Measurement as Reflection in Faith-Based Social Action

Dinham, Adam and Shaw, Martha. 2012. Measurement as Reflection in Faith-Based Social Action. Community Development Journal, 47(1), pp. 126-141. ISSN 0010-3802 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The role of faith-based groups in social action in communities has been demonstrated in a significant body of regional publications aimed at community audiences. A systematic review of this literature (Dinham 2007) shows the considerable extent to which faith groups are engaged in social action in communities across England. It also identifies the diversity of language used to describe those activities and research approaches to capturing it. This article examines how this diversity poses challenges to demonstrating the value of faith- based activities to funders who support them and to policy makers who construct the contexts in which they work. It also notes the difficulties posed to discussing and comparing faith based activities in ways which might be helpful to faith groups’ own constructive reflective practice and to the learning they could share with each other and contribute to the wider voluntary and community sector. It considers this in the context of how power accrues around what is measured and therefore valued and recognised. It goes on to reflect upon a process of developing a measurement approach which has been ongoing since summer 2008, examining the problems and challenges involved. A starting point is that faith based social action in communities is both highly valuable and yet currently difficult to measure. We discuss the possibility of moving towards such measureability by rooting it in community development approaches and values. The aim is to balance the demands of accountability and demonstrability with the values of community development, to produce a ‘bottom up’ reflective praxis which can support and empower local faith communities to be heard on their own terms whilst at the same time defining and refining those terms. In these ways, it is intended both for practitioners engaging in faith-based social action and its evaluation, and for policy-makers and funders wishing to engage with its value and contribution.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)



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Date Deposited:

29 Jan 2016 11:54

Last Modified:

10 Jul 2017 08:34

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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