CRPL Seminar Series: ‘Faith and Positive Change for Children’s Project’ – Oct, 2020

How do United Nations agencies work with faith communities? While faith engagement in development is common to some extent, it is often short-term, ad hoc, and instrumentalising. Taking UNICEF as an example, this seminar will present on the findings and experiences from a three-year collaboration between UNICEF and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities to review its faith engagement and set out a new way forward. The findings from a literature review, mappings, case studies, the development of a theory of change, and then implementation of workshops to test the theory, will be presented. We will also consider the updates that have been needed since the COVID-19 pandemic started and how this has affected UNICEF programming. In conclusion, we will review what can be learned for UN agencies’ faith engagement in general. 


Olivia Wilkinson is a sociologist of humanitarianism and religion. Her work is at the intersection of sociology of religion and international humanitarian/development studies. Her monograph has the title Secular and Religious Dynamics in Humanitarian Response. It unpicks how secularity is one of many privileges and biases in the humanitarian system that can make the distribution of aid unfair or inappropriate. She is currently the Director of Research for the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, where she works on research projects for partners including UNICEF, UNHCR, Tearfund, and World Vision, and in collaboration with universities such as the University of Leeds and University College London. She holds a PhD and Masters in humanitarian action from Trinity College Dublin and Université catholique de Louvain, respectively. Her undergraduate degree in Theology and Religious Studies is from the University of Cambridge. 

This paper was given as part of the CRPL Seminar Series on the 1st October 2020 via Teams.

If you are interested in attending any of our future online seminars, then please contact Dr Hollie Gowan on

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