Predicting success in social change coalitions: learning from 25 years of leader experience
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This dissertation builds upon a 25-year old study by Mizrahi and Rosenthal (1993) which examined how coalition leaders defined and perceived success and failure in their respective coalitions. This study replicates the Mizrahi and Rosenthal study by returning to participants from the original study and, adapting the original instrument, interviewing those participants to examine their perceptions after 25 years has passed. Utilizing the same instrument, new coalition leaders from the originally studied coalitions which are still intact are also interviewed and their responses are compared against responses from leaders of coalitions which have since dissolved. The current study uses basic descriptive analysis for the structured survey items and grounded theory methodology for the qualitative analysis of open-ended questions. The analysis examines participant responses in the following areas: participant information; coalition information; demographic information of working group, board and constituency; characterization of coalition; internal and environmental predictors of dissolution; political and social climate during dissolution; political forces influencing dissolution; events in the lifespan; benefits and drawback of permanency; target information; definition of success; internal and environmental predictors of success; goals; strategies and tactics; decision-making processes; modes of communication; coalition resources; membership and participation; leadership; and practice wisdom. Utilizing organizational, ecological, social capital and collaboration literature and theory, indicators of coalition success are reviewed. Specifically, findings from this study confirm that coalition success should be defined multi-dimensionally and that coalitions should be operationalized as networks more than as organizations. Findings demonstrate that coalition success is predicted by the following internal factors: impetus to form and coalition purpose; goal-setting, identification of target and strategy; internal resources; leadership; power and decision-making; coalition structure; member contributions; diversity; and relationships, including dynamics of respect, trust, commitment and communication. Additionally, findings demonstrate that coalition success is predicted by the following environmental factors: external resource and resource dependence; goal-setting, identification of target and strategy; relationship with community and degree of coupling; and political, fiscal and social climate. Theoretical and practical implications for these findings are discussed along with limitations to current research and areas for potential future research.