Group Identity Crisis


When working in community coalitions we must be united in our efforts. These groups are made up of agencies and individuals that share similar goals, but still hold onto their unique systems, procedures, or niche in the industry. Yet, each organization is not the puzzle unto themselves, but merely a piece of a bigger puzzle that we need one another to be a part of.  Here are a few ways that we have been able to clarify our group identity, create cohesion, build momentum and impact the lives of youth in our community:

Clarify the Win

Many of these coalitions are struggling with group identity. They ask themselves: who are we and why are we meeting? One of the first steps then is to clarify the win. We re-evaluate our mission and vision. Personally, I love the simplicity of a Vision Frame. Many churches use this model, however, I have found it useful in other organizations, non-profits, youth programs, youth councils and coalitions. We go through what the vision of the group is, and we word our mission in a way that allows us to take steps to meet that vision. For instance, one of the coalitions vision is to see youth free from substance abuse. Therefore, this particular groups mission is to inform and equip community organizations, schools and parents about resources in the community to help young people struggle with substance use. We can then create measures and strategies to help us know if what we are doing is actually working. The values of the vision frame help us maintain our group identity and guides the action steps and decisions that we make. For example, one of our values is youth voice. We then make sure that we have a young person at the table to help inform decisions and any publications we produce. Through this process, we have been able to quickly build group cohesion, come up with action steps

Just Hit Something

I used to coach football for middle schoolers. As they were just learning the fundamentals of the game there would be times when mistakes were made, assignments got messed up, or they would just look puzzled. As we corrected the mistakes and made progress towards to everyone being on the same page, I would give the players some advice. I would say, “when in doubt, hit something, and hit it hard.” These groups would do the same thing, puzzled glances, unsure of action steps and hesitation that stopped the group from the work we were supposed to do. I suggested that we just hit something, and hit it hard. At the same work group, our mission was to inform the community about resources to help adolescents with substance use. I suggest we start with a community guide to available resources. We all pooled together to talk about what resources are available, the steps parents would take to get help, conversation starters and contact information for agencies. The plan is to distribute it to schools, our individual organizations, and programs that work with youth in our county.

From these things, people have said we have made more progress in a month then in two years. It happened because we were able to step back, clarify the win for the group, find ways to work together in what unites us, and we decided to take action, even if it was a small thing.

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