Coalition building creates large powerful organizations that respect the autonomy and creative energy of the individual groups. Simultaneously, groups all over the country and the world have begun to reach out to each other, and more and more they are joining efforts and sharing ideas and political goals. The combined voices of large numbers of people can counteract the entrenched power of the giant financial timber interests and the political status quo. None of our groups alone can prevail, but together they represent the will of the people and can bend the might of our government.
There are many empowering benefits of coalition building, like added support, learning from each other's experiences, and shared resources. But beyond that, it is profoundly satisfying and rewarding to build a bridge to another group, and to turn that connection into added strength for both of you.
Coalition building is not easy. We must continually overcome the communication barriers and preconceptions that can doom an interaction. Sometimes differences in tactics or personality can lead to a complete breakdown in communication. Patience and acceptance of the validity of anotherís perspective are critical if these problems are to be resolved. Often, however, we must look beyond the differences we have with a potential ally, to find the common ground. Then we must begin working together, supporting each other in easy ways at first. Once a strong foundation is built, the differences will seem much less important.
Starting off small can often be a good approach--when you start working together, each group will expect to gain something from the relationship, but the benefits donít necessarily have to be tangible. Sometimes a group will offer you their help just because they respect your work, asking only that you offer mutual respect in return. Sometimes respect is all you should expect to receive from another group that needs your help. In all coalition building, mutual respect is the minimum requirement, but it will help if you can make greater commitments of support and cooperation. TOP
Once you have built a small network of like-minded friends and acquaintances, reach out to your community. Most people have read or heard about the ancient forests or have seen a clearcut, and many will share your interest and concern. These local groups are good places to start:
Letís look at this type of outreach in a little more detail by outlining some larger categories and looking at strategies that will help in your coalition-building efforts. TOP
Of course, environmental groups will tend to share your opinions and concerns about the issues, but they can sometimes be the most challenging to work with. There can be a strong sense of competition between environmental groups for members, for publicity, for funding, etc. Some may resist the idea of coalition building for this reason. Show groups that the benefits of solidarity outweigh those other concerns.
With forest protection issues, there are many natural connections to other strong movements:
Minorities in the U.S. and the world are at the receiving end of a wide array of environmental abuses. Many racial minorities and low-income citizens are victims of "environmental racism". A solid environmental coalition must strive to include all segments of society. Protecting the environment means more than just saving forests. It means fighting dumps, incinerators, and other threats to our air, water, and health.
If we hope to overcome our environmental problems, we must work together with minorities who face environmental threats daily in order to create comprehensive solutions. In your own group, come up with creative ways to diversify by reaching out across class and racial lines. The more balanced and diverse your group is the more flexible and powerful it will be. TOP
The business world, with its networks of employees, customers, and clients, and its financial resources, offers vast potential to reach concerned people. Ethically and environmentally minded businesses are poorly represented in politics and need assistance in making their wishes heard.
Invite these businesses to get involved by publicizing forest issues in their catalog, posting fliers on the premises, or encouraging their employees and customers to write letters and make phone calls to Congress in support of the Act to Save America's Forests and other good legislation. Ask them to put an "envelope stuffer" in every invoice, letter, or bill payment they send. Links from their website are also a great way to reach a lot of people.
Be creative, and tailor your approach to the unique characteristics and resources of each business. Ask them to join the other 500+ group and business members of the Save Americaís Forests coalition! TOP
If people in your coalition are concerned about the forests and want to get involved, hook them directly into the Save Americaís Forests Coalition. Ask them to add their name to our growing list of concerned citizens, and give them a copy of our newsletter. Use the information in the Educate Yourself section to explain the problem and the proposed solutions of the Save America's Forests coalition. You might want to show them the list of the coalition members to assure them theyíll be in good company. Have them send us a membership form. RememberóGroup Membership is free. As groups are added to the Save Americaís Forests coalition, not only will the strength of the national movement grow, but also those groups will gain from the shared skills and efforts of the entire coalition.
Your membership in the Save Americaís Forests Coalition gives added weight to your personal lobbying efforts. Save America's Forests is now recognized in Washington--by Congress and by the other national environmental groups--as an important and influential voice in the debate over the fate of our forests. Donít be afraid to quote the size of our coalition, along with the names of some of the well-known groups. TOP
There are already some existing regional coalitions that can help you improve your activism by sharing ideas, expanding your network of regional contacts, and offering your group the strength that comes from solidarity with an established coalition. By hooking up with one of these groups, youíll find out whatís going on around your region and the nation, and youíll have access to some of the most creative and effective grassroots activists in America today. TOP