Authors: Elizabeth Zack, Lynsy Smithson-Stanley, Jane Booth-Tobin, Hahrie Han 

Key Question: What are the characteristics of effective, well-functioning coalitions that persist over time?

Research Products: 


This report synthesizes insights from scholarly research on the factors that make coalitions effective. Our goal is to support organizations, foundations, and other entities seeking to build coalitions by identifying the conditions that create resilient, well-functioning collaborations across stakeholder groups. Although there is no formula for building an effective coalition, researchers from a wide range of academic fields, including political science, sociology, economics, business management, and community health argue that intangible resources like buy-in, commitment, trust, and agency are the building blocks of resilient coalitions. But these qualities do not emerge spontaneously. Rather, they result from coalition architecture that leaders and members collectively put into place. Coalition architecture is thus foundational to making coalitions work.

Across different types of coalitions, from political coalitions to business collaborations and public-private partnerships, the literature identifies a consistent set of features of good coalition architecture: democratic governance, robust learning loops, and clear roles and trusting relationships. 

Download the full report here. 

Designing Resilient Coalitions Reflection Guide 

In spring 2023, we'll share a companion guide to the report created to support new and existing coalitions in applying the findings in our report.