Category Archives: Coalition Building

Movement Coalitions: Big Challenges and Big Rewards

By Brian Obach

Coalition building has always been a core tactic among movement organizations. By definition, aggrieved groups feel that they lack the power to have their interests represented via conventional means, thus it makes sense that they would seek to build power by joining with others.

Movement coalitions are common, yet what such collaboration entails varies dramatically. In many instances this cooperation amounts to little more than adding an organization’s name to a long list of event or campaign endorsers. A few may actually engage in coordinated action, but similar to individual “paper membership” in advocacy groups, at the organization level, many coalitions are primarily composed of inactive members who are only nominally affiliated. This should not come as a surprise. While coalition building is appealing and may have significant advantages when undertaken in earnest, there are many practical barriers to actually carrying out this kind of work. Continue reading

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Working Across Difference and Inequality

By Michelle I. Gawerc

This month the Mobilizing Ideas dialogue tasks us with considering how social movements and social movement organizations can work across difference and power asymmetry.

Even though movement organizations in the United States and elsewhere have long faced these challenges in terms of race, class, and gender, (Breines 1982, 2006; Kurtz 2002; Piatelli 2009) and these issues are becoming increasingly relevant as more groups organize transnationally (Nepstad 2001; Smith 2007; Kay 2010), there has been limited research focused on how to effectively work across difference and inequality (for notable exceptions see: Bystydzienski and Schacht 2001; Smith 2002; Bandy and Smith 2004). The lack of attention to these issues is all the more remarkable given that many social movement organizations—particularly, in the peace movement, the environmental movement, and the women’s movement—have long expressed a desire to diversify their memberships and/or have faced conflict and tension due to their inability to effectively work across difference (Bystydzienski and Schacht 2001; Reger, Myers, and Einwohner 2008). Continue reading


Filed under Coalition Building, Essay Dialogues

Inter-Coalition Collaboration as the Impetus for a National Record Store Day

By Jerome Hendricks

My interest in coalitions draws heavily on works at the nexus of organizational and social movements literatures (Carroll and Swaminatham 2000, McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001, Rao et al. 2003, Davis et al. 2005, Fligstein and McAdam 2012, Soule 2012, McInerney 2014) where the fundamental role of challengers can be more clearly recognized in critical moments of change. The stories I offer below come from a larger study on the role that independent record stores have played in reconfiguring the contemporary music retail market. Where the first paper from this study focuses on establishing the nature of market change empirically, these excerpts are from a working paper that details the advent of Record Store Day; a national celebration of “the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.” Contrary to the popularized origin story, without the collaborative efforts of three independent record store coalitions, Record Store Day would not have developed the way that it has. Continue reading

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Filed under Coalition Building, Essay Dialogues