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Coalition Corner! 9 Habits of Successful Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalitions

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Hi all!  Today we have a special guest joining Strategic Health Concepts on Coalition Corner – Kristina Wait, Comprehensive Cancer Control Manager with the American Cancer Society’s Corporate Center. Kristina is helping us introduce the 9 Habits of Successful Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalitions. Welcome Kristina!

The 9 Habits are a set of evidenced-based, comprehensive and interconnected characteristics of CCC coalitions who have been successful in maintaining an active coalition dedicated to developing and implementing a CCC plan.  Let’s begin with a short description of each habit:

Habit #1:  Empowering Leadership

Successful coalitions have strong leaders who show their leadership by asking, allowing and expecting others to make decisions to move forward with coalition activities. Empowered coalition members make progress in coalition activities and hold themselves and others accountable for ensuring progress. Look for this leadership style when recruiting new leaders.

Habit #2:  Shared Decision-Making

Shared decision-making means no one organization or person overpowers the decisions made in the coalition and mechanisms are in place so that this does not happen. Coalition members see that many perspectives, organizations and sources of information are considered as decisions are made. Decisions are based on data and stakeholder input. A key to practicing shared decision-making is ensuring that decision making rules are documented and communicated to all coalition members.

Habit #3:  Value-Added Collaboration

Successful coalitions recognize and appreciate the “value-added” benefit of the coalition’s collaborative efforts.  Coalition members see results from working with other members and forging alliances that otherwise, without the coalition, might not be realized. Interaction with other coalition members uncovers diverse strengths and resources otherwise unknown. To help put this habit into action, inventory and share member strengths, and share positive outcomes that are a result of your coalition’s value-added efforts. 

Habit #4:  Dedicated Staff

Because members of a coalition are often volunteers who have full-time jobs, the burden of additional work for coalition members needs to be recognized and partially offset by dedicated staff. Dedicated staff plays an important role in the ongoing progress, coordination and communication of the coalition’s efforts. Not all dedicated staff has to come from the health department. Other members can assign their staff to the coalition’s work.

Habit #5:  Diversified Funding

Successful coalitions don’t place all their eggs in one basket – support for coalition work should be varied and come from different sources. Diversified funding helps create widespread support and involvement in the coalition’s efforts because of expanded stakeholders. When coalition members have more “skin in the game” – in the form of funding or in-kind support – they are more likely to be actively involved in the work of the coalition. Coalitions are more likely to have diversified funding when they develop and share resource plans or strategies that outline the resources needed to implement cancer plan priorities.

Habit #6:  Effective Communication

Successful coalitions communicate with members consistently, with a defined purpose and in a variety of ways. Regular communication serves several functions:  it keeps coalition members apprised of coalition work, it reminds coalition members of their role and accountability in the coalition and it calls coalition members to action when needed. Coalitions should use a variety of avenues when communicating with members including email, websites, social media, telephone and conference calls, newsletters and face-to-face meetings. Putting a simple communication plan (focusing on who, what, when and how) in place will help make your communication with coalition members more effective.

Habit #7:  Clear Roles and Accountability

Clarifying roles helps coalition members understand the mission of the coalition and how they - both as an individual and an organization - can help achieve that mission. To help put this habit into action, make sure the various roles of coalition members and leadership are communicated both verbally and in written documents. When roles are delineated and communicated, members understand what is expected from them and what they in turn can expect from other members and groups of the coalition.  This helps build accountability into the work of the coalition.

Habit #8:  Flexible Structure

Successful coalitions are flexible, adapt to new opportunities and challenges and maintain a structure that facilitates implementation of the CCC plan.  As new priorities and efforts are identified, assess your coalition structure to assure the strengths and resources of the coalition are aligned with its efforts. This may mean you make changes in workgroups, changes in leadership, changes in communication methods, etc. One way to put this habit into practice is to ask: are our workgroups aligned with our current priorities? If not, make changes to ensure “form follows function.”

Habit #9:  Priority Work Plans

There are two parts to this habit: 1) identifying priorities to work on and 2) putting work plans in place to guide work on those priorities. Successful coalitions ensure processes are in place to set priorities on a regular basis, use written work plans, and track progress.  To put this habit into practice, set priorities and then have workgroups develop work plans around evidence-based strategies that convey a clear sense of expected outcomes, methods to reach those outcomes, responsibilities, and timelines. Make sure your workgroups have the information and tools they need to put these work plans into action, including tracking their progress.

Kristina, can you tell us more about these 9 Habits? Where did they come from?


An evidence-based evaluation

An evidence-based evaluation was conducted by the Comprehensive Cancer Control National Partnership.  The American Cancer Society & CDC worked with Southeastern Program Evaluation to facilitate the evaluation with the CCC National Partnership.   Through a literature search, characteristics of high-functioning coalitions were identified and then, based on those characteristics, an online survey and key informant interviews were conducted with CCC coalitions to better understand how those characteristics have specifically enabled CCC coalitions to be successful in implementing cancer plans. A total of 292 individuals (44% response rate) responded to the CCC coalition survey with 61 out of 69 coalitions represented.   Based on the quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data, the characteristics of high performing CCC coalitions were identified. 

And how can CCC coalitions or

And how can CCC coalitions or other types of coalitions use these 9 Habits?

Coalitions can use the habits

Coalitions can use the habits to help guide their daily work within the coalition. They can use the habits as a checklist or a barometer, to gauge how they doing in supporting the ongoing functioning of the coalition and all its parts – membership, workgroups, leaders, etc. So often we get caught up in responding to challenges and issues that we forget to stop and check to see that our coalition is functioning properly – the 9 Habits provide a framework for ensuring that coalitions are focusing on how they get their work done as well as what gets done.   By sharing these habits, a coalition’s ability to develop and implement activities that achieve the goals of the CCC plans can be greatly enhanced. 

Where can coalition members

Where can coalition members learn more about the 9 Habits? 

The CCC National Partnership

The CCC National Partnership and representatives of selected CCC programs and coalitions have worked with Strategic Health Concepts to develop tools and resources to aid coalitions in improving their knowledge and skills around the Nine Habits.  CCC coalitions can learn more about the habits by visiting the CCC National Partnership website where we have provided information.  You can visit the website at  Additionally, the CCC National Partnership will be identifying opportunities to provide technical assistance offerings related to the Nine Habits in 2013 to CCC Coalitions.    

Thanks for joining us today

Thanks for joining us today Kristina!

Have you and your coalition leadership attended a CCC workshop? Tell us how you are using the 9 Habits to help improve the way your coalition works. Or, let us know if you have a question about the 9 Habits.

Post your responses here! 

Hi, Vermont attended the

Hi, Vermont attended the first CCC seminar. We will be using the 9 Habits to frame discussion at our coalition's steering committee retreat in January. Thanks for the great information.

David Cranmer

Vermonters Taking Action Against Cancer