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What Helps and What Hinders the Coalition’s Work?

Questions for consideration

• Does the coalition have a clear strategic plan and action plan?

• Do the strategic goals and action plan reflect members’ concerns and skills?

• Does the coalition have adequate resources to carry out the activities?

• Does the coalition regularly self-evaluate where it is going? Is it self-renewing?

• Should the coalition dissolve once its aims have been achieved?

As with the stated successes, the perceived challenges of coalitions vary according to who claims them. Overwhelmingly, those inside coalitions argued that their biggest restraint was lack of funds to carry out activities or meet core costs. Conversely, INGOs and donors argued that the biggest challenge was lack of skills such as in advocacy, research or financial management. Several coalition members pointed to the fact that members – organisational and individual – often sought to profit from participation in the coalition and pointed to internal conflicts between leadership structures and the members that also influenced the inability to secure a common goal.

Indeed, internal power struggles were integral to a sense of lost ownership by members and the domination of a coalition by a core group, in some cases amounting to manipulation and ‘bullying’. Poor transparency and weak accountability were cited by both coalition members and donors as a severe hindrance. Implicit in this was a lack of communication between the various structures and amongst the members. A further challenge for coalitions centres on the role of funders and INGOs in supporting coalitions, as discussed in Chapter 8. Adequate funds are clearly a requisite for impact, yet if this is the sole reason for funder involvement then attention to membership fees or alternative sources of funds is a worthwhile consideration for mitigating funder influence. Attention needs to be given to the consequences of being housed in an INGO or other organisation as this creates a certain impression of the coalition with the government and with civil society.

This information has been drawn from the CEF's report Driving the bus: the journey of national education coalitions.