New toolkit measures effectiveness of interfaith community projects

(Photo: iStock/Hydromet)

A new toolkit has been launched to examine the extent to which interfaith projects achieve their aims and benefit society. 

The launch of the toolkit coincides with Inter Faith Week, running from 14 to 21 November, and has been developed by the Woolf Institute to measure the impact of interfaith initiatives at the grassroots level.

Explaining the rationale behind the creation of the toolkit, the Woolf Institute said that while interfaith dialogue had become a "vital tool" in conflict resolution and international diplomacy following 9/11, its effectiveness is "rarely tested or evaluated".

Dr Katherine O'Lone, Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute, said: "Bringing people together from different religious backgrounds – helping people to live, work and learn together, or to simply talk to one another – is assumed to have significant, long-lasting benefits.

"But to what extent does it really help reduce prejudices and conflict, ease tensions and hostilities, and increase tolerance and cohesion?

"As an objective, rigorous and religiously literate body, the Woolf Institute is uniquely poised to ask the difficult question: does interfaith work?

"Our publicly available toolkit helps to answer the question, as we demonstrate how 'success' can be defined and measured through observable changes."

The Measures of Success toolkit is available free of charge and will measure the impact of interfaith work in areas like identity, attachment, beliefs and knowledge, and whether it is achieving "positive outcomes" like "increased trust, improved attitudes and changed behaviours". 

The wider benefit will also be considered by looking at changes to attitudes and integration at the community level.

The Woolf Institute said it hoped the toolkit would benefit not only organisations involved in interfaith work, but also their funders.

Sadia Akram, Programme Director at the Forum for Discussion of Israel and Palestine, and Lead Adviser at Civil Society Consulting CIC, said: "We work with groups from ethnically diverse and multifaith communities, and often these organisations don't really have the capacity or the resource to demonstrate impact.

"Some of the grassroots organisations do fantastic work, but they are busy doing the work, rather than understanding that there needs to be more of a strategic outlook.

"This toolkit will really help them to think about the change, the impact and the difference that their work makes."