University of Winchester

ABSTRACTS /Andrew Orton

Contesting ‘good practice’ in faith-based action for social change: Changing policy and practice in Christian community work

Faith-based community work is currently receiving a high level of policy interest from diverse organisations and government bodies in England, based on its perceived potential to address a combination of policy, organisational and individual interests. Building on emerging findings from qualitative research with participants in this contested field across these levels of interest, this paper analyses the complex agendas shaping the contemporary construction of the concept of ‘good practice’ for Christian community workers in the current policy and practice climate. Based on this analysis, some of the resultant tensions and dilemmas facing those involved are highlighted, from policy, practice, and theological perspectives. In light of the rationalistic tendency of many of these agendas to evaluate any work based on their own standardised model (which, it is argued, internalises rather than recognises these tensions), the paper proposes an alternative basis for practice, founded in ongoing processes of critical, reflective learning, and which recognise the organisational dynamics concerned.

Biographical Statement

Andrew Orton is a Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Durham, where he also teaches management of community organisations and community and youth work in a Christian context elements of the professional undergraduate Community and Youth Work Studies programme.

His previous experience includes both paid and voluntary work in a range of faith-based and other community, voluntary and statutory sector organisations, including as a manager of a charity in Morecambe and work with an estate church in Nottingham, in addition to more recent experience as a management and evaluation consultant in these fields.
In his spare time, Andrew continues to provide support to a range of local organisations, as well as being a member of the National Community Forum, a public body established as a sounding board on the impact of government policy in tackling disadvantage and regenerating deprived communities.


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