Religion and development

La Trobe University researcher Dr Gerhard Hoffstaedter is launching a paper on Faith-based organisations (FBOs) presented at the Australian Council for International Development on Thursday in Canberra.

FaithFaith-based organisations have grown significantly in the last twenty years and while there is a lag in the literature assessing its roles, broadly, FBOs are being embraced as useful intermediaries between secular states funders and aid recipients due to their local networks and social capital.

The working paper provides a look at the literature on FBOs, the difficult issue of finding a definition for FBOs and the role Australian FBOs are playing in international development. The paper proposes that faith is inherent in all development approaches, be it in the market forces, God or people as agents of both.

Dr. Gerhard Hoffstaedter explains that, ‘Faith plays a crucial role in development, yet ‘faith-based’ organisations (FBOs) continue to face ambivalence towards their religiosity and how it may impact upon the development work they do. As a result they have undergone structural changes to ameliorate the pressures arising from mainly government related outcome oriented funding structures.’

‘This also relates to the dual role FBO legitimacy plays ensuring both public donations at home and successful outcomes in the recipient country. FBOs have significant advantages over secular organisations in their ability to harness moral will at home and abroad as well as tap into transnational religious networks and local communities in aid recipient countries,’ says Dr Hoffstaedter.

This working paper presents a first foray into studying faith based organisations and in particular Faith-Based Development Organisations in Australia. Faith is clearly a potent force in the world and continues to play a significant role in international development both at home and overseas.

Funding accountability strategies remain an area where more research is needed, particularly as FBOs are expected to conform to government outcome driven models even when it is inappropriate to assess aid programs in this way.

As religion continues to play a central role in world conflicts, FBOs have a larger role to play in delivering culturally appropriate assistance, with perceived neutrality on the part of public donors and aid recipients. However, FBOs are also engaging in the big policy debates and in some cases actively driving them.

The working paper is part of an ACFID-IHS (Institute for Human Security) series that deals with international development issues.


A copy of the working paper can be found here:

Dr Gerhard Hoffstaedter

Research Fellow, Institute for Human Security, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
T (03) 9479 2289 F (03) 9479 1997 E

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