• [community participation;
  • community networks;
  • public–private sector partnerships]

This article explores motivation for coalition participation alongside perceptions of diversity of participation as revealed through observation and interviews with members and leaders of five grant-inspired community-based public health coalitions in Kentucky and in Florida. Coalition members and former members were asked about the expectations that led to their initial coalition participation, as well as about expectations for ongoing participation as coalition goals and outcomes have become more, or less, clear. Roads to coalition membership were found to be largely a function of existing professional networks, and thus a challenge to diverse participation. There is remarkable similarity by sector (e.g., social services sector, business sector), however, in factors promoting ongoing coalition participation. These factors include knowledge of coalition goals, benefit to self, agency or business, and effective leadership. These commonalities might be used to promote diverse coalition membership. Members and former members were also asked to share their thoughts on the diversity of their coalition's membership, noting possible reasons for membership omissions. These reasons reveal patterns of perceived apathy and frustration with coalition effectiveness, but also effective strategies for maximizing diversity of coalition participation. The article concludes with suggested expansions to Community Coalition Action Theory and a discussion of avenues for anthropological support of coalition practice.