Coalition and Underage Drinking

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INTRODUCTION

Coalitions have been used successfully in the United States to tackle a number of seemingly intractable problems. For communities that want to reduce their underage drinking problem, putting together a broad-based coalition can bring substantial dividends. In this “Community How To Guide on Coalition Building,” readers will learn the steps that bring together a diverse group of people in pursuit of a common goal.

Effective coalitions, however, require an effective leader and this booklet details what will be needed from the individual who coordinates the effort either as a full- or part-time staff person. Once that individual has been identified, the group can move forward in recruiting the appropriate members of the community. A coalition checklist is included in the Appendix that provides a list of every conceivable organization that may have an interest or stake in the underage drinking issue. To make the process easier, the checklist asks individuals to rate the importance or each group as well as the likelihood of the group’s involvement.

Establishing a coalition can sometimes be easier than maintaining it. To assist communities in sustaining their underage drinking prevention coalition or organization, this booklet discusses ways to overcome obstacles and gives specific ideas on how to keep the effort going. In addition, the reader will learn how coalitions can support critical programs in the community including enforcement and education, thereby making the effort even more relevant to the key target groups.

Finally, the booklet details ways to market the coalition and provides concrete examples of how the coalition can communicate with the public and its members. Samples are provided for an organizational brochure and a newsletter.

Community How To Guide On…COALITION BUILDING
Margaret Mead said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

A coalition is an alliance of individuals, groups, parties, or states that come together, join forces, or form partnerships usually for a specific or common purpose. Bringing people together in pursuit of a common goal is how a comprehensive underage drinking prevention program starts. Forming a coalition to deal with the problem of underage drinking is neither a new nor radical idea. The traffic safety community has been using coalitions to deal with the problems of impaired driving and occupant protection for decades.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a good example of an effective coalition. MADD began with one enraged mother and expanded to become a group of ordinary people who helped change the way society views drunk driving. Before that time, many people did not think seriously about having “one for the road.” It was a badge of honor to see how many drinks a person could consume and still drive. That is not the case today and citizen activist groups like MADD, RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers) and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) helped to make the difference. Impaired driving is now recognized as a crime and that is due to the coalitions who worked to change public perception, strengthen laws and increase enforcement.

Today, coalition organizers must think creatively when they organize an underage drinking prevention coalition. A broad-based coalition includes more than the traditional organizations that have a professional or personal interest in the issue such as youth, law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, educators and citizen activist groups.

Many other agencies, individuals and organizations also have a stake in underage drinking prevention and organizers should expand the circle of “friends.” Effective coalitions include members from the faith community, the military, civic groups, the YMCA, media outlets, Emergency Medical Services personnel, hospitals, physicians, trauma units, health insurance companies,...
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