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At Roosevelt, we believe the rules don’t just need to be rewritten, but the process of rewriting them has to be inclusive of the people impacted. Policy changes involve engaging key decision makers, opponents and allies. In this section, we’ll think through how to organize on campus, and how to go bring key build a structure for working with allies and supporters on your policy. This resource will help you build a base of support, win the trust and rapport with allies, and eventually establish a coalition. See the powerpoint attached to the files tab to view in Powerpoint form (relevant slides for this training: 17-29).

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In the absence of a coalition- a host of groups coming together to work on a single issues, policy or campaign, your policy is unlikely to achieve much success. 

As student activists, you have a unique power that can only be capitalized on during your short time as a student. When you reach out to off-campus groups or lobby an elected official, the first point you should be communicating is that your campus community (including students and faculty) supports the initiative because you have successfully organized the campus. This will give you leverage and power to be taken seriously. 


Coming into this section of Roosevelt's policy training- you should already have an idea of the policy you want to work on, and a fully drafted power map (using this training- as a reminder, a blank and template power map are attached here). The goal of this section is to link your power map to key figures involved in the policy writing and decision-making process.  

To start with coalitions: you will first need to decide whether you should build a coalition or join an existing coalition using Roosevelt's Political Feasability test. To make your decision, your group should ask the following questions: 

•At what level is my policy targeted? State/city/local? For policy targeted at the state level or big city, general it's best to join a coalition. 

•Are there already active organizations working on my policy or a version of it? If so, can I join a coalition with them? 

•What are organizations in this policy area in my region working on? How does it align with my goals? Can your group join one of these active efforts? 

•Is there precedent for this in the legislative body responsible? If not, joining a coalition is probably more feasible. 

•Are there active electoral champions for this? If not, joining a coalition is probably more feasible. 

•Are we powerful and influential enough to lead?If not, joining a coalition is probably more feasible. 

•Do we have the capacity to lead on this? If not, joining a coalition is probably more feasible. 

Remember: Often building a coalition is most feasible at the most local levels- Campus & Local. Often joining a coalition is most feasible at the State level.

Now that you've made your decision, it's time to think your coalition. Start by returning to your power map and going back through the various allies you placed on your map. Now, you want to conduct some background research on each group that you added here. Use the attachment- Example_Strategy_Worksheet- as a template for how to build a simple document outlining background of each group, their potential influence and actions you might assign to them. Now, that you have a clear sense of who will be part of this coalition, you're ready to think through Coalition roles.

Coalition Roles

Within a Coalition, each organization or individual plays a specific role. When building out a coalition, you should identify those roles for other organizations within your coalition. When joining, you should actively think through and suggest a role for yourself to the Coalition leadership. Below is a list of Standard Coalition roles: 

  • Convener: Logistical lead in facilitating and bringing together groups and key stakeholders. Why is Roosevelt well suited to this role: Program management systems and organizational structures like chapter structure and National Leadership
  • Communicator: Coordinates media and digital outreach, & builds narrative around your idea. Why is Roosevelt well suited to this role: : Communications coordinators, history of reading/writing policy, resources for sharing- SM Channels, Blog etc.
  • Organizer: Coordinates events/actions, base building, grassroots outreach. Why is Roosevelt well suited to this role: Chapter structure, large national Network, experience w event planning.
  • Policy Researcher: Builds research materials to support policy, leads on drafting any bills. Why is Roosevelt well suited to this role: History of policy writing and research, policy trainings, research interest.
  • Advocator:  Leads on reaching out/connecting with elected officials for building legislation, garnering support, & lobby materials. Why is Roosevelt well suited to this role: Lobbying trainings, relationships with decision makers, advocacy experience 

For an example, check out the Example_Strategy Worksheet attached to the files tab here. It demonstrates how to classify and add different orgs. 

Key Questions to think about:

  • How much do you need partners bought-in? Will they be involved in planning, just a signature of support, etc.?
  • How do you ensure the coalition will function?
  • How do you build a space that’s inclusive to diverse partner groups?

You are now ready to move to Roosevelt's Planning for Policy change training here


Terms and ideas to know: 

Coalition: A collection of groups or organizations working toward a singular project/issue/campaign with distinctive roles for each. 


  • Get the low hanging least controversial groups first so by the time you reach the bigger / more politically influential players, you can demonstrate that this is a movement that is organized and is building momentum. Make it worth their while to join your movement. In addition, it is critical to demonstrate that your coalition has broad support from a number of diverse stakeholders demonstrating the breadth and variety of perspectives that support the policy you are working on so think far and wide about possible partners.

  • Find out what movements and coalitions are already organized that are related to your idea and start working with them to develop relationships. In an effort to get groups to sign on to your idea, you need some type of organizing tool. This can be a letter to the governor, a petition, endorsements of a report, co-sponsored events, statement of principles, and more (be creative).

  • Leverage the systems that exist on campus. This includes faculty senate, faculty unions, student government, campus clubs, dorms, faculty senate, departments, schools and centers, and much more.

  • Be visible, have co-sponsored events, and develop an online presence.


  • Check out the MOU template attached in the files tab to understand how to draft a written agreement between two organizations. 
  • The Student PIRG’s Affordable Textbook Campaign Toolkit has a comprehensive guide on how to organize your campus and includes examples and templates. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has one of the most comprehensive manuals that is over 300 pages (find what you want in the table of contents and skip around) that includes samples, case studies, and conceptual reading. Campus Activism is an on-campus organizing toolkit outlining the basic principles of student activism and comes with fundamental how-tos.
  • Coalitions Work is an easy-to-use resource that provides you with strategy worksheets to help you build, manage, and lead your coalition.
  • Social Barometer chart attached to the files tab is a tool for you to lay out your various allies and their relative degrees of support. 


University and Campus:
If you are working to change the procurement policies at your public university, a first step might be to hold a forum with high profile speakers and local business leaders (who would benefit from the local purchasing) to attract people, campus media, and the attention of campus administration. This would involve postering, leafleting, tabling, emailing, and more to promote the event while also raising awareness. A high profile speaker could also be a key stakeholder ally you want to join a future coalition.

State and Local Government:
If you are looking to enact a policy where every student in the city has access to a free school lunch and you have identified that the mayor has the power to make this happen, you might need to build a coalition of parent groups, teachers, unions, administrators, and other child advocate groups / NGOs, and more to build power so the mayor knows the initiative has wide-ranging support. You should also spend time thinking about who has the mayor's ear (perhaps her husband is a teacher) and think through how you can reach those secondary targets.  This coalition of support will eventually be important to give decision makers the political cover and power they sometimes need to pass policy that might be seen as controversial to some.