Chap 7

Organisation and logistics

An effective coalition campaign requires effective logistics. When the logistics operation functions well few people notice, yet poor logistics can undermine the credibility of the coalition with its own members, with its funders and with those it is trying to influence. Carefully executed logistics and organisation plays an active role in assisting coalition building as well as campaign implementation. A strong logistics operation is the backbone of any coalition effort – and being in a coalition brings specific logistical challenges.

Organisation and logistics

Logistics work is very often a core function of a coalition’s staff or secretariat (if it has one). This work is sometimes a key reason a coalition staff or coordinator are appointed – to facilitate NGO organisation at meetings. It comes into focus most prominently during international meetings, but it is an important function for a coalition on a day-to-day basis as it manages finances and liaises with members in different countries with different needs and expectations.

Key logistics tasks include:

  • Organising flights, transport and accommodation
  • Ensuring accessibility of transport, accommodation and venues
  • Printing and managing documents
  • Organising side-events
  • Administration of sponsorship to participants
  • Managing finances

Managing the administration effectively is crucial to credibility both internally and externally

Whether organising people getting to and working at meetings, organising campaigning events around the world or organising financial matters with members, the way the coalition runs its logistics will be noticed by others. A well-run coalition logistics operation inspires confidence in campaigners and respect in target governments or institutions. A badly run logistics operation erodes coalition unity and undermines influence on the target audience.

Large meetings are a major challenge

Coalitions often take responsibility for hundreds of people at major international meetings. If the political stakes are high, this can also make for a time of tension among coalition members. Getting the organisation right can make a big difference in relieving tensions and dealing with problems. Dedicated and sophisticated organisation requires a substantial investment in time and resources, but it is well worth it.

When logistics is handled badly, members can end up resenting the coalition leadership

A lack of planning or execution can lead to problems, for example people not receiving reimbursements, not getting visas, not having hotel bookings or confused by inaccurate communication. These sorts of problems can make members feel they have been marginalised or ignored and this can fuel tensions between members and the leadership or even generate resentment of the coalition’s leadership and staff.

Sponsorship programmes: how do you decide who comes to a meeting?

Participating as a coalition member at an international meeting is a privilege and where it involves international travel it can be understandably attractive. The coalition will often have the task of allocating sponsorship funding for these meetings.
It is important to do this transparently and on the basis of clear and consistent criteria.

Roles and responsibilities: sharing the burden among members

Coalitions sometimes try to allocate logistical tasks to different elements of the membership, with some organisations volunteering the services of their employees for the duration of a conference or campaign activity. This is not only helpful for sharing the load, it also helps to ensure buy-in and support for the coalition’s plans and activities among a wider group than just the coalition staff or leadership.

Finances, accounting and grant management

Good organisation of a coalition also means managing the funding that comes from donors. This involves budgeting, day-to-day accounting, reporting and so on. Sometimes a coalition is not a legal entity in its own right, but is legally a project of a member organisation (as in the case of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court and the Cluster Munition Coalition from 2003-2010). In this case there might be a distinction between the legal oversight of funds, which ultimately rests with the legal entity not the coalition, and the strategic oversight of the funds – how they are prioritised and spent (which might reasonably be an area of responsibility for the coalition’s leadership).

The questions below focus on the key logistical and organisational challenges that global coalitions may face and offer some insight and experience on how to tackle them.

Do you have a good plan and does it cover all the work that needs to be done in advance?

One of the first tasks is to develop a plan for handling logistics and organisation. A useful exercise to do in this regard is to draw up a logistics chain, working back from a meeting so that you know when you need to do what. Some of the key tasks are set out below, based on practice in the CMC.


  • Undertake 1st or 2nd advance mission
  • Identify and select hotel and main venues


  • Finalise and sign contract with hotels/venues

Send initial memorandum to participants including:

  • Hotel booking procedure and provisional agenda
  • Details of sponsorship programme with a deadline of at least two weeks for sponsorship applications; internal approval requires usually two weeks so all applicants are notified two weeks after the application deadline


  • Each participant requiring a visa needs to start the visa process at embassies and begin booking flights


  • Follow up with participants on their official registration. This will depend on the host and usually remains open until the meeting begins × From two months before the meeting until it starts, there will be a constant stream of demands on those individuals doing the organising for the coalition, covering the whole range of areas described in this section

Based on planning documents developed by Isabelle Wipperman, Operations Officer, CMC


Trips taken by coalition organisers to the host country of an international conference are usually well worth the time and money spent. Seeing things first-hand allows you to identify many obstacles and potential pitfalls that
may not have been apparent at a distance. Accessibility of accommodation, transport and venues can be very difficult to ensure unless the situation has been seen first-hand.

Such missions can also allow staff to identify opportunities that may not have been considered previously. It provides an opportunity to build relationships with key people in the host country, from the government, from international organisations, local civil society, embassies, media and others.

During periods when everyone is under pressure and tension starts to mount, the strength of your relationships with host governments and local partner organisations may determine your capacity to deal with problems facing the coalition. So the more time available to establish strong relations with these partners in country, the better. Advance visits from the international coalition can also help to build up local coalition partners; sometimes the very fact that international visitors have taken the time to come and visit will help establish the credentials of local partners. Good dialogue with local partners is very important to ensuring such missions are effective and supportive of people on the ground.

Such a table can be made much more detailed by including all of the items that need to be considered for logistics and organisation.

A useful way to think about logistics for a coalition is to think about what you would need to know if you were a participant, for example what to expect when you arrive at the meeting, where do you need to be when and how will you get there? In this regard, it is always preferable to be able to test systems in advance and have strong partners in the place where the meeting is being organised.

What mechanisms do you have for getting people to and from international meetings and being organised while they are there?

Focusing on the welfare of coalition participants at international meetings is a key job for a coalition. It is worthwhile investing significantly in order to get this right. Having dedicated staff able to spend substantial time organising travel, visas, accomodation and other arrangements for coalition members is vital.

Where possible, it can be helpful to have individuals from the coalition staff or coalition members focused each on one specific area of work, such as conference registration, transport, sponsorship and so on. There can be a tendency to pile all of the logistical requirements onto one or two ‘logisitcs people,’ but this can result in burn out. Havaing enough people to do this work and being clear about the division of labour should be a key area for the coalition leadership to focus on.

Some of the key areas that can make or break an organisational effort at an international conference are set out below – areas that invariably use more staff time than expected.

Key Areas for Coalition Logistics
Visas: Visas required to enter a country can be a big problem for coalitions. This includes transit visas for countries through which coalition members may be travelling on their way to the destination. It is very useful if the host government can issue letters for each participant indicating that they are accredited to the meeting and will get a visa on arrival.

Registration: Coalitions sometimes find themselves responsible for managing the official conference registration of their own participants during a meeting.
This has advantages and disadvantages: it affords a certain level of control over and inclusion in the process, but it does mean a lot of work. Coalitions can also be responsible for determining and controlling the physical presence of NGOs in meeting rooms when there is limited space.

For example during the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions in February 2007, the CMC was asked to specify 12 delegates (from a delegation of over 100) who would have access to the conference room and appointed one person to manage coalition members’ access to an overflow room where proceedings could be viewed. Similarly, during the opening ceremony of the final negotiations in Dublin in May 2008, the CMC was asked to identify a set number of campaigners who would be in the room during the ceremony.

Side events and evening events: As noted in Chapter 6, it’s important to provide space for coalition members to showcase their activities and organising this is a key role for the coalition. Coalition organisers need to make sure the requests for events are compiled and that each event organiser knows what they are expected to provide and what they can expect at their event, including catering, audio-visual equipment, translation services, and any other requirements. This can get complicated and if there are a lot of side events it can be worth having one person dedicated to the job.

Coalition meetings: Making sure coalition meetings run smoothly during a conference is another crucial area, also discussed in chapter 6. The orientation meetings, daily morning briefings, evening briefings, wrap up meeting – and the closing party – all help to nurture the coalition.

With a risk of meeting fatigue, it is important to keep meetings as brief as possible, make them outcome- oriented, know what you want to achieve and prepare well with participants in advance:

  • Always have an agenda
  • Always identify the decision-making items
  • Always take clear minutes of these decision-making items.
  • Put in place a chair that is respected and can keep time and handle the personalities and complicated debates
  • If you don’t need a meeting, don’t have one just for the sake of it.

What tools exist to ensure the roles and responsibilities of a major meeting are met?

The use of a ‘roles and responsibilities’ document is discussed earlier in Chapter 6 on the coalition’s ‘collective voice’. Sharing the burden and being clear about who is doing what, are equally important principles when it comes to managing logistics.
One way to organise the coalition team in around the key areas to cover is set out in the table opposite. There is sometimes a tendency for those responsible for managing a coalition team to underestimate the amount of time it takes to tackle organisational aspects such as visas, conference registration, sponsorship of campaigners and accommodation. If at all possible, it is advisable to assign one person to each of these tasks.

The first stage is to work out what needs to be done. The second stage is to make sure it happens – which means keeping track of who is doing what. Very often coalitions are seen in terms of their policy positions, public statements and media profiles – but it is good logistics that will make the coalition work effectively around the key meetings.


  • Overall coordination
  • Liaison with key external partners × Strategy, content and documents
  • Representation and coordination in host country


  • Overall budget, management and reporting × Reimbursements and payments
  • Sponsorship programme


  • Coalition participants
  • Accommodation
  • Transportation
  • Support to participants with disabilities × Office, printing and supplies
  • Managing volunteers


  • Advocacy and campaigning in advance of meeting
  • Lobbying during meeting
  • Post-meeting action planning
  • Campaign meetings


  • Materials
  • Exhibitions and display
  • Professional photo exhibitions


As we have noted in other chapters, the key to coordination within a coalition is communication. Making sure people know exactly where they need to be when and who is responsible for what is critical. Mary Wareham, a campaigner with the ICBL and then the CMC, developed the idea of a ‘run sheet’ or schedule that lists all the activities during the meeting and sets out who is responsible, based on practices used in the film industry.

The box below gives an example of one day for the CMC team during the final negotiations in Dublin in May 2008.

Who decides who gets sponsorship to come to a meeting and how?

Some coalitions have quite formal procedures for making these decisions. Decisions could be made by the coalition staff (although this leaves them with a lot of responsibility); by the leadership body if there is one; or there could be other mechanisms.

Some coalitions have used application forms with basic criteria for sponsorship. Examples of sponsorship forms are included on the site. These explain the process for applying, include criteria for sponsorship, the status of the issue and work being done in the country the applicant is coming from, and the factual information needed to organise travel and visas if the applicant is successful.

One of the most important considerations when determining sponsorship is the work people are doing at home between conferences. People should be accountable for their work at the national level and it can be counter-productive to sponsor people who are not actually doing work at home. Some of the issues here relate to the discussion on small grants covered in Chapter 6.

Do you have a code of conduct to reduce the risk of inappropriate behaviour?

A coalition takes on an organising role for a range of NGOs whose staff may harbour very different viewpoints. Some coalitions ask the coalition delegation (those members of the coalition attending a specific meeting) to agree to a code of conduct that sets the boundaries for acceptable behaviour. These typically emphasise the need to be considerate, respectful and obey the laws of the country you are in. Either each campaigner can physically sign and return the form or they can agree to it through their acceptance to be a part of the coalition’s delegation. As well as reducing the risk of inappropriate behaviour, such a document also provides a basis for managing responses to problematic incidents where coalitions do not have direct managerial oversight
of their delegation.

Are the accommodation, transport and venues accessible?

It is vital to understand accessibility requirements within the coalition delegation. Such requirements are not only for wheelchair users (ramps, accessible toilets, sufficiently wide doorways and so on), but also for people who have difficulty walking long distances, people with visual impairment and other limitations. In some cities it can be difficult to find solutions for accessibility issues so it’s important to think carefully about your venues before booking them. Getting dedicated transport for people with disabilities can be a vital investment. In some cases it may be necessary to require hotels or other venues to undertake modifications to ensure accessibility. If the coalition is large it may be able to exert considerable financial leverage to promote this. The work of the coalition to ensure accessibility for its delegation can have a lasting legacy in the host country.

Do you have systems to provide per diems and track coalition expenditure during major events?

When coalitions take on the responsibility of sponsoring participants at an international meeting they will generally have to administer the provision of per diems and reimbursements of travel costs for sponsored participants. Depending on the number of sponsored participants, this can require the dedication of someone senior enough to handle a large amount of cash and be firm with participants about justifying expenditure. Likewise during a conference there will be substantial expenditure. It’s important to have one person who has an overview of all of the expenditure against the agreed budget and be clear about the number of people who can authorise expenditure within the coalition.


Effective logistics planning is vital to the work of the coalition. The key requirements are to:

  • Undertake planning sufficiently in advance
  • Be clear about roles and responsibilities
  • Develop detailed plans for operations during meetings
  • Ensure finances and spending are tightly controlled
End of Chap 7