What is Faith Based Social Action?
Faith based social action happens when people of faith work together, often with others outside their faith community, in order to achieve real and positive change within their local community, or in wider society.
It springs from the application of spiritual principles, for the betterment of society and the improvement of people’s lives.
Faith based social action takes many forms
- work with families and children
- work with the elderly
- education and training
- skills development and employment
- community cafes and drop-in centres
- work with the homeless and other vulnerable and marginalised groups
- prison chaplaincy and helping the rehabilitation of ex-offenders
- health issues
- debt and financial counselling
- music and arts projects
- anti-racism and work with refugees and
- asylum seekers.
In addition, many faith based groups are involved in local governance such as Local Strategic Partnerships, or campaigning on matters of social justice.
Who does it and why?
Faith based social action springs from a value base emanating from respective spiritual and religious traditions. These values of respect for other people, the value of human life and the need to help others, lead to positive social action.
Most often this is expressed in the provision of services, support and practical help to communities, and campaigns for improvements in the life of the poorest in society.
One of its characteristics is that it aims to change individuals and communities to become more engaged in the life and improvement of society.
What does faith based social action look like?
Faith based organisations and charities have a long history of social action, particularly in the most deprived areas. Often, a faith based organisation will act as a catalyst highlighting a difficulty, pioneering an approach and then bringing others together to act on it. The history of education and health care in the UK is full of such examples.
It is an enduring commitment, faith based groups are rooted in the majority of neighbourhoods across the country and are committed to long term support in communities.
Social action can take place in a variety of settings, single faith settings, such as the provision of supplementary schooling for a group of children in danger of underachieving; settings that are open to all, but mainly used by a single faith, such as a community meal; and also in projects and programmes that are used by the wider community.
Often it is done in partnership with other groups in the community, such as tenant associations, and may include public sector partners.
Some faith based organisations, concentrate on a single issue, others act as community anchor organisations across a range of local needs, or offer much needed space as a community resource.
How does it benefit society?
- forms a part of a wider voluntary and community sector which is recognised as necessary to meet social and community needs
- helps to build skills and confidence for participation in society
- provides culturally accepted services that communities trust and use
- is locally rooted, and through the presence of faith groups in neighbourhoods is about local people working with local people to develop local solutions together
- assists in bringing the voices of the most marginalised groups into the public arena
- frequently offers innovative and creative responses to social problems
- provides resources, such as buildings and volunteers to communities
- builds structures and processes that last over time and that can respond to community needs
- helps build social cohesion; groups which otherwise can be isolated work with others in the community