Coalitions are building blocks of social movements, often bringing people together across race, class, faith and ethnicity to build the power required to make social change. Coalitions address local, state, national and international policies, public and private sector matters. They are employed successfully, or not, from the far left to the far right. They vary widely, engaging people from very grassroots and local communities to civic, faith, labor, business, and political leadership. At times spontaneously precipitated, at times methodically built, effective coalitions can change the fundamental relationships in our society, change society and challenge what we know or think we know.
This course will examine the conceptual models of diverse coalitions formed to impact social, legal, and political structures. We will explore the strengths and limitations of coalitions, and their impact upon low income and oppressed communities. We will study recent examples to stop public housing displacement, end police misconduct, halt deportations, and seek fair tax reform. We will explore the role of coalitions in changing political machines. Too, we will investigate the use and impact of coalitions in building relations between racial, religious and ethnic groups. Students' capacity to engage in and evaluate coalitions will develop as we consider their short and long range visions, goals, strategies and tactics including the different methods employed to organize, lead, and manage coalitions. We will meet with an array of coalition leaders and organizers and provide students first hand opportunities to observe coalitions and participate as desired and appropriate. As part of class exercises, students will “create” coalitions to address an identified need for social change.