Religions and Development (2005 - 10)

Researchers: Professor Carole Rakodi (, Professor Richard Batley (, Dr Heather Marquette (, Dr Robert Leurs (, Professor Gurharpal Singh, Dr Josef Boehle, Dr Lynne Brydon, Dr Insa Nolte, Dr Heather Widdows

Funder: UK Department for International Development (DFID)

For thirty years or more, the importance of recognising social diversity and difference when analysing conditions in developing countries, assessing the outcomes of policies, and designing policy interventions that achieve poverty reduction and do not have unexpected adverse effects on some population groups has been acknowledged. Increasingly, in the development studies and policy literature the importance of class / socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, age and disability have been recognised. By the 1990s, guides to conducting social and gender analysis had been published. Although they included reference to culture, they did not refer to religion as a dimension of social difference.

Although disciplines such as theology and Islamic studies focus on the interpretation of religious values and beliefs and social science disciplines, especially anthropology and religious studies, have long traditions of studying religion and society in developing countries, other disciplines and mainstream development studies and policy have more or less neglected the relationships between religions and development.

Believing in the desirability of separating religion and the state and also that religion would become less important as societies modernised, mainstream development studies literature failed to develop concepts and tools to analyse the relationships between religions and development. Moreover, development agencies, unwilling to associate themselves with religious proselytising or careful not to appear to favour one religion or denomination over another, generally ignored the issue.

The Religions and Development Research Programme Consortium is an international research partnership that is exploring the relationships between several major world religions, development in low-income countries and poverty reduction.

Project aims

This research aims to develop the shared concepts and analytical tools we currently lack in order to improve understanding of relationships between religions and development. It will enable positive dialogue between development partners to facilitate achievement of development goals, especially the Millenium Development Goals. Visit the Religions and Development website.

Research design

The RaD research programme, coordinated by IDD, focuses on four countries (India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Tanzania), enabling the research team to study most of the major world religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and African traditional belief systems. The partners in the University of Birmingham, other universities in the UK and the four focus countries are undertaking a series of comparative research projects that address the following questions:

  • How do religious values and beliefs drive the actions and interactions of individuals and faith-based organisations?
  • How do religious values and beliefs and religious organisations influence the relationships between states and societies?
  • In what ways do faith communities interact with development actors and what are the outcomes with respect to the achievement of development goals?

The following research projects are under way or planned:

Religious values and development concepts

  • Values, religious teachings and development concepts
  • Well-being and religion in Bangladesh and India
  • Religion, ethics and attitudes towards corruption in India and Nigeria

Faiths, governance and development

  • Religions, politics and governance
  • The role of faith communities in movements for social change, especially the women’s movement
  • Faith communities and the development process: participation in PRSP processes in Tanzania and Nigeria

Religious identity, faith-based organisation and development

  • Mapping the terrain: faith-based organisations in development
  • Faith-based service providers and the state: madrasas and religious political parties in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria
  • The development activities of faith-based organisations
  • The role of faith communities in conflict transformation and development

Religious transnationalism and development initiatives

  • New forms of religious transnationalism and development in Punjab
  • Faith communities and New York-based UN organisations


The research outputs are initially published in the RaD Working Paper series. For a list and information on how to download or order, visit Religions and Development (RaD).