While research supports the importance of community and systems change as a means of achieving population-level outcomes, there is little research on the process by which coalitions become effective. A recent study published by the Journal of Community Psychology indicates that CADCA’s problem solving framework for provides coalitions with an effective model for becoming community “change agents.”
CADCA’s Framework for Community Change describes the process by which coalitions contribute to population-level decreases in targeted substance abuse problems. This evidence-based model emphasizes four critical elements needed for coalition success:
Enhanced Coalition Capacity (leadership, cultural competence, expanded membership, etc.)
Use of Essential Processes (evaluation, quality coalition planning products, etc.)
Implementing Comprehensive Strategies (behavior change strategies both individually and environmentally focused)
Facilitation of Community Change (new or modified programs, policies and practices)
The recent study indicates a strong link between these elements and coalitions’ effectiveness in producing community and systems change. The model showed that coalitions with improved functionality, problem solving capacity and comprehensive strategies facilitated more community changes. Drawing primarily from data collected through CADCA’s Annual Survey of Coalitions, the study also demonstrated that not only is this an effective, empirically tested process, but that it applies to coalitions of varying age, size and geographic location.
“Our model is really about being action-oriented community change agents for substance abuse prevention, combining the internal work of the coalition with the external work of implementing interventions and facilitating community changes,” said Yang. “We needed to take our model and see if it held up to the rigors of scientific scrutiny and if it had broad utility for different types of coalitions. So our findings are really impressive to have a coalition model that many coalitions can take advantage of.”
According to Yang, coalitions can use this information to better understand what components they need to work on in order to be as effective as they can to make a difference in their substance abuse prevention efforts. Coalitions can also share with funders and the community the role they are playing as a coalition – not just to meet and coordinate but to bring about community change.
Yang also believes the article is a critical step toward continuing to build a strong research base for community coalitions. Building off the evidence supporting CADCA’s Framework for Community Change, researchers can now begin to study whether being an effective change agent leads to long-term population-level change.
“We need to test if the model leads to population-level change and also how the model unfolds overtime in a coalition,” said Yang. “We know coalition work is not static, so we now need to understand how coalitions build different levels of capacity and then determine how training and technical assistance can best support this growth. Having conducted extensive work across the country and internationally, and invested time and resources in evaluating our effectiveness, CADCA plays a critical role in contributing to this research.”
NOTE: The article, “Testing A Comprehensive Community Problem-solving Framework for Community Coalition,” was published online in August 2012. Dr. Evelyn Yang, Deputy Director of Evaluation and Research for CADCA’s National Coalition Institute, collaborated with researchers Pennie Foster-Fishman and Charles Collins of Michigan State University (MSU) and Soyeon Ahn from The University of Miami to conduct the study.