Gain Support from Allies and Partners

Why is it important for a CAT to partner with other community groups?

Community action teams can heighten their influence and expand their resources by building alliances with community leaders and other potential allies in the community whose interests intersect or overlap with the CAT's concerns. Clearly, with more people supporting a cause, more resources are available, more work gets done and more attention is brought to the issue.

Potential supporters for the CAT's aims and actions are:

  • Allies: Allies are groups whose goals are similar to or compatible with your own. Allies can share information, ideas and materials as well as help your team reach a wider segment of the community. Consider building an alliance with a group that works on your issue in a different section of your community, such as an organization that works within or on behalf of communities of color, the disability community or gay and lesbian groups. Working together you have more resources and will be able to service and lobby support from broader segments of your community. Combining efforts with an established domestic violence agency or other group that has already been working on issues related domestic violence will enable you to learn from their experience and avoid splitting the community's support between your groups. Possible allies might include local emergency shelters, rape crisis centers, women's health clinics and youth-focused organizations.
  • Community Leaders: Gaining support from community leaders will also enable you to win support of different communities, and will also help to increase your clout and influence within the community and beyond. When you obtain the support of a community leader you have the opportunity to capitalize on their influence and power in the political arena, the media, or with their constituents. 

What are key issues to consider in forming an alliance?

Before making the first move to approach a potential ally, think strategically about how the relationship might benefit the other party as well as your team. These thoughts will shape how you pursue and structure the relationship. The key to working with an ally is identifying their self-interest--that is, how helping you also helps them achieve their aims and goals--so the focus is not just on how they will help you. Initial conversations may need to focus on exploring the common ground that your groups share--where your aims overlap, how working in partnership might benefits both groups. For an alliance to work, it has to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Additional factors to consider:

  • How long will the alliance last? Your CAT may seek a long-term or ongoing collaboration, or it may only want the association to exist for a particular project.
  • Will power and responsibility be shared equally or will one partner take on more of a leadership role? Will two partner agencies act as co-sponsors of an event or co-leaders of a campaign initiative? Will your group approach a community leader to join your CAT as a team member, or simply ask for consultation, a letter of endorsement, or another form of support? 
  • How will cultural differences between your CAT and the group or individual whose support you are seeking impact the type of working relationship you create and both groups' ability to achieve their aims? 

This module includes Tips & Tools for developing a collaborative working relationship with an outside group or organization, a chart for assessing how to pitch your message to both supporters and opponents, and tips on conducting interviews with key opinion leaders within your community.