The Faith Sector Relationship with State: Investigating Resourcing for Social/Charitable Services Offered by Faith Sector Charities in Aotearoa New Zealand

Moulvi, Nikhat Mazhar Abbas
Nakhid, Camille
Adelowo, Adesayo
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

The presence and functions of faith organisations in communities and societies have been acknowledged by governments internationally and factored into the relationships established between the state and the faith sector. This initiative has been lacking in Aotearoa New Zealand, although faith organisations here have historically been significantly involved in the provision of social/charitable (Soc/Ch) services and continue to do so. To enhance understanding of the faith sector’s relationship with state, this research investigates, 1) what Soc/Ch services faith sector charities (FSCs) provide and the reasons why they undertake to provide them; 2) how FSCs raise funds for Soc/Ch services and why they face challenges in applying for government and non-government funding; and 3) when and why FSCs engage or do not engage with government and non-government organisations.

To explain the multi-dimensional and dynamic institutional processes and activities of charities in the faith sector, three research components (objects) are examined in a variety of ways – social service provision, fundraising activity and inter-organisational/government relationships. Official data is used to identify the faith sector charities (FSCs) in Aotearoa New Zealand and gain information about the macro-level demographic features of the faith sector. Survey responses from a representative sample of the FSCs supplement information about meso-level activities that are not captured in the official data. Case studies help explore micro-level properties of FSCs in relation to the three objects. The critical realist approach is used to guide the research investigation. It offers a mode of reasoning and conceptualisation of reality that helps describe and explain objects of study in a nuanced way. Emergent organisational properties of FSCs in relation to the three objects of study are abstracted from case study data. Normative behaviour and practices of FSCs are abducted and theoretical structures of causal explanations about each of the objects are retroducted from information collected through all of the data. Critical realism allows the object to be disaggregated into its component parts across three domains of reality – the domain of the empirical (what is seen), domain of the actual (what may/may not occur) and domain of the real (what generates events/activities). It reveals institutional patterns that provide information about the role of the faith sector and its relationship with the state.

The research found that FSCs in Aotearoa New Zealand are default providers of supplementary services that are not provided by the state; they may undertake complementary services subject to receiving funding support from the state; and they are uniquely placed to be the voice for their faith community and undertake representation and/or consultation functions, i.e., play an adversarial/advocacy role on behalf of their community with the state. Two areas of active engagement between the state and FSCs were identified. One, FSCs attempt to seek resources from government funding agencies for provision of Soc/Ch services. Two, the government engages with FSCs for community representation purposes or consultation in relation to policy and service delivery in the social sectors served by FSCs.

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