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Identify allies and opponents

Once you’ve identified a particular policy change initiative, you’ll want to consider who can help you achieve your policy change goal. Building a broad, diverse coalition will be a critical early, and ongoing, step to increasing resources, legitimacy, and influence. The Center for Creative Leadership’s Stakeholder Mapping tool will help you identify the internal and external stakeholders involved in your focus area, understand their interests and concerns, and create strategies on how to get their support.

It is important to continuously evaluate the make-up of your coalition and its leadership team. Following are some points to consider:

  • Do you need to add to your mix of partners to be sure your policy or program moves forward? For example, you may need to identify and recruit allies who have relationships with key decision makers that you don’t know yet or allies who have credibility with audiences you cannot reach as effectively.
  • Are you missing the support of key sectors, like the business community or neighborhood organizations? Are there sectors or groups that might be impacted by your work or that could impact your effort, like city planners, community development organizers, or housing advocates?
  • Are other groups of people already working on your issue? They may be approaching it from a different angle or perspective but they are still allies.
  • How can you build on what already exists? Neighborhood associations, PTAs, church groups, and other coalitions or organizations may be important allies to engage.

If you think your coalition needs to grow or broaden, there are many helpful tools and ideas within the Work Together step. In particular, the Coalition Mapping Worksheet can help identify potential allies and organizations interested in your policy or program. Integrating Volunteers into a Campaign Plan will help you think about how to effectively involve volunteers in all aspects of your campaign and keep them engaged.

For those potential allies with whom you do not have a pre-existing relationship, internet and social research is an important step to help you learn more about them. Taking time to do social research can help you move an undecided stakeholder to become an ally and/or find the leverage points for strengthening a relationship, especially with a stakeholder who has more power.

It is also critical to understand who your opponents are and why. Identifying Opponents from Community Tool Box will help you understand who may “lose” or think they’ll lose if your strategy is implemented, what they will do or spend to oppose you, and what power they have over key decision makers. While internet and social research can help you learn more about your opposition, use your network and talk to other allies, particularly other advocates, decision makers, and strategists who already have worked with your opponents and will be able to advise you. Tread carefully. Groups sometimes rush to bring in opponents, hoping that they will come to a mutual understanding early. While that is possible, research early on and solid strategic advice will prevent your opponents from getting a leg up.