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County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
October 15
Building Leadership Capacity in Counties through the Community Coalition Leadership Program

​Written by Katie Bess, Health Associate.

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Communities throughout the country have come together to build coalitions -- a formal alliance to address local or regional needs of the community. In order to foster community health improvement, coalitions bring together diverse groups of stakeholders from around the community or region to build consensus and actively engage the local jurisdiction in the pressing needs of the community. Coalitions can bring a lot of ideas, expertise, experience, and resources to the table that allows the coalition to collaboratively address community challenges, rather than one organization focusing on a community issue alone. Coalition members include policy makers, community leaders and stakeholders from local health and human service agencies, K-12 education, colleges and universities, hospital systems, faith based organizations, local government, nonprofits, businesses and concerned community citizens who may be most affected or most passionate about the issue. A successful coalition can facilitate ownership, build capacity and competence among member organizations to address numerous community issues, and in return, improve the health and wellbeing of the community.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is using “Boundary Spanning Leadership” as a tool to foster community health improvement efforts through community coalitions. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) received funding from RWJF to develop a Community Coalition Leadership Program (CCLP) to assist local communities by fundamentally improving the health and wellbeing of their jurisdiction by providing the Boundary Spanning Leadership model to community coalitions throughout the country. The pilot program selected community coalitions, including some county coalitions, to participate in a four-day training, followed by one year of technical assistance and support on Boundary Spanning Leadership.

The Boundary Spanning Leadership model emerged as a key way to develop the leadership capacity of coalitions to work collaboratively and solve pressing health issues in the community. CCLP was designed to achieve the following outcomes:


  • Increase individual coalition members’ self-awareness to improve their ability to work collaboratively with others;
  • Increase respect for and ability to leverage differences;
  • Learn six boundary spanning leadership practices/tactics to improve community collaboration;
  • Understand how to better identify, analyze, and influence multiple stakeholders;
  • Understand the difference between Change and Transition, including your own personal approach to managing change;
  • Learn and practice appreciative inquiry approach, a form of positive thinking and heightened potential, to leading change.


As NACo’s Health Associate, I attended one of the trainings in San Diego in late June with seven community-based coalitions, including three county coalitions.

I was excited to join the event along with community organizers and leaders, and to learn from the community coalitions participating in the CCLP training. The Center for Creative Leadership team did a great job facilitating the training and providing an array of tools and resources for the coalitions to use to strengthen their collaborative undertakings and work across boundaries to provide tangible results. Throughout the training, team members were given several innovative tools to use and were able to practice using them as a team during the training.

For example, one of the initial tasks was to have each team member assess the Direction, Alignment and Commitment of their coalition, a model the CCLP training practices. Based on the Direction, Alignment and Commitment model, the participants reported to the group their thoughts on the coalition’s strengths and possible weaknesses. By the end of the four-day training, participants had a better understanding of the internal dynamics of their coalition, current deliverables, productivity, team process, and opportunities to build capacity on these dynamics. Additionally, coalitions developed ideas on how to leverage new and the existing resources and how to engage thought-leaders to solve pressing health issues in their communities.

Through support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and in collaboration with RWJF and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, NACo is providing counties with information and insight about how to develop effective local programs and policies that can improve overall community health. As a health associate and team lead on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps initiative, observing the CCLP training and learning the Boundary Spanning Leadership model, gave me the understanding and insight on how we can utilize this model and its’ several tools in future NACo health activities and events.


The CCLP training was available to a select group of cohorts and identified coalitions that completed the CCLP application process.


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