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Ohio State University Extension


Increasing Coalition Effectiveness Through Community Mobilization

Building Coalitions Series
Community Development
Carol Smathers, Field Specialist, Youth Nutrition and Wellness, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension
Jennifer Lobb, Graduate Research Associate, Ohio State University Extension

Community mobilization is the process of engaging various sectors of a community to address a health, social or environmental issue (CDC, 2011). It is a capacity-building process that enhances the ability of a community to work together toward a goal that the community has identified as important. Community mobilization brings together individuals and groups who might not typically be involved in community decision making, empowering them to take action to facilitate change in their own community.

Mobilization efforts that are community driven are central to the idea of community mobilization. Sustainable change takes place when communities are able to identify and solve their own problems through their own efforts (Florida Department of Health, 2012). When a coalition works to facilitate community mobilization, both the coalition and the community benefit. Community mobilization can result in increased collaborative efforts within the community, and this collaboration can lead to more effective and efficient delivery of programs. The community buy-in that results from this type of collaboration can lead to more powerful, longer-lasting community change.

Benefits of Community Mobilization

  • Increased community support for an issue
  • Increased community awareness of an issue and what is being done to address the issue
  • Increased sharing of resources and information
  • More effective and efficient delivery of programs
  • Decreased competition and redundancy of efforts
  • Increased community capacity
  • Sustainable community change

Key Components of Community Mobilization

Community mobilization, like coalition formation, begins with the identification of individuals and groups who share a common concern or goal. The community assessment can be a useful tool in identifying groups and individuals to include in mobilization efforts. Interested parties may come from political, religious, educational, recreational and youth organizations; community, civic and service groups; local businesses; nonprofit organizations and volunteer groups. Each of these parties will have different resources, skills and capabilities to contribute to the cause. Some of these parties may already be engaged in efforts related to the common issue of concern. It is important for the community to recognize and support these efforts to maximize its effectiveness and minimize frustration.

Elements of Community Mobilization

  • A common community vision
  • Leadership to guide the process
  • Concerned citizens who envision a change for the community
  • Dedicated citizens who are willing to work until change is realized
  • Plans, goals and objectives to achieve community change
  • Recognition of and encouragement for all who contribute the cause
  • Time, patience and perseverance

When members of the community come together around a common issue, there are endless opportunities for involvement. Community members can write grants, plan activities, promote the issue to others in the community, seek additional support and more. Effective community mobilization occurs when individual strengths and capabilities are recognized and matched with these opportunities.


CDC. (2011). Community Mobilization Guide: A Community-Based Effort to Eliminate Syphilis in the United States.

Florida Department of Health. (2012). "HIV Prevention Section: Community Mobilization."

Kegler, M.C. and Swan, D.S. (2012). "Advancing Coalition Theory: The Effect of Coalition Factors on Community Capacity Mediated by Member Engagement." Health Education Research, 27(4), 572-584.

Kretzmann, J.P. and McKnight, J.L. (1993). Building Communities From the Inside: A Path Toward Finding a Community's Assets. Evanston, IL: Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwestern University.

Motley, M., Holmes, A., Hill, J. Plumb, K. and Zoellner, J. (2013). "Evaluating Community Capacity to Address Obesity in the Dan River Region: A Case Study." American Journal of Health Behavior, 37(2), 208-217.

Ohio Center for Action on Coalition Development (1992). Building Coalitions: Coalition Formation and Maintenance. Darby, PA: DIANE Publishing Company.

Additional Resources

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute. "Downloadable Resources." Publications on community assessment and community mobilization.

Coalitions Work. "Tools and Resources." Resources for a variety of coalition processes and coalition evaluation.

University of Kansas. "Community Tool Box." Toolkits on a variety of topics related to partnership building and community change.

University of Wisconsin-Extension. "Program Development and Evaluation." Logic Model templates and examples.

Iowa State University, North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. Vision to Action: Take Charge Too. Publication about community assessment, vision development, action planning and evaluation.

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Originally posted Oct 15, 2014.