The Challenges of Coalitions in New York City: Overcoming Obstacles to Create Equitable Communities

The Homeless Coalition in New York City is a great example of how coalitions can provide up-to-date information on the city's homeless population. Through the use of the action lab, both community coalitions reported that it had helped them gain new partners, build relationships within their communities, and create a sense of urgency and momentum. In New York City, one of the wealthiest cities in the world, it is essential that everyone has equal access to healthy food, that each community has control over their food choices, that each person has enough nutritious food to live a healthy life, and that each neighborhood has food businesses that reflect the cultures and diversity of that community. To achieve this, Wolff and colleagues (201) suggest that coalitions develop policy and promotion skills, which are not addressed to the same extent in the SCALE curriculum. Coalition teams received training on tools such as the Implicit Bias Test to facilitate conversations about racism in their coalition.

Through this training, both SRW and CC worked with different populations, contexts, and objectives while participating in SCALE. This helped them approach their work in line with CEJ principles one, three, four, and six. During this process, coalition members openly discussed disagreements as a critical moment and a difficult decision for their coalition. The SRW coalition leader and local improvement advisor worked with community advocates (community members with their own experience) to develop public speaking skills and advocate for the community. New York City's food insecurity rate is 12% higher than the national rate and 21% higher than that of New York State.

To combat this issue, CC partnered with people from the Seneca Nation, people with disabilities, and other community populations that were not represented in its coalition. This was a challenge for CC as they had to stop being a coalition created by institutions to work in partnership with the community and promote the power of residents. The New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC) was founded in 1996 to promote the preservation, creation, and empowerment of community gardens through education, promotion, and grassroots organizing. The challenges faced by coalitions in New York City are numerous. From providing equitable access to healthy food to empowering residents through grassroots organizing, coalitions must be prepared to tackle a variety of issues. To do this effectively, they must develop policy and promotion skills as well as foster conversations about racism within their coalition.

Additionally, they must ensure that all members of their communities are represented in their coalition. Finally, they must strive to create partnerships with the community rather than simply working on behalf of institutions.

Meghan Stearnes
Meghan Stearnes

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