A new report on Public Faith and Finance highlights the role and contributions of faith organisations in responding to the financial crisis and austerity politics.
Based on research carried out by Dr Therese O’Toole and Dr Ekaterina Braginskaia at the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol, the report examines how faith organisations from across faith traditions are:
- providing forms of assistance to those experiencing financial hardship;
- engaging in activism and campaigning to reform financial products and services;
- advocating or providing alternative faith-based or ethical forms of finance.
In a context of welfare retrenchment and increasing financial exclusion, faith organisations, including from minority faiths, are not just plugging the gaps, but setting out alternative and often innovative approaches to welfare and economic justice.
Some key findings of the research include:
- faith organisations draw on their faith values in providing welfare, often at critical moments where no other forms of support are available, typically to beneficiaries beyond their immediate faith communities, and in holistic ways;
- highly organised and very informal faith groups are making significant contributions to welfare provision;
- many organisations report a need for more support in relation to governance, financial transparency and compliance with charity regulations. This is particularly an issue for Muslim charities who are under high levels of scrutiny and can suffer adverse reputational damage from having underdeveloped governance mechanisms;
- informal faith groups would benefit from forms of support for capacity building or funding that do not require them to become highly bureaucratic;
- faith-based perspectives on debt and money are being mobilised to create dialogue and collaboration across faith and secular groups to promote sustainable, just forms of finance and to successfully campaign for reform of financial services.
The research was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust. The Barrow Cadbury Trust is an independent, charitable foundation, committed to bringing about socially just change.
Dr Therese O’Toole is Reader in Sociology, based in the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol, where she works on ethnicity, religion, governance and political participation. She is a member of Public Spirit’s editorial board, and was Principal Investigator on the project Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance.
Dr Ekaterina Braginskaia is Research Associate in the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol. Her interests include comparative approaches to religion and civil society participation, national identity and Muslim representation in Britain and Russia.