Introducing #FaithinPartnership Week

Over the past three years, many faith-based charities up and down the country have been busier than ever before. Activity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has included things like delivering food, offering support to isolated individuals, overcoming barriers to accessing healthcare, and disseminating and translating key information to their communities—often, it must be said, against a backdrop of funding shortages and disruptions to normal worship practices.

At the heart of all this activity has been a new level of constructive partnership with statutory organisations—whether they be councils, public health, NHS bodies, or other local partners. The Keeping the Faith report, published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society in 2020, paints a vivid picture of the increase in such partnerships from March 2020 and how well these were received.

My personal admiration for faith groups has gone through the roof ... They have more than stepped up to the challenge. And… when we are surrounded by people who haven’t been able to step up, it makes the people who do step up even more relevant and important than before.

At FaithAction, we’ve long been advocating that these kinds of cross-sector partnerships are an amazing thing. In fact, we’d argue that the kind of “Levelling Up” agenda described by government is simply impossible without them. Faith groups know their communities best, they are trusted messengers, and they possess a range of assets (including buildings, skills, volunteers, and an ethos of care) that complement other services.

And, although developing these kinds of trusted relationships is often hard work—for trust is not built overnight—there was something about the pandemic that accelerated these ways of working. It’s as if the challenges of a pandemic, and particularly the various long-standing societal inequalities it magnified, helped local leaders realise that, if faith groups aren’t at the table, programmes of support and vital public messaging will simply fail to reach their targets.

This realisation may be positive, but our experience tells us that, once the heat of a crisis has died down, these networks and relationships can lose momentum. This is an opportunity to lock-in the lessons we learned during the pandemic, to create a stronger society and prepare a response to future challenges.

#FaithinPartnership Week: calling for a “new normal”

With this in mind, we’re excited to announce that, from the 5th through to the 9th of September, we’ll be working with the APPG for Faith and Society to celebrate the importance of this partnership between faith organisations and the public sector. We’re calling for a “new normal” in joint working as we recover from the pandemic—to embed the successful partnerships that we’ve built over the past three years into our society going forward.

We’re calling this #FaithinPartnership Week and will be inviting like-minded individuals and organisations to join us on social media in spreading the word.

We’ll offer more news in the coming days regarding our full programme for the week, but we’re excited to be helping launch two new reports with the APPG for Faith and Society, including:

  • Keeping the Faith 2.0: Embedding a new normal for partnership working in post-pandemic Britain – a follow-up research report from Prof. Chris Baker, the author of the original “Keeping the Faith”, based on in-depth interviews with faith leaders and local authority representatives. 
  • First In, Last Out – a report from FaithAction looking at how faith groups supported NHS services throughout the pandemic, and what this means for future partnership work. 

We’ll have more details on #FaithinPartnership Week and these reports soon. For now, remember the #FaithinPartnership hashtag, mark the week in your diary, and start making noise about the power of faith-based partnerships!

About Jeremy Simmons

Policy and Programme Manager

Jeremy works to raise the profile and voice of the faith-based sector in policy making and gather evidence of local faith-based solutions. He leads FaithAction’s programme of work with the Department of Health and Social Care, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS England, and is part of the team supporting FaithAction’s secretariat role for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Faith and Society, and Faith Covenant. He is passionate about helping the faith-based sector work in partnership with other agencies.