Lessons from DELTA PREP Coalitions:

Insights about Building Organizational Prevention Capacity

Nineteen statewide domestic violence coalitions participated in the three-year DELTA PREP initiative during which they worked to build organizational capacity for primary prevention of intimate partner violence (IPV)- stopping this violence before it starts. Organizational capacity for primary prevention is defined as the integration of prevention priorities into the coalition’s infrastructure. This means making prevention a priority along with the coalition’s historic intervention work.

Each of the nineteen coalitions in the DELTA PREP project is unique. Each has a story to tell and information to share! Five DELTA PREP-funded coalitions agreed to share experiences and insights about their prevention capacity building efforts by participating in day-long site visits where board and staff members, member programs, and external partners engaged in intensive interviews:

  • Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Kentucky Domestic Violence Association
  • Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Texas Council on Family Violence

  • "We're never going to lessen the demand for intervention without prevention. The biggest surprise has been how ready everyone has been for prevention. There hasn't been anyone saying these are all the reasons why we cannot do this." Texas coalition leader
  • "There was not as much push back from board members as we had expected. We saw prevention as a way to bring fresh ideas for the future." Kentucky coalition board chair
  • "It's progressed faster than we'd imagined. Member programs have been enthusiastic about prevention, given they are overstretched and overburdened. People do not want to see as many people as they are serving. Our turn-away numbers are huge. Our shelters are running at overcapacity. There must be some glimmer of hope at the end. There must be something we can do to stop this." Missouri coalition staff
  • "Prevention feels like the light, the way out of this. I don't have the energy to keep doing the same thing." Iowa coalition leader
  • "It's felt easy." Indiana coalition leader

“You can't turn the Titanic around in the middle of the Mississippi in two minutes. It takes time and space. It's about bringing people with you.”
- Missouri coalition leader

Building Prevention Capacity is a Change Process:

It takes time!

For more than 30 years, state domestic violence coalitions have provided intervention services to survivors and have worked to assure appropriate victim response systems for them. The DELTA PREP coalitions found that integrating prevention into an infrastructure designed for intervention is a CHANGE PROCESS. Coalitions intentionally make different types of organizational changes over time within several organizational dimensions to better accommodate primary prevention work to address IPV before it occurs.

Each coalition experienced a unique journey; however among them a common change process unfolded over time, including five types of change. Some changes happened earlier, while others occurred later:

  1. Critical actions for change
  2. Readiness for change
  3. Structural change
  4. Practice change
  5. Functional change

Common Types of Organizational Changes for Building Coalition Prevention Capacity

1. What are CRITICAL ACTIONS for Starting to Build Coalition Prevention Capacity?

Creating the time and space to engage in an organizational change process is paramount. Coalitions undertake various actions for kick-starting the prevention change process:

  • questioning whether their current intervention strategies can end the problem;
  • dialoguing about whether and how the coalition should address prevention;
  • learning about what prevention is and how it differs from intervention;
  • establishing a planning team; assessing the coalition's current prevention capacity; and engaging in action planning.

QUESTIONING: Questioning and then recognizing that an intervention approach - responding to the problem by helping survivors and altering law enforcement and criminal justice systems - will not stop intimate partner violence is a critical first step.

  • A Kentucky coalition board leader, who also serves as executive director of a regional program, remembers a colleague asking her, "Our program has been taking care of victims of domestic violence for the past 20 years. What is your idea for ending domestic violence?" She has pondered that question for over 15 years and now has an answer. "Yes, we have been helping victims dealing with domestic violence...we've always been reactive. We’ve been hitting our heads against the wall. We've never really made an effort to end it. Prevention is that effort to end it. It’s time to be proactive."
  • An Indiana coalition leader recalls, "Clearly, when we saw our numbers weren't reducing... we weren't making any significant impact, even though we were adjusting and doing work within the systems, we (realized) that we had to get in front of the problem."
  • In 1996, an unusually high domestic violence death rate spurred Texas Council on Family Violence leaders to begin questioning, "What's happening in our state that we are not able to bring those numbers down? How are we ever going to end this?" A Texas coalition board member who also served as local program executive director observed troubling trends. "When our local agency started seeing the adult children coming back who were in the same situation as their moms, that's when we knew we had to do something. We can't continue to put a band aid on it. We have to stop it." Due to this questioning, board members became resolute to figure out how to stop domestic violence before it starts. "Somebody has got to stand up and say enough is enough. This is wrong. Let's change it."

“Sometimes there needs to be a storming stage before moving on.“
- Missouri coalition staff

“We dedicated time, space, and resources to have conversations.“
- Texas coalition leader

“It's important to be able to voice concerns without feeling you're against the whole thing.“
- Missouri coalition staff

“We had to get out of the office. It was as simple as that. If we stayed here, we'd get called back into our crisis-driven world.“
- Indiana coalition leader

Any significant organizational change process evokes concerns, disagreements, and emotional responses. An important early step is to create opportunities for meaningful, honest dialogue about whether the coalition should address prevention, the concerns or tradeoffs for readjusting how the coalition operates, and visioning about how this change process may happen.

Authentic dialoguing happens in safe environments.

Convening off-site retreats is one mechanism for creating time and space to engage in authentic dialogues about prevention.

Off-site retreats can accelerate the prevention change process in several ways:

  • Enables difficult conversations. The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association engaged board and staff members to "hash out some difficult things," such as the philosophical view reflected by the language used in reference to their work- would they be addressing violence against women, intimate partner violence, or domestic violence. We asked, 'What were we ready to let go of? What were we ready to compromise on?'" - Kentucky coalition leader

    Some staff members from the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence struggled about whether to expand their mission to work with everyone. "People listened to me and let me cry a little bit... I felt like I was heard and people trusted me, so I was able to let it go pretty quickly." - Iowa coalition leader
  • Provides opportunity for learning. The retreat was "fantastic! It enabled us (board members) to have time to learn more about the prevention concept and the ability ask a lot questions." - Indiana coalition board member
  • Unites board and staff members. The retreat "got staff and board members on the same page with the same vision (about prevention)." (Indiana coalition leader) "We do better when board and staff members work in collaboration. The retreat helped us collaborate." - Kentucky coalition leader
  • Facilitates board and staff members prevention "buy-in ". "If anyone was reluctant before they got there, they weren't by the time it was done. It energized us all." - Indiana coalition leader
  • Encourages big picture visioning. Kentucky Domestic Violence Association Board of Directors is comprised of executive directors from all 15 regional programs in Kentucky. "Most of us as executive directors have our heads down... blinders on.. plowing through day by day.. The retreat offered us a rare opportunity for planning... looking ahead and saying this is how we want to start this process." - Kentucky coalition board member

    For the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a major retreat activity was "Prevention Dreaming," where an outside consultant facilitated a brainstorming session that encouraged board and staff members to think outside the box about how the coalition could engage in prevention.

LEARNING: "We didn't know even how to begin. We just knew that we wanted to end it. We just started learning." - Texas coalition leader Before coalition leaders and staff members commit to an organizational change process, they first need to learn what prevention is, how it differs from intervention, and how prevention is done. Coalitions provided several types of learning opportunities for board and staff members. "We didn't know a lot about prevention because our worked focused on intervention, crisis management." - Texas coalition board member

  • Offering "Prevention 101" trainings during off-site retreats or standing board or staff meetings
  • Meeting one-on-one with board and staff members to tailor or customize prevention concepts
  • Bringing in charismatic prevention experts to share their insights and enthusiasm

PLANNING TEAM: Convening a small group to plan for and oversee a prevention capacity building process can be efficient and effective. Planning teams may be comprised of board and staff members or staff members only, but should include representatives from the spectrum of coalition programmatic and service domains that ensures "wisdom of many eyes." Although the team is responsible for planning work, creating structures for soliciting feedback from the broader coalition is desirable. "We can't do anything without asking everybody else." - Missouri coalition staff

Lastly, planning teams can be a powerful force for generating staff-driven innovative ideas. "Prevention is on their (staff) minds when given the opportunity to incorporate it." Iowa coalition leader

ACTION PLANNING and ASSESSMENT: At the start of the DELTA PREP initiative, participating state coalitions assessed their organizational prevention capacity by administering the Coalition Prevention Capacity Assessment and engaged in an action planning process. Previously, "we took a scattershot approach to prevention. Action planning gave us a structure to focus and prioritize our efforts. It helped us create time and space for planning." - Texas coalition leader

  • For the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the prevention dreaming session at the 2-day retreat generated a huge of list of prevention possibilities. "It was an overwhelming opportunity. Which thread do we pull?" The action planning process helped filter the possibilities into a more manageable process. It helped "organize a strategy out of the chaos of prevention dreaming. Action planning forces you to think strategically." - Indiana coalition staff
  • A Kentucky Domestic Violence Association leader credits the action planning process for helping the coalition get things done. "If you make the effort to write down what you want, then it happens." A Kentucky coalition board member compared action planning to work done every day with women in her shelter. "Think it through. Write it down. Verbalize it. That's what we do every day in our shelters. That's goal setting. We usually don't take the time as a coalition to do it for ourselves."
  • "The whole point of this was to do a cultural change in the organization. We didn't know how to do that without involving the organization. So, there was no way we could have done an action plan and tell everyone this is what you were doing." - Missouri coalition staff

2. When are Coalitions READY to Integrate Prevention into their Infrastructures?

Coalitions are more READY to successfully build prevention capacity when:

  • more than one leader serves as a "champion" for prevention;
  • leaders and staff members gain a common understanding of what prevention is and how it differs from intervention;
  • leaders and staff members are committed to integrating prevention into the coalition infrastructure. "We were ready for the next step in our organizational history. We were ready to do something different." Kentucky coalition leader

As with any change process, someone from within the organization must advocate or push for that change. When more than one leader -- board members and/or executive or associate directors – is a champion for prevention, it makes it easier to move forward in building prevention capacity.

  • At the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence both the executive director and a board member had been advocating for prevention over a couple of years. The executive director recalls the board member, "Pushing prevention at every (board) meeting," and repeating, "If we are going to make a difference, we really need to think about incorporating prevention into our work. He pushed gently, but did not stop pushing."
  • For the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, which has a membership-based board, a board member worked for years bringing prevention onto the coalition's radar screen. Her "involvement from the beginning has made all the difference. Having your board chair stand up at a board meeting and say, 'Prevention is where we are going', makes is easier to move forward." (Kentucky coalition leader) Both the executive and associate directors worked closely with the board chair to guide the coalition through the prevention change process.

“We've been doing stuff and know we know it is prevention. Or, we now understand what we thought was prevention was really education.”
- Texas coalition leader

“The more you learn (about prevention), the more you want to be involved.”
- Indiana coalition board chair

“To do this work, everyone must buy into prevention. Not having all the key players (board and staff leadership) on board could be the key to disaster. If key players aren't on board, you’ve still got work to do to make sure everyone is on the same page. I would say stop your process and work through this first.”
- Kentucky coalition board member

“Everyone has to buy into something different... to see that prevention can make the problem better. It then just becomes a piece of what you do.”
- Kentucky coalition leader

UNDERSTANDING: Before committing to a prevention change process, coalition leaders and staff need to arrive at a common prevention language and understanding.

The following may be important concepts for common understanding among board and staff:

  • Prevention occurs along a continuum from primary (stopping violence before it starts) to tertiary (responding to violence after it occurs to prevent future violence). "Even with someone who had a business background, a light bulb went off. (Primary) prevention made so much sense!" - Texas coalition leader
  • Raising awareness is only one component of primary prevention.
  • Primary prevention is comprehensive and encompasses social change and social justice concepts. "My growth was learning that prevention is more than education. Prevention is about social change and changing norms." - Texas coalition board member
  • Strategies exist for preventing violence before it starts such as engaging men and promoting healthy relationships. "I (was) the resident skeptic when it came to prevention. I spent years watching failed prevention programs like DARE. I was leery, but I believed in social change. I now understand that social change and prevention fit together. I'm on board." - Kentucky coalition leader

COMMITMENT: In order to fully engage in a prevention change process, coalition leaders and staff members must be committed to prevention - to believe that it's a viable strategy to stop violence before it starts and that it's worth re-tooling the coalition to do it.

  • To formalize their commitment, following a two-day retreat, all Kentucky Domestic Violence Association board and staff members signed a Proclamation for Prevention that states: "KDVA hereby declares that it is committed to making system changes to prevent the perpetration of intimate partner violence (IPV) by addressing social inequities and root causes of IPV. KDVA will make positive efforts to this effect by: recognizing the importance of primary IPV prevention as well as intervention; incorporating primary IPV prevention into the association's infrastructure; supporting KDVA's member programs in their efforts to build internal capacity for primary IPV prevention; and implementing primary IPV prevention activities throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky."
  • After the Texas Council on Family Violence's leaders began questioning how the coalition could stop domestic violence before it starts, the board of directors made a commitment to engage in a year-long process to "transform" the coalition to engage in both intervention and prevention. "It's a YES AND approach. YES, we will work to prevent domestic violence AND we will continue to provide services. " - Texas coalition leader

3. What STRUCTURAL Changes Integrate Prevention into Coalition Infrastructure?

Coalition governance and operational structures may be altered to support prevention by:

  • revising governance documents, such a mission statements and strategic plans;
  • modifying board of director organizational make-up to include standing prevention committees or designated prevention board member seats;
  • reconfiguring operations by creating prevention staff positions or establishing prevention departments.

GOVERNANCE DOCUMENTS: Prevention concepts can be incorporated into mission and vision statements and strategic plans.

Examples of Prevention-focused Mission Statements

"The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence works to eliminate domestic violence through the implementation of prevention programs including public education, advocacy for system and societal change, influencing public policy and allocation of resources. Until the violence is ended, ICADV works to promote, strengthen and provide quality comprehensive services for member programs and all individuals affected by domestic violence across the state."

"Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence seeks to engage all people in a movement to change the social and political systems that perpetuate violence against women. We do this through education, advocacy and quality victim services."

"The mission of Kentucky Domestic Violence Association is to end intimate partner violence, promote healthy relationships and engage communities through social change, economic empowerment, educational opportunities and other prevention strategies."

"Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working to end violence against women and their children through direct services, social and systematic change."

"Texas Council on Family Violence promotes safe and healthy relationships by supporting service providers, facilitating strategic prevention efforts, and creating opportunities for freedom from domestic violence."

Examples of Prevention-Focused Vision Statements

"Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence pursues a vision where all people engage in healthy relationships characterized by the mutual sharing of resources, responsibilities and affection; where youth are nurtured with those expectations; and where all people are supported within a society committed to equality in relationships and equity in opportunity as fundamental human rights."

"The future is simple: Every woman will be safe in her own home. No woman will fear the one she loves. Women and their children will be treated with dignity and respect. Communities will support healthy relationships and healthy sexuality" - Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Examples of Strategic Plans that Incorporate Prevention Goals and Objectives

  • The Indiana Coalition prevention goal is: "To establish a comprehensive prevention approach to Domestic Violence in Indiana." The plan lists four prevention-related strategies, such as "building ICADV prevention organizational capacity, supporting member programs' prevention organizational capacity, developing communication systems for prevention, and implementing prevention programs to reduce initial perpetration."
  • The Kentucky Coalition revised its strategic plan 2012 to include prevention activities, such as "secure prevention-specific grant funding for statewide projects, develop and maintain database/website of prevention activities in Kentucky, and develop a prevention project focusing on social change and teens."


  • The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence intentionally seeks to balance its board by recruiting new board members with expertise and experience in prevention work. In the past two years, ICADV has added a board member who coordinates a fatherhood initiative at the YMCA of Greater Des Moines and a college professor who directs a prevention institute.
  • The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence created a standing prevention seat on the Board of Directors to ensure at least one board member continues to serve as a prevention champion.
  • The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association established a standing board prevention committee. The purpose is to provide leadership and accountability for coalition prevention work. "The committee is a constant reminder that we have prevention work to do. It will keep prevention fresh by continuing to bring up new ideas."- Kentucky coalition leader The process began by convening an ad hoc committee that was charged with defining its purpose and operation. The Board then approved the standing committee and incorporated the change into the coalition’s by-laws.

OPERATIONS: The coalition re-structures its operations to better support prevention work by:

  • Establishing a prevention coordinator position. A designated coordinator can accelerate coalition prevention capacity building. "Without a dedicated staff person -- to bring us back to asking the right questions when we were designing new initiatives or messaging, we would not have made the progress in the time period that we did. We would have gone off in 60 different directors" - Iowa coalition leader "Before, everyone wanted to do the prevention work, but there was no coordination. Now, we have a coordinator to pull us all together and focus us." - Kentucky coalition leader. "Our staff members are generalists, but we hired a prevention specialist. In this case having a specialist gave the momentum to move quickly and efficiently because of her expertise and enthusiasm. - Missouri coalition leader.

Prevention coordinators carry out various tasks:

  • Convene planning efforts
  • Serve as a resource to other staff as they integrate prevention into their work
  • Develop training curricula and provide workshops to member programs
  • Conduct in-service training for staff and board
  • Keep coalition on track and accountable for prevention objectives
  • Generate and maintain enthusiasm for prevention by serving as a "cheerleader"
  • Challenge coalition board and staff members to reflect and revisit their approaches to ending violence
  • Create a prevention department. As part of its "transformational process," The Texas Council on Family Violence re-organized it operations into three departments: Support to Service Providers; Policy; and Prevention. The Prevention Department "supports the prevention efforts of local programs across the state and works to create an environment in Texas in which all can work collaboratively to stop domestic violence once and for all." - TCFV website

4. What PRACTICE Changes Integrate Prevention into Coalition Infrastructure?

Coalitions integrate prevention into how staff and board members do their work by:

  • endorsing a cross-training approach;
  • adding prevention concepts into orientation procedures for board and staff members;
  • altering staff job descriptions and annual work plans to include prevention objectives or activities;
  • incorporating standing prevention agenda items into regular board and staff meetings;
  • conducting regular in-service training for both staff and board members.


  • The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence values an "all hands on deck" approach, where staff have focus areas, but also overlap across coalition programmatic areas. "We don’t want ...only one person to know how to do something. Our accountant knows how to how balance our books, but she also knows how to handle a crisis call." - Missouri coalition leader This cross-training approach was applied when figuring out how to involve all staff in prevention work. "We don't want prevention to be an add- on. We asked each staff to ponder, 'how does prevention affect your job'? How will the Development Director, Publications Specialist, or Program Development Specialists incorporate prevention into their jobs?" - Missouri coalition leader
  • A Texas Council on Family Violence staff leader reports, "I would not think about offering a training without prevention. It's now an instinct."


  • The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence revised its orientation process by incorporating prevention concepts into written materials, conducting 2-hour "Prevention 101" training for new staff members, and meeting individually with new board members "to get them up to speed" on all prevention-related concepts and past activities.


  • The Texas Council on Family Violence's three department directors -- Support to Service Providers, Public Policy, and Prevention - are requested to incorporate prevention objectives and activities into their annual departmental work plans. The Prevention Department staff members are then appointed to support the prevention activities of the Support to Service Providers and Public Policy Departments.
  • The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence revised all staff member job descriptions to include elements of prevention. All changes were approved by the board. The Prevention Coordinator met individually with each staff member and reviewed his/her existing job description. Staff members were asked to reflect upon the prevention dreaming session at the retreat and identify how prevention work could fit within their existing job descriptions. The staff member and prevention coordinator then collaboratively revised his/her job description to include prevention. "It felt important for them to own it—not to force prevention on them." - Indiana coalition staff


  • Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers prevention-focused in-service training opportunities at least every 6 months for staff members and board members.
  • Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence encourages and supports all staff to attend prevention trainings -- regionally, nationally, or via webinar, and supports Green Dot trainings for staff and board members.

5. What FUNCTIONAL Changes Integrate Prevention into Coalition Infrastructure?

Coalitions integrate prevention objectives and activities across the spectrum of coalition programmatic and service domains rather than "silo-ing" prevention as a separate program. Functional domains include:

  • development
  • communications
  • public policy
  • member programs
  • partnerships

Functional changes are influenced by earlier organizational changes such as convening a planning team comprised of representatives across the coalition domains; engaging staff members in action planning; hiring a prevention coordinator to support desired functional changes; altering job descriptions and annual work plans to include prevention; and incorporating prevention agenda items into standing meetings.

The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence makes use of a scrambled egg analogy for integrating prevention across its functional domains. "We looked at our organizational chart and asked, 'Where does it (prevention) go?' The executive director is the mother ship and these eggs shoot off that reflect individual projects. We asked, 'Is prevention another egg?' We realized prevention needs to be ubiquitous and a part of all our actions. We need to scramble the egg. Prevention is a movement; it is fueled by our passions. A movement cannot be a project. It takes all of us. If we were going to get others into the state to buy into this work (prevention), then we each had to embrace it."

DEVELOPMENT: Coalitions weave prevention into resource development or fundraising plans and actions.

  • Allocate operating funds. If external resources are unable to cover the prevention coordinator salary and benefits, coalitions expend operating funds to cover the funding gap.
  • Seek prevention-related grants. Coalitions actively research and pursue a variety of grants to fund prevention efforts and have succeeded in being awarded grants from: Missouri Foundation for Health, NOVO Foundation, RGK Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, SCORE Foundation, Federal Office of Women's Health, and Verizon Foundation.
  • Incorporate prevention into existing contracts. Coalitions proactively incorporate prevention objectives/activities into existing state and federal domestic violence contracts by building relationships with grant administrators, making the case for incorporating prevention, and demonstrating success. This financial arrangement enables some consistent level of funding and allows coalitions to be nimble when needed.
  • Make use of federal service volunteer programs. The Kentucky coalition hired its first prevention coordinator through a VISTA volunteer position, while the Iowa coalition hired an AmeriCorps volunteer as its prevention coordinator. Both positions were full-time and the costs of the positions were greatly subsidized by these federal service programs.
  • Recruit college interns. Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence relies upon college student interns to carry out prevention projects, such as developing a social marketing campaign, facilitating 10-week healthy relationship class with at-risk youth, and conducting in-depth prevention readiness assessments with member programs. The coalition staff and board members (especially those who are alumni) intentionally developed relationships with professors at more than six local public and private colleges to create regular internship opportunities. The coalition prevention coordinator creates meaningful projects for students, provides comprehensive training, and serves as a mentor to make sure that students’ experiences are worthwhile and that quality prevention activities are delivered. "I could not have accomplished the quantity of work they (interns) accomplished. It takes staff time up front, but the pay-off is worth it." - Iowa coalition staff
  • Collaborate with partners. Coalition leaders strategize with sister sexual assault coalitions and other statewide partners to pool resources to carry out projects of mutual interest.

COMMUNICATIONS: Coalitions create and incorporate prevention messages into various communication materials and channels.

  • The Texas Council on Family Violence created a Go Purple theme that "reconsiders and recasts the conversation around family violence where it doesn't happen and inspires Texans to view a future without violence." Go Purple is highlighted in the coalition's annual report Honoring Texas Victims: Family Violence Victims in 2010. The report displays a map of Texas and highlights counties in purple where no domestic violence murders occurred in 2010 and counties in white where murders occurred. The tag line is: "We want all Texas to Go Purple."
  • Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence developed a prevention tagline or elevator speech. The process of drafting it "got everyone on the same page" and created a common language among staff.
    • "Domestic and sexual violence are preventable public health issues. Through environmental, social, and systemic change, domestic and sexual violence can be stopped before it starts. Primary prevention, preventing first time perpetration, targets perpetrator’s actions to prevent victimization. Primary prevention does not focus on the victim's behavior. Reducing one's risk for victimization is called risk reduction and does not hold perpetrators and batterers accountable. Prevention is part of MCADSV's comprehensive approach to domestic and sexual violence with victim services, systems advocacy and awareness."
  • Other common ways to communicate prevention:
    • Expand website to highlight coalition prevention work and provide resources
    • Create prevention-related materials such as fact sheets, resource lists, newsletters, and brochures. For example, the Texas Council on Family Violence drafted, Our Commitment to Prevention in Texas, a 6 page summary of TCFV's prevention strategies and resources.
    • Incorporate consistent prevention messages into all existing coalition materials, such as newsletters, fact sheets, guidebooks
    • Weave healthy relationship messages into Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month materials
    • Create prevention-related social media, such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook

PUBLIC POLICY: Like most statewide coalitions, Texas Council on Family Violence adheres to a formal and comprehensive process for setting its legislative agendas spearheaded by the coalition’s Policy Director and a 28-member policy committee. Historically, legislative items focused on intervention or victim services items, however the Texas coalition now routinely includes prevention concepts in its bi-annual legislative agendas, advocating for passage and then, if enacted, pushes for full implementation.1

In the 2010-2011 legislative cycle, Texas Council on Family Violence had a policy agenda that included three prevention concepts that were approved by its Board of Directors. In 2011, one prevention bill was enacted into law, SB 736, which amended an existing statute to provide domestic violence service providers with the opportunity to include dating violence prevention into the existing health curriculum.

MEMBER PROGRAMS: Statewide coalitions help build their member programs' organizational capacity for prevention through a variety of strategies.

  • Model prevention capacity-building. As a local DV program executive director, "I watched the coalition commit to prevention by creating a prevention department and putting it into staff positions. I went back and put prevention into all my staff positions." - Texas coalition board member and local program ED.
  • Listen to and learn about member programs' needs for developing prevention capacity. Kentucky Domestic Violence Association’s prevention coordinator met on-site with all 15 local programs to gain a better understanding of their current prevention work and what they needed to move forward. Other coalitions conducted surveys of member program executive directors and/or prevention specialists. Both the Kentucky and Indiana coalitions use information from assessments to develop statewide maps depicting where and what prevention activities are happening across their states.
  • Include prevention services into statewide contracts with local domestic violence programs. On behalf of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association serves as a pass-through for state and federal dollars to 15 regional programs. For Fiscal Year 2011, statewide contracts with regional programs were amended to mandate that regional domestic violence programs must provide prevention services.
  • Incorporate prevention into member program certification and standards. While updating certification standards, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence seized the opportunity to incorporate prevention concepts into both the Iowa Domestic Abuse Advocate Certification Program and the Iowa Office of Attorney General's standards for local domestic violence programs. For both processes, the Iowa DV coalition convened committees comprised of member programs, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Iowa Department of Public Health, and other partners to provide input into the prevention certification and standards. The Iowa coalition’s membership has officially passed the updated standards for member programs, including both a core services document and a more detailed breakdown of standards. There is now a new prevention section in the coalition’s Services Delivery Standards for Member Programs.
  • Require prevention activities to be included in VISTA assignment descriptions for local programs. As part of its VISTA grant, the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association allocates ten cost-sharing VISTA volunteer positions to local programs who must develop a VISTA assignment description specifying types of capacity-building activities to be carried out by volunteers. The Kentucky coalition now requires that VISTA assignment descriptions include prevention components.
  • Offer a variety of discrete prevention resources to all member programs, such as materials, trainings, conferences, or brief technical assistance consultation. Member programs select which resources to use.
  • Integrate prevention concepts into core advocate/service training.
    • Incorporate prevention workshops, pre-institute trainings, and plenary sessions into statewide annual conferences.
    • Host series of prevention-related webinars.
    • Expand resource centers to include literature on prevention best practices.
    • Initiate and maintain a statewide "Preventionist" electronic listserv to facilitate ideas, exchange information, and foster relationships around prevention.
    • Incorporate prevention topics into monthly or quarterly newsletters.
    • Recommend desired qualifications for prevention specialists.
    • Create a brochure describing characteristics of successful prevention programs.
    • Offer prevention technical assistance when requested.

The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition and Texas Council on Family Violence designed comprehensive capacity-building initiatives targeting a sub-set (10 or 11) of their member programs over a period of 12 to 18 months.

Coalitions designed these initiatives to: build local program prevention capacity; connect isolated prevention workers with their peers; foster regional prevention networks, and offer more proactive technical assistance. "We expect workers who do not have a lot of prevention experience to run this marathon alone. Our goal was to build the prevention muscle for the State of Texas. We can't do it on our own." - Texas coalition staff  "How do you call for TA (for prevention) when you don't know what the questions are or what our coalition can offer? You don't know what you don't know." - Texas coalition leader

Several common elements informed these initiatives.

  • Require application process. Applications were used to screen for readiness to engage in prevention and participate fully within the initiative. "The application process weeded out people who were not invested." - Texas coalition participant
  • Assess prevention readiness and needs. The Iowa coalition conducted an in-depth readiness assessment for each member program that was informed by the Tri-Ethnic Centers Readiness Model and implemented by trained college student interns. Each participating program received a detailed report. The Missouri coalition administered pre-and-post prevention capacity assessments to participating programs.
  • Facilitate peer-to-peer learning. The Texas coalition centered its initiative around the concept of community of practice where key prevention practitioners from across the state are brought together to share and learn from each other. Communal learning is encouraged by hosting 2-day, in-person meetings twice a year. These face-to-face meetings allowed participants to build relationships, learn from each other, problem-solve, and share resources. Participants also connected via quarterly telephone calls between the in-person meetings. The Missouri coalition convened full-day, in-person meetings every other month, where members received lunch and were reimbursed for mileage. The Iowa coalition convened a wrap-up all day workshop where participants shared posters about their prevention successes. Peer-to-peer support was identified as one of the most valuable aspects by participants. "It was a relief to have other people speak about the struggles they were having." "Hearing what everyone is going through, what's working for other people, and just having a sounding board was extremely helpful." - Texas coalition participants.
  • Provide on-site, individualized technical support. Participating programs were encouraged to develop action plans for prevention. Coalitions provided templates and facilitated on-site meetings to deliver tailored support, as well as follow-up telephone calls. One participant recounts, "We were struggling how to get schools to adopt a multi-dosage program. It was helpful for (the Texas coalition) to walk us through an action planning process to identify what we needed to do." In addition to action planning, Texas provided wellness consultation on self-care and other strategies for keeping prevention staff healthy. "It helped me put the work I do in a framework - not to save the world, but scale back the work. It helped me do the work that is safer for me as well." - Texas coalition participant.

PARTNERSHIPS: Coalitions build upon existing and/or forge new relationships with statewide partners to accelerate prevention work across the state and within communities.

Expand upon existing partnerships for integrating domestic violence and sexual assault prevention. "At the end of our statewide sexual assault plan planning process, we realized we cannot keep these sexual violence and domestic violence silos. (We focus) on common risk and protective factors and target the same populations." - Iowa DEPT. of Public Health representative

"It only makes sense for us to work together." - Indiana coalition staff

Here are some examples of how both the Iowa and Indiana coalitions against domestic violence are expanding existing relationships with their sister sexual assault coalitions and state health departments to "break down silos" and integrate statewide efforts around domestic violence and sexual violence:

  • Begin relationship-building by collaborating on sexual assault issues. Both the Iowa and Indiana DV coalitions actively participate on statewide SV prevention planning committees spearheaded by the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) grant via their state departments of public health.
  • Create structures for dialoguing about integration. "How do we effectively dismantle silos, but preserve the uniqueness of each issue?" - Indiana coalition staff  The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence established a prevention committee with the purpose to expand DV prevention efforts by recruiting the Department of Public Health, their sister sexual assault coalition, Start Strong Indy, and the Domestic Violence Network, among others. Rather than having two statewide prevention committees and plans, the committee is pursuing the objectives of; 1) expanding upon the existing Statewide Sexual Assault Prevention Council to include DV; and 2) incorporating DV into the existing Statewide Sexual Assault Prevention Plan.
  • Start taking actions to break down silos. "Our local programs want us (statewide coalitions) to work together." - Iowa Coalition staff  Iowa's coalitions against domestic violence and sexual violence and the state department of public health have collaborated on:
    • Creating parallel prevention certification and standards for DV and SV. When Iowa's certification and standards were being updated for DV local programs, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Iowa DPH helped revise them. The DV standards and certification were then used to inform revisions to Sexual Assault program certification and standards.
    • Creating common prevention materials to be distributed to both DV and SV local programs.
    • Establishing a common prevention specialist certification applicable for both SV and DV advocates.
    • Offering cross-training opportunities for DV and SV advocates to meet their certifications.
    • Convening a Midwest regional prevention meeting that included participation from both DV and SV statewide coalitions and local programs.

Expand upon existing partnerships to reach young girls around by-stander prevention. Both the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association have collaborated with partners to adapt Green Dot, a bystander prevention program originally designed for college students, for use with elementary and middle school aged students.

The Kentucky coalition is partnering with the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana and Girl Scouts of Kentucky's Wilderness Road to create a Green Dot/Girl Scout curriculum and patch to be offered to local troops.

Factors that influenced this successful partnership:

  • Build upon existing relationships. The Kentucky coalition had worked previously with both key partners in this initiative: Green Dot, etc. and the Kentucky Girl Scout organizations. The coalition had an existing relationship with Green Dot program developer, Dr. Dorothy Edwards, offering Green Dot training and serving as fiscal agent for one of her organization’s Department of Justice grants. As for the Girl Scouts, some local troops and domestic violence programs have collaborated on projects such as the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program which brings incarcerated mothers and their daughters together; teen leadership councils; and service projects such as painting DV shelters. The Kentucky coalition board chair had worked for Girl Scouts after college, and her regional domestic violence program had collaborated with local troops, so she was able to initiate a discussion with Girls Scouts around a Green Dot collaboration.
  • Focus on common objectives: "We don't want your girls (Girl Scouts) to become our girls (domestic violence victims)." Kentucky coalition leader. The mission of Girl Scouts is to: "build girls of courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place" (Girl Scout website) Green Dot was viewed as "the opportunity for Girl Scouts to take a stand on such an issue (domestic violence) that is so integral to our girls and our communities. It empowers... every girl to become an active by-stander, where every person can make a difference." - Girls Scout Executive Director. The Kentucky coalition viewed the partnership as a mechanism that does not solely rely on schools in order to reach young girls with prevention education.
  • Formalize partnership: After several meetings, the Kentucky coalition and the Girls Scout organizations formalized their partnership by signing and publicizing a Memorandum of Understanding which reads: "The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, The Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, and the Girl Scouts of Kentucky's Wilderness Road announce an historic collaboration to promote self-esteem and healthy relationships for girls. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. Together, our organizations will encourage girls and volunteers to engage their communities in violence prevention through education, awareness, and skills building."
  • Be flexible when adapting a model: Green Dot was originally designed for college students with some adaptation for high school students. Both the Kentucky coalition and the Girl Scouts were concerned about how the model could be adapted for elementary age students. The Green Dot Institute’s willingness and "ability to break up the message and work with us to make it age-appropriate, in terms of language and communication, for our girls" was a big selling point. - Girl Scout Executive Director
  • Encourage participation from local programs: The Kentucky coalition is conducting multiple trainings across the state for regional domestic violence programs so they can provide technical support to, and build partnerships with, local girl scouts troops as they implement the Green Dot/Girl Scout curriculum.

TEXAS: Forging new partnerships for encouraging positive masculine norms among young male athletes.

The Texas Council on Family Violence prevention efforts focus on places where Texans live, play, work, and worship. For many Texans, football is where they live and play, so one of the coalition’s prevention strategies is engaging young male athletes about healthy relationships. The Texas coalition has partnered with the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA), a membership organization of more than 20,000 high school coaches across Texas, to integrate Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM) into their coaching practices. Developed by Futures without Violence, CBIM is a coach’s leadership program to mentor young male athletes to practice respect towards themselves and others, especially girls.
"Coaches play a key role in the lives of many young men, often serving as a parent or mentor to the boys they coach. Because of these special relationships, coaches are poised to positively influence how young men think and behave both on and off the field. From speeches to the team, practice sessions, or simple casual conversations, coaches have many opportunities to impart their philosophies upon their athletes." -CBIM website

Factors influencing this successful partnership:

  • Build upon existing relationships to launch new partnerships. Through its intervention work, TCFV had established a relationship with Jason Witten, a well-known Dallas Cowboys football player and founder of the SCORE Foundation, who appeared in several domestic violence services announcements. Growing from this intervention collaboration, the SCORE Foundation awarded funding for TCFV to begin its prevention work with male athletes.
  • Seek smaller scale successes before expanding statewide. From the SCORE Foundation grant, TCFV and Safe Haven (a local program) successfully implemented a pilot of CBIM in six Tarrant County schools, building the Texas coalition’s confidence, capacity, and vision for approaching THSCA and expanding CBIM statewide. The pilot also allowed the Texas coalition to develop a strong partnership with Futures Without Violence.
  • Focus on common objectives. Although Texas Council on Family Violence and Texas High School Coaches Association serve constituents working in dissimilar settings on different topics, they quickly identified their common ground -- facilitating the healthy development of young athletes. For the coalition, the partnership brought a mechanism for implementing CBIM statewide. For the coaches association, the partnership brought a "playbook" to help coaches develop character of their athletes. The Association’s mission is "to help and serve our Texas high school coaches as they work to help and serve our student athletes." (THSCA website) Character development of athletes is a major aspiration for the coaching profession. "Our main job as coaches is not teaching the X’s and O’s... the essence of coaching is helping them (athletes) to become better people. If we can develop better men, then automatically they will become better athletes. Their (the Texas coalition) goals... and ours (coaches association) seemed to mesh real well. Coaching Boys into Men is a perfect fit for us. It's a perfect window to get to young folks in Texas. Coaches have a lot of influential power in their communities. Through the coaching profession, we can change some of these social issues... including dating violence. " - Texas High School Coaching Association leader
  • Formalize partnership: The coaches association agreed to convene an advisory committee comprised of eight regional board members to work closely with the Texas DV coalition in adopting the model to fit within the typical coaching situations, pilot-testing it, and then promoting its adoption among members.
  • Be flexible when adapting a model: Futures Without Violence, the designers of CBIM, helps the partners adapt the model to better accommodate Texas unique coaching situations. "We're working to make CBIM workable for the coach that has enough flexibility and something that the coaches can do. If they can have ownership, then I think it is something that can be used." Texas High School Coaching Association leader
  • Encourage participation from local programs: TCFV trains local DV programs on CBIM, so that they can partner with local coaches and support their implementation efforts.

What Challenges Do Coalitions Face When Building Prevention Capacity?

During prevention change processes, coalitions experienced several common challenges:

  • Diverting from intervention to make room for prevention.
  • Finding ways to fund prevention efforts.
  • Balancing a gender neutral public health approach with a historical gender analysis approach.
  • Grasping public health prevention concepts and translating into a "shelter language."
  • Meshing intervention and prevention work cultures.

Diverting from Intervention. When contemplating prevention, an early concern was that prevention would divert coalitions from their historical intervention mission. Some coalition board and staff members were fearful that "Prevention will take away from victim services. It will divert us from our main work. How are we going to fit this in with what we are already doing?" During initial dialogues about prevention, one coalition decided to close a clinic, due to lack of resources. "This was really hard because we had 900 cases that still needed assistance and people were losing their jobs." One coalition was awarded a relatively large prevention grant. Staff members questioned, "Why are we going to put all this money into a social marketing campaign when our local programs are struggling to keep their doors open?"

Funding Prevention. Even when coalition board and staff members were supportive of integrating prevention, concerns were raised about how to fund it. Federal and state resources to support intervention services, although limited, were available. Coalitions were less aware of resources for prevention. One coalition executive director recalls, “It (prevention) was a hard sell to some of our members years ago because we were focused on intervention...a band aid approach. How do we sell prevention as the shiny new thing, when we don't have enough beds in our state? During these early conversations, a statewide Prevent Child Abuse organization closed its doors because it couldn't get enough prevention dollars. "That was a really hard thing for us to swallow. If we can't get people on board to prevent child abuse, then how are we going to get people on board to prevent domestic violence?"

Balancing gender neutral and gender analysis approaches. A gender analysis approach undergirds many coalitions' philosophical approaches; violence against women is about power and control and gender inequality. A public health approach tends to be more gender neutral and uses the term "intimate partner violence". As they began dialoguing about prevention, coalition staff members differed on whether to maintain current gender analysis frame or move to a more gender neutral approach.

One prevention coordinator recounts important gender dialogues before "we get ahead of ourselves”. Gender analysis is a political element necessary for our history; it's standing with and for victims. Prevention is like fresh air. But, we have been open and critical as we see what it means for us and what does not work for us. We ask, 'How do we incorporate the public health model? How do we integrate prevention into a feminist model? How can we be most effective in our prevention and stay true to our roots as a movement? We want to be both."

A long-time coalition executive director was concerned about becoming gender neutral when revising the mission statement. "Are we going to talk about intimate partner violence or violence against women? When violence against women is neutralized, it removes our historical roots, our connection to the social change movement. It moves the discussion away from power and control and gender inequality." Staff members had mixed feelings, and the decision was made to use the term intimate partner violence. "It makes sense. It's where we need to go, but I mourn its passing."

Another coalition executive director recalls, "Dialoguing about changing our mission was scary. I never wanted to change our mission to serve everyone. I had worked my whole life to serve women. We have a huge commitment to all battered women who came before us. We owed it to our sisterhood to stay strong." It was more challenging for staff members who had worked in shelters to move to a gender neutral approach because they "saw faces of women going across our eyes."

Grasping prevention concepts. Many coalition board and staff members, as well as local programs, struggled to understand what prevention is, how it differs from intervention or raising awareness, and how prevention work is done. Central to this challenge was learning a new language ---terms like public health model, social-ecological framework, types of prevention (primary, secondary, tertiary), and risk and protective factors -- and then translating these terms into "shelter language." As one local program staff member reports, "My agency had no idea what prevention was. They only knew it was the wave of the future."

A coalition staff member who worked for over a decade at a local program performing both intervention and prevention work recalls, "I still didn't get it. (While doing prevention at a local program), I hadn't fully actualized the paradigm shift. I understood the values, but I was still largely at the awareness-raising level." Similar challenges existed for board members. "As a non-practitioner, prevention is so abstract... The challenge was understanding what prevention is. How do we do prevention? What does it look like? What are the outcomes?"

Another coalition staff member recounts, "(When) I was a prosecutor, I thought I was doing prevention. I've now learned intervention is NOT prevention, but it was hard to grasp. It's like doing mental gymnastics. Now when I give talks around the state to prosecutors and police officers about our coalition and domestic violence, I always include prevention by talking about protective and risk factors."

Meshing intervention and prevention work cultures. Many coalition staff members have experience working directly with survivors or agencies that serve them. These situations and settings tend to be crisis-driven and response-focused. Transitioning from the "immediacy of response" work to the more long-term "strategic thinking" of prevention change can be challenging. As one coalition board chair and regional program executive director states, "We are doers, not planners." A coalition prevention coordinator recounts, "A long history of intervention drives you to prevention. But intervention thinking is so different from prevention thinking. It's not just new information, but a very different way of thinking and operating. You don't jump in and “do.” You must take the time and space to respect learning, planning, and thinking. It's emotionally different (too); you're not connected to victims day in and day out. When you're grounded in immediacy of response, you cannot think about strategic long-term. It's hard to make that shift when you're used to answering the phone or driving folks to the hospital."

Another challenge can be "managing the energy" among intervention and prevention staff. A coalition staff member describes what it feels like to do response work. "We've been busy pulling people out of the water for so long. We are tired and maybe we aren't the ones to go upstream. We do need to build a bridge (to stop people falling into the water), but that's going to take a long time." A coalition associate director notes possible tensions: "There's a different energy with prevention folks. They are enthusiastic ... not as jaded, not as burned out. This can be scary at times because it's going to make you change what your daily is when you already feel that you can't keep up."

Author: Ronda Zakocs, PhD, MPH, Insight Evaluation, LLC, in collaboration with the DELTA PREP project team. Support was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in cooperation with the CDC Foundation.

1No federal funds supported the legislative advocacy or lobbying activity described here.