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Open Access Research article

How does community context influence coalitions in the formation stage? a multiple case study based on the Community Coalition Action Theory

Michelle C Kegler1*, Jessica Rigler2 and Sally Honeycutt1

Author Affiliations

1 Emory Prevention Research Center, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

2 Arizona Department of Health Services, 150 N. 18th Ave, Suite 120, Phoenix, AZ 85007, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:90  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-90

Published: 23 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Community coalitions are rooted in complex and dynamic community systems. Despite recognition that environmental factors affect coalition behavior, few studies have examined how community context impacts coalition formation. Using the Community Coalition Action theory as an organizing framework, the current study employs multiple case study methodology to examine how five domains of community context affect coalitions in the formation stage of coalition development. Domains are history of collaboration, geography, community demographics and economic conditions, community politics and history, and community norms and values.

Methods

Data were from 8 sites that participated in an evaluation of a healthy cities and communities initiative in California. Twenty-three focus groups were conducted with coalition members, and 76 semi-structured interviews were conducted with local coordinators and coalition leaders. Cross-site analyses were conducted to identify the ways contextual domains influenced selection of the lead agency, coalition membership, staffing and leadership, and coalition processes and structures.

Results

History of collaboration influenced all four coalition factors examined, from lead agency selection to coalition structure. Geography influenced coalition formation largely through membership and staffing, whereas the demographic and economic makeup of the community had an impact on coalition membership, staffing, and infrastructure for coalition processes. The influence of community politics, history, norms and values was most noticeable on coalition membership.

Conclusions

Findings contribute to an ecologic and theory-based understanding of the range of ways community context influences coalitions in their formative stage.