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Recap: Brown Bag Session #3 Building Bridges in Development and Humanitarian Aid: Insights and Reflections

This recent Brown Bag Session emphasized building interfaith bridges in international development. Key points included the vital role of faith-based organizations, particularly those with their roots in local and other communities.  Addressing misconceptions about faith identity is crucial for meaningful collaboration with secular organizations. 

Inclusivity and impartiality remain challenges, but collaboration efforts can ensure no group is excluded. Faith-based organizations offer extensive networks, trust, and contextual understanding, enhancing aid effectiveness. Principles for effective collaboration include prioritizing affected groups, adhering to humanitarian principles, and maintaining cultural sensitivity. 

By focusing on shared values and engaging marginalized groups, faith-based and secular organizations can enhance their impact through inclusive partnerships. 

10 June 2024

 The Influence and Reach of Faith-Based Actors

Faith-based actors play a crucial role in humanitarian aid due to their deep integration within communities. With over 80% of the global population identifying as religious, these organizations can effectively reach and engage with a wide audience. Their influence extends beyond private belief systems, shaping worldviews and actions at a societal level. 

Addressing Knowledge Gaps and Misunderstandings

Despite their significant role, there is often a lack of understanding about how faith-based organizations operate. Common misconceptions include the belief that religion is inherently oppressive or violent. However, religion can also drive positive social change and community cohesion. Reflecting on our own worldviews and biases is essential for fostering open and meaningful dialogues that bridge the gap between secular and religious perspectives. 

Inclusivity and Impartiality in Humanitarian Work

A key challenge for organizations is maintaining their identity while being inclusive and impartial. Faith-based organizations, like their secular counterparts, are not homogenous and may naturally connect more easily with partners and communities of the same faith. However, intentional efforts to build bridges between different organizations can enhance inclusivity and ensure that no group is left behind. 

Practical Benefits of Collaborating with Faith-Based Organizations

Working with faith-based organizations offers several practical benefits: 

  • Extensive Networks: They often have wide-reaching networks that can access hard-to-reach places.
  • Trust and Legitimacy: Faith-based organizations typically enjoy high levels of trust from local stakeholders, enhancing the effectiveness of aid programs.
  • Contextual Understanding: Their deep understanding of local contexts allows for culturally sensitive approaches to complex issues, such as gender equality.

Guiding Principles for Effective Collaboration

Effective collaboration between faith-based and secular organizations can be guided by the following principles: 

  1. Do No Harm: Prioritize the needs of the most affected groups to ensure community cohesion and minimize tension.
  2. Humanitarian Principles: Adhere to the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.
  3. Trust and Cultural Sensitivity: Establish trust through localized entities and maintain cultural sensitivity in all interactions.

Shared Values and Inclusive Solutions

Building successful partnerships requires focusing on shared values, such as compassion and care for marginalized communities. It is crucial to engage marginalized groups actively and ensure their inclusion in humanitarian efforts. This involves for example dialoguing with religious leaders and LGBTQ+ members on a personal level, recognizing their human experiences beyond their identities. 

Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration

Building bridges between faith-based and secular organizations takes time and patience. It requires stepping out of familiar bubbles and committing to open, respectful dialogue. By addressing biases, leveraging each other’s strengths, and focusing on shared humanitarian values, organizations can achieve greater impact and foster more inclusive and effective aid programs. 


The session underscored the potential for faith-based and secular organizations to collaborate effectively in international development. By embracing inclusivity, fostering open dialogue, and focusing on shared values, we can build stronger partnerships that enhance the reach and impact of our efforts. For more detailed insights and practical guidance, refer to our comprehensive documents on working with faith-based actors in development and humanitarian aid. These resources offer valuable frameworks and case studies to help navigate the complexities of interfaith collaboration.