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Identify barriers and resistance

Last edited: March 08, 2019

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Working together is not as simple as just bringing representatives from relevant sectors to the table.  Competing priorities within each organisation can impede or delay agreement on a joint response to violence against women.  Suspicion can undermine inter-agency relations, with ‘organisational boundaries and work overload, poor communication, and competing beliefs hamper[ing] coordination’ (Martin, 2007: 445). 

Relationships between the NGO sector and government may be affected by both historical mistrust and ongoing differences in perspectives.  Partnerships with government can also be complex for NGOs that need to negotiate multiple roles, such as advocating for individual clients, advocating for change in government response, implementing initiatives and monitoring/evaluating progress.  Similarly, there may be historically poor relationships among government agencies and a tendency to shift responsibility for poor performance. For example, police may attribute limited prosecution levels to the reluctance of prosecutors, whereas prosecutors may complain about poor investigations and inadequate evidence.  The police or the health care sector, for example, may to begin to change their processes, but feel frustrated by the slow response of other sectors.

For a coordinated response to be effective and transparent, barriers and resistance must be identified from the outset, and ongoing debate and disagreement should be seen as essential in the process of creating change.  NGOs working on violence against women may have considerable experience and expertise gained from working directly with victims/survivors, and may be the most knowledgeable about the needs and priorities of women and girls. They should be regarded as experts and thus equal partners in the coordinated response.  Experience in the UK indicates that if NGOs are not seen as central to coordinated responses, they can be marginalised by more powerful state agencies. Those agencies may lack in-depth knowledge and understanding of violence against women or how to provide sufficient support for victims/survivors (Hague & Bridge, 2008).  As a consequence, the coordinated response becomes more about agency interests than those of victims/survivors.

Community members wishing to initiate successful institutional reforms should anticipate resistance, be inclusive rather than exclusive, and avoid slogans and rhetoric.  They should create an atmosphere conducive to dialogue to sustain relationships through the difficult discussions.  Advocates should give up the notion that only they care about battered women and that practitioners in the system are personally to blame for the failures of the legal system.  Practitioners need to […] recognize that bias is built into their training and discipline.”

Source: Pence, E. & McDonnell, C. (1999) Developing Policies and Protocols, in Shepard, M. and Pence, E. (eds.) (1999) Coordinating Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from Duluth and Beyond, Thousand Oaks: Sage, p.46.

Additional resources:

The Tension of Turf: Making it Work for the Coalition (Cohen, L. and Gould, J., 2003), Oakland: Prevention Institute.  This paper describes ‘turf’ issues as a common and natural occurrence in coalitions and explores ways of blending individual interests with those of the coalition, such as creating an open and flexible environment where diverse perspectives can be heard.  Available in English.

The CoalitionsWork website contains many useful tools and resources for building, maintaining and enhancing coalitions.