Gaining broad-based community support is a critical first step in initiating and conducting a wood stove changeout campaign. Building a coalition of respected citizens and organizations who share a stake in public health and clean air will help you make the changeout a community-wide priority.
Coalitions allow communities to create alliances among citizens and groups solve problems and in a focused and consistent manner. By building a coalition dedicated to conducting a wood stove changeout campaign, you create an association that gives you credibility among local residents, elected officials, media and community leaders.
In addition, a coalition establishes the legitimacy of your program in the eyes of potential funders and may even serve to administer the changeout program or portions of it. At a minimum, the coalition will allow resources to be combined, and it will give you the clout you need to make the changeout a true community-wide initiative that leads to lasting positive change.
When building a coalition, it is important to recognize that there will be varying degrees of involvement among its members. A core group that directly benefits from a changeout will become more involved than others that serve more limited functions such as access to certain constituencies, topical expertise, or high-level endorsements.
In general, your changeout coalition should include three broad categories of members: stakeholders, community opinion leaders and policymakers. Stakeholders are those that will benefit in implementing the changeout. Community opinion leaders help raise awareness and build support. Policymakers are elected officials and their staff who make funding decisions and enact laws and regulations that can help establish a changeout campaign.
Here are some specific examples of potential coalition members in each of the categories.
- Hearth product manufacturers, dealers, installers and the local HPBA affiliate
- Clean air and water, public health and environmental advocacy groups
- Hospitals and health care providers
- Fire departments
- Home builders and remodelers
- United Way, social service agencies and other groups that serve low income and minority citizens
Community Opinion Leaders
- Members of the media
- Leadership of local business, civic, consumer, political and volunteer groups
- Emerging young leaders
- State and local air and/or water quality agencies and health departments
- Local members of Congress and staff in their district offices
- Mayors and city councils
- State legislators
- County commissioners and planning boards
- Regional offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Metropolitan planning organizations and regional councils
- Weatherization departments
- Heating assistance agencies
Building a coalition should start by assembling a core group of people who are motivated to take an active role, primarily those listed earlier in the stakeholder category. This core group should include people with whom you already have relationships, representatives of groups that would benefit most from a changeout such as local air quality boards and health departments, and influential community members who have high credibility and lots of contacts. One of your first calls to put this together is to your local HPBA affiliate.
Once you have assembled your core group, you can work with them to identify other people and groups that should be part of the coalition and begin recruiting them. Depending on the person or group you are approaching, there are a variety of ways to make contact, including face-to-face meetings, phone calls, e-mails, personal letters and mass mailings. Public education and media outreach activities described in the Raising Awareness section of this tool kit also can help you recruit coalition members.
Attracting coalition partners may involve some courting, so be sure to clearly articulate how becoming involved can benefit them and let them know exactly what you envision their role to be. Information and messages in the public section of this web site should help you explain the benefits of changeouts. Remember, there is no substitute for personal contact and follow-through when asking people to give their valuable time.
Eventually you will reach the point where it is time to hold your first meeting, an important milestone in your campaign that should be well-planned, focused and high-energy. The meeting should start with introductions all around and a brief discussion by each attendee about why they are attending, followed by a discussion to define local air quality challenges and how the coalition might work to address them. Once the problem and the coalition’s mission is defined, the discussion should shift to setting goals and developing an action plan for the changeout. The discussion should conclude by assigning tasks to coalition members and scheduling the next meeting.
Key issues to be addressed include:
- What funding is available to provide purchase incentives for certain consumers and manufacturer discounts for other consumers?
- When to hold the event? (Late winter and early spring are ideal.)
- Who will take the lead? To be effective, there should be a key leader (ideally within local government) for this effort who can guide the campaign, answer questions and handle the myriad administrative details required to carry out the program.
- Who plays what role and takes what action?
- Who else needs to be recruited to join the group?
The first meeting sets the stage for the rest of the campaign, so it is important to maintain the momentum. Follow up quickly with attendees and other potential coalition members by circulating minutes and making sure those who were assigned tasks are moving ahead with them. Prior to the second meeting, you should draft your action plan and circulate it to coalition members for review well in advance. After the action plan is finalized – based on input from members at the next meeting – the stage is set and the coalition’s work is now underway.
An effective coalition will not only have a designated lead, but also :
- clearly delineate and assign tasks
- set realistic deadlines
- set weekly/bi-weekly status calls
- communicate electronically (through email or an internal website)
In order to ensure success in bringing a changeout campaign to your community, you and your core group must constantly communicate both with the rest of the coalition and the community at large. Central to that ongoing communication should be continual recruiting and networking to expand your presence, making your coalition as inclusive and participatory as possible. Holding meetings that have a sense of purpose and are interesting and fun is a must to keep coalition members focused and engaged. To be successful, the primary members of your coalition (those who will do most of the work) need to be fully committed.