Impact: You’re better than you think you are!
For a significant part of December, I have been on Jury Service. If you have ever performed this civic duty, you will know that there is a lot of waiting around. It is a curious situation, to be stuck in a room with near to 200 people waiting for something to happen. When I first arrived, I thought it odd that there were jigsaw puzzles around the room, but a week in, I started to consider jigsaws, crosswords and philosophical conversations with strangers a norm. Against our initial reserve, friendships and interests are shared; the commonality of boredom causes people of all backgrounds to connect. People obviously are enjoying connecting with different sorts of people, and who can say who will remain in contact after this 2 week stint? It is so unusual in the UK today to get such a cross-section of society, not only in the same place, but talking. Of course, the other place for this connection in a more permanent fashion is through faith.
This community of connection is just one of the many things that faith groups provide, even without understanding the significance for those in their faith community. Let’s just look at one example: mother and toddler groups. For those parents who have been through the life-changing experience of having a baby, whether they have been diagnosed with post- natal depression or not, the regular opportunity to meet with others to get out of the house is often under-valued. Yet this often helps people recover from mild post-natal depression or prevents the onset. When this becomes a cross-generational opportunity for connection with retired people attending the group as well, the benefits expand greatly.
It often seems that the issue of appreciation of what faith groups do is one of language. I often press faith-based organisations to adapt their language (but not necessarily the activities they are doing) so that those in different sectors understand what they are contributing. We need to look at the ‘shop window’ of faith and make sure those looking in can see what faith communities do, expressing it in a way that is not lost in religious jargon. This in many ways is behind the Friendly Places work we have been doing (along with a Friendly Places pledge that we are currently consulting about). In this work, we want to highlight whole area of hospitality that many faith communities exhibit as a matter of course, particularly highlighting and promoting faith as a welcoming place around Well-being and Mental Health. We want to support, share good practice and extend what faith communities are doing already around this area. For example, we are connecting with friends at Livability around the work they are doing around Dementia Friendly churches.
One of the ways to help wider society value what faith-based organisations do is to measure the impact of our work in a way which is understood and appreciated. Particularly in the area of measuring the impact on mental health, FaithAction has been helping members utilise the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (If you are interested in this work, please contact [email protected]). We are also working in partnership with NCB to run a series of workshops on measuring impact, looking at how to best demonstrate social value to commissioners. These events will be taking place in London on February 25th and Birmingham on March 13th and can be booked here. If there is to be recognition of what faith contributes, it needs to be communicated in a way others can understand.
The most frustrating thing can be when you hear of a project which is rightly receiving plaudits for the effect it is having on a particular community and yet the work you are doing is of greater significance or depth, but you are not able to articulate in the public space. To faith groups I would say, you are often ‘better than you think you are’.
So what’s the ask?
1. Tell us what you are doing (sign up on the Together in Service Fellowship, we can highlight your work www.togetherinservice.net)
2. Measure your impact
3. Keep doing the good works that you do