What is an Alliance Assessment?


Q) What is an Alliance Assessment?

A) The OHA assessment is a process to spur dialogue among alliance leadership, members, and other key stakeholders about your alliance’s strengths and challenges at a certain point in time, providing direction and learning for all those involved. The assessment is most helpful when it is used to deepen understanding of the alliance’s current structure and practices and to inform dialogue, planning, and action to strengthen key areas.

Process and tools: In our experience, tools are often used in a vacuum, without thoughtful attention to process. They can raise the expectation of a “quick fix” or worse, result in unintended consequences or situations that the alliance is unprepared to handle.   The creators of Our Healthy Alliance believe the assessment process is every bit as important as the tool itself.

A comprehensive assessment process using this tool can help you:

• Better understand strengths and weaknesses across all areas of alliance life and practice.

• Identify where there tends to be agreement or divergence of opinions.

• Promote dialogue and create a safe context to discuss issues that may often be avoided; swept under the rug; or considered too delicate, provocative or controversial.

• Develop plans and, using the survey as a baseline measure, assist you in tracking implementation and performance over time.

• Envision what a highly effective alliance looks like as it evolves.

• Help you outline a path to address key capacity building goals.

Q) The assessment looks pretty long – couldn’t it be shorter and simpler?

A) We understand your reaction! Believe us, our number one priority is to keep things simple and smart. In our experience, a quick checklist is likely to be superficial and not give you the information you really need.

Our Healthy Alliance asks you to pick the best description of your alliance – from “Level 1” to “Level 4” — on a whole range of skills/capacities. Instead of asking you to rank your alliance as “excellent, good, poor” (or some variation), we provide you with a specific description—real world examples—of what the alliance would need to look like to rank itself at any given level. This approach reveals a common vision of current practices and gives participants a lens on potential shifts to foster a stronger alliance.

Q) What do the different levels mean?

A) Our Healthy Alliance assessment is organized into four levels illustrating an alliance’s progression from informality and short term planning, toward more intentionality, alliance-wide understanding, and attention to internal structures, practices, culture, and strategic positioning for the long haul.

Based on your responses, the assessment summarizes a level for each of the 10 areas such as: theory of change/power analysis, campaign models, alliance composition and trusting relationships, strategic communications, and infrastructure.

The final Our Healthy Alliance report also provides an overall score based on your average across all areas of performance.

Remember: alliances may be very advanced in some areas while still developing in other areas. For example, a new alliance formed to respond to a specific situation could be at a high level on campaigns but at a lower level on infrastructure.   In fact, a “low” score on infrastructure probably means that the alliance is focused right where it needs to in its early phase of development. We offer the levels as a way to measure current practices and raise points of inquiry to best define what your alliance needs to meet its goals.

Below are descriptions of each level (See also the Glossary):

Level 1: Emerging Alliance. Generally corresponds to a small, young or start-up phase. Alliance member groups may have come together around a specific campaign or project focus without explicit commitment to collective, long-term work toward systemic change. Work is driven by a small number of committed staff from member groups; may not have dedicated alliance staff or significant resources. Structure is a bit loose or ad-hoc, with informal processes and practices. May be more spontaneous and reactive.

Level 2: Developing Alliance. Increased trust and experience working together, looking for new opportunities for collective work with intention to build capacity and power beyond short-term campaigns. A bit more structured. Basic practices regarding planning, program, alliance design—at least by a few people—but processes still often informal or inconsistent. Scale of organizing may be somewhat limited and primarily responsive to immediate opportunities to win concrete change.

Level 3: Progressing Alliance. Clear analysis of structural injustice and inequities and commitment to work together over the long haul. More alliance-wide shared vision, values, and cross-member understanding. Increased clarity about membership roles with some investment in internal capacity-building and leadership development. Understanding of alliance niche in broader movement landscape and seeking partnership with other alliances and coalitions for increased impact. Higher level of stability, increased awareness of internal and external factors, and commitment to long-term planning. Moderate level of infrastructure in place.

Level 4: Strategic Alliance. Shared long-term vision and explicit commitment to bring about lasting systemic change. Diverse strategies and tactics aimed at transforming policies, institutions, culture, individual attitudes and behavior, and to reframe the larger public debate and social norms. Skills, resources, and infrastructure aligned with scope of goals and match alliance needs. Practices and policies are written, transparent, understood, and consistently implemented alliance-wide. Strategic and proactive planning, and commitment to shared power and leadership development at all levels. Visible commitment to movement building with active strategic partnerships with other alliances to scale up for broader impact.

Using the average responses across all areas, the assessment provides you with an overall level that reflects these typical phases of alliance development.

Q) Is the Our Healthy Alliance assessment filled out all online?

A) The Alliance Assessment lives on a user-friendly web platform.  Participants fill out the tool through our website which takes less than one hour.  If needed, participants have the option to fill out the assessment on a paper copy and have responses integrated into the overall results.

Q) Are individual’s assessment responses kept confidential? How?

A) Yes. Assessment data is summarized without names, and if quotes are shared they are not attributed by name but rather used to illustrate meaningful points. The auto-generated reports provide several controls to ensure that all responses and reports are anonymous.

Q) What is the Process: How do we know how to do this?

A) First off: You won’t be alone. You will be guided by a facilitator who has alliance experience and has received specific training on the OHA assessment.

Working with your facilitator, you’ll move through six basic phases.   While every assessment process is different, you can expect the experience to follow the general outline on the Taking the Assessment page.