Daniel Sellers was MinnCAN’s executive director from 2012-2016.

My first rule of participating in a coalition is don’t take all the credit when progress is made.

My second rule of participating in a coalition is don’t take all the credit when progress is made.

MinnCAN participates in a number of coalitions—some are formal and have official names, while others are looser without identified leaders or governing structures. But one thing is clear: none of the policy wins we’ve had for kids would be possible without collaboration and participation in these coalitions.

Later today, I’ll be presenting on “Building Strong Coalitions” with 50CAN’s first cohort of Education Advocacy Fellows, who are wrapping up a yearlong program in leadership development, policy advocacy and more. In preparation for today’s session, I’ve been reflecting on our work in coalitions—over the last few months and since MinnCAN launched in 2011.

While we all wait for the dust to settle on this year’s legislative session, I want to take a moment to preemptively say “thank you” to our partners and allies across the state. Any progress that we make is a shared success.

The TCC Group, which penned what I consider to be the preeminent paper on this subject, “What Makes an Effective Coalition,” defines a coalition in this way: “an organization or organizations whose members commit to an agreed-on purpose and shared decision making to influence an external institution or target, while each member organization maintains its own autonomy.”

Take, for example, our work this year on streamlining the process by which educators trained in other states get licensed to teach in Minnesota. We participate in a broad coalition of supporters who have joined together to advocate before the Legislature, Board of Teaching and other state entities with the agreed-on purpose of creating streamlined pathways to licensure for out-of-state teacher candidates.

Because each organization within our loose coalition maintains its autonomy, the motivations were varied—some groups support this work because they want to increase Minnesota’s teacher diversity, other groups joined because they want more options for filling teacher shortages in Greater Minnesota, and still others simply want to empower school administrators to hire the best teacher to meet the needs of their students.

But since the goal is shared amongst coalition partners, it allows us to work together and amplify these messages. Not to belabor the point, but any progress that’s made—whether at the Capitol or in the courtroom—is a result of the efforts of all of our partners.

And even though the coalition working on licensure doesn’t have a formal name, it’s not dissimilar from our participation in the more formal MinneMinds coalition working to advance high-quality early learning.

MinnCAN is one of nearly 100 organizations that support MinneMinds. The coalition has made major progress over the last several years, partnering with legislators and Gov. Dayton to significantly increase state investments in quality early learning opportunities for Minnesota’s most vulnerable kids. We’ve played many roles in the coalition over the years, stepping up to lead or stepping back and cheering our partners on, depending on the political climate or what was needed from the group.

At times it can be tough to participate in coalitions. From mistakes to misunderstandings to true disagreement, the challenges of working together are real. But, as the TCC Group report points out, effective coalitions can overcome these challenges, as long as there remains a shared goal and vision.

Before session wraps up, I want to take a moment to say how honored and humbled we are to be able to work alongside our various coalition partners. Together, we can achieve our shared vision: A Minnesota where all children have strong early learning opportunities, excellent educators and rigorous and relevant public schools.


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