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Title: Learning, faith, and sustainability in Kenya: considering the work of faith-based organizations
Authors: Moyer, Joanne Marguerite
Supervisor: Sinclair, A. John (Natural Resources Institute)
Examining Committee: Klostermaier, Klaus (Religion) Diduck, Alan P. (Natural Resources Institute) Spaling, Harry (Natural Resources Institute) Plummer, Ryan (Brock University)
Graduation Date: February 2013
Keywords: sustainability
faith-based organizations
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media
Citation: Moyer, Joanne M., A. John Sinclair, and Harry Spaling. 2012. “Working for God and Sustainability: The Activities of Faith-Based Organizations in Kenya.” Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 23(4): 959-992.
Abstract: Sustainability, the work of building a world that is ecologically, socially and economically just, is essentially a learning process. To move more effectively toward this goal, a deeper understanding of learning is necessary. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have come to play a significant role within the sustainability project, and thus form the context for much learning toward sustainability. Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are a significant but understudied segment of the NGO family. This research investigates learning among individuals within FBOs doing environmental and development work in Kenya, using the framework of Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. The identity and function of these FBOs is profiled, highlighting the key role churches and faith-based agencies can play in effecting sustainable and holistic change in Global South countries, due to their rootedness in the community, the social capital they help produce, and the respect they receive from local people. Learning for sustainability is examined through interviews with participants from two case FBOs: A Rocha Kenya and Rural Service Programme of the East Africa Yearly Meeting of Friends. Attention to the context these organizations provide for learning highlighted the influence of supportive community, mentor relationships, teamwork, and training and evaluation structures. Learning outcomes covered a broad range of areas, with the highest proportion fitting within environment/conservation (e.g., linking faith and environmental concerns, and agriculture and birding skills) and community work (e.g., relating to people, managing groups, teaching and facilitation) umbrellas. Some transformative learning was experienced, mostly through learning in the instrumental domain. Key learning processes included observation and experience, training, practical application and learning from each other, highlighting the importance of embodied learning processes. Applying learning through action, both at work and in the home and community, was an important expression of learning for participants, though this expression was sometimes blocked by personal and social barriers that prevented the completion of the learning-action cycle.
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