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Lessons From the Field: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions as Catalysts for Change

NCJ Number
Theresa M. Ellis; Sarah J. Lenczner
Date Published
September 2000
28 pages

This study analyzed the organization, operation, sustainability, and impact of community anti-drug coalitions across the country.


The study consisted of two parts: in-depth case studies of eight highly effective community coalitions and a cross-case analysis that examined characteristics shared among the eight coalitions assessed. Both the analyses in the individual case studies and the cross-case analysis offer observations about how each coalition's history, understanding of its community, organization, leadership, and financial resources affect its outcomes and daily functioning. As a group, the coalitions were diverse in geography, size, and demographics of the communities served, type of community (urban, suburban, and rural), and funding sources. Some issues addressed in this evaluation were the notable outcomes that have resulted from the coalition's efforts, how the coalition ensures that its work matches the community's needs, the organizational issues that govern each coalition's operation, the impact of leadership on coalitions, how the coalition obtains resources, and how the coalition creates a collaborative, multi-sector initiative. Regardless of their diversity, all of the coalitions have proven that a diversity of attributes facilitates the success of the organizations. Without exception, all of the coalitions examined in this study have had extraordinary success in their communities. Elements of successful coalitions include a mission statement, an understanding of the community, strategic planning, purposeful decisions, organizational structure, diversified and relevant funding, leadership, volunteers, representative membership and staff, diverse partners, multiple strategies across multiple sectors, clear expectations, access to community leaders, up-to-date technology, communication, opportunities for professional development, and evaluation. Some next steps for coalitions and communities are recommended.