Building coalitions

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The content of this page presents a vision of intergroup work allowing teamwork to be accomplished between groups.

This page was created from the coalition training offered in French by the HUB. We hope to soon offer this training to our anglophone audience.

Traditional coalitions

Here are some challenging aspects of traditional coalition work (based on HUB community members' experiences and past movement literature)

  • slow process
  • conflict over details
  • groups with the most resources lead
  • slow to adapt to changing context
  • limits innovation
  • concentration on narrow issues, subsequent dissolution
  • many compromises
  • renunciation of the specific framing of each group
  • creation of false dichotomies: having to choose between different options (when it is possible to make several)
  • inability to make decisions on certain key issues

These are notably linked to current practices of traditional coalitions, namely...

  • the search for consensus
  • the desire for the coalition to have a clear identity
  • a negative conception of the diversity of objectives, tactics and horizons of struggle

The agile coalition is a coalition model that addresses these negative aspects of traditional coalitions.

Agile Coalition

Basis of agile coalitions

The agile coalition is a public or informal coalition that is united around a statement of unity and in which groups organize together, share certain resources, come together at key times and respect different tactics used. [1]

Basic ingredients

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Unity Statement

A unity statement helps delineate why we are working together.

  • The nature of the unity statement will impact the range of positions represented in your coalition.
  • The more precise we are, the less risk we have of bringing groups together. The wider you are, the wider range of positions you find.
  • Lesson learned from the Occupy movement. [2] [3] Coalition work recognizes the existence of disagreements and it is the statement of unity that provides the answer to the question “Why do we come together despite our disagreements
  • By bringing together groups who agree on an issue, the space offered by agile coalitions can also be used to broaden perspectives on the issue and to show intersectional perspectives.

For example:

“Direct action to end the HIV crisis” - ACT UP “Against the government of owners and Bill 31” - FLIP “Regularization for everyone, without exception” - Migrants Right Network 

“In defense of biodiversity and against colonialism” - 

Alliance Mamo

“Defund the Police, Invest in Communities” - 

Coalition to Defund the Police

“Between the end of the world and the end of their world, there is no alternative” - Earth Uprisings

Resource sharing

Resource sharing allows power to be shared between different groups. It also helps amplify the voices of groups with fewer resources.

Some types of resources:

  • expertise
  • money
  • data
  • visibility
  • mobilization effort
  • physical spaces
  • material

Communication spaces

Bringing different groups into contact allows for the sharing of experience and learning from others as well as the creation of human contacts between individuals from different groups. This has the effect of fostering stronger, closer relationships between groups that are most aligned. Alliances can emerge from this.

Minimum structural organization

A minimal structural organization allows the coalition to survive. This minimal structure (to begin with at least) can consist of a working group or committees which will notably create the infrastructures necessary for collective organization (for example, communication spaces).

The agille coalition can appoint people delegated to decision-making. Indeed, some coalitions choose to have a trusted steering group to facilitate decision-making processes. These decentralized network coalitions could still have general assemblies to make their most important decisions.

Non-intuitive Ingredients

These ingredients are linked to practices which are less observed in coalitions, which are not part of habit.

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No public denouncing

  • Participating in the coalition does not mean endorsing everything.
  • Internal division strengthens our opponents.
  • We can know our disagreements and choose to unite; particularly for strategic reasons.

Different levels of participation possible

  • Faced with the distinct realities of groups, allowing groups to get involved according to their capacities allows the involvement of more groups, including those with the least resources.

No public ID needed

  • An agile coalition does not have to be formalized or publicized, it is above all a way of working as a team.
  • Some groups may publicly endorse the coalition identity while others may choose not to while implicitly being part of the coalition.

Respect for the diversity of tactics and horizontal nature of struggles

  • Respect helps make the coalition attractive.
  • Different tactics serve different functions in creating social change. Different people are comfortable and different tactics and speeches. It is strategic that they can cooperate.

"People can only be where they are, and trying to force them to be where they aren't doesn't work, and what works is allowing people to be effective where they are. This is what true leadership is. So you need this simultaneity and you have to live with the discomfort of being in an organization with people who do things you don't like." -Sarah Schulman, historian and author of Let The Record Show on the history of ACT UP New York.

  • Some groups cannot afford to adopt more radical postures or endorse/participate in more intense actions. They can, however, refuse to condemn them publicly.

Cultural ingredients

These ingredients assume that the agile coalitions that are formed have an objective linked to anti-oppression.

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Continued practice of collecting and sharing member feedback

Listen to marginalized and more impacted groups

  • Make it a priority for them to have access to, and be a strong part of, the coalition

Development of interpersonal links

  • People can have a specific role of being point builders.
To work together, it is important to respect differences. People who strive to “break through” these barriers have an important role to play. People who are both active in unions and active in communities or social movements can give coalitions the ability to translate these practices." - Amanda Tatersall, author of Power in Coalition

Recognition of the ecology of movements

  • Value and know the different roles within social movements, especially those that are least highlighted in order to appreciate the work of the groups around us.
See movement ecology for more.

First steps

This is a proposal that can be adapted to the realities of your group and your objective.

1. First contact with affinity groups.

Here are principles that can help you choose the people and groups with whom you begin working or enter into dialogue.

Less is more

  • The 'less is more' approach has helped avoid lowest-common-denominator positions, which result in coalitions ending up a 'mile wide and an inch deep' and tending to only agree on what they reject rather than on what they support .” -
  • Power in Coalition


  • It is necessary to identify partners who have the right combination of power, interest and, potentially, unpredictability. Power should not be narrowly defined. It includes not only "organized numbers and money", but also diversity. After all, if the coalition cannot represent all of the people it claims to represent, its capacity to act is limited." (Tattersall 2010, 171).

  • Nothing about us without us [4]

  • Nothing should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by a decision or position.
  • 2. Co-creation of a first draft of vision, culture and structure.

    3. Broader invitation to a broad assembly/meeting.

    4. Presentation of the first draft, answers to clarifying questions and expansion of the coalition.

    Other types of coalitions

    Agile coalitions are on a scale of level of collaboration between groups in campaigns. This scale is above all a practical tool. It does not constitute a science and is based on activist experience.

    Strategic tip: to better plan your actions, it may be useful for you to inform yourself of the intentions and resources of groups campaigning for the same cause, even if you do not wish to work together. 

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    Know what the different groups plan to do and be able to communicate their own issues. This type of intergroup work requires the least affinities between groups given that it is characterized above all by the presence of a dialogue between groups and nothing more.

    Collaboration [5]

    If two groups find themselves campaigning for the same cause within a specific framework, but they deeply disagree on issues that are important to them, they may want to enter into conflict.

    However, if an issue is important to our group, we are not going to abandon it in the face of groups with whom we disagree who are also campaigning in favor of it. We have the same struggle, and it can be advantageous to work together, although in a limited way.

    Boundaries: it may sometimes be necessary to establish our boundaries, i.e. situations in which our group would refuse to collaborate with another group, even if we are aligned on an issue.

    Traditional coalition

    We put traditional coalitions at the end of this spectrum, because they are the least flexible coalitions.


    Alliances are teamwork in which groups are even closer than in traditional coalitions. They have a shared common vision, which allows them to work together in the long term.

    Additional Resources

    Creative Coalitions Online Manual - A Handbook for Change

    Blueprints for Change Guide – Building Agile Coalitions

    If you have corrections or additional resources to share with us related to this content, you can contact

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