We had a really rich and engaging webinar on How to Develop a Faith Plan, with participants from all over the world – from Canada to Kenya and India to Indonesia.
If you missed it, you can watch the webinar below and download the resources here.
‘What is the best way for faiths to start to think about how we can apply our thinking to transforming and to contributing towards climate justice and a sustainable future?’ – Lorna Gold
That was one of the opening questions Dr Lorna Gold, Director of Movement Building at FaithInvest, posed at our workshop on how to develop a Faith Plan. This event was a chance for us to come together and discuss some of the ways we can get started in creating our own Faith Plans, from their theory to the logistics of implementing them.
Along with Lorna, we were joined by Faith Plans Programme Manager Catherine Devitt, and A Rocha Uganda’s National Director Sara Kaweesa. We had almost 60 delegates in attendance – a truly global audience from a variety of faiths, and all at different stages of their Faith Plans journey.
After an introduction to the event from Catherine, Lorna went on to explain the rationale for the creation of the Faith Plans programme. Faiths, she explained, have been making commitments to protect the planet for a long time, but often those commitments have been prompted by external thinking. With the UN, international governments, and senior religious leaders talking to the press about the importance of sustainability, it’s clear that we need to act.
Then on October 4, in the run-up to COP26, a wide range of faith leaders representing most major faith traditions gathered at the Vatican and committed themselves and their faith communities to putting in place ‘far-reaching environmental action’, ‘bold plans’ and ‘aligning investments’. This sets out 'a new level of ambition within the faiths to play our part as stakeholders in a sustainable future’, she said.
The Faith Plans programme is an important part of this new level of ambition. It is also a move away from standard sustainability planning models, explained Lorna, which may not work for the faiths, towards an approach to sustainability which recognises a number of the intangible assets that faiths have at their disposal – for example, access, influence, moral voice and wisdom. Faith Plans are holistic, solution-focused, and above all adaptable to the different needs of faith communities.
'We had to quickly change our mindset'
‘It’s a process that is continuous – be ready for all sorts of information, and all this information fits into your Plan!’ – Sara Kaweesa
Sara Kaweesa talked about A Rocha Uganda’s experience of creating its first Faith Plan in 2021, navigating some of the issues which went along with the COVID-19 pandemic to do so.
It was 'refreshing' to be creating a Plan during Uganda's lockdown, when most people weren't working, said Sara. They had to carry out the consultation by phone, and it was important to have a clear vision for the Plan based on the people they wanted to engage.
A Rocha's Plan is shaped by the two major areas that emerged during the consultation process: the importance of engaging the farming community and of focusing on Uganda’s very youthful population.
'There are Seven Key Areas but what we noticed when we started making our phone calls and getting information from our groups was we had to quickly change our mindset and look at what our reality is, what are the challenges, what is the need, what is the vision of our group, and that's how we developed our plan. So for us we really focused on Education, Advocacy and Land,' she explained.
'Most of our faith people are farmers. You can imagine that during lockdown, offices were closed, there was limited transportation so limited movement, so most of our people were doing farming and working on their land. So assets were something that were really important, assets really came out so strong. And the other reality is that Uganda is a very young country so education was key.'
During this process, Sara said maintaining contact with people during the process was very important to sustain momentum: 'Maintaining relationships, talking to people, keeping communcation lines open, hearing what people have to say, giving them information and tying it into what was happening on a global scale, was very important. So it's a process that is continuous; be ready for all sorts of information, and all this information feeds into your Plan.'
Being prepared to constantly update or train people was also vital: 'When we first started talking about Faith Plans, nobody know what we were talking about. But as we explained, then it started making sense.' A Rocha's challenge now is there's a lot of information out there but it needs to be documented.
It's also important to remember that what works in one part of the country doesn't necessarily work in another, she added. The people taking part in our Faith Plan represent over 30,000 faith groups. 'Uganda is a very small country but quite diverse and we had to be open to the fact that what works in one region does not in another.'
Her key tips were:
Focus on priorities
Build good relationships
Maintain good communication lines, and continuously provide information
Breakout sessions and discussion
Delegates then separated into breakout sessions lead by members of the Faith Plans team. The sessions were designed to facilitate reflections and idea-sharing between people at different stages of their Faith Plans journeys, with a number of key themes becoming apparent.
First and foremost is that faith groups need to centralise the creation of a Faith Plan around their faith itself, using religious tenets as the building blocks to create a plan.
Secondly is the importance of partnership. Sometimes it’s not that we need to develop new ideas or propositions, but that we need to find more effective ways to talk to each other about what we’re already doing.
And finally, a key question which came from our breakout groups was around where to start. Many participants suggested looking at the needs of our local communities, taking part in a faith audit, and choosing one smaller objective as good jumping off points.
Ravneet Singh of EcoSikh, the global Sikh environmental movement, proposed starting with celebration. Sikh Environment Day, which is celebrated on 14th March is now being celebrated in more than 12 countries now, he said, and many gurdwaras (Sikh temples) had made many changes as a result of being involved, he said. Celebration had played the biggest part in engaging people and driving change, even though it started late in their work.
We ended our event by looking at the resources and guidance on offer. The Faith Plans website contains lots more detail on the planning process, along with inspiring stories of the faith groups who’ve already seen success with their own plans.
We’ll be holding a number of events over the course of the year to explore how to develop and implement a Faith Plan. You can sign up for February’s event now – Mobilising your Assets for People and Planet on Thursday 22 February. We hope to see you there!
Resources for download
Faith Plans Planning Guide
Lorna Gold's presentation: Faith Plans Methodology