query: difference between coalitions and partnerships

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Sat Nov 10 10:02:21 CST 2007

[ed:  thanks to Joyce for responding to Kevboy's query.]

"Baker, Joyce A" <joyce-baker at uiowa.edu>

A coalition is usually an alliance of organizations with potentially
diverse purposes and missions. Given a broad goal of mutual benefit, the
central challenge faced by coalitions is to coordinate the diverse
strengths of multiple partners. For example, given a broad goal of
tobacco control, an effective coalition might try to influence
policymakers on several fronts, including seeking to develop or enforce
local ordinances banning smoking in public places, conducting campaigns
to raise cigarette taxes, and enforcing laws making tobacco less
accessible to children. Each individual member of the coalition might
not pursue these initiatives (or might not pursue them effectively), but
the coalition's united front is its strength.

In the context of community health, partnership refers to the
relationships among two or more organizations in which each has equal
status and a certain independence, while maintaining a formal obligation
toward a mutual goal they agree could not be achieved alone.

No matter how different their primary goals may be, consortia and
coalitions often have common secondary goals. These include generating
additional resources, raising community awareness, and the formation of
alliances to support other community organizations or groups. Finally,
most public health consortia and collaborations described in the
literature are, at least in part, supported by funding from outside the
coalition. (In many cases, outside funding was the catalyst for their
formation in the first place.) Consequently, both consortia and
coalitions share the challenges of working with one or more funding
organizations and of matching collaborative activities to the funders'

 From my reading of this, it seems that one distinguishing
characteristics of a coalition is potentially diverse primary
organizational missions with common secondary goals among members, while
partnerships have a mutual primary goal among members.

Hope this is helpful, the two terms are indeed used interchangeably.
Perhaps a coalition is a particular form of a partnership?

Joyce A. Baker, MSW
University of Iowa

Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
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> [ed:  please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with responses to Kevboy's 
> query.]
> From:     anil kumar <kevboy_anil at yahoo.com>
> Hi,
> i am a graduate student in Public Health and i am in Community 
> Organizing class and doing a project in this class. One of the 
> assignments in this class asked specifically about the structural or 
> functional differences between the "coalitions and partnerships and 
> their role in community organizing". I couldn't find any source which 
> specifically  differentiates these two, hence i thought you people might 
> be of some help. Reason being i always visit this discussion thread and 
> found some useful stuff over here for my class.
> Thank you in advance.
> kevboy.
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