Based on Lowery and Brasher's Social Work and Policy Practice, what are the advantages and disadvantages of joining a coalition?

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tamarakh's profile pic

Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The book Social Work and Policy Practice by Lowery and Brasher cannot be accessed online; however, a great deal of information can be found on organizing and joining coalitions and the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Below are some ideas to help get you started and perhaps better understand Lowery and Brasher's own points as you review your assigned reading again.

Coalitions are alliances of different groups and individuals with the intention of completing one goal. Typically, that goal involves changing current public policies, changing the current behavior of individuals, and building a stronger community, all of which requires advocacy.  While forming and joining coalitions can certainly be useful, either the decision to form or join a coalition should not be made lightly, and one should carefully research the coalition and evaluate risks. There are a few different general advantages and disadvantages to joining a coalition that should be considered.

For one advantage, coalitions allow us to join forces with other individuals who share the same goal. Through networking and connecting with others, we are able to achieve more than we would on our own. Simply put, there is "strength in numbers" ("Advantages and Disadvantages of Working in Coalitions"). For another thing, coalitions have more influence and power than mere individuals, allowing for more to be accomplished. What's more, there is also safety in numbers, meaning that members can protect each other as they advocate for changes in policies, which is especially important if the environment is "hostile or difficult." A third advantage is that coalitions make it much easier to delegate tasks, which again makes it much easier to achieve the ultimate goal. The list of advantages continue from there in terms of developing leadership, sharing resources, and providing encouragement and motivation.

However, a disadvantage to joining a coalition can arise when the coalition does not establish clear, common objectives. What's more, in order to establish a clear, common objective, members "may have to compromise on priorities or principle" ("Joining Forces: A Guide to Forming, Joining and Building Political Coalitions"). Plus, the act of compromising on objectives "can be slow and may paralyze progress" ("Advantages and Disadvantages"). Also, members of a coalition will lose "some control over the message and tactical decisions," which can lead to quarreling ("Joining Forces"). It should also be taken into consideration that managing a coalition can be very time-consuming, which can take time away from working on the ultimate goal. The list of disadvantages continues from there to include other weaknesses in the decision-making process, having to associate with any negative sides to other members, interferences, and losing credit for one's own contributions.

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cdeeneedham's profile pic

cdeeneedham | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Advantanges:

1. sharing the cost of lobbying  2. presenting a united from that puts the interest groups in greater control of the shape of the legislation 3. creating greater legitimacy for the interest group's cause. and 4. increasing the organization's influence as it will be seen as equal to the most active member of the coalition.

Disadvantanges:

It is not easy, but it is well worth the effort.  Sometimes other members of a coalition may be potential competitors for members and resources such as when the American Association of People with Disabilities and UCP Disability Policy Collaboration are bothe members of the Coalition on Human Needs. Simply bringing groups together around a common concern does not necessarily result in the creation of a coalition. 

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