The literature review and conceptual model has broader implications for policy. Policymakers may use the findings from this study to develop standards for sustainability planning across programs and projects. Currently, some programs require grantees to develop a sustainability plan that describes their sustainability strategies prior to being funded. However, other programs do not require grantees to document their sustainability strategies. Policymakers at the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies may be interested in developing standardized sustainability planning tools to track the sustainability actions of grantees and to monitor the progress of the programs. The conceptual model can be used to develop the criteria for these tools.
Policymakers can also use the conceptual model to set realistic and measurable expectations of sustainability post-funding. Given the internal dynamics of coalitions, the changing economic landscape, and other contextual factors, achieving sustainability can be a great challenge. In the conceptual model, sustained coalitions must maintain an alliance of three or more organizations and a commitment to addressing the original goals for which they were federally funded. Many coalitions will not be able to satisfy both of these conditions. The model helps policymakers understand that there are a variety of factors that affect sustainability, and that even coalitions that have not been sustained may have made valuable contributions to their communities.
Finally, many federal programs assume that community coalitions and their activities should be sustained after the grant period in the absence of federal funding. However, policymakers should consider whether there is a role for the federal government in sustaining community coalitions. In a down economy, federal funding may enable coalitions to sustain themselves until it is possible to secure new funds. Policymakers may wish to allocate continuation funds to community coalitions that have the highest potential for long-term survival or those that are creating the greatest impact in their communities. The conceptual model can be used to identify community coalitions with the greatest potential for success.