COMMUNITY and faith groups have come up with a new aim of developing what they describe as “social confidence” among communities in some of the most culturally and religiously diverse areas in England.
The concept — defined as “The trust we have in ourselves, our community and institutions to look after our individual and collective wellbeing” — is outlined in a report on faith-led social action during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report, Restoring Social Confidence, is published by the think tank Common Vision after five months research into the work of Near Neighbours, a government-funded charity set up by the Church Urban Fund in 2011.
The report analyses a variety of pandemic projects supported by Near Neighbours during the lockdown, from food delivery to addressing vaccine hesitancy, online courses, and spiritual support in grief.
The partnerships director at the Church Urban Fund, the Revd Elizabeth Carnelley, said: “Near Neighbours has a long history of bringing people together in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so they can get to know each other better, build relationships of trust, and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.
“The deep well of experience and expertise that Near Neighbours has established over the last decade is something which grass-roots organisations have been able to draw on during the pandemic, and I am delighted that this report confirms the significant value of this.
“From building relationships with local authorities to mobilising volunteers and resources, Near Neighbours supports communities to bring different people together, nurture leaders, promote local ownership, and encourages open communication on important but challenging issues. Ultimately, these insights provide a source of expertise and inspiration on how social confidence can be rebuilt and safeguarded in an uncertain future.”
The author of the report, the director of Common Vision, Caroline Macfarland, said: “The experiences of faith-based community organisations provide valuable insights into what it takes to strengthen social confidence. Although often overlooked in secular literature on voluntary and community activities, faith-based initiatives have a long history of supporting the needs of communities, particularly in response to hardship and uncertainty.
“Many of the case studies in this report parallel wider best practice in the voluntary and community sector, whereby it is the local knowledge, trusted relationships, and the soft skills of the people within grass-roots organisations that are their unique assets.
“Faith-based organisations drew on their deep relationships, historic trust, and cultural intelligence to reach communities during the pandemic who might otherwise have been excluded by other neighbourhood or statutory services. But they also played a unique role providing emotional support to their communities, safeguarding personal esteem and self-worth — something which is pivotal to social confidence.”