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  • Writer's pictureRobin Wright-Pierce

Unlocking Coalitional Power

Updated: May 28

“If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together." -African Proverb


Most of us are familiar with this powerful proverb. We use it to invoke the importance of working with others to build a beloved community. We use it to warn people away from trying to go at change work alone. We use it to elevate the importance of Ujima - collective work and responsibility.


When I hear this quote what I hear is an invitation to tend to the human side of change work. I hear an invitation to include in my change work the work of learning how to go together in partnership with others. Systems theory teaches us that who we are together is greater than merely the sum of who we are separately. Just as who we are as individuals is more than what can be represented by our joining together with others. In other words, being in partnership or coalition with others requires us to do the work of discovering who we are together and from there what is possible for us to achieve.


Far too often we form partnerships or coalitions and simply began moving forward with tasks without any real clarity of how we want to advance the work forward together or what more is possible as a result of our partnership. When we attempt to move forward absent this foundational exploration, we create openings for our fear, scarcity and egotistical jostling for power and prominence to disrupt true collaboration. Moreover, we limit our impact because we ultimately put forward disjointed strategies and solutions emblematic of our disjointed collaboration. In other words, we never really get to the radical and prophetic gifts that our collaboration makes possible.




There are several key questions we should ask when building coalitions and partnerships: How do we believe change happens? What is most important to you in this partnership? In the work? In the outputs and outcomes? What gifts do you bring to our collaboration, individually and organizationally? What does our collaboration make possible that otherwise wouldn't be possible? What drives you, individually and organizationally? And many other potential questions.


Importantly, these conversations should happen one-to-one and in a full group. In doing so you build trust, mutual understanding, and clarity that will anchor the path forward. In doing so you make room for something greater than what can otherwise be accomplished.

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