Doing Good: A Future for Christianity in the 21st Century

Theos launches 'Doing Good', a report on the future of Christianity, drawing on a decade of research.

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The Christian roots of liberal values

Join Nick Spencer and Theo Hobson for an evening discussing Christianity's influence on Western values


Social Innovation - Call for Evidence

3rd February 2017

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Theos is carrying out research into religious social innovation. We’d like to hear about examples of faith-based organisations responding to social need in innovative, creative or different ways.

Do you know of, or are you involved in, projects that:

  • respond to problems no-one has identified before?
  • approach old problems in new ways?
  • benefit a group of people whose needs are not well served by state agencies or existing charities?
  • draw together people from across different sectors – commercial, charitable and public – to achieve socially beneficial outcomes?
  • make use of usually untapped or unused resources within churches, faith-based organisations or charities?
  • have a tangible impact?

If you can say ‘yes’ to any of the above, please contact with a description of the project or activity and contact details for a person who can offer more information. Examples will ideally be based in the United Kingdom but we're also open to contacts from other parts of the world. 

These aren’t hard and fast criteria, but they might help you understand the kind of thing we’re looking for.

What is social innovation?

The term ‘social innovation’ refers to creative or novel approaches to dealing with emerging or pressing social challenges. The goal could be anything – from tackling loneliness or getting people into employment to improving civic participation or road traffic safety.  

A social innovation is not always the same thing as a charitable project. Nor is it necessarily created or delivered by charities – for instance, many might take the form of a social business or enterprise. The important thing is that the objective is a public and social benefit, rather than private or profit orientated, and that the project is innovative.

Lots of people are talking about and researching social innovation but hardly any of them are thinking about the way religious groups might be sources of innovation. In fact, more often than not, religious organisations are still perceived to be reactionary, inward and cautious.

That's surprising for two reasons. First, we know that churches and faith-based organisations are at the heart of responding to pressing social problems. With up to 10 million people in England saying that they or a member of their family have used church or church-based community activities within the last 12 months, it is clear that they already contribute substantially to the common good. Second, religious groups have often been creative or innovative in responding to social need, ‘inventing’ new responses as new social challenges emerged. Historical examples would include early forms of probation, the modern hospice movement and even first aid. These ‘social innovations’ are now so much a part of modern life that we can hardly imagine a time when no-one had thought of them. 

That's why we want to look at the activity of churches and other religious organisations through the prism of social innovation. We want to explore what part churches and religious organisations could play in the field of social innovation and ask if churches and religious organisations could have an even greater impact if they focused on making more space for social innovation.

Please get in touch if you think you can help. 

Image by Geoff Wake under Creative Commons 2.0