Evidence is truthful 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), what is resulting from the program (outputs and outcomes), and the costs. These basic data often comprise “mainstream” data. Some faith groups may also track distinctive attributes of religious and faith-based programming such as changes in belief, hope, and other ‘spiritual metrics’. Read more:

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. 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.

2. Hold ourselves to account by people and by God

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.

3. Reach more People through collaboration

Faith groups can also reach more people and do more good by collaborating with others: with other faith groups, with secular organizations, and with 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. Highlight evidence of the hand of the divine in our work

Analyzing and reporting outcomes reveals the best of ethical engagement, loving activity and transformative service of the faith community toward their neighbors. This reflects the power of faith and the presence of the Divine in community.

When partners with expertise criticize us for not being good at counting, they are sometimes right! Sometimes though we’re just not sure how to share results that are important to us but not easily “counted.” But experience shows we can improve. This guide is intended to help FBOs draw from the experience of other FBOs’ approaches to measuring, evaluating, and reporting, and provides many examples of methods and tools which can be adapted to the specifics of your local community and project.

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