As a joint learning network focused on evidence in religions and development, we (i.e., JLI) are often asked to summarize the “evidence” on religions and development. While that may seem like a simple request, it is, in fact, a complicated question due to the diversity of evidence in the wide-reaching area of religions, humanitarianism, development, and peace, which is the full scope of this report.
While JLI has published multiple scoping studies over the years,1 these studies were not meant to provide a complete picture of the “state of the evidence” in religions and development in one place. A state of the evidence in religions and development is needed, therefore, because:
- The amount of evidence for faith activity and contributions in the development and humanitarian spheres has increased over the last decade. It is increasingly difficult for newcomers to understand the breadth and depth of the evidence base, and for those already in the field to stay on top of new developments.
- There is a frequent demand from governments, international agencies, and international NGOs for evidence on religions and development, especially relating to examples of replicable and scalable projects with faith actors. It is commonly stated in meetings and consultations on religions and development that there is a need for more evidence. While further research is always needed, we believe that the perceived evidence gap is more about the accessibility and use of evidence rather than a lack of it. Providing a state of the evidence will allow policymakers and practitioners to understand more fully the breadth and depth of available information.
- There is an evidence imbalance. A balanced picture of the evidence is needed, including successes and failures, the positive and challenging aspects of faith engagement in religions and development, as well as a diversification of the evidence base. JLI is working to correct this evidence imbalance through its Fair and Equitable Initiative.2
We aim to re-package, re-frame, and add to our previous evidence work to make it concise, accessible, and available in one place. A “state of the evidence” is intended to give a summary overview of the reliable evidence in our field to provide an insight into major debates and themes without the need for deep dives. It is akin to a “state of the art” in that we will cover the latest developments in the field, but we use the term “state of the evidence” to also convey that we will provide some history on the evidence base and contextual understanding of how stakeholders in religions and development have used (or not) the evidence.
The JLI will update the state of the evidence every two years to keep it current. We do not claim that this report comprehensively cites every article or report relevant to religions and development, but we do highlight the major papers that are shaping the field and trends for the future of the field.