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Coordinating councils/coalitions/committees/task forces

Last edited: March 07, 2019

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An alternative model is a coordinating council, which may also be called a coalition, committee, task force or partnership.  This is a forum for agency representatives at policy-making level.  Advantages of this model include the potential to engage a broad number and range of stakeholders, with obvious benefits for training, dissemination of good practice and enhancing inter-agency relationships (Allen et al., 2010).

In some of the German intervention projects, the involvement of high-level representatives from government or heads of agencies in this type of coordination body provided a level of visibility that was crucial to success, as each meeting of the coordinating round table was followed by a press conference and they were keen to follow through on publicly made commitments.  Binding coordination agreements and equal representation of all key stakeholders on the coordination board were also crucial to agreements being reached between statutory agencies and NGOs, and this helped to equalise the power balance between state and the NGO sectors (Kavemann et al., 2000).

Disadvantages of this model are that groups can be large, making it hard to raise difficult issues, as it is a very public forum. The group can be costly to maintain, and group meetings may also be slow and unproductive.  To counteract this, sub-committees or working groups are often created to work on different issues (Shepard, 1999).  Sub-groups or working groups should be given responsibility for working on specific issues (e.g. legal measures, advocacy, public education or perpetrator programmes) or they can carry out specific tasks like organising a campaign or training.  Each sub-group should have a chairperson who reports back to the main group and may also be represented on the steering committee.

As the coordinated response becomes larger and its activities more diverse, it may also be appropriate to form a steering group to coordinate actions internally.  A steering group acts as the managing body and should have a small number of participants. It should take on tasks that are more administrative and organisational, including coordinating policies, fundraising or networking with other initiatives at the local and national level. 

An alternative model of local response to intimate partner violence that has been used in some parts of the UK is a three-tier model comprising: a strategic group for developing overall policy and strategy; a forum for practitioner, partnership and lobbying issues and for developing practice; and an operational group for operational management and monitoring of services and outcomes (Abrahams, 2005).


Case study: Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (Ottawa, Canada)


The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) is a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to ending violence against women and, through leadership, education, advocacy and political action, to promoting a coordinated response to women and their children who have experienced abuse.  It is a policy, service coordination, public education and advocacy agency.  It is one of 45 Domestic Violence Coordinating Community Coalitions across the province of Ontario.  OCTEVAW aims to address all forms of violence against women in its work, and it strives to address sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation/prostitution and crimes in the name of honour.  The decision to extend its remit to sexual violence was taken because it was seen as an issue that needed to be given more priority. 

Details of programme

OCTEVAW’s structure consists of a Steering Committee and four Standing Committees that have specific areas of responsibility: advocacy; public engagement; justice; and front-line support.  The coalition comprises over 40 member agencies and institutions, including women’s centres and shelters, rape crisis centres, community resource and health centres, victim and child protection services, hospital and police units, specialized prosecutors, academic researchers and community members.  OCTEVAW is a non-profit organisation and runs on a $125,000 budget managed by the Steering Committee and Executive Director, supplemented by additional project funds.  It receives 60% of its funding from the City of Ottawa and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and the remainder from city, provincial and federal level grants, membership fees and sponsorships.

Coordination mechanisms

  • There is a Memorandum of Agreement signed by all participating agencies.
  • OCTEVAW is managed by a Steering Committee composed of a Chair, Vice-Chair, Treasurer, Standing Committee Chairs and members-at-large, which the Executive Director also sits on. 
  • All Standing Committees report to the Steering Committee through their chair.
  • Standing Committees generally meet monthly.


  • There is no formal evaluation, but internal records show that over the past three years OCTEVAW has almost doubled its membership, tripled its income, tripled the amount of contract staff, students and volunteers engaged and increased the amount of men participating in their prevention work.
  • Members and workers feel confident about belonging to a coalition where they can go to discuss issues, raise problems and discuss solutions.

Lessons learned

  • More attention needs to be paid to the root causes of violence against women and prevention programming.
  • Expectations need to be realistic – change happens slowly, policies and ways of doing things will not change overnight, so coalitions need to be diligent and persistent.
  • Because there are fewer advocates working on sexual violence than on intimate partner violence, it is an ongoing challenge to ensure that sexual violence is equally represented and incorporated across all of the committees.
  • Bridge building is key – try to find common ground and work from there.
  • It is essential to engage men, no matter how controversial.
  • When people in key positions change, policies can change and relationships may need to be rebuilt from scratch.

Source: OCTEVAW.

More information

OCTEviolence against women website, OCTE violence against women Executive Director, ed@octeviolence against


Example: Local multi-agency partnerships (Scotland)

In Scotland (as well as England and Wales) local responses to violence against women are organised at the local authority level through multi-agency forums or partnerships (MAPs).  While the majority of forums in England and Wales address domestic violence, in Scotland all 32 existing MAPs work on a range of forms of violence against women.  This has changed in line with the broadening of the national policy framework from a domestic abuse to a violence against women agenda. 

Membership of MAPs usually includes a core group of police, Women’s Aid, Victim Support, council officers (social work, housing, education, community safety, community education) and health boards and trusts.  Additional organisations involved in some partnerships include Procurators Fiscal, Benefits Agency, Family Mediation, Rape Crisis, advice agencies, solicitors, Samaritans, mental health groups and children and youth services.  MAPs also often link in with other local and community partnerships such as those on community safety and criminal justice.  The organisational make-up of MAPs varies depending on the size of local authority areas and local priorities.  MAPs function at the strategic and operational level and may have different groups working on each area. 

MAPs are supported at the national level by an overarching policy framework that places partnership at the centre of work on violence against women.  The Scottish Government has produced a strategic document on building a shared approach to addressing violence against women, as well as guidance to MAPs.  There is also a national training strategy for those working in MAPs.  Through the Violence Against Women Fund the government provides funding to frontline services and local partnerships to strengthen responses to violence against women.  There is a formal network of MAP coordinators.  The National Group to Address Violence Against Women, which was originally established to oversee implementation of the national strategy on domestic abuse, also supports local partnerships.

Source: Scottish Government (2009) A Partnership Approach to Tackling Violence Against Women in Scotland: Guidance for Multi-Agency Partnerships, available in English.



Example: Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (Canada)

The Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (WomanACT) is a centralised, autonomous coordinating body for organisations that have come together to develop a coordinated community response to woman abuse in the city of Toronto.  Membership consists of police, shelters, support service agencies, hospitals, community health centres, probation and victims/survivors.  The general council has 30 members and is made up of senior level representatives of each of the key sectors.  There is also a series of standing committees consisting mainly of front-line service providers that meet monthly.

The role of the Council is to:

  • identify gaps in service;
  • support and facilitate policy development and pilot projects; and
  • undertake research and actions that promote institutional and systemic change.

The Council receives grants for special projects, but the base annual budget needed to maintain the Council was $110,000 (Canadian dollars) in 2001 and is received in-kind annually from the City of Toronto.  This covers the cost of the Council coordinator, office administrator, limited office supplies and expenses and honorariums for women victims/survivors, who participate through Women’s Voices for Action Committee.

Sources: Toronto City Council website and Woman Abuse Council of Toronto website.