How does what I contribute make a difference in people’s lives?
Your support makes it possible for people to build and lead organizations through which they can fight for changes in their communities. Donations pay for the cost of travel and training for grassroots leaders and coaching and teaching by trained community organizers. Through Faith in Action people are able to go out and ask their neighbors to identify the most pressing community priorities – such as access to clean water or a secondary school that is close enough for their children to attend – and then meet with government officials to understand how decisions get made, and then press for changes that address the community’s most pressing issues. Every dollar that goes to support organizing leverages hundreds of dollars in community improvements.
What is different about your approach?
All of the community improvement projects and policy change campaigns that Faith in Action International supports are developed and led by people who have a direct stake in the changes they are working for. We believe that people who are closest to the problem are best able to develop the solutions. The work we do is carried out by staff and volunteers who are from the countries and regions in which they are organizing. We’re working to create a mutual and equitable network of people-led organizations learning from and supporting each other. We believe that international work needs to level the playing field between wealthy and developing countries and create accountable partnerships in which decisions are made by those with the most at-stake, not those with the greatest access to power and resources.
How are you getting at the root cause of poverty and inequality?
We believe that personal and community transformation are inseparable. And lack of power is at the root of poverty and suffering. Ordinary people who participate in Faith in Action International are able to say they have won concrete changes that have made their lives better AND that they see themselves as more powerful in the world. The organizations that we help people build make those people more powerful. They are tools they can use to negotiate for more improvements in their communities and for accountability with governments and other powerful institutions. The best defense people have against oppression and exploitation is their ability to organize and negotiate on their own behalf.
What is the relationship between community organizing and community-led development in your approach?
We see the process of building economic and political power as going hand-in-hand. It is common for grassroots teams working with Faith in Action International to create co-ops and other economic development projects that generate jobs and income for people in their communities. In our model, these development projects are not an end in themselves but part of a larger organizing process designed to help people build powerful organizations. In the early stage of a community organizing effort co-ops can help foster close bonds of trust and shared interest among people, as well as stabilize their economic conditions. As people work to organize people and resources internal to their communities, they identify barriers that stand in the way of better living standards – for example, when police harass vendors or when residents lack the titles to the land they own. Successful efforts to negotiate change with public officials and other institutions in turn brings more resources into communities. As people hold each other accountable and organize the resources within their communities, they increase their power to hold the government officials accountable and secure public and private investment that addresses community priorities.
What religions are involved in Faith in Action?
Faith communities from more than 40 different religious traditions participate in Faith in Action around the world. These include Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Pentecostal, Evangelical Christian and non-denominational traditions.
How does Faith in Action relate to politicians and political parties?
Faith in Action believes that elected officials should be accountable to organized communities. We do not endorse candidates for public office or political parties.