More than Measurement: Faith based Social Action becoming VISIBLE
Faith Based Regeneration report concludes 'a quality standard such as VISIBLE that is founded on community development principles will best suit loca faith-based social action projects.'
Jane Winter, Programme Manager - FBRN
During 2010-11 the Faith based Regeneration Network (FbRN) worked with Community Matters and Goldsmiths University of London to research the value of quality standards in faith based settings.
Faith-based organisations are one of the largest and most swiftly growing contributors in civil society. Demonstrating quality is a growing demand yet faith based organisations are resistant to using the tools available.
Seven faith based social action projects undertook VISIBLE. All had been under pressure from funders or partners to complete a quality assessment. They had looked at a range of quality standards, and felt that none really captured what they were about or allowed them to express their values and ethos in a way that would help others understand what they did.
Would VISIBLE be different?
To help answer the question the projects became members of Community Matters. FbRN allocated them a mentor who worked alongside the projects really understanding what they were about and why. They supported the projects completing the on-line work book and gathering the evidence. Mentors proved to be an essential resource.
The challenge was to measure quality in faith-based settings in ways which develop the activity rather than merely ‘demonstrate’ it. We found that this is best rooted in community development approaches. VISIBLE is an effective means by which an organisation may revisit its values, redirect its goals, refine its policies and procedures and refresh its practices as part of a cycle of organisational reflection, change and development. Participants felt that VISIBLE enabled their faith values to be expressed and measured, as they hoped it would, even though it does not specifically ask about faith.
We discovered that VISIBLE produced and released passion. Passion was valued, expressed and rediscovered by trustees, staff and volunteers. They also felt that the process gained their organisations greater credibility and commitment from the wider community. The projects said that VISIBLE enabled them to be transparent and explicit about what motivated them and why they provided their services, without distorting their values.
We found that there were difficulties and tensions around the allocation of resources to complete VISIBLE. Some project leaders expressed difficulties with setting aside a regular time to complete the work when their role placed many other demands upon them. Success in measurement is aided by participatory leadership which distributes power and engages people from all parts of the organisation.
Faith-based social action flourishes through facilitative styles of leadership which coincide with a community development approach. These emphasise inclusiveness, participation and empowerment, which are elements of strong relationships and well-connected communities. A quality standard such as VISIBLE that is founded on community development principles will best suit local faith-based social action projects.
The full report and summary are available at www.fbrn.org.uk