Building Social Capital

Community organizing through Faith in Action brings people together and builds the social fabric of communities. At a time when there is widespread concern about declining civic participation, congregation-based community organizing has become a powerful tool to connect people to one another and to the institutions that influence their lives.

Faith in Action is engaged in a long-term research study on the relationship between organizing and social capital through the Vanderbilt University and the Skipper Initiative, a project funded by the Raskob Foundation. Led by Dr. Paul Speer, this research is systematically analyzing patterns of civic participation in five communities in which Faith in Action affiliates work. The project has provided a valuable tool for Faith in Action leaders and staff to reflect on their work.

Dr. Speer’s research on congregation-based community organizing and Faith in Action has shown that:

  1. Organizations that systematically use Faith in Action’s congregation-based organizing model engage large numbers of people in public and community life through individual face-to-face meetings, small group teams and large community events;
  2. People who become involved in organizing develop much broader social networks that reach from their neighbors to government officials; and these participants are much more likely to become involved in other forms of civic engagement, such as voting, reading the newspaper, attending public meetings, and running for public positions; and
  3. Community organizing leverages millions of dollars of public and private investment in low and moderate-income communities.

Local Faith in Action federations provide leadership training for neighborhood residents and congregation members throughout the year using interactive and experiential adult education tools. Leaders learn how to build and sustain strong organizations, research and analyze community issues, develop budgets, plan for their communities and work with public officials to implement changes in public policy.