top of page

Role of faith in positive social behavior change

The world today is plagued by a series of shocks and stresses that have significantly eroded hard-earned gains in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). From acute global health emergencies, a staggering number of refugees and internally displaced people, spiralling food insecurity, conflict and violence, to increasingly visible effects of the planetary crisis, – these shocks and stresses are drastically and adversely impacting lives and well-being of all. 

Religious leaders and their institutions occupy a critically strategic and important platform that, when meaningfully engaged, contributes to outcomes that are tangible, sustainable and within reach of their communities. Their credibility, trust and knowledge of local dynamics of these leaders is a key asset to necessary interventions that are necessary for the well-being of the people and the planet. Religious The leaders are present, responsive and actively engaged in family and community life, behaviour and cultures and are, therefore, key agents of change in transforming attitudes and norms for positive outcomes. 

Faith plays a significant role in motivating positive social change behaviour. It provides people with a sense of purpose, emphasiszing on values such as morality, compassion, hope, resilience, forgiveness and empathy. These components promote selflessness, advocacy, and acts of solidarity among individuals, inspiring people to engage in actions that not only benefits their community but the society at large. Furthermore, religious communities often serve as hubs for mobiliszing and organiszing people towards collective action. Historically, faith- based movements have been at the forefront of addressing social issues, serving as a catalyst for positive social change whilst providing individuals with the tenacity and motivation needed to address the challenges they are facing in the society.





FPCC partners

The global aim of this initiative is to move beyond a single sector, single denomination and message-based communication, and support more focused, systematic, and a large-scale engagement with faith-based communities and actors to influence positive social and behavioural change for the benefit of children, youth, women and families, particularly the most marginalised. 

Why faith and Positive change for children (FPCC)

Prevalence of faith as central societal force. The number of people with a religious connection varies regionally, but it is commonly estimated that over 80% of the world’s population have a religious affiliation.[1] Data also suggests the percentage of people with a religious association will remain high in the coming decades, with no indication that it will decline.[2]

Religions are an evolving and changing part of our present and future. While some countries have observed a recent fall in religious belief and practice, others have seen an increase or changes in religious dynamics. Migration is leading to increased religious diversity in some regions, while people are also adapting their religious practices to take on new forms of engagement, such as on social media and through trans-national links between faith communities.

Religious beliefs and practices are deeply influential and persuasive in societies. Religion is at the heart of people’s values and identity. Religious leaders and faith organisations have more access to family and community spheres, reaching the hearts and minds of millions of people. As major opinion-makers and norm-setters, faith actors are the most central social institutions operating at community level with direct roles in influencing beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, practices and actions.

Need for understanding on the complexity of faith influences. Beliefs are handed down through traditions, often communicated by religious and traditional leaders, and spread through peer influence in faith communities. Some beliefs can justify practices that harm children, such as corporal punishment, child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), vaccine hesitancy, among others.[3] Several faith groups incite their followers to violent extremism and other faith actors have been disgracefully associated with abusing children and protecting abusers.[4] Rather than disassociating from faith actors because of these risks and complexities, this further justifies the need for strategic and evidence-based approaches to engagement with faith actors to proactively attempt to open dialogue on these complex issues.

Equal focus on humanitarian and development programming. Aside from their routine support to development programming, faith actors are first and last responders in emergencies, from sheltering the vulnerable and rendering organised relief services during disasters, to providing spiritual support and stability that can help meet people’s psychosocial needs in the face of adversity. They are resilient and adaptable actors, able to contextually tailor their approach. Additionally, in situations of conflict, due to the moral influence and trust bestowed on leaders of faith communities, they can play significant roles in mediation and reconciliation efforts, promoting harmony and helping to facilitate conflict resolution and prevent extremism.

Global results for children:

  1. Immunisation  

  2. Child protection

  3. Positive parenting practices

  4. Strengthening community health systems and partnerships  

  5. Climate change & children  

  6. Ending child marriage  

  7. Education  

  8. MHPSS & youth 


[1] Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2012. The Global Religious Landscape. https://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/.

[2] Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2017. The Changing Global Religious Landscape. https://www.pewforum.org/2017/04/05/the-changing-global-religious-landscape/.

[3] Carola Eyber and Selina Palm, “A Mixed Blessing: Roles of Faith Communities in Ending Violence against Children” (Washington D.C.: Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, 2019), https://jliflc.com/resources/a-mixed-blessing-roles-of-faith-communities-in-ending-violence-against-children/.

[4] Tricia Bent-Goodley and Dawnovise N. Fowler, “Spiritual and Religious Abuse,” Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work 21, no. 3 (Fall 2006): 282–95; Bette L. Bottoms et al., “Religion-Related Child Physical Abuse: Characteristics and Psychological Outcomes,” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma 8, no. 1/2 (2003): 87–114, http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J146v08n01_04; M. Keenan, Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organizational Culture (New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 2011).

FPCC objectives

Key FPCC objectives include:

  1. To establish coordination and collaboration mechanisms between/among development partners such as UNICEF, governments and faith actors on children issues.

  2. To enhance utilisation of the Mind-Heart Dialogue foundational approach by faith actors and UNICEF and/or other development partners when intervening on issues of children

  3. To secure positive behavioural outcomes for children.


The FPCC Initiative brings together three main partners who lead the initiative in collaboration with other faith-based stakeholders and partners.

  1. UNICEF is an agency of the United Nations responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide and is the technical and resource mobilization partner in the initiative

  2. Religions for Peace is the interfaith convening partner and builds on its over 50-year legacy to mobilise its global network of more than 90 national interreligious councils (including women of faith and youth) for frontline action, interventions, community feedback and engagement activities.

  3. The Joint Learning Initiative (JLI) on faith and local communities serves as the initiative's knowledge partner assisting with evidence generation and development of knowledge products and assets.

The three partners form the FPCC Core Coordinating group and operate from their global headquarters in New York, with regional coordination and collaboration structures in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa regions. In addition, the FPCC Core group facilitates the incorporation of FBOs' coordinated voice and input into partnership initiatives. 

At the regional level, FPCC has advisory groups comprising Religions for Peace regional affiliates, UNICEF regional offices and JLI coordinators who guide and support strategy, planning, implementation and resource mobilisation for context specific activities and actions. The FPCC model has been successfully tested and implemented in East and Southern Africa (ESAR) and West and Central Africa (WCAR), and is now being replicated in other regions, including ROSA (South Asia) and LACR (Latin America and Caribbean). Elements of FPCC are also being implemented in (Middle East and North Africa (MENA), ECAR (Europe and Central Asia), with a primary focus on migrants and refugees, as well as EAPR (East Asia and Pacific).  

What is FPCC

The Faith and Positive Change for Children, Families, and Communities (FPCC) initiative was launched in 2018 as a faith engagement approach to broaden the scope and influence of faith in development and humanitarian work beyond small-scale, ad-hoc, single-sector, single-faith, and occasionally instrumentalist approaches.


The FPCC model has three major components:

  1. Faith-centered research and mapping to ensure evidence-based and contextually appropriate approaches.


  2. Promoting community/congregational feedback, engagement, and action using the Mind and Heart Dialogue approach to experiential learning, training, and equipping of religious leaders, faith actors, and other stakeholders to ensure interactive and reflective approaches that build on faith teachings and values in addressing children's issues from a social behavior perspective.


  3. The establishment of long-term intra/inter/multi/faith coordination and partnership mechanisms for ongoing planning, implementation, and oversight. The partnership includes faith groups, FBOs, UNICEF country offices and teams, and other partners linked to existing country-level multi-faith coordination mechanisms and structures.


FPCC Timeline


2018 - Evidence & conceptual work to set the foundation for FPCC. JLI led a global literature review covering 17 case studies and a review of over 40 guides and toolkits on faith engagement which led to the development of the Theory of Change (TOC). A Global high-level consultation workshop with 120 faith actors from more than 30 countries was held in Bangkok on establishment of FPCC partnership.


2019


Piloting of new foundational approach of ‘mind and heart dialogue’ through WorkRocks in 5 countries in East & Southern Africa and Western Central Africa.


2020


Shift from 5 pilot countries to global launch of Faith-in-Action COVID response through 7 regional webinars in 4 different languages.


Global FPCC COVID-specific resources: Development of 6 COVID-specific thematic inter-faith guides and training through virtual Mind-Heart Dialogue webinars.


Regional implementation partnership agreements between UNICEF and Religions for Peace in 3 Regions - East & Southern Africa, Western Central Africa and Europe & Central Asia – tying faith engagement to UNICEF regional/country programming with focus on different child-related priorities.






2021


Faith and Science consultation and advocacy webinars with high level faith leaders to influence followers to adopt recommended practices and uptake essential services.


Formalized global coordination structure:  tripartite Global Advisory Group and 3 Working groups: Training, Coordination and M&E and recruited FPCC Global Coordinator via Religions for Peace.


Development of FPCC Core Resources:  Mind Heart Dialogue guide, Global Programming Guide and Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.


Development and initial roll-out of FPCC training model: Training of first set of Training of Trainers in Mind-Heart Dialogue and national training in 8 South Asian countries through regional training institute Sarvodaya Sri Lanka.


South Asia Regional High-Level Summit of Faith Actors to discuss collaboration between religious leaders, faith-based organization and UNICEF to advance child rights and well-being in South Asia.


2022


Expansion of FPCC through initial adoption of the model in 3 additional regions - South Asia, Latin America & the Caribbean and Middle East & North Africa.


Signing and launch of FPCC activities in South Asia Region with UNICEF South Asia.


Signing of Partnership Cooperation Agreement with UNICEF East and South Africa Regional Office.


Signing of Special Partnership Cooperation Agreement with UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office.


FPCC Regional Faith Engagement Forum for South Asia in Kathmandu with more than 100 participants and development of the regional faith engagement strategy and roadmap


South Asia Regional Advisory Group virtual meeting that recommended a convening to reflect on the progress and discuss the future steps.


Regional Advisory Group Meeting & Inter-Agency Regional AAP/RCCE Training Innovating for future emergencies 7-9 November 2022 Colombo, Sri Lanka


Regional Advisory Workshop on Faith Actors for Child Rights and Well-Being: Enhancing Collaboration and Positive Change for Adolescent Girls in South Asia.


2023


Signing of a Program Cooperation Agreement with UNICEF HQ for implementation of FPCC in Africa, South Asia and Latin America Caribbean with targeted development of Mind and Heart Dialogue Guides, Faith Guidance Document on Immunisation, Roll-out of community feedback and engagement activities in over 20 countries and finalising the M&E framework.


Signing and launch of FPCC activities in Latin America & Caribbean Region with UNICEF LAC.


Survey - Rapid Assessment of Behavioural Drivers and Barriers to COVID-19 and Routine Under 5 Vaccine  uptake within Faith communities.


Regional Advisory Workshop on Faith Actors for Child Rights and Wellbeing in Colombo Sri Lanka from 13th to 15th August.


High-Level Meeting on Increased Advocacy, Community Engagement and Learning on Positive Behaviour Outcomes for Children, Families and Communities on 19 December 2023, Colombo Sri Lanka.


Regional Mind and Heart Dialogue Facilitators’ Training for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka held in Kathmandu Nepal.


2024


FPCC Global Stocktaking Meeting, January 2024, Nairobi.


Regional Meeting with Faith Actors to Accelerate Immunization in Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama City, 27 to 29 February 2024


Multi-Faith High Level Forum: Advancing Positive Outcomes for Children, Families and Communities - New York, USA, 26 to 27 March 2024

FPCC journey/theory of change

The theory/journey of change behind the FPCC initiative is based on the belief that leveraging faith-based actors and leaders, including their assets and resources, can contribute to positive changes in the lives of children. It recognises the significant influence that religious and spiritual beliefs have on individuals and communities and aims to harness this influence to promote child well-being and rights.

Our journey of change, therefore, states that: If religious leaders are influenced to use their platforms and institutions, such as sermons, prayers and teachings, to raise awareness about child wellbeing, including their rights and advocate for their protection, then they will be able to leverage on their assets and resources in collaboration with their congregations and followers to influence changes in behaviours, norms and practices that impact on the wellbeing of children, families and communities, because promoting the well-being of children requires the interrogation and application of faith teachings and practices that reinforce and promote positive practices and norms using evidence as the basis of engagement. 


FPCC Journey of Change Diagram


The FPCC Journey of Change (JOC) can be read from right to left. The Child Priority Results indicate the areas of intervention and desired change. These are based on contextual analysis and country or sub-national level priorities. The Behavioural Outcomes indicate the changes in knowledge, attitude and practice linked to desired behaviours to challenge existing norms and practices, for change to occur, these behaviour outcomes are to be realised.


To influence a change in behaviour several platforms and mechanisms have to be influenced both formally and informally. This includes a mapping available resources and assets owned and controlled by faith leaders and their institutions. The platforms are the tangible intervention areas of the faith engagement approaches and actions. give useful examples of the many entry points for FPCC activities. The Behavioral Outcomes and Child Priority Results describe the intended changes and overall goals for the FPCC Initiative.


The Foundational Approach which is the Mind and Heart Dialogue provides a pillar and resource for analysis, mediation and mitigation especially on where faith/cultural norms and practices clash with recommended practices from science and technical experts. This is a dialogue of the heart and mind where the mind is challenged by facts and research for example and the heart clings to behaviour, emotions, feelings, hopes and fears.


Faith is then used as an arbitrator to help reinforce positive norms and practices and encourage adoption through self and collective reflection and dialogue. The key assumption is that practitioners of the MHD approach have the same values inspired by faith teachings and practices. These overlapping circles show that any faith engagement work for children must integrate all three aspects of mind (technical expertise), faith (religious beliefs and practices), and heart (people's experiences, cultures, and emotions). Including one without the others will lead to a failed approach.


Key cross cutting issues are also considered since the intervention areas do not exist in a vacuum and the individual is faced by multiple issues that need to be addressed. The Levels of Influence therefore define the parameters through which the dialogue process can be held starting first with the individual and spreading out to policy levels and also emphasis on intra- and inter-faith dialogue covering both majority and minority faith communities.


Finally we have the existential qualities and systems strengthening areas that define the principles of engagement and interaction.


In addition, faith-based actors/leaders can contribute to positive change for children by fostering supportive and inclusive communities. Provided that religious leaders/actors commit to use their influence to create spaces where children feel safe, loved and valued, then they will be able to encourage their congregations or religious communities to provide resources and support for children in need, such as orphans, street children, or children affected by conflict or disaster by developing facilities like orphanages, schools, or community centres that provide education, healthcare and psychosocial support because social behaviour change requires creating a supportive environment that can help children thrive and reach their full potential.

bottom of page