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Coalition Meeting

SCENARIO

You are an organizer working with a coalition of local neighborhood groups. You have had great difficulty getting the groups to overcome their turf battles and other parochial interests to come together towards the unifying goals of neighborhood improvement, crime reduction, and youth engagement. Attendance at meetings has been low, and leaders have spent more time arguing with each other than working together. You are surprised and elated, then, to arrive at one coalition meeting to find more than 80 people gathered and enthusiastic to present a new work plan for the coalition. Apparently, leaders from several of the organizations have concluded that recent immigrants in the neighborhoods are to blame for the conditions of housing deterioration and rising crime. They want to work together to form a ‘neighborhood watch’-style organization that would investigate immigrants’ legal statuses and turn undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities. They also want to stop publishing any neighborhood documents in multiple languages, as ‘that only encourages them.’ There appears to be near unanimity about this problem and the proposed solution—the neighborhood leaders have gone through the coalition’s established channels to win support from the grassroots supporters. As the organizer, you are genuinely concerned, though, as this idea and these positions are contrary to your values and your emphasis on the well-being of all area residents.

Questions to consider: How should you respond at this meeting? What should you do after the meeting? With whom do you need to speak? What could you have done differently to try to prevent this situation? What community practice values/principles should guide your actions?