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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Molina

Coalition Building Strategies for Difficult Collaborators

First let’s understand how people adopt innovations (e.g., new ideas or collaborations). Rogers (2010) shares five categories people generally fall into:


  1. ​Innovators: Risk-takers

  2. Early Adopters: Risk-takers who need some proof


  1. Early Majorities: People willing to try new things when there is proof

  2. Late Majorities: People who need a lot of proof and are skeptical and hesitant about moving forward

  3. Laggarts: People who are hesitant to move forward even with proof

Oftentimes, it is difficult to get people to join you and then there is a tipping point where momentum picks up. Additionally, groups usually go through a process where they initially struggle with collaboration (i.e., Forming, Storming, Norming / Performing, and Adjournment / Outpreformance).

Given this, here are some tips and strategies when working with reluctant collaborators:

  1. Start small: Engage those who are willing and keep a growth mindset throughout the collaboration process. This allows for trust to be built with collaborators while also establishing a pattern of collaboration.

  2. Be clear: Make sure that your collaborators know what is expected of them and that they are willingly committing to contribute. The distribution of tasks should be shared equitably.

  3. Be agile: Consistently reflect on the work being done and make improvements or adaptations as necessary. By frequently improving tools and processes skeptics can be shown the effectiveness of the collaboration.

  4. Share Broadly: Regularly share what you are doing, what is working, and your successes. This will allow potential collaborators to feel more confident in joining the coalition. People especially like to hear success stories that are tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.

  5. Consider what people need: Different types of people are motivated by different things. Visionaries want to hear how you are innovative. Pragmatists want to hear about your track record.

  6. Focus on the willing: There will always be people who are not going to want to participate. Focus your energy on those who are willing to work towards a better future.

Questions to consider:

  1. Who is interested? What can those people do together?

Resources and references::

  1. Holley, J. (2013). Introduction to Network Weaving. Network Weaver Pub.

  2. Molina, M. (2022, October 25). Strategic Action Planning - Strategic Doing. Connecting Evidence.

  3. Rogers, E. M. (2010). Diffusion of Innovations, 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster.

  4. Weaver, L. (2017). Turf, Trust, Co-Creation and Collective Impact. Waterloo, Ontario: Tamarack Institute.

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