing best practices with Topos Partnership
Website

Iowa Public Health Association

View Iowa Public Health Association
Report

Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa

View Cultivating Change: How the HealthConnect Fellowship lifted a network of advocates to improve children's health in central Iowa
Report

Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health

View Shifting the Lens: How The ACE Study sparked action to collectively improve our community's health
Website

National Academy of Medicine

View National Academy of Medicine
Website

Grant Makers in Health

View Grant Makers in Health
Guide

Results-Based Accountability Implementation Guide

View Results-Based Accountability Implementation Guide
Website

Healthy People 2030

View Healthy People 2030
Website

Centers for Disease Control

View Centers for Disease Control
Report

2020 One Economy: The Blueprint for Action

View 2020 One Economy: The Blueprint for Action
Policy Brief

Strengthening Medicaid

View Strengthening Medicaid
Website

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program

View Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program
Website

CAMHI4Kids Children's Mental Health System

View CAMHI4Kids Children's Mental Health System
Policy Brief

Transforming Iowa's Foster Care System to Support Kinship Caregiving

View Transforming Iowa's Foster Care System to Support Kinship Caregiving
Website

Community Catalyst System of Advocacy

View Community Catalyst System of Advocacy

Champions for Change: A Collective Commitment to Children's Health

Outcomes from Mid-Iowa Health Foundation's HealthConnect Fellowship, October 2019-June 2021

View Story
View Story

4 Issues Impacting Children’s Health During the Pandemic

View Post

7 lessons learned about systems change work

System change
Sep 9, 2021
View Post

The Foundation's role in the HealthConnect Fellowship

Funder practices
Sep 8, 2021
View Post

Go ahead: Brag a little

Leadership
Aug 5, 2021
View Post

Planning from strength: questions to ask your team

Advocacy
Apr 26, 2021
View Post

Preparing yourself to center the voices of those impacted by issues

View Post

Vision vs. Tactics: How we can achieve the change we want to see

Action planning
Feb 22, 2021
View Post

System-change achievements advocates are making for central Iowa’s kids

View Post

How we can begin to find peace in 2021

View Post

Disconnection matters

System change
Nov 24, 2020
View Post

3 questions to reshape your policy agenda

Advocacy
Oct 30, 2020
View Post

What you should know about homelessness in central Iowa during the pandemic

Community response
Oct 26, 2020
View Post

Leading system change, even in times of uncertainty

System change
Jul 22, 2020
View Post

We must all do our part to be anti-racist

View Post

Lessons in preventing burnout

View Post

5 barriers pregnant women in poverty face in getting the care they need

View Post

What I've learned about system-change work during this time of crisis

System change
Jun 11, 2020
View Post

What the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about system change

System change
May 10, 2020
View Post

We have the resources to build a better food system here in Iowa

View Post

What we should do about COVID-19 racial disparities in Iowa

Advocacy
May 6, 2020
View Post