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Overcoming challenges in alliances

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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It may take some time, and even a few crises, until an alliance is fully functional. The process of balancing different allies’ interests is likely to continue throughout the lifetime of an alliance. It is a necessary and, if led competently, fruitful process, but it has its challenges that must be taken into account when planning the campaign:

  • Compromise: alliance members may need to relinquish some of their own ideas and interests to reach agreement with others. Under no circumstances, however, should essential principles of campaigning on VAW – such as the need to ground the campaign in gender analysis – be sacrificed. If the alliance cannot reach agreement on certain issues, it is advisable to proceed by consensus – i.e., to work on the issues members can agree on, and continue discussing or leave aside points of disagreement.
  • Delays: reaching a consensus can delay action, as alliance members may need to build trust, gain a common understanding of the issue and the strategy, and get used to working together. It can take time to clarify roles and responsibilities, but skipping these steps may jeopardize the success of a campaign.
  • Transaction costs: Expenses related to coordination of the alliance, e.g. to secure meeting venues, provide meals or meeting supplies, time related to traveling to meetings, staff time used in negotiations and other activities linked to maintaining the alliance can be problematic when some members contribute more time or money than others, or when costs are disproportionately high. Careful planning can reduce this risk.
  • Crises: These may occur if there are existing tensions or conflicts between the participating organizations’ visions, missions, interests and ways of working. Historical disagreements between alliance members may also create tension. One way to deal with crises is to have a clear system in place for conflict resolution that is acceptable to all participants. Please refer to the section on Managing Conflicts and Unforeseen Crises for more practical suggestions on how to deal with crises.