Building a Coalition to Prevent Violence: A How-To Guide

Building a Coalition to Prevent Violence: A How-To Guide

May 14, 2014 | Benita Tsao, Program Manager, Prevention Institute

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When I asked a colleague how she entered the violence prevention field, she told me that as a school social worker, she saw local gangs recruiting her fourth graders faster than she could keep them out. It got her thinking about how to prevent violence instead of just reacting after the fact and how to recruit more partners to the cause.

When I asked a colleague how she entered the violence prevention field, she told me that as a school social worker, she saw local gangs recruiting her fourth graders faster than she could keep them out. It got her thinking about how to prevent violence instead of just reacting after the fact and how to recruit more partners to the cause.

The need for effective partnerships and for preventing violence in the first place is the basis for Multi-Sector Partnerships for Preventing Violence, a new publication of Prevention Institute and its Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) initiative. Collaboration is especially important when resources are scarce; more and more people recognize that the factors that affect the likelihood of violence span multiple domains. For example, research suggests that we can prevent violence and promote resilience by creating jobs, improving schools, reducing alcohol outlet density, eliminating blight, and providing meaningful activities for young people. These are far beyond the responsibility of law enforcement, and yet we expect police departments to shoulder the burden of addressing violence on their own. A UNITY assessment of youth violence prevention activities found that cities with the greatest coordination also had the lowest rates of youth violence. Many police chiefs say we cannot arrest our way out of this problem, and the reality is that everyone has a role in promoting safety.

Multi-Sector Partnerships for Preventing Violence outlines the benefits and challenges of multi-sector collaboration, and illustrates how the Collaboration Multiplier can help. In Houston, Texas, for example, young people reported to youth-serving organizations that they neither feel that their communities valued them nor that their neighborhoods were safe. In order to recreate a positive sense of place, the city’s Department of Health and Human Services funded microgrants for young people to lead neighborhood clean-up projects and other community-based campaigns. One group of high school students said they felt unsafe on their way to school because they had to cross through vacant land where illegal dumping and drug activity were common. After negotiating a shared-use agreement to protect the property owners from liability, the Public Works and Engineering Department removed trash, cleared the site of toxins, and also improved the site’s water drainage and runoff quality. Local civic organizations volunteered to maintain the land, and the adjacent school considered the lot in its campus redesign, hiring architects trained in the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

“Collaborating to change the environments and make safer places really resonated with our partnerships,” said Sheila Savannah of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. “Every partner has a different ‘what’s in it for me.’ There’s something for everyone in this kind of work. Collaboration Multiplier is a good tool because it stops to ask, ‘What are the strengths of every partner you’re bringing to the table?’”

Learn how to apply Collaboration Multiplier where you live and work at the NCCD Conference on Children, Youth, and Families in San Diego, California. Join Program Manager Annie Lyles for Breakout B1, “Advancing Multi-Sector Collaboration to Prevent Violence and Injury” on Thursday, May 15.

Determined to improve health and safety for everyone, Prevention Institute builds prevention and equity into key policies and actions to transform the places where people live, work, play and learn. A Prevention Institute initiative, Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) builds support for effective, sustainable efforts to prevent violence before it occurs, so urban youth can thrive in safe environments with ample opportunities and supportive relationships. Sign up for UNITY e-alerts to be notified when the guide is available online.