Holy Alliances: the role of church partnerships in supporting social outcomes

In collaboration with the Good Faith Partnership, Demos will explore the ways in which churches across the UK are partnering with other organisations to meet local needs more effectively.

Following the economic downturn and a prolonged period of central government austerity measures, social need is on the rise – debt, poverty, homelessness and mental health needs are increasing year on year, to name just a few. Churches are responding by scaling up their social activities, running food banks, youth unemployment programmes, family support services, academy schools and many more.

But in light of growing need and dwindling resources, many churches are seeking to generate even greater impact by working with partners, including other faith groups, local authorities, non-faith organisations, businesses, and wider civil society (e.g. schools). These partners have a diverse range of interests, whether that be “doing more with less” in public services delivery, calming tensions post-Brexit, or demonstrating social impact. The process of forming partnerships between disparate organisations, each with their own priorities and working practices, is more of an art than a science. They can often go awry and fail to achieve the outcomes that were intended.

This research will explore the growing trend of partnership working in faith social action for the first time. It will explore why these partnerships are formed, how they are formed, their successes and their challenges. The project also aims to foster good practice by outlining common features of successful partnerships, pitfalls to avoid and key considerations for churches and others to bear in mind when considering this approach.