Who should be the coalition’s first members?
The first members of a coalition, both as individuals and organisations, are likely to have a major impact on the policy, tone and working style of the collective effort. Key characteristics for such partners would be good experience of working with each other in the past, credibility on the issues in question, and people, time and resources that can be contributed. Those seeking to establish a coalition may have more or less choice over who the early members will be. Some partners may be so central to the issue at hand that working without them would seem impossible, or raise questions about the coalition’s credibility. In other contexts the field may be quite open.
Some suggested parameters for composing an initial group:
- Open to all who are prepared to commit to it and who share a common agenda for action.
- Formed at a manageable size, which can in turn agree the parameters by which a wider community can become engaged.
- Mindful of diversity and regional representation issues, which may not be well balanced at first but will need to be considered as the group develops.
- Include sufficient ‘worker bees’. Such people can be evidence-gatherers, policy drivers, campaigners and activists – but they need to be people who will take on work.
- Big organisations bring credibility and capacity, but they can also bring challenges in terms of policy constraint and flexibility.
- On many issues it will be important to have members that address the range of aspects that it presents – such as human rights, development, medical, legal etc.
Without worker bees any effort risks fizzling out into sterile policy discussions (or arguments) with a lack of focus on campaigning and outcomes. In a number of cases, too much of an academic orientation, with an emphasis on policy thinking but not on advocacy or activism, has resulted in initiatives failing to gain momentum. Successful coalitions contain the right mix of academic and activist ingredients.
For some coalitions the early membership has been strongly shaped by established working communities. The CMC was established by organisations that had worked together as part of the ICBL. Similarly, the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW) was formed in 2011, primarily by organisations and individuals who had been working together in the CMC.