Coaching Community Coalitions
Kathryn Staats is a UW Extension state specialist based here in Milwaukee County. Since June of 2016, she has been working as a Community Coalition Coach on a USDA Office of Rural Healthy & Safety project focused on addressing cancer disparities in rural communities. The project, Reducing Rural Cancer Disparities Together, is focused on teaching individual behavior change around cancer prevention. Kathryn’s job focused on building knowledge and skills in four coalitions in rural parts of the state to address policy, system, and environmental factors contributing to cancer disparities.
“Community coalitions are uniquely positioned to solve local issues,” says Kathryn. “A local coalition is the perfect format to address the systematic and complex nature of cancer disparities. Local groups know their community’s needs and resources best.”
So what does Kathryn contribute as a Community Coalition Coach?
“A coach is a ‘guide-on-the-side’ to support the coaching team to learn from each other, take time to marinate on what they’re dealing with, and help them process about how to collaboratively carry out the solutions,” says Kathryn.
The coaching model supports coalitions by building on existing community assets while expanding learning among group members through listening, processing, questioning, and reflecting. The coaching also supports equitable leadership structures, increases emphasis on impact, and shows increased return on investment.
“When communities are energized and mobilized to advocate for change through peer-to-peer facilitation versus top-down direction, initiatives are more likely to be sustained and make a difference”
The Four Coaching Principles
Looking to help your coalition thrive? Follow the Four Coaching Principles:
- Listen – Whose voices are loudest, softest, or nonexistent at your table right now? How can you meaningfully engage all voices in your work?
- Process – Think through not just WHAT you are doing, but HOW you are doing it!
- Question – Be brave and dig deep! The work you do is important and sometimes, stepping outside the daily minutia and asking big picture questions can help you see more clearly than before. What does your group have the power and/or ability to do?
- Reflect – Take time to think about what you did and how you did it. How can you improve your own practice in this work?