The power of effective coalitions and collective action in building trust and achieving sustainable development

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The power of effective coalitions and collective action in building trust and achieving sustainable development.jpg Image: Canva (George Tsartsianidis)

What if we tell you that work on building coalitions and collective action contributed to a 20% increase in the amount of waste collected in Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and yielded over $20 million in savings in procurement of medicine in the Dominican Republic? In our experience, a lot of policies and programs succeed based on whether they get people to work together. Building collective action and addressing resistance to change can help achieve substantial impact, and mobilize support for expediting the acceptance and adoption of new behaviors essential for successful reforms.

The Coalitions for Reform Program offers a three-pillar, integrated approach to change, that delivers solutions for collective action bottlenecks and change management. We share examples in each of the three areas where our work contributed to achieving meaningful impact. 

Often, the biggest hurdles reformers face are not found in designing a new policy but in the intricacies of collaborative effort or lack thereof for its adoption and implementation. This rings especially true for Governance issues, where bottlenecks such as the political economy environment, powerful vested interests, and historical norms and values often impede meaningful policy reforms. Simply put, the success of any development program relies on effective collaboration among relevant stakeholders. When these connections falter, well-designed policies remain mere ideas, lacking the traction needed for implementation. Sustainable development, therefore, necessitates more than just technical expertise. It requires a deep understanding of human dynamics that can either propel or impede meaningful reform. 

This calls for a shift in our approach to one that places people at the center of development efforts. Understanding how the complex web of human dynamics plays out – how individuals connect, collaborate, and respond to change – is essential. It goes beyond mere resource-sharing and emphasizes the need for building coalitions and integrating collective action approaches into development strategies. It is about cultivating a culture of collaboration between government entities and civil society, the private sector, and the media to garner public support for initiatives. This is why, over the last two decades, there has been a move towards more nuanced and adaptive methodologies in approaching development. This recognition for the need of change has given rise to initiatives like “Thinking and Working Politically (TWP)”and embracing adaptability at all levels - global, regional and local.

While the aspirations of the Coalitions for Reform program are high, so are the stakes if we do not manage to meaningfully address collective action bottlenecks in light of the many challenges of our time. We are excited to embark on this journey and hope to see many of you along the way. Join the movement by reaching out to us directly or through our website:


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Editor’s note: The Coalitions for Reform Program (C4R) Global Partnership is a hub of knowledge that supports World Bank teams and clients in using tools to build leadership skills, establish coalitions, manage change, and deploy communications strategically. Launched by the World Bank Governance Global Practice, with generous support from the Governance and Institutions Umbrella Program (G&I), C4R’s aims to serve as a catalyst for change. The program focuses on four key activities: i) data & analytics, ii) knowledge and innovation, iii) operational and country work, and iv) partnership building. 

Maria Poli

Public Governance and Technology Specialist | Coalitions for Reforms Global Program, Governance Global Practice

Mathieu Cloutier

Senior Economist, Governance Global Practice

Samuel Garoni

Governance Specialist, Governance Global Practice

Sandra Valdivia Teixeira

Knowledge Management Analyst

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