The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Exploring the Strengths of Individuals, Coalitions, and Communities Associated With High Functioning Coalitions

Friday, January 17, 2014: 10:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Valerie B. Shapiro, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley, Berk, CA
J. David Hawkins, PhD, Endowed Professor of Prevention, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Sabrina Oesterle, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Background: Communities that Care (CTC) is a community planning strategy used to prevent mental, emotional, and behavioral problems in youth and promote positive youth development. CTC uses a coalition-based approach to foster community engagement and develop community capacity to make use of technical knowledge in ways that incorporate the community’s local norms and values. In CTC communities, coalitions of community stakeholders (i.e., youth, advocates, residents, business owners, religious leaders, educators, law enforcement officers) are trained in the latest advances in prevention science. They are then supported in pursuing their community vision through the adoption of a science-based approach to prevention.

Coalition Functioning, the way in which coalitions operate to marshal resources and exercise power to influence their objectives, is an important aspect of CTC.  Coalition member reports of coalition functioning have been found to (1) mediate the impact of community readiness on perceptions of effectiveness, (2) be affected by technical assistance, and (3) predict coalition sustainability.  Understanding what characteristics predict coalition functioning at specific implementation phases will inform an evidence-base for community practice.

 Methods: 10-20 members of each of 12 CTC coalitions were surveyed annually throughout the 5 year intervention (>93% response rate per wave; >80% response rate per community), providing 432 unique respondents. Aspects of coalition functioning that were studied include: goal directedness, efficiency, participation opportunities, and cohesion. For example, coalition efficiency (6 items; alphas .80-.86 over time), measures the extent to which members report that “This is a highly efficient, work-oriented board.”

Previous research has indicated that a four factor measurement model (CFI .982; RMSEA .048) has a significantly better fit than a single factor model (p<.001).  The four factor structure is stable across phases of implementation (WLSMV Difference Test p>.05), and these dimensions of member-reported coalition functioning correlate positively with external observations of the same constructs. Multi-level modeling of fixed effects at each intervention stage was conducted in HLM v.6.0.

Results: Early in the intervention, the Stability of members had a marginal relationship with directedness (p=.06), efficiency (p=.05), and cohesion (p=.08).

In the middle of the intervention period, the Time Spent by members was related to directedness (p=.03), and marginally related to efficiency (p=.06).  The Stability of members was also related to all dimensions of functioning (p<.01).  The integration of new members trended toward a relationship with cohesion (p=.12).

 Late in the intervention period, the member’s duration of involvement with CTC was related to cohesion (p=.03) and opportunities for participation (p=.01), and marginally related to efficiency (p=.06).  Stability of members was marginally related to cohesion (p=.06).  Community support for CTC was related to coalition directedness (p=.02), efficiency (p=.02), and cohesion (p=.02). Coalition functioning was not related to gender or ethnicity, coalition size, sector diversity, community size, nor community poverty. 

Conclusions/Implications: The member’s duration of involvement and hours spent on CTC, as well as the stability of membership, new member integration, and community support were each related to functioning at specific intervention stages. These may be important targets of coaching and technical assistance for community practitioners.