2020 Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement

USAID 2020 Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement

On October 5-8th, 2020, USAID will host its first Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE). 
 
Hosted by USAID’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives and co-convened by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, United States Institute of Peace, and Templeton Religion Trust, the Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement aims to provide key empirical data in order to shape and develop relevant technical assistance for the Agency’s field offices worldwide.

Why Strategic Religious Engagement?

In many societies around the world religion is an increasingly important force in public life impacting political discourse, social attitudes, institutions, and policy outcomes—both for good and for ill. U.S. foreign policy makers, development professionals and implementers face these dynamics in their global work.

Since 2015, the United States Government has operated under the framework of the U.S. National Strategy on Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement, which encourages U.S. diplomats and development professionals to engage and deepen relationships with religious leaders and faith communities as they carry out their foreign policy responsibilities.

Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) is conducted in full compliance with and respect for the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. USAID regulations (22 CFR 205.1) detail how the Establishment Clause is applied in USAID’s work.

What is Strategic Religious Engagement and how does it support USAID's mission?

Strategic Religious Engagement (SRE) is the process of collaborating with religious communities and/or partnering with faith-based organizations to advance shared development goals.  SRE is applied — if, when and where appropriate — with the goal of building our partner countries’ commitment and capacity in their journey to self-reliance.

SRE supports USAID’s ‘Journey to Self-Reliance’ policy framework in two critical ways. First, as part of civil society engagement, SRE can help to engage local actors as co-designers, co-implementers, and co-owners of USAID programming supporting their country’s development. Second, SRE can support USAID’s strategy for diversifying its partner base by encouraging partnership with new and underutilized partners with innovative ideas, especially locally established partners or national and international non-profits.

What will happen at the Summit?

The Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement provides USAID an opportunity to examine, pause, and reflect upon the evidence around the role and impact of religious communities in global development and humanitarian assistance, and the possible implications for USAID policy and practice.

The four-day event will bring together academics, development practitioners, and U.S. government staff to systematically marshal existing empirical evidence, pinpoint what we know and what we do not know, and discuss ways to help USAID’s field staff best design and implement programs. Presenters will share and discuss the evidence, best practices, potential landmines, and possible opportunities of this type of engagement.

What’s next?

In preparation for the Summit, USAID’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives conducted an Agency-wide survey to understand how USAID’s workforce currently perceives SRE and applies it in the field. Agency professionals communicated a need for a relevant policy, better guidance, increased evidence, resources, and training on effective collaboration with religious communities.

Following the Summit, research and participant inputs will be collected and studied to inform the need for and potential development of a USAID Strategic Religious Engagement policy, evidence-based principles, tools, training, and other resources that would provide staff with guidance on appropriately collaborating with religious communities in the pursuit of the Agency’s development goals.
 
** For more information on USAID’s Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement, please contact cfoi@usaid.gov.

Last updated: October 06, 2020

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