Communications among partners or members of large coalitions is often where conflict lies. We have met angry organization leaders who were not invited to a meeting, did not get to provide input, or missed a major event. Internal communications can be fixed easily. It shouldn’t be a source of discord for any coalition.
Internal communication is overlooked, but it is important for coalitions with sizable memberships that cannot easily be coordinated without a system, basic tools and at least one designated person. Internal communication prevents conflict, stops the leadership from being overwhelmed by individual calls or emails and makes the coalition more efficient and allows them to respond quickly. For example, Kenya peace groups, working on conflict mitigation during the 2017 elections, created and used WhatsApp groups to report events on the ground and to take action in real time.
Large coalitions have different levels of communication and ways to reach each of them. This is an easy way to think about it:
- Decision-making groups: There are usually 5-12 people are on a leadership committee on behalf of the coalition. They need to coordinate among themselves, and must engage in discussions and communicate their decisions to all coalition members. This is often done through emails or group communications on closed social platforms.
- The member organizations: They are the recipients of communications from the decision making groups, and must also communicate to their membership. Small local civic groups in Albania wanted real-time updates on breaking news about the election administration and voting day changes. This was done through large regional meetings led by the leadership groups.
- Coalition members where there is an overlap or need for coordination: These can include formal or informal task forces or committees. When NE Nigerian health service providers were worried about overlap of the displaced person camps, they created a committee to communicate their activities and respond to the changing needs on the ground.
- Members of the groups: Members are reached through their organizations on social media, newsletters and their own internal communication mechanisms. The most effective coalitions share information and encourage the member organizations to recycle and reuse content with their own logos to encourage consistency and to save time.
- The public including media, beneficiaries and impacted audiences: Not all internal communications need to be shared externally. However, it is a good source for those working on external communications to re-purpose policies, stories and news that influence external audiences.
The Responsibilities of an Internal Communicator for a Coalition
Assigning someone to work for the coalition from existing staff, or as a volunteer, provides an exciting opportunity to learn new skills. The larger the coalition, the more likely it is that this person will need to work full-time. Their job description includes:
- Serve as a focal point to collects news, stories and data through reports, calls, meetings, Twitter and Facebook. This person attends key meetings and reports about key actions and decisions. They also need to understand the difference between news that is important to implementers and external news important to beneficiaries and the media.
- Package internal information for distribution through stakeholder newsletters, closed group social media feeds, group calls or meetings to improve coordination and communication across the platform.
- Supports WhatsApp groups/Facebook groups/closed groups that are created for specific conversations among implementers.
- Supports coalition members with content to communicate with their membership, beneficiaries or audiences through their social networks.
- Provides information to the external communications department to use for re-packaging internal information for circulation on the website and social media. For example, they provide information on partner efforts, contacts and data for stories.
- Documents and coverage are put in a library or location like Google Docs for use by all participants.