A coalition refers to the unification of groups, organizations, or individuals to work toward a shared goal as a team. Coalitions generally fall into two camps: internal or external. Internal coalitions are comprised of individuals who are already part of an organization, such as a workplace, while external coalitions are comprised of members of diverse organizations who join together to combine efforts. Coalitions exist at every level of governance, from local and community-based to international.

Input: individuals who have a shared mission, connect with each other, and want to enact something; a trigger that inspires formation (i.e. an event, a threat, or a piece of controversial legislation)

Output: a partnership of organizations or individuals working together to achieve a goal


Coalitions are traditionally associated with defeating a common enemy. Coalition warfare dates back to ancient Greece, when a coalition of city-states came together to ward off the Persian Empire.

Feedback loops


  • Increases audience and reach of a project
  • Legitimizes efforts and boosts accountability
  • Creates a larger pool of resources – both monetarily and in terms of human experience, knowledge, and specialization
  • Increases productivity and capacity for putting pressure on institutions


  • Power may be unequally distributed among organizations within the coalition
  • Consensus and compromise can be time-consuming and difficult to achieve
  • May hinder direct work for cause due to bureaucratic processes
  • Members may have to compromise their position and its intensity for the greater purpose of the coalition



  • Coalitions frequently form in multiparty political systems like parliamentary governments
  • Civic causes often have a coalition such as the Coalition for the Homeless


Online toolkits for building a coalition can be found easily, outlining structures, systems of governance, and steps for building; the National Democratic Institute partnered with the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights to create a manual entitled Coalitions: A Guide for Political Parties with extensive information on best practices.

Further resources

  • Strength in Numbers: A Guide to Building Community Coalitions. (2003). Community Catalyst Report.
  • Childress, B. (2019). Coalition Building. Reference for Business.