Researching Religions and Development: A UK Project for Comparative Research on Religion, Politics, and Governance

In her lecture Carole Rakodi outlined the findings from a five-year collaborative research project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DIFD), highlighting its preliminary conclusions. The research program was launched to help fill knowledge gaps on the links between religion and development, and it was designed to fully engage partners in four countries where the United Kingdom supports important development programs: Pakistan, India, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The multidisciplinary research program produced a wide range of working papers and policy briefs, and it included plans for a series of books.
The project examined a number of interactions of religion and development, including: the relationship between religion, politics, and governance; participation by religious organizations in policy consultation processes; and the engagement with religion of women's organizations campaigning for progressive legal change.

In addition to describing the broad findings of the program, Rakodi discussed the conceptual and methodological issues encountered over the course of the project. These included the challenges of undertaking such an interdisciplinary, international comparative study without an existing conceptual framework. She also spoke of the gap between social science methodology and the expectations of practical use within the policy world, and she described the project's research as "policy relevant" but not immediately "policy operational," highlighting some of the tensions that can arise as a result of varying expectations. She concluded that the field is heavily under-researched, with a large remaining agenda of significant issues and challenges to be explored.

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