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Mapping the Role of Faith Communities in Development Policy: The US Case in International Perspective

January 1, 2007

As part of the Berkley Center's Religious Literacy Series, this report maps the work of faith-inspired organizations in the United States that are engaged in the international development and relief arena. Secondly, the report reviews major elements in the academic and policy literature that focus explicitly on faith-based organizations and their development work. The report then describes how faith-based NGOs mobilize public support, collaborate with national governments and international institutions, cooperate with secular NGOs, and implement policy on the ground. The report's focus is on US-based NGOs that interact with national governments and international organizations across a range of issue areas, including education, health care, gender, humanitarian relief, microfinance, and the environment. Finally, the report explores emerging issues facing the faith-based NGO community, including the ethical and practical considerations surrounding the proper relationship with public authorities and the problems of proselytization when combined with development work.

Faith and faith-linked organizations play vital roles in international development work. In many respects (largely through missionary activities that first launched modern education and health services in many countries and contributed to accelerating social change) they were pioneers of the field we today call development the effort to support processes of social and economic change that improve the lives of individuals and communities across the world and especially in the poorest countries. As the international development field has become increasingly complex, engaging an ever-widening set of actors and institutions, the role of faith-based organizations has grown in importance. It is a paradox, however, that in this dimension of the international development scene, the roles played by faith-inspired organizations are both more controversial and less well understood than most others (bilateral and multilateral aid, nongovernmental organizations, even the newest visible actors, from the private sector). This report is largely a "desk study" drawing on a wide range of academic and policy sources as well as (and often primarily) the information available from the organizations themselves. It is not the objective of this project to survey either the data about or the detailed work of faith-based organizations.

Table of Contents
I. Categories of Faith-Based Organizations
II. Literature Review
III. Partners in the Development Community
IV. Service Focus
V. Major Issues

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