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Capacity Building

Prevention Best Practices

Explore County Data

Wyoming Overview

Capacity is all about readiness and resources. Does a community have what they need to implement effective prevention efforts? There are many important facets or key ingredients for prevention capacity, and building capacity around each of these looks different in every community.

Key Ingredients for Prevention Capacity


(Key Components: knowledge, skills, experience, social validity) Successful implementation requires staff, leaders, and coalition members who are familiar with prevention and have received training in the evolving aspects of prevention including the public health approach and the strategic prevention framework. Individuals should also possess management, facilitation, and personal and professional skills, and have experience in their field and positions. Additionally, they should understand the unique cultural characteristics of their community and have a willingness and ability to embrace those cultural differences.


(Key Components: people, funding, space, time, access) Resources are the infrastructure of program implementation. All successful prevention programs require adequate monetary resources, staff, physical space, time, and connections with the served community. In addition, a thorough knowledge of and relationship with the various aspects of the local prevention infrastructure must be developed.

Effective Communication

(Key Components: internal and external communication) Regular exchange of information and data is critical, both internally within the various segments of the organization and externally between the coalition and the multitude of community sectors involved in prevention efforts.

Community Engagement

(Key Components: shared vision, diverse and inclusive representation) Broad and diverse representation from the community is key to successful prevention implementation. To effectively engage the community, the coalition must ensure that all members involved feel included in the process. This inclusion starts when the coalition shares a vision and when members have defined roles and a voice in the process. It is also important that coalition members have an understanding of the needs of the community gained through their involvement in different segments.

Active Leadership

(Key Components: involvement, commitment to prevention) Active leaders are personally committed to achieving prevention goals in their communities. They are able to articulate and share a vision in a way that inspires others to follow, they have the knowledge and commitment to pursue their prevention goals, and they have the skills to communicate their vision to stakeholders. Active leaders are also able to negotiate and coordinate conflicting interests between the coalition and community and/or business leaders while prioritizing their prevention aims.

Readiness for Change

(Key Components: community climate, history of effectiveness) Positive change in prevention communities is unlikely to occur unless the community is ready. The best indicator of readiness is a past record of successful prevention implementation. Communities that are open to new ideas and that have a commitment to tackle prevention issues may be ready too. Additionally, prevention communities with strong connections among stakeholders and implementing organizations are better positioned to tackle prevention changes.


(Key Components: buy-in, training) Project funders and stakeholders want to see programs continue and improve. Project sustainability is more likely when the project strategies match the needs of the community and when staff, leaders, and community members are invested in the process, receive ongoing training, and institutionalize the knowledge gained and efforts put forth during the project.

Strategies for Building Prevention Capacity

By building capacity, a community increases its ability and readiness to implement prevention activities.  Below are three strategies to help communities build capacity.

  1. Engage diverse community stakeholders
    • Know the people that need to be a part of the project. This could be health care providers, community members, law enforcement, educators, etc.
    • Think outside the box when it comes to engaging and including the right people. Who isn’t at the table that should be included?
    • Talk about the work the coalition is doing within relationships in your life, and encourage coalition members to do the same
    • Relationships, relationships, relationships
  2. Develop and strengthen a prevention team
    • Your prevention team must understand what they are working to prevent: know the data you need, the gaps in your data and what your data means
    • Make sure everyone on your team is versed in prevention science and the process
    • Respect the passion and purpose of each team member
    • Your team may change as trends and needs in your community change
  3. Raise community awareness about the issue
    • Once your team/coalition understands prevention and the issues, let the community know you exist
    • If the community doesn’t know who you are, they can’t get involved
    • Give the community opportunities to be involved and to learn about the issues, be creative in this because everyone wants to be involved in a different way

Strategies for Maintaining Coalition Vitality

Every coalition experiences ebbs and flows throughout its existence.  Below are some strategies for enhancing the cohesion of a coalition, inviting new ideas, and sharing success.

  • Addressing coalition difficulties or coalition doldrums
  • Sharing the power and leadership
    • A coalition with shared leadership can experience increased accountability and buy-in from its members.  Below are some thoughts to consider:
      • Is it time to elect a chairperson? By electing a chairperson, a coalition can encourage input from its members and facilitate trust in its leadership. An effective chairperson will build upon the strengths of its team members, ensure the coalition operates effectively, and act as a spokesperson.
      • Are subcommittees or action groups something you need instead of regular coalition meetings? Subcommittees can allow a smaller group of people to work directly on something they are passionate about, increasing the capacity of what the coalition can achieve. If this is true, it may be worthwhile to consider quarterly coalition meetings with subcommittees meeting in between those dates.
      • Try working through the steps in the Sustainability Workbook. This will help establish the groundwork for an effective coalition to work for years to come.
  • Recruiting and involving new members (Build a comprehensive communication plan)
    • With new members comes new ideas, energy, and enthusiasm. Try creating an organizational message or building a communication plan for your coalition to increase involvement.
    • Materials
    • You could create a communication group that works on creating your message.
      • Creating a Trello site might be a fun way to work together.
  • Promoting renewal by providing training and by bringing challenging, exciting new issues to the group
    • Bringing new knowledge or skills to a group can reinvigorate motivation and interest among the coalition.  Below are some training ideas that could spark some interest:
      • Do a SAPST review. These slides are a review and great for reminding coalitions how to do the work.
      • Community agencies can come present on their strategies or new things they have going.
  • Celebrating and sharing successes
    • Have the coalition write down all successes, big and small and talk about those successes and ask each other how to have more. Do something different than a regular meeting to celebrate your successes.

Links to Capacity Resources


SAMHSA: Strategic Prevention Framework

Coalitions Work: Resources

Prevention Institute: Developing Effective Coalitions [PDF]