Problem Definitions and Collaboration Networks in a Community Coalition

Jennifer Lawlor


Community coalitions are vehicles for generating local level change around issues of education, healthcare, and community development. They often operate as coordinating bodies to support local stakeholders in sharing information, making decisions, and taking action around common problems. To date, there has been little research exploring the diversity of ways each stakeholder within a coalition defines the central problem for the group. Homophily theory suggests that individuals with similar definitions would be more likely to collaborate with others who have a similar problem definition. In this poster, I will discuss my study addressing the question: Are coalition members more likely to collaborate with others who have similar problem definitions? To answer this question, I partnered with a coalition focused on postsecondary attainment in a community in Michigan. I captured each coalition member’s problem definitions using fuzzy cognitive mapping as well as a network survey capturing their collaborators within the coalition. I used exponential random graph modeling to determine whether similarities in problem definitions predicted collaborative ties, including controls for participant sector, length of time in the coalition, and demographics. I will discuss findings that suggest similarity in problem definitions among coalition members did not predict their collaborative ties, why this may be the case and future directions for the study of how coalitions function.

← Schedule