“Change masters are - literally - the right people in the right place at the right time.
The right people are the ones with the ideas that move beyond the organization's established practice, ideas they can form into visions.
The right places are the integrative environments that support innovation; encourage the building of coalitions and teams to support and implement visions.
The right times are those moments in the flow of organizational history when it is possible to reconstruct reality on the basis of accumulated innovations to shape a more productive and successful future.” ~ Rose Moss Kanter
It seems that there's a dirty word in modern American politics, and it’s not the one you’re thinking. In a culture that is increasingly polarized and tribal, concepts like collaboration and cooperation are enough to send the regressive-minded into a state of panic.
While tribalism is nothing new, the inability of our leaders to reach across the aisle and actually conduct the people’s business has reached a tipping point. Whether you’re in Congress, a state senate, or sitting on a local school board, politics has become a game where the objective is scoring points against a perceived enemy instead of governing.
When you’re an independent candidate hoping to smash the two-party system and transform our country into a functioning democracy, the barriers to effective representation are higher and the hurdles harder to jump.
In such an environment, coalition building has emerged as a critical strategy for independent candidates seeking to make their mark in elections. This involves forging alliances with diverse groups and individuals in order to support a campaign or common cause.
For independents, forming a coalition could be the key to overcoming the challenges imposed by our current political system.
Join us as we explore the intricacies of coalition building, outline its importance for independent candidates, and provide actionable strategies that will lead them down the path to electoral success.
A coalition is a partnership or alliance with stakeholders that include community organizations, interest groups, activists, and individuals. From informal neighborhood groups to factions within political parties to international conflicts, we can see coalitions forming and working at every level of society.
In politics, coalition-building entails creating a diverse network of supporters and collaborators who can contribute to a candidate's campaign or policy goals. It requires a more formal structure and identifiable mission at its core.
For independent candidates, coalition building is not just an option; it's a necessity. The two-party system in the United States can be a formidable barrier for candidates who don’t align with the establishment parties.
There are distinct benefits to forging a solid coalition of like-minded individuals and groups. Strategic coalition building allows independent candidates to:
Expand Their Reach: Independent candidates can tap into the support of a diverse network of groups, reaching voters they might not otherwise connect with through traditional party channels.
Pool Resources: Coalition partners can provide valuable resources, including financial support, volunteers, expertise, and local knowledge.
Leverage Credibility: Partnering with respected organizations or community leaders enhances an independent candidate's credibility and reputation.
Diversify Their Message: Coalitions enable candidates to address a broader range of issues and concerns, appealing to a wider spectrum of voters.
In order for it to be inclusive and effective, stakeholders within the group need to have a clear objective for forming a coalition. Coalitions that come together during a campaign to win an election have different objectives than a coalition that forms after an election to legislate and govern.
In many cases, the coalition is the same but the objective is still different.
The rationales for building coalitions are to share ideas and resources as well as to broaden support among potential voters. In order to run a successful campaign, every candidate needs adequate resources in terms of:
Time from the beginning of the campaign or legislative vote until its conclusion
Money to present their objectives and accomplish their goals
People to do the research and outreach
However, many of these resources are in short supply or become stretched to their limits. Forming a coalition not only brings in new voices and perspectives, but it also helps to fill gaps and pool vital resources.
For example, group #1 might have a large pool of volunteers available in a particular district but no office space. Coalition partner #2, on the other hand, has a large office in the same district but few volunteers. Working together, these parties can pool their resources to maximize efficiency and reach.
There should also be a strategic division of responsibilities that’s based on the strengths and weaknesses of individuals and groups within the coalition. To maximize effectiveness, coalition leaders should evaluate where each of its constituent parts is strongest and where they’re lacking so that they can formulate and implement their election strategy to the best advantage.
Whenever you have a group of people collaborating on any activity or goal, there are going to be some challenges to overcome along the way. The more people involved, the greater the odds of losing focus or dealing with dissent from the primary objective.
These challenges can include:
Varying degrees of commitment or motivation
Lack of communication
Undefined decision-making authority
Lack of trust
Undefined or inequitable workloads
In order to mitigate these challenges, it’s important to follow some basic best practices that are designed to limit liabilities and foster a sense of cohesion and shared purpose.
Set clear objectives for the coalition and determine what the common ground will be. Focus on the points that all members can agree with and avoid or minimize unimportant issues that waste time and resources.
Make sure that all members derive some benefit from the coalition. All stakeholders should feel that they are gaining something of value for their involvement.
Agree to disagree. No two people are going to agree on every point. If necessary, designate topics that are off limits to discussion. They could also decide upfront that there are some issues they will disagree on, but that such disagreement will not impede on the common objectives.
Be willing to compromise. It’s important to find common ground with coalition partners and have the flexibility to give in on certain issues that are not critical to reaching consensus or achieving the overall objective. Engage in some give and take to receive what the party or organization wants in exchange for a lesser priority.
Empower decision makers within each group to take actions or negotiate terms within agreed parameters. Representatives of the organizations must be in a position to make decisions for their group and implement the agreements.
Respect the ideas and interests of coalition partners. This includes positions, difficulties, strengths, and weaknesses within member organizations. Each individual and organization brings to the table a unique experience, structure, values, and qualities.
Delineate a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities that each member will have within the coalition. Once the common ground and objectives are established, it’s vital that all the members understand what is expected of them as members of the coalition.
It’s also important to establish a means of measuring and evaluating progress along the way. Determine what success looks like within the coalition, the steps necessary to achieve the objectives, and a means of measuring progress at each step.
Now that we understand the logistics and significance of coalition building, let's delve into some actionable strategies that independent candidates can implement to effectively build and leverage their coalitions.
Identify Your Core Values and Message. Before approaching potential coalition partners, it's essential to clearly define your core values and campaign message. What issues are you passionate about? What are your policy priorities? Having a strong foundation will help you attract like-minded supporters.
Connect with Local Community Organizations. Start at the grassroots level by connecting with local community organizations, nonprofits, and advocacy groups that align with your values. Attend their meetings, engage in discussions, and demonstrate your commitment to their causes.
Build Relationships with Key Influencers. Identify influential figures in your community or district who share your vision or have the ability to mobilize voters. Building personal relationships with these individuals can lead to their support and endorsement.
Create a Clear Value Proposition. Clearly communicate the value of your candidacy to potential coalition partners. Explain how your campaign aligns with their goals and how their involvement can make a tangible difference.
Collaborate on Issue-Based Campaigns. Collaborate with coalition partners on issue-based campaigns or initiatives that resonate with your shared values. This not only amplifies your message, but also demonstrates your commitment to collaboration.
Hold Regular Strategy Meetings. Organize regular meetings with coalition members to discuss campaign strategies, share updates, and ensure that everyone is aligned with the campaign's goals and messaging.
Leverage Social Media and Online Platforms. Use social media and online platforms to connect with potential coalition partners and engage with their communities. Share content related to your campaign and the issues you champion.
Develop a Resource-Sharing Network. Create a network for resource sharing among coalition members. This can include sharing campaign materials, volunteers, or even campaign events.
Host Community Forums and Town Halls. Host community forums and town halls that provide a platform for coalition partners to share their concerns and discuss solutions. This reinforces your commitment to listening to the community.
Maintain Transparency and Accountability. Transparency is crucial in maintaining trust within your coalition. Be open about your campaign's progress, finances, and decision-making processes.
Running as an independent candidate shouldn’t mean running alone. In the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes strong, strategic partnerships to create a government that is truly by and for the people.
For independent candidates, coalition building is not just a strategic choice; it's a path to success in a world of politics that’s dominated by two-party hegemony. By identifying core values, connecting with community organizations, forging strong relationships, and leveraging collaborative strategies, independents can create powerful alliances that amplify their impact and increase their chances of winning elections.
Coalition building is not just about garnering support; it's about building a better, more inclusive political landscape where a diversity of ideas and voices can flourish. With these strategies in mind, independent candidates can confidently embark on their journey to electoral success.
Take the first step toward a successful career in public service by joining Good Party and exploring our free resources for independent and third-party candidates. We offer the wisdom of more than 50 years of political experience and the technology to run an efficient, focused campaign.