Building Capacity

An infrastructure at institutions of higher education (IHEs) and surrounding communities must be in place to sustain programs and coalitions for supporting safe, supportive learning environments. Developing or strengthening infrastructure is part of building organizational capacity.

Prevention work on campus and in surrounding communities to address problems related to alcohol and other drug use and violence and maintain safe and supportive learning environments is best facilitated by a campus and community coalition (NIAAA 2002). The main purpose of these coalitions is to build capacity to direct and oversee the design and execution of a strategic plan. Sustaining a coalition also depends on improving organizational capacity to effect change through focused collaboration.

Coalitions and statewide initiatives are critical for developing capacity to reduce problems related to alcohol and other drug use and improving student success.

Research and best practices indicate that the most effective programs are campuswide efforts that involve as many parts of the college as possible, including administrators, staff, faculty, and students. Building coalitions with local community leaders and at the state level also is critical. The U.S. Department of Education has supported college administrators, state officials, and community leaders in forming campus and community coalitions and taking an environmental approach to prevention. 

Presidential leadership and strong support from top campus affairs administrator is an important factor in capacity building and student success.

As a school's chief executive officer, educational leader, and public spokesperson, college and university presidents are expected to set priorities, serve as catalysts for new programs, and communicate concern about issues compromising the educational environment.

Training for change agents provides support for effective coalition building.

The U.S. Department of Education has developed training and technical assistance resources designed to facilitate the growth and development of campus, community, and statewide efforts to prevent abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Training resources offer participants content knowledge and skill-building opportunities aimed at reducing high-risk and illegal alcohol and other drug use, violence, and the attendant consequences of such behaviors.

Sustaining momentum for change and widespread support for new programs and policies requires collaboration and communication.

Communication strategies are an important component of capacity building. Raising public awareness of problems and proposed solutions leads to greater collaboration on campus and within the surrounding community. The strategic use of media and communication strategies can be instrumental in community organizing and mobilization through coalition building.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (2002). A call to action: Changing the culture of drinking at U.S. colleges. Retrieved from


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