Baylor ISR Case Study Examines Success of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in Ohio

Jan. 22, 2007
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Media Contact: Julie Carlson, senior staff writer, (254) 710-6681

Researchers with Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR have completed a case study that examines the success obtained by the state of Ohio's faith-based and community initiatives. The case study provides an overview of the Ohio programs and provides analysis of how the state has achieved its success.

(A PDF of the case study is available here.)

"President George W. Bush signed an executive order establishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in January of 2001," said Dr. Byron Johnson, professor of sociology and co-director of ISR and co-author of the case study. "Six years after the signing of the executive order, many observers from the left to the right of the political spectrum can at least agree on one thing - the faith-based movement has garnered little support among lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

"In this case study we turn our attention to a state - Ohio - where the faith-based initiative has received far-reaching and bipartisan support and has by all accounts been responsible for achieving many positive outcomes."

The ISR research chronicles the establishment and ongoing efforts of the Ohio Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (GOFBCI) and summarizes the events that fast-tracked and solidified the development, presence and viability of the office. The office was established in 2001.

"The case study provides practical insights, lessons and strategies for other states or municipalities that seek to develop a faith-based and community initiative," said William Wubbenhorst, non-resident fellow at the ISR and co-author of the study.

According to Wubbenhorst and Johnson, the GOFBCI was driven by three over-arching principles to guide the work in Ohio that encouraged expanded involvement with, and funding of, faith-based and other community-based organizations. The principles were:

a) The importance of protecting the faith identity of faith-based organizations;

b) Assuring the appropriate safeguards against proselytizing when using public funds, both through clear communication of church/state boundaries and the development of indirect funding mechanisms; and

c) Developing a process for assessing the outcomes and assuring a level of accountability of publicly-funded services.

"The Ohio experience is particularly unusual because the GOFBCI was able to foster the rapid development of many different faith-based and community-based programs and was able to multiply these efforts in a relatively short period of time across the state of Ohio," Johnson said.

He cited five factors that researchers believe were central to the early success of the Ohio initiatives. These were:

1. Intentional and deliberate bipartisan efforts. By depoliticizing their efforts, the GOFBCI was able to establish a truly bipartisan foundation that was essential in getting the necessary support and buy-in to launch the office.

2. Strong Leadership. The selection of a catalytic leader was a critical step in getting the office off to a fast start. The GOFBCI was quick to implement a philosophy that emphasized products (e.g. new initiatives or number of clients served) and galvanized support around issues resonating with most Ohioans.

3. Funding. The GOFBCI was successful in receiving significant federal funding, which allowed them to "invest" in the capacity development and administrative infrastructure of faith- and community-based organizations in Ohio. It also allowed the office to seed many smaller grants and thus provide much needed social services in areas often overlooked by previous outreach efforts.

4. Collaborations. The GOFBCI successfully fostered a number of collaborations, beginning with the Compassion Capital Fund and culminating through its Ohio Strengthening Families Initiative.

5. Tangible Results. The GOFBCI was catalytic in assisting new faith-based and grassroots organizations to build capacity and to do so quickly.

"Exemplary Ohio programs were able to dramatically increase the number of clients they served as well as the services they offered," said Wubbenhorst. "In addition, the experience of gaining initial external funding helped these groups to build enough capacity and expertise to seek and gain additional funding and thus help to serve even more people in need."

"The Ohio experience is a prime example of how support for faith-based and community initiatives can bring about dramatic increase in the cost-effective provision of social services that otherwise go unmet in so many communities," Johnson said.

For more information, contact Johnson at (254) 710-7555 or visit Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR).

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