Evidence is accurate and reliable information that helps us understand our world. It can help us make good decisions about what we can do to benefit our communities. To develop evidence, faith groups must at least collect basic information or data about what the program is doing (program activities), who the program is serving (beneficiaries), and the costs, which often comprise “mainstream” data. This basic information is not enough. It is also important to also measure the outcomes and impact of work. Some faith groups may also track distinctive attributes of religious and faith-based programming such as changes in belief, hope, and other ‘spiritual metrics’.

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As trusted leaders in our community, we are often called upon to make decisions that will impact many lives in our community. What does our community need? What actions should we take to best serve our community? What is God calling us to do? How do we ensure we are making the right decisions?

Often, we seek understanding about a situation before making decisions. Seeking understanding might mean sitting with an individual, asking them to explain their struggles, and working with them to develop recommendations of what to do. Seeking understanding might mean inviting community members together to ask about how a new service is affecting their lives. Seeking understanding might mean learning from others who have addressed similar challenges.

By asking questions and listening for answers, you are seeking understanding that will help you make decisions. This is sometimes called using evidence to make a decision. At a basic level, evidence is truthful information that helps us understand our world. Evidence can help us understand where the resources are, who needs services and what we can do to help them. Evidence can show us how we can do our work better. It can help us make good decisions.

Four Reasons why Faith Groups should care about Evidence

1. Accountability

When partners criticize us for not being good at counting, they are sometimes right!  People of faith need to be held to account by people and by God for actions. Accountability can be a positive influence which ensures efficiency as well as learning. This guide will help people have the ability to give an account of their actions and the results. We must conduct an honest appraisal of our work and pursue truth beyond sentiment and anecdotes.

2. Service

People of faith want to ensure we serve our communities to our maximum potential. People of faith and faith-based organizations play a major role in helping the poorest people around the world. To meet the huge challenges of poverty, disease, disaster and conflict, faith groups need to work to become even more efficient and effective in their services. To do this they must be willing to be guided by the best evidence of what works…and what doesn’t.

3. Reach 

Faith groups can also reach more people and do more by collaborating with others, including other faith groups, secular organizations, public sector bodies and donors. Good record keeping and reporting evidence with thoughtful analysis is key to healthy partnerships, good stewardship, and mutual learning.

4. Holistic nature

People of faith may have their differences but we agree that people are holistic, integrated beings with a spiritual dimension. The holistic nature of people is too often ignored when evidence is being gathered but we know, from long experience, that this must be recognised and appreciated to ensure  long term, sustainable development.

Next Section: How does faith shape our understanding of evidence?