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WFDD Programs & Projects

World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD) is a not-for-profit organization working at the intersection of religion and global development. With many mutual interests, WFDD is housed at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and collaborates with them in their Religion and Global Development program. Katherine Marshall serves as the executive director of WFDD and is also a senior fellow at the Berkley Center. WFDD's programs investigate the engagement of religious actors and the role of religion in various development areas such as gender, health, education, and conflict and peacebuilding.

Religion and Global Development

The Berkley Center's Religion and Global Development program, in close collaboration with the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), tracks the engagement of religious communities and faith-inspired organizations around global policy challenges and brings together stakeholders to examine best practices and advance collaboration.

AHA! Awareness with Human Action

AHA! (Awareness with Human Action) is a European Union funded consortium project, with WFDD and seven other international and national partner organizations, led by the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. The project focuses on COVID-19 and peace-building in South Asia. The aim is to adopt an integrated, holistic, and multi-stakeholder approach to address the pandemic, disinformation, and hate speech, primarily through strategic involvement of community influencers. The project’s overall objective is to contribute to the response efforts of the COVID-19 pandemic by preventing conflict and building social cohesion in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and broader South Asia.

WFDD leads the continuing learning and development efforts by producing country case reviews, key person interviews, country and regional level policy briefs and situation reports, and training personnel. WFDD assisted in the selection of 45 community leaders and influencers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka and 5 community leaders and influencers from the region who have received financial and logistic support. The fellows engaged at the community level through processes like confidence-building, dialogue, capacity-building and initiatives aiming to increase awareness on COVID-19 including factual information and countering the spread of misinformation.

Bangladesh: Religious Dimensions of Development and Social Cohesion

The World Faiths Development Dialogue in collaboration with Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Centre for Peace and Justice at BRAC University are engaged in a three-year research project entitled “Bangladesh: Religious Dimensions of Development and Social Cohesion.” This project explores the faith dimensions of development and social cohesion and supports coalitions that work in practical ways to foster peace and interfaith understanding. The corresponding development topics for each project year are education, gender, and climate change/youth.

WFDD’s central goal is to create research materials that support national-level advocacy and inspire collaborative dialogue among secular and faith actors, policymakers, and development institutions that often operate separately, but have important shared objectives and values.

Faith and Development in Cambodia Interview Series

This page spotlights interviews conducted in conjunction with WFDD's investigation into the links between faith and development in Cambodia as part of an effort aimed at increasing understanding of faith-inspired development work, and of identifying issues and challenges that could be addressed in order to further progress towards development goals.

Faith and International Family Planning

The birth of a baby can be life’s most exciting miracle; the death of a mother or child, a chilling tragedy. Ensuring that families have access to reproductive health information and services and can achieve the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy is an important goal in international health and development. Many faith traditions and denominations, as well as their religious leaders and adherents, support family planning, and essentially all faith traditions support the concept of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy. While areas of lively debate remain, particularly regarding different approaches toward youth, FIOs and faith leaders serve as essential providers and promoters of family planning services. WFDD explores the complexity of this issue across the globe, as well as at the country level, to fill gaps of knowledge regarding permissibly of family planning methods and the involvement of faith actors.

G20 Interfaith Forum

The G20 Interfaith Forum has convened annually since 2014 in the G20 host country. There have thus been meetings in Argentina, Australia, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The G20 Interfaith Forum offers a platform where networks of religiously linked institutions and initiatives engage on global agendas. The forums have considered wide-ranging agendas, including economic models and systems, the environment, women, families, children, work, humanitarian aid, health, education, freedom of religion or belief, global security, governance, human rights, and the rule of law. The agenda for each forum is framed taking into account G20 priorities (outlined each year by the host government), together with topics that the various networks of religious actors recommend that the G20 leaders address. Since 2017, Berkley Center Senior Fellow Katherine Marshall has served on the G20 Interfaith Association Advisory Council and contributed to the recommendations and policy briefs developed by the G20 Interfaith Forum.

Global Health and Faith

In both the past and present, and in virtually every world region, widely varied religious actors play crucial roles in health care. Faith institutions and groups run clinics, hospitals, and facilities that support families, orphans, handicapped people, the mentally ill, and older people. In communities, leaders and individuals communicate vital messages about health and provide sustained, hands-on care for the sick. Yet many international health institutions and some governments have paid scant attention to faith-inspired organizations (FIOs), and their potential impact has not been tapped in any systematic fashion. This program highlights the work of faith-inspired health actors to better understand their motivation, strengths, areas for growth, and collaboration with larger health systems.

Practitioners and Faith-Inspired Development Interview Series

"How does faith or religion affect your work?" This series of almost 400 interviews addresses this question with a wide range of development actors across the world. The assembled in-depth conversations with activists, religious leaders, and policy specialists examine best practices and collaborative strategies across a range of contemporary challenges. Interviews focus on country and regional issues and on leading development topics, including women and peacebuilding, health, education, housing, governance, and gender. View our most recent interviews below.

Revitalizing Global Religious and Interfaith Networks

Although much of the world's population participates in religious communities, faith organizations and interfaith networks have historically had quite modest impact on contemporary global agendas. Faith communities often play vital roles at local and national levels, but at the global level their influence across a range of transnational issues – from climate change and public health to war and peace–are less prominent. This project works with strategic partners to explore how interfaith networks can engage more effectively with international organizations, NGOs, and governments, with a focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

World Sports Values for Peace and Development

Sports captures energies and imaginations; it also highlights core values that are often universal. Sports is thus a powerful tool for the critical global goals of peace and development. The World Sports Values Program has organized international symposia aimed at highlighting the positive roles that sport can play in furthering the cause of peace and human development. The goal of these gatherings is to facilitate a visionary and rigorous conversation among young athletes, leaders, academics, and experts about the values that the world of sport can advance. The program is sponsored by the International Sports Promotion Society and Worldwide Support for Development.

Past Programs

A Promise Renewed to End Preventable Child Deaths and Support Mothers

For many people and faith institutions, the welfare of mothers and children amounts to a sacred duty. It is also enshrined in the year 2000 Millennium Development Goals. One effort to translate these goals into reality was reflected in the launch at Georgetown University of a movement and partnership called A Promise Renewed. The promise to future generations has been formulated in straightforward terms as Ten Promises to Our Children.

Critical Topics around Religion and Development

Since 2006 the Berkley Center and World Faiths Development Dialogue have conducted a multi-year survey of critical issues at the intersection of religion and development. Project publications and associated events track the engagement of faith-inspired organizations around a set of core policy challenges, with an emphasis on common problems, ethical commitments, and best practices. To date the project has addressed Ebola, gender, governance, HIV/AIDS, malaria, maternal mortality, shelter, tuberculosis, and water and sanitation. Project research has also resulted in a series of policy briefs that examine the role of faith-based organizations and topics including: corruption, the WASH agenda, human trafficking in Cambodia, aid effectiveness, immunization, malaria, and reducing maternal mortality. Ongoing work continues, following recommendations to develop teaching case studies, further in-depth country level studies, focused exploration of crossing cutting issues, and wider, better, and sharper communication and outreach strategies. This project was originally launched through the Luce/SFS Program on Religion and International Affairs.

Faith and Agriculture

Agriculture is the main source of income and sustainability for many African households, and smallholder agriculture remains the backbone of both economies and society in many countries. Interventions by development partners, governments, and private sector actors have led to numerous improvements in productivity and increased food supply, however these do not aways filter down to smallholders in significant ways. Researching the links between faith and agriculture, this project explores what practical added value, if any, faith actors in Ghana might have in influencing information sharing, behavior change, and attitudes related to farming practices, technology, and advocacy.

Faith in Action: Empowering the Poor to Reach Universal Energy Access

Access to safe and reliable sources of modern energy is crucial for achieving sustainable and equitable development for the world's poorest (and often energy deprived) citizens. Without electricity, students have no light for studying at night, hospitals cannot store lifesaving vaccines, and irrigation systems cannot sustain drought-stricken regions. Burning traditional fuels like kerosene and biomass types like wood and manure emit deadly fumes, pose fire hazards, and contribute to environmental degradation. WFDD, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, explore the intersections of faith and energy access, by beginning to map the landscape of actors and to highlight their current approaches.

Habitat for Humanity Interfaith Pilot Project

In 2012 the Berkley Center and World Faiths Development Dialogue collaborated with Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) on a year-long project to assess their interfaith toolkit pilot project. The toolkit, prepared in conjunction with an earlier Berkley Center collaboration, aims to engage local community interfaith groups in HFHI efforts to provide adequate shelter for all. The pilot project aimed to test the toolkit's effectiveness as a component of the HFHI community outreach strategy.

Mapping of Faith-Inspired Organizations by World Region and Country

As part of a multi-year survey the Berkley Center and the World Faiths Development Dialogue are mapping the activities of faith-inspired organizations across world regions and countries. Through a series of reports, in-depth interviews with practitioners, international workshops, and web resources, the mapping project charts organizations anchored in particular faith traditions or with ecumenical or interfaith approaches that are engaged in global development agendas, including poverty relief, education, and the struggle against HIV/AIDS and malaria. This project was originally launched through the Luce/SFS Program on Religion and International Affairs.

Opus Prize

The Opus Prize recognizes unsung heroes of any faith tradition, anywhere in the world, solving today’s most persistent social problems. Given annually, this $1 million faith-based humanitarian award and awards for the other finalists are collectively one of the world’s largest faith-based, humanitarian awards for social innovation. Recipients are selected on the basis of their entrepreneurial spirit and abiding faith to address global issues like poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, and injustice. In November 2013 Georgetown University and the Opus Prize Foundation awarded the 2013 Opus Prize to Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning in Afghanistan. The Fahmina Institute in Indonesia and Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association in Washington, D.C., each won $75,000. More information about the prize is available on the foundation’s website.

Women, Religion, and Peace: Experience, Perspectives, and Policy Implications

Scholars and practitioners have devoted increasing attention to the roles played by faith communities in negotiating and building peace in the world's conflict zones. Because formal religious leadership tends to be dominated by men, women's engagement in religious peacemaking has received far less attention. To address this knowledge gap, from 2010 to 2015 the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Berkley Center, and the World Faiths Development Dialogue conducted a multi-year exploration of the activities and perspectives of women in peacebuilding and their policy implications, issues that continue to feature in ongoing Berkley Center work.

Women, Religion, and the Family

Women and girls are today a central focus of international development. Increased access to education, employment, health care, decision-making, and leadership has brought change to female lives within the home and family. Amidst these shifting social norms, religion plays an important role in shaping gender dynamics within families and society, yet religion’s impact on the family is often poorly understood. To better clarify the nexus of women, religion, and the family, during 2014 and 2015 the Berkley Center and the World Faiths Development Dialogue asked women and men from various faith traditions to share their experiences and opinions in the form of blogs and interviews. Initial pieces examined under-explored topics such as black Muslim motherhood and evolving definitions of family within religious traditions. Blogs and interviews covered new themes each month, including marriage, women’s leadership in faith communities, and sexual violence and health issues.

The Women, Religion, and the Family project was made possible through the generosity of Mary Jo Gwin Wiese (C'82, G'84).