This article seeks to understand the influence of religion/spirituality on services provided and on the governance of faith-based civil society organizations during the Covid-19 pandemic. 22 coordinators of 17 Brazilian organizations that work in the governance of children's rights at the local level are interviewed. The results point to organizational expressions of religiosity, added services, and developed communication and networking capabilities. The research highlights the religion/spirituality dimension in network governance between different actors and the community, characterized by interdependence and intersectionality, and discusses contradictory factors that increase or decrease governance capacity.
Numerous social actors have mobilized themselves to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic impacts, providing support and aid to communities (Andion, 2020; Trautwein et al., 2020). Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are among the agents recognized for offering health care services, emotional and spiritual help in times of crises and disasters, and reaching minority or vulnerable groups, as in the Covid-19 pandemic (Levin et al., 2022).
Religion and faith are widely addressed elements in FBOs research (Bielefeld & Cleveland, 2013; Clarke, 2007a, b; Sider & Unruh, 2004). However, religion has been kept separate from the discussion of governance networks, only returning to political debate in recent decades (Prideaux & Dawson, 2018). Since then, FBOs have been related to community strengthening, social development (Clarke, 2007a, b), and public services provision. Moreover, while in European national contexts there are incentives for active engagement between FBOs with different religious backgrounds (interfaith), in other parts of the world, FBOs with different religious traditions (multifaith) coexist (Prideaux & Dawson, 2018).
Brazilian context is marked by a federative crisis aggravated by the Covid-19 crisis (Andion, 2020; Grin et al., 2022), characterized by the lack of coordination between the national and subnational spheres. This has demanded civil society organizations' action in the local sphere during the pandemic to meet the community's emergency needs (Andion, 2020). However, little is known about the forms of spiritual help provided and the influence of religion on governance during the Covid-19 crisis in Brazil, a scenario permeated by various belief systems and religions. This article seeks to understand the religion-spirituality role (R&S) in governance networks and services provided by faith-based civil society organizations (FBCSOs) during the confrontation with Covid, from the perspective of coordinators/managers of such organizations. The main question of the research is: how did religion/spirituality influence governance and the services provided by faith-based civil society organizations during the Covid pandemic? The governance of children’s and adolescents’ rights was the sector selected for investigation.
The article assumes a qualitative strategic approach, adopting, besides other techniques, semistructured interviews with 22 coordinators of 17 FBCSOs working in Southern Brazil. In addition to some previously established categories, open coding was applied by two researchers, resulting in 208 categories, grouped into themes around three main categories on the influence of R&S on network governance: R&S expressions in FBCSOs, factors that enhance or reduce the governance capacity of FBCSOs, and network governance during Covid-19 pandemic, according to FBCSOs working in children’s and adolescents rights.
The article offers three contributions that can elucidate how religion/spirituality contributes to or challenges the ability of FBCSOs during crises: (1) to understand characteristics of the interface between State-FBSCOs mediated by R&S; (2) it points to pressure within the governance network that led to lower exposure of FBSCOs religion in some interactions; and (3) it shows how R&S manifests itself and motivates daily practices, such as distribution of basic food baskets and fundraising through personal networking, and spiritual aids (prayer, guidance, and support to families); the latter mediated by digital social networks. Finally, implications of factors enhancing or reducing R&S’s interface with governance are discussed, considering future programs and policies.
Faith-Based Organizations: Practices, Governance, and Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis
R&S are defining aspects of FBCSOs compared to secular organizations (Davis, 2019). These organizations act both with the State in the formulation of public policies and the development of partnerships, and in other cases, they present a low collaboration relationship due to their religious or spiritualist nature (Clarke, 2006; Prideaux & Dawson, 2018; Taylor, 2012; Yi & Phillips, 2018). In the current post-secular era, the role of religion is once again recognized in the field of development (Davis, 2019) and as an aspect of governance (Martikainen, 2016; Prideaux & Dawson, 2018).
The term “Faith-Based Organizations” appeared in the 1950s in the resolutions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the UN policy sections (Lehmann, 2016), gaining prominence in global development arenas from 1990 onwards. For their contribution, FBOs are recognized as partners in international development policy (Koehrsen & Heuser, 2020).
R&S presents itself as a component of FBOs and their practices, manifesting in different organizational forms and degrees of expression of religiosity (Bielefeld & Cleveland, 2013; Clarke, 2007a, b; Sider & Unruh, 2004). Typologies about religion in FBOs usually have three commonalities: (1) organizational control (source of funding, power, and decision-making); (2) religious expression (organizational identity and religiosity of the participants); and (3) implementation of programs (services provided, integration of religious elements in services and voluntary or non-voluntary participation in specifically religious activities) (Bielefeld & Cleveland, 2013).
FBOs have as their primary purpose social transformation through the services offered (MacLean et al., 2016), which involves charitable actions (Borchgrevink & Erdal, 2017; Power et al., 2017), healthcare (Arriola et al., 2017; Pandya, 2017), seeking to maintain human rights in different parts of the world (Carino, 2016; Lee & Han, 2016; Occhipinti, 2015), among other areas of activity.
The multiple definitions of FBOs usually describe them as affiliated with a particular faith (Hoda & Lal Gupta, 2015). Despite the challenge in understanding its organizational character, given its different formats, the literature allows identifying three types of FBOs: (1) Religious Organizations (RO): they are directly linked to a superior religious institution. They act following the principles and regulations of the given institution. Religious beliefs and practices are vital components of this type of FBO (Tracey, 2012; Unruh et al., 2010); (2) Faith-Based Civil Society Organizations (FBCSOs): they play a peripheral role in organizational studies despite their active role in civil society (James, 2011); they have a religious bond or spiritualist motivation, but without responding to a superior religious institution. These organizations seek to imprint their religious identity on organizational practices at different levels, which may or may not be more evident (Lynch & Schwarz, 2016); and (3) Faith-Based Business Organizations: maintain, in organizational practices, certain religious precepts, charitable donations and initiatives motivated by the entrepreneur's faith (Clarke & Jennings, 2007; Aoun & Tournois, 2015).
Religion is relevant to the organizational identity of FBOs (Bielefeld & Cleveland, 2013). However, many FBOs have sought to downplay their religious roots in the belief that they could prevent them from achieving social and political goals (Khan, 2000).
Governance in FBOs and Results in the Fight Against Covid-19
FBOs maintain a close relationship with the State through funding, openings, or restrictions on activities in civil society, and mainly, offering programs for the community (Kazmina, 2017; Prideaux & Dawson, 2018; Yi & Phillips, 2018). Many countries are open to their social services and seek to support them, as in the North American Charitable Choice programs (Cnaan & Boddie, 2002) and Faith-Based and Community Initiative (Briebricher, 2011).
On the other hand, State-FBO associations can present certain tensions. Due to their religious nature, FBOs are considered confusing and difficult to manage. The government often promotes different governance strategies to encourage dialogue between FBOs and interfaith initiatives (Prideaux & Dawson, 2018). From the governmental perspective, governance in these organizations should encourage religious diversity and seek to recognize its role in public administration (Prideaux & Dawson, 2018).
The specific literature includes multiple theoretical bases, analytical models, and forms of governance (Ansell & Torfing, 2022). Focusing on FBOs, one can find models of network governance, polycentric (Martikainen, 2016), and urban governance theory (Dahan, 2019). Network governance has some positive characteristics: (a) it allows gathering information and knowledge; (b) it can produce flexible responses that allow for adjustments in the face of complexity; and (c) it offers a framework that helps civilize conflicts or build dialogues, through its own logic that allows regulating negotiation and forms of interaction (Sørensen & Torfing, 2005).
Network governance is characterized, among other things, by an interest in how organizations adapt to changes in their environment and seek to influence them. According to Bortel (2009), the interdependence between actors induces them to negotiate to obtain resources. Through these interactions, some rules are maintained or modified. These interactions become patterns of relationships, which constitute a network. Many actors make a decision more complex, which contributes to institutional uncertainty (Bortel, 2009).
The grassroots structure of FBOs (Rachmawati et al., 2022), as well as their provision of services close to the community, point to networked governance as a possible model for investigation. FBOs allow access to faith networks, decentralizing fundraising and volunteer membership, shaping their way of operating (Davis, 2019). Their participation in faith networks distributed in society can be a means of transmitting information and allocating resources.
When it comes to policies for the rights of children and adolescents, approaches such as governmentality have been adopted, along with dimensions of temporality, spatiality, subjectivity, and normativity involved in practices and processes in this field of governance (Holszcheiter et al., 2019). In the Brazilian context, child rights governance has as its starting point the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889: in 1890, the first alliance between doctors, lawyers, and journalists emerged (Schneider, 2019). Different approaches were used to investigate the governance of the Child and Adolescent Rights Guarantee System (SGDCA): collective action theory (Andion, 2020; Gonsalves & Andion, 2019) and public action (Magalhães et al., 2022), network governance (Cirino, 2021) and (3) multilevel governance (Almeida et al., 2022).
Medical-Religious Partnerships with FBOs During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus crisis has exposed the contribution of FBOs in various formats: spiritual, emotional, and psychological support, providing assistance and distributing food and hygiene kits (Levin et al., 2022). Collaborative work between FBOs and public health has been observed in different contexts, allowing us to gather evidence from Canada (El-Majzoub et al., 2021), Indonesia (Rachmawati et al., 2022), Malaysia (Tan et al., 2021), and the United States (Galiatsatus et al., 2020; Levin et al., 2022; Modell & Kardia, 2020; Williams et al., 2021). Together, these studies suggest that partnerships expand the capacity of health policies in the face of the pandemic, transmitting information, reaching populations and minority communities, and helping directly in terms of tangible and intangible resources offered.
The fight against infectious diseases such as SARS-COVID-19 requires intervention at the community level due to the high speed of contagion. In this case, through digital and online means, in communication and dialogue between physicians and leading FBOs. In addition to the transmission of information and messages, in some contexts, an open discussion was maintained to resolve doubts, consult participants, and mediate conflicts or tensions between adherents of faith and public power (El-Majzoub et al., 2021). Such partnerships also make it possible to offer support through tangible resources: food and shelter, medical care, and vaccines for those unable to travel. For example, in the first 12 months of the pandemic, medical-religious partnerships maintained by the Hopkins hospital chaplaincy held online and collective video calls with 38 FBOs: 15 Christian, 21 Jewish, and two Muslim.
FBOs-health sector partnerships have promoted health, hope, and social services (Modell & Kardia, 2020). On the other hand, some negative points refer to possible conflicts between groups with different religious doctrines and between sanitary measures and religious practices. Collaborative negotiation between stakeholders, through dialogue and deliberation, seems to accommodate various demands (El-Majzoub et al., 2021).
Although they faced difficulties in adapting religious practices or services with the more intensive use of technologies and the Internet (El-Majzoub et al., 2021; Rachmawati et al., 2022), FBOs contributed significantly to the sharing of information and materials of hygiene to avoid contagion, as well as to encourage healthy behavior and vaccination. From a medical point of view, R&S practices have proven to be of great importance for mental health during social isolation (Lucchetti et al., 2021) and can contribute to recovering a sense of community, even if virtually (Levin, 2022).
The methodological procedures of this investigation assume a qualitative and interpretative research strategy. Access to the field began with an exploratory survey, in contact with three organizations, to collect data in two stages: first between November 2019 and March 2020 and later in October 2022. Semi-structured interviews with coordinators of 17 FBCSOs were the primary data source, in addition to documentary research used to present a local context.
Step 1 characterized the first approximation to the FBCSOs and made it possible to understand the complexities of these organizations. The research was restricted to the municipality of Florianópolis (Santa Catarina, Brazil). Initially, data collection was provided for non-participant observation, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this observation was carried out in only three FBCSOs. This exploratory step supported prior knowledge on three themes—religion in the organizational context, the individual's R&S as a member of the organization, and elaborating a script of previous questions to be used in interviews. The semi-structured interviews took place with coordinators and managers of FBCSOs based in Florianópolis, mapped by the Arena da Criança e do Adolescente do Observatório de Inovação Social (OBISF) developed by the Núcleo de Inovações Sociais na Esfera Pública (NISP) and registered with the Conselho Municipal dos Direitos da Criança e do Adolescente (Municipal Council for the Rights of Child and Adolescent).
OBISF is made up of researchers in partnership with actors from the Florianópolis social innovation ecosystem and has mapped civil society initiatives in that city, which work on multiple causes and demands, including the rights and guarantees of children and adolescents (www.observafloripa.com), without, however, knowing in depth its religious dimension. Among these initiatives, 83 organizations are active in the child rights governance network. Initially contacted by telephone to identify whether they have any faith, 45 said they did not have it, and 32 said they professed beliefs and had an idea of faith (it was impossible to contact three organizations). The second telephone contact sought to get the coordinators and managers, resulting in 22 people from 17 organizations willing to participate in the research. Among these organizations, nine are Catholic, six are Evangelical, and three are Spiritist.Footnote 1
The semi-structured interviews were initially carried out at the organizations' headquarters, but after the lockdown and social distancing decrees, they were carried out through videoconference and telephone calls, recorded by a voice recorder. One individual was interviewed at a time, except in three cases where, at the request of the subjects, two people were interviewed simultaneously. The previously defined questions were related to four themes: (1) personal and organizational analysis; (2) the individual's religion; (3) religion of the individual in the organization; (4) the Covid-19 pandemic. The question script for steps 1 and 2 can be accessed in Online Resource 1.
The anonymity of the subjects as well as the organizations one was preserved, since the manifestation of R&S causes insecurity due to fear of exposure and resistance on the part of other agents. For this purpose, respondents were coded by the letter “E” and a number, and organizations by the letter “C” and a number. Tables 1 and 2 presents the basic data of the interviewees.
Step 2 was carried out through interviews with six coordinators and managers of the FBCSOs previously interviewed, aiming to understand the current situation of these organizations in the post-Covid scenario. Seven questions were prepared for this phase, seeking to assess how the initial moments of the pandemic were, the impacts on governance networks, the interaction between social actors and the State, and lessons learned. This contact with the professionals was subject to the convenience and availability of the interviewees.
Data analysis was carried out by transcribing the interviews and their open codification using the method by Gioia et al. (2012), which proposes to know in-depth and capture unknown and unexpected nuances of the phenomenon that can add or contribute to knowledge; Atlas.ti and NVivo software were used. Coding and categorization resulted in 235 codes in Atlas.ti and 208 in NVivo. These categories were validated through two rounds of discussion about the main findings. Of these, the top 25 categorized (first-order data) connect to second-order data themes, to then be aggregated into three main categories, according to Gioia et al. (2012), presented in the data structure of Table 3.
Findings and Analysis
In Brazil, religion is regulated by the Federal Constitution (Brasil, 2016), which establishes the secular character of the State, although this secular position is not free from secularism or secularizing processes, that is, from the intention to separate or sanitize the public sphere of expressions of faith (Pinheiro & Pimentel, 2020). In turn, the population's adherence to religion fluctuates over time; Data from the last census (IBGE, 2010) indicate 64.63% of Catholics, 22.16% of Evangelicals, 2.02% of Spiritualists, and 7.65% do not identify with any religion. These denominations branch out into different strands, and there are other religions with less representation. There are adherents of African and Eastern religions, among others (Schmidt, 2014).
The Brazilian State comprises autonomous federative entities politically distributed in three levels: the Union, States, and Municipalities (Meirelles, 2017). In public health, the three state orders operate under a regime of common competencies (Meirelles, 2017). This was accentuated during the pandemic after the Federal Supreme Court reinforced the autonomy of the state and municipal spheres in the regulation to face it, which came against some federal decrees (Grin et al., 2022).
The country has administered more than 485.2 million doses of Covid vaccines, representing 85.8% of the fully vaccinated population. Having started vaccination on January 17, 2021, confirmed cases totaled 34.7 million cases by October 24, 2022, with 687,483 deaths (WHO, 2022). In addition to vaccines, the Emergency Aid program distributed monthly cash resources to families in vulnerable situations to guarantee a minimum income due to the pandemic crisis (Brazil, Law 13,982, April 2020).
The health crisis problem overlapped with other areas or agendas of public policy, as was the case with the experience of FBCSOs, that work in the governance of children's rights. Acting in such circumstances also underscores the characteristic of problem-solving intersectionality, as organizations in the public sphere (governmental or otherwise) from various policy areas turned to face the pandemic and minimize the side effects.
At the national level, the Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA in the acronym in Portuguese), established by Law n. 8,069, of July 13, 1990 (Brasil, 1990), and the Child and Adolescent Rights Guarantee System (SGDCA), created in 2006 (Gonsalves & Andion, 2019), establish that the SGDCA will take place through shared governance, with the articulation of government agents and civil society, in which organizations, families, and states are co-responsible. It follows a multilevel format at the government level (Almeida et al., 2022). Studies argue that government actors of the SGDCA operate more on control and protection than on rights promotion, denoting a reactive posture (Gonsalves & Andion, 2019).
Table 2 presents data from FBCSOs, differentiating regular services from those added during the pandemic. Among the 17 organizations, home services for children in vulnerable situations, traditional schools, and after-school services make up the majority of cases.
Most FBCSOs distributed basic food baskets, fresh food, clothes, hygiene kits, and masks. Classes were adapted for remote teaching, and in four cases, there were online R&S activities: two in Evangelical organizations (prayer groups with interested families) and two in Spiritist ones (spiritual support and prayer groups). Most coordinators report that R&S activities contribute to the accomplishment of their work and that they regularly pray, ask for, and rely on spiritual help.
Most of these organizations grew out of initiatives between faith-based organizations (ROs) and faith communities. Their teams rely on volunteers and contracted workers. The agreements with the municipality, renewed annually, guarantee resources to hire employees. Some organizations have agreements with social assistance and education (n = 5), others do not have an agreement (n = 2), and others have one active agreement. Independently of regular services, all FBCSOs began to collect and donate primary resources. In addition, messages and prayers of spiritual support were informally held.
Table 3 presents evidence of the influence of religion on FBCSOs' governance.
Table 3 elucidates three aspects: (1) expressions of R&S in FBSCOs, (2) network governance and factors that can enhance or reduce the capabilities of FBCSOs, and (3) the relationship between community and FBSCOs. This allows an understanding of the changes that occurred during the pandemic period, as well as pointing to possible effects to improve the governance of FBCSOs:
Analyzing the organizational aspects of FBSCOs, three of them explain the influence of religion in organizations: organizational identity, daily activities based on faith (R&S expressions), and the personal perspective of coordinators on their own belief or faith;
About the governance network, especially about guaranteeing the rights of children and adolescents, there are three main pieces of evidence: partnerships with agents from various sectors, relationship with local power (municipality), and the increase in communication and other flows of resources and information. There are also contradictory factors and dependence on financial resources affecting the capacity of organizations;
The FBCSOs' relationship with the community intensifies during the critical period of the pandemic. This relationship takes place in a bidirectional way. It is motivated by two aspects: the dependence of FBSCOs for help through donations and engagement with society, especially families, as well as contributions of tangible resources (hygiene kits, basic food baskets, and masks) and spiritual support or intangible.
R&S, in these three aspects, sustains activities and motivating principles during the pandemic, shapes means (partnerships, donations from the faith community), and forms part of the content (messages of faith, prayers, activities) that flows between network actors. Formally, R&S is adapted to the objectives of public policies, or it is suppressed by norms, rules, and preferences of the agents that work in the network.
Expressions of Religion & Spirituality in FBCSOs
The values and principles of FBCSOs—love, solidarity, charity, diversity, responsibility—and the expressions of R&S in daily activities contribute to characterizing the religious dimension in an organizational context. Organizations usually adopt ethical and moral values when interacting with beneficiaries: “not to mention religion itself, but passing on values so that they build character” [E08C05]. Religion in the organizational identity is implicit, as the contradictory aspects—“prejudice” and registrations for “agreements with the municipality”—require a more secular definition: “we do see this prejudice in the academic environment” [E01C01, E11C07], “ a lot of prejudice, even in the Public Policy Forum” [E01C01].
“Faith”, “spirituality”, “praying”, “Jesus”, “belief”, and “God helps me”, among other data, suggest the R&S experience of coordinators: “I always ask God that I can make the best decisions that he enlightens me so that I can always make decisions regarding the lives of the boys” [E13C09].
Religion impacts governance networks in different dimensions. “It would be easier to close the doors and carry on with life as if nothing was happening, but with faith in God, we move forward and continue our work. We could not fail to assist children and families in need” [E17C12]. The first of these consists of the R&S theme of coordinators, which motivates them to act. Coordinator E17C12 states that living the gospel is sharing; it is living for others and worrying about their well-being. It is the action of coordinators and managers, motivated by R&S, that impacts the governance network. Religiosity is materialized and perceived by the efforts and relationships of these organizations with different network actors.
The second dimension is found in civil society. As noted in the E3C03 speech, groups of prayers and positive messages were created during the pandemic, and pastors and priests were contacted to provide spiritual assistance. The same happened with organizations C13, C14, C15, and C16. According to their coordinators, the communities around these organizations are the ones that most feel the influences of the R&S of FBCSOs.
Network Governance in FBCSOs: Interdependence and Capabilities
The focus on governance allowed the establishment of relationships and partnerships between FBSCOs with the public and private sectors, organized civil society, and local communities. Such evidence involves three aspects: partnerships, FBCSOs' relationship with organizations or areas of the public sector, and the flow of information and resources. The factors that can increase or reduce the performance capacity of FBCSOs in governance networks are also presented. Despite the one-off donations received during the pandemic, financial power and resources are the biggest challenges for these organizations. The most contradictory aspects that can represent a gain or loss of capacity are the agreements with the municipality, the family issue, and prejudice with R&S.
FBSCOs maintained or created partnerships during the pandemic with actors from the private sector, government, and supporting CSOs. Two CSOs that advise and train local initiatives were mentioned. Adaptations promoted by FBCSOs emerged from quick actions characterized by improvisation and activation of informal volunteering networks, especially for fundraising campaigns and messages of comfort to families. The flows of information and resources in the networked governance structures between the community, FBOs, and government were intensified, circulating tangible and intangible resources among its actors. On the other hand, due to the pandemic nature of the health crisis, there was a significant increase in local regulation on the performance of FBOs, with the suspension of face-to-face activities and reduced mobility through decrees to prevent the spread of the virus.
In their relations with the State, these organizations suppress religious expressions in their organizational identity for fear of some reprisal. The established dynamics have a more bureaucratic bias, where organizations are framed as service providers, and the State becomes a portal of resources to guarantee their subsistence. For E12C08, one should not prohibit professing a belief within the organizational environment and having religion or spirituality expressed in the organization's name. Having a religion and doing social work does not imply proselytism.
Some FBCSOs report having a strained relationship with the municipality. A common complaint from organizations is that the city hall does not value them as it should (E01C01, E03C03, E08C05). The delay in receiving funds was also identified as a problem, which motivated C15 to withdraw from the partnership. Organization C02 had its agreement suspended during the pandemic, being left without access to resources and unable to compete for public notices. On the other hand, organizations with a positive relationship state that there was agility in the transfer of help and support, as in C03 and C17's cases.
During the pandemic, bureaucracy and demands by the municipality increased and made the organization's actions more stressful. “It seems that they were doubting my work, there seemed to be no total trust” [E15C11]. The interviewees report that the servants of the Department of Education maintain closer and more human contact. With the Social Assistance Secretariat, intermediations are more technical and, in some cases, problematic due to the lack of understanding and qualification of the counselor who visits the organizations, as reported by E03C02. It is noticed that the FBCSOs-State interface depends on the secretariat to which they connect. Furthermore, this relationship is guided by the agreement with the municipality that provides access to financial resources for the provision of services.
Relationship Between Community and FBCSOs during the Pandemic Crisis
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the general speech of these organizations' managers and coordinators was the lack of active involvement of the community where they were inserted. Due to the pandemic, relationships have changed, and the community and families have become more active and involved in helping FBCSOs. Vulnerable communities felt the adversities of the crisis more intensely. In the report of coordinators, families are part of the solution and of the problem, as they are co-responsible, but have vulnerabilities: “the presence of the family together with the institution to work with these children. Sometimes we ask for it and it doesn't come, when it comes, sometimes they don't accept it, many times” [E19C16]. The organizations mobilized together with the community to serve not only registered families but those in need in a broader sense. Coordinator E3C03 highlighted that the year 2021 was very positive due to the networks of partnerships and collaboration that were formed with the public and private sectors. In addition, the local parish and the community themselves mobilized to help the organization.
An initiative developed in partnership between advisory CSOs and FBCSOs was the creation of a social bank – which uses social currencies to be used in the trade of a certain previously registered community – for economic assistance to 254 families [E15C11]. This partnership between organizations allowed the subsistence of local commerce and the guarantee of basic utensils for the families of that community. The community bank also helped to get to know better and strengthen ties with the community, but it lasted just over a year. Five of the six interviewees in the 2nd Stage stated that relations with the community during the pandemic became closer, strengthening trust and cooperation between them.
Discussion and Conclusion
The performance of FBCSOs during the Covid-19 pandemic reinforced the interdependence between agents, notably in mutual aid, partnerships, and communication between FBCSOs with the community and the government sector. The degree of insertion of FBCSOs in communities and their expressions of R&S allow them to network with the beneficiary public. From the coordinators' perspective, R&S is an intangible asset that manifests itself in service and daily activities carried out by FBCSOs.
R&S proves to be a motivating factor for FBO coordinators (Bielefeld & Cleveland, 2013), leading them to seek partnerships and resources to assist families. Although the strengthening and interactions between actors of governance networks from different sectors are apparent, it was impossible to notice relationships and partnerships between the FBCSOs. This scenario returns to the multifaith context, where religious organizations coexist. An interfaith context could expand the dialogue between organizations (Prideaux & Dawson, 2018).
Operating in isolation, the services and activities of FBCSOs were very similar. The distribution of resources and communication demonstrate skills associated with networking, helping people in situations of great difficulty (Owens & Smith, 2005), also through emotional and spiritual support to the families and communities served. These actions reinforce religion's continuous and relevant role in social well-being.
The pandemic reinforced that society comprises networks and that tackling complex problems requires intersectoral collaboration (health, education, and social assistance). The cooperation between organizations, partnerships, and professionals from various sectors, aimed to assist children and reached families in vulnerable situations. The FBCSOs expanded their activities through their network of formal and informal contacts and created projects such as the Social Bank, but this was short-lived (Sørensen & Torfing, 2005), a temporal feature in child rights governance (Holszcheiter et al., 2019). Even with the expansion of communication capacity on the network, dependence on financial resources remains the biggest challenge. Regarding agreements with the municipality, in addition to difficulties in transfers and renewal, the low diversity of funding sources of some FBCSOs and partnerships' short duration put them at risk.
The covid-19 pandemic taught that FBCSOs can respond and act quickly in times of pressure and communicate with other actors to articulate measures and propose solutions to local communities' social, emotional, and spiritual problems. They mobilized their communities as an active part of the network, collaborating with resources, doing volunteer work, and seeking donations. The coordinators realized that strengthening relationships with families and the community is essential.
FBCSOs learned to act in the face of the crisis, responding quickly to contain side effects, such as resource distribution, the adaptation of services according to social distancing measures, hygiene protocols, and the donation of masks to needy families. The timing of the action is essential. Consecutively, online assistance from professionals and religious partners was made available to bring emotional and spiritual stability to families. The improvisation of activities at the beginning could be the object of evaluation and dialogue in the governance network to institutionalize effective practices and foreseen actions in future events.
This research could not understand why interactions between network actors decreased after the critical period since joint mobilizations and partnerships promoted good results. Another issue to be further explored is why the FBCSOs do not interact and collaborate with each other, including in interfaith programs. The answer would involve the support of the State to create spaces for interlocution, thus strengthening the positive role of religion within governance networks and deconstructing existing prejudices regarding the nature of these organizations.
Although R&S is an inherent characteristic of the Brazilian context, FBCSOs present a low degree of collaboration among themselves at the local level. The interdependence between agents and some contradictory factors reveal a context of low articulation of R&S as an asset in child rights governance networks. However, the results indicate the influence of R&S on governance and services provided. Different countries can pay attention to FBCSOs' capacity for networking and communication, community access, and humanitarian and social assistance. The next steps for these agents may involve sharing learning and knowledge between FBCSOs and other agents that participate in the children's rights governance network, evaluation of actions and formulation of preventive plans in new crises, increasing connections and dialogue between faith communities, FBCSOs of different religious denominations and other participants in the public sphere (interfaith capacity); and institutionalizing constructed capabilities, such as communication.
This study sought to understand how R&S influenced governance and services provided by FBCSOs during the Covid pandemic. R&S proved to be a linking component of governance in the local sphere. Besides being expressed in the identity and services provided by the organizations, R&S shaped means (partnerships, community network, type of services) and the content of tangible (social assistance, education, donations) and intangible goods (messages of faith, prayers, spiritual support). FBCSOs had adaptability, communication, and network mobilization as capacities that contributed to governance, connecting public and private agents, and acting on an intersectional problem. However, R&S may be a barrier for governments that little recognize it as an important asset of and for the community.
The insertion and community outreach of FBCSOs can be beneficial for policies that require community participation and behavior change, as well as in local program implementation. These findings may be extended to other types of FBOs, and help civil servants understand the perspective of FBOs in service delivery. Findings offer insights for policymakers from multifaith or interfaith countries on the R&S’s role in governance.
A doctrine developed by Alan Kardec in the nineteenth century that has a scientific, religious and philosophical character, whose main belief is based on the constant evolution of the human being through reincarnations (Federação Espírita Brasileira, 2019).
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Partial financial support was received from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Estado de Santa Catarina (FAPESC), and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPQ) through funding offered to the third author of the article.
All the participants gave their informed consent to participate in the research. The confidentiality and anonymity of participation were guaranteed. Research participants were assigned codes in letter and number format so that no personal data of the persons enrolled were collected, stored, or used in the course of the study.
The study was conducted in accordance with the ethical principles approved by the Ethics Committee of Santa Catarina State University.
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Jacinto, E., Figueiredo Dalla Costa Ames, M.C., Serafim, M.C. et al. Religion-Spirituality Influences in the Governance of Faith-Based Organizations during the Covid Pandemic. Public Organiz Rev 23, 531–550 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11115-023-00704-6