Writer - Researcher - Speaker

Faith - The Missing Piece?

The increasing visibility of FBOs is both a response and a spur to shifts in the thinking of national and global institutions who have begun to consider whether there has been a gap in their strategic thinking.

Consequently, there is an emerging curiosity about faith among policy makers and practitioners as they ponder both the merits and drawbacks of working with and through faith organisations.

But this is still relatively unexplored ground and many feel they have not yet found the right tools or language to navigate this unfamiliar territory.

The following aims to help fill this gap.


It would be so helpful if the benefits (or drawbacks) of faith organisations were uniform or universal. 

But they are not. 

They are very much contextual, depending on time, place, the issue being addressed, the particular faith being considered and even the different expressions within each faith.

Personalities matter too.

To discern how faith may be influential requires a continual re-tuning of one’s faith antennae!

My own research, which focussed primarily on international development NGOs, uncovered a wide range of overlapping and reinforcing factors, some of which are outlined below.

It may surprise you that some are quite ordinary and every day – while others are less tangible or measurable. 

More often than not, it will be a combination of spiritual values, a sense of calling and access to practicalities that makes the difference.


FBOs have longstanding links to the well-established infrastructures of faith groups such as churches.  This facilitates access to finance, volunteers, buildings and other practical resources. 

Faith leaders are often experienced advocates and among the most trusted members of a community.


FBOs have well established national and global networks that reach not only to faith groups but also integrate and intersect with secular networks. 

Those based on a shared faith provide credible and trusted channels for the diffusion of information and new practices for issues unrelated to faith.   

Networks that reach outside the community of faith provide spaces where FBOs can 'translate' between different groups.


FBOs are uniquely placed to be a ‘bi-lingual’ friend who can speak with authenticity to both local communities and regional/global institutions. As the latter operate within, and use a language informed by, a secular worldview (discussed here ) that is alien to many local communities, FBOs provide a constructive bridge between the two.


The values shared between FBOs and local faith communities means the latter can and do, foster and incubate new norms, attitudes and behaviours to assist in the development process.  These can then be diffused to wider society through the extensive networks already established.

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