In 2018 funding from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD) was used to set up our Faith in Barking & Dagenham project. Through this project, the Faith & Belief Forum has been working in the borough in close partnership with Barking & Dagenham Faith Forum (B&D Faith Forum) to deliver a number of community interventions.
We are incredibly proud of the project which has been groundbreaking not only in its ambitions – to create a beacon faith friendly borough – but also its grassroots approach, and its success in engaging residents from a wide range of ages, faith and belief backgrounds, and roles in local communities.
Through 118 events, workshops, and meetings, our project has enabled 1260 residents to critically engage with concepts around faith and belief diversity, build their skills and confidence, and nurture strong local networks with people who hold different faiths and beliefs to themselves.
There were six strands to this project:
- Supporting Barking and Dagenham Faith Forum: Our work with B&D Faith Forum has been wide reaching. As well as offering capacity to the network through conducting secretarial duties and contributing to the planning and delivery of their events, we have also embedded the trustees and their priorities in all other strands of our project.
- Researching and writing a Faith Policy: we conducted consultation for, and developed the Faith Builds Community: Working Together in Barking & Dagenham documents. These documents, which are the first of their kind in the UK, provide a map for LBBD and faith-based organisations to a future which is more inclusive of, and suitable for residents of different faith and belief backgrounds.
- Engaging with children and young people: Barking and Dagenham has a relatively young population, with 26% of residents aged 15 or younger, compared with 19% in London on average. As such it was important to us to engage children and young people as a significant proportion of our participants. We hosted 19 workshops at four local schools, giving young people opportunities to engage with volunteers from a range of faith and belief backgrounds.
- Building leadership skills: We sought out people who may not yet consider themselves leaders as they are relatively early in their careers in community organisations. As well as being the leaders of the future, we know that young adults have the potential to transform communities now, and so we wanted to ensure they had the skills, confidence and tools to work together to do so. 16 young adults completed the programme, which involved trainings, events, and a social action project.
- Enabling creative exploration and expression: It was important to us to engage residents who may not be interested in traditional interfaith sessions. We worked in partnership with Studio 3 Arts to deliver drop-in arts workshops which used a range of creative approaches. Through these workshops, we worked with ten residents to create and launch the Ways of Connecting film.
- Cultivating faith awareness skills: In order to create a beacon faith-friendly borough, it was important to support key individuals to work more skillfully and confidently with faith communities. This was achieved through Faith Inclusion workshops for LBBD staff, as well as creation of a Residents’ Guide to Interfaith for local people to use.
We are delighted with the impacts of our project which include 90% of participants having had their perceptions challenged about people who are different to them and 81% of participants now feeling more confident speaking to people who are different to them.
It has been a privilege to volunteer as a speaker in three workshops at schools in Barking and Dagenham and to express what Hinduism means to be. It is so nice to see children listening so attentively and experience the questioning and curiosity of young minds – the wondrous feeling in the eyes.
The workshops and events were really educational. The project reminded me how blessed we are in Barking and Dagenham to be surrounded by so many different types of people. The activities really brought out a lot, allowing everyone there to explore their beliefs and faith systems and have the opportunity to discuss.
We are pleased to be continuing to work in the borough in partnership with LBBD and B&D Faith Forum. For information on the upcoming Barking & Dagenham Faith & Community Awards, click here.
To find out more about the Faith & Belief Forum’s offers for Local Authorities, click here.