Friday, 14 December 2007


The balance of the project's FCCBF funding was received today.

So far the project has spent within its planned limits, and no shortfall in funding is anticipated with the monies now in hand.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Steering group meeting cancelled

Today's meeting is cancelled, since there is no new information to be reported upon, apart from the continued slow rate of return on completed questionnaires.

Evidently the timing of the issue of the questionnaires over a half term week was far from propitious, and the news story published was not followed up by broadcast media because KK was not available to respond to calls, and no fall back contact was utilised. This will have to be considered carefully ahead of a next attempt to publicise the project.

It will be necessary for Steering Group members to chase up non-respondents in order to improve the return rate. RJT will organise this, and the deadline for accepting returns extended into the New Year, with the aim of raising the return rate from 30 to 40%.

The next Steering Group meeting will be towards the end of January.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Steering Group sixth meeting

Tonight's meeting heard that questionnaire forms returned completed so far amounted to over 30% of those sent out. The next couple of weeks will be devoted to following pu non-respondents. Minutes can be found here

Saturday, 27 October 2007

First noticed in the press

Martin Shipton's article on the project published in today's Western Mail. You can read it here

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Publicising the research

Following the preparation and issue of a press information pack, the Research Team (Rebecca Edwards and Bob Smith), and members of the Project Steering Group (Mohammed Jabbar, Paul Ballard, Roy Thomas and Keith Kimber) had an hour long meeting with Martin Shipton, a senior journalist with the Western Mail, for an interview about the research project - why it's needed and what it seeks to contribute to current social debate.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Survey questionnaire mailing

Today saw the mailing out of the agreed questionnaire to nearly 270 recipients identified by the research team's preliminary enquiries. A deadline of 5th November has been set for their return. A reply paid envelope has been provided with the survey documents for this purpose. Anyone who hears about this enquiry whose religious community fails to receive a questionnaire may download and print a copy for completion and return from here.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Conference on Consultation

The Consultation Institute aims to raise the standards public service organisations apply to their work of consultation on the entire range of issues and concerns on which they have policies. A seminar held in Bristol today was entitled 'Best Practice Consultation with Faith Groups'. Its aim was to get local government officials and other public servants to think about what they do to ensure that the full range of faith-communities are properly consulted on matters concerning them, as is now required by statute.

A report on the content of the meeting can be found here

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Steering group fifth meeting

The main survey questionnaire was reviewed at tonight's meeting, prior to production and distribution later this month. Raising the publicity profile of the survey is now a priority task.

The questionnaire can be found here.

Reports were received about collaboration with Gweini and CYTUN projects funded by FCCBF, their involvement in the conference planning and participation, also in publication of each other's research findings.

The St
eering Group will be represented at a 'Best Practice consultation with Faith Groups' seminar organised for public service workers and local government officers in Bristol on 10th October.

Meeting minutes here

Friday, 28 September 2007

'Ask Cardiff' survey submissions

Questions to be submitted for inclusion in the 'Ask Cardiff' survey, to be circulated with the 'Capital Times' newspaper to Cardiff homes.

1. Do you think that religious organisations in Cardiff can help to reduce anti-social behaviour?

Yes/No/Don’t Know

2.  How does religion influence people’s behaviour? 

Strongly for worse / For worse / Not at all / For better / Strongly for better

3. To what extent do you think people in Cardiff respect their fellow citizens?

A lot of respect/a little respect/don’t know/a little disrespect/a lot of disrespect

4. To what extent do you think the diverse range of faith groups in Cardiff is an asset to the city?

A strong asset/a slight asset/neither adds nor takes away from the city/
a slight hindrance/a strong hindrance

5.  To what extent do religious communities in Cardiff play an important part
of city life?
A very important part /An important part / Neither important nor unimportant/An unimportant part / Very unimportant

Friday, 7 September 2007

Survey preparations

At a meeting of the research team with Roy and Keith today, important steps were made toward finalising the content of the survey questionnaire, and formulating questions to be included in the November edition of the 'Ask Cardiff' circulated via 'The Capital Times' to 6,000 households in the County Borough. The latter will give the project enquiry an added dimension in gathering views of a wide range of citizens about the place of religion and religious communities in the life of the City. The project survey questions will be addressed to organised religious groups, rather than the general public.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Fourth Steering group meeting

The Steering Group met tonight and received progress reports from Roy Thomas and Rebecca Edwards on survey preparation. First thoughts about the conference next March were aired, also publicising the enquiry through the media. Mohammed Jabbar gave a useful overview in a brief paper for the group on Muslim Community life in Cardiff, to be found here.

Meeting minutes here

Monday, 20 August 2007

Meeting local Gweini

Roy and Keith met with Jim Stewart, who works for Gweini nationally liaising with the Welsh Assembly Government, and Pastor Paul Hocking a colleague representing the Cardiff area branch of Gweini. It was mostly an occasion for briefing each other about the projects we are engaged in, and discovering how they complement each other. It seems possible that there are areas of mutual interest in which collaboration is not only necessary but possible, and we look forward to involving local Gweini members especially in the end-of-research conference.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Shaping the enquiry

Meeting today with our project researcher Rebecca Edwards, to look at questionnaire design, and promotion and publicity. 'Becca produced some interesting background research reading material on the diversity of views and attitudes to be found within different religious communities. Stories which might be the basis of particular case studies are beginning to emerge.

We need to encourage steering group members to contribute stories which illustrate both the social contributions made by religious communities, and which illustrate the positive and negative sides of relations between religious groups and agencies of national and local government.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Extending our public profile

Today the project acquired a second website address, and another blog address which will we hope help to position the work in the public realm, and help draw attention and debate towards the issues of interest with which we are occupied : and the accompanying blog will be places where stories and reports relevant to the subject will be publicly available, and where eventually the project research findings will be made known.

In the course of setting this up, we came across a big Philadelphia based research project backed by the Templeton Foundation, called 'Spiritual Capital' This is examining, on the macro scale the social and economic contribution made by religious communities to society as a whole, as is the Gweini 'Counting our Communities' project in Wales. There is also a database site called which offers all sorts of resources and information from a New Age perspective, a kind of spirituality supermarket - and a valuable contribution to any examination of the religious dimension of life in modern society, which is by no means confined to historic institutions or communities, whether emergent, established or dying.

At the outset our efforts are related to those of the Philadelphia research. Our concern is 'social inclusion' and 'community relations' - but not primarily relationships between religious communities, but rather the relationship of many different institutions of civil society, largely dominated by a secular a materialist management culture, and religious communities across the board, seeking operate, for better or for worse on a different set of values altogether - hopefully 'spiritual' ones

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Blogging the project

Today this brief diary of the project's unfolding existence goes live to the public, through a link on the website.

The next stage will be for others involved to post their work reports, comments, ideas, responses, hot information, and perhaps add case studies, although we may need a separate location for those, for clarity.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Researchers meet Steering Group

Members of the Steering Group, with the addition of two people newly invited members, Dr Keshav Singhal and Mr Muhammad Jabbar met Bob Smith and 'Becca Edwards at the University to receive a presentation on the project methodology, and discuss the action plan proposed.

Prof. Ballard spoke about his paper 'Social Capital' which he'd handed out at the last meeting, and introduced the idea that there is a wide range of contributions made to the common good of society by volunteers of church communities which aren't monetarised, make a significant difference to the overall economy, and yet are taken for granted or under-valued. Promoting this concept may become an important part of the argument arising from our research, as well as the research being done by Gweini.

The need to plan our engagement with the media in publicising the project while it goes along, in order to invite attention from parties with something to say, was flagged up.

Several interesting case studies emerged in the course of the conversation. All present were invited to the next meeting of the Cardiff Inter-Faith Forum on 25th July.

Meeting minutes here

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Project milestone

Ever so quietly, without any big announcements or fanfares, our research workers officially start on this project tomorrow. No sign of a contract yet, but that's par for the course, since they don't write their own, it's written for them by that lumbering machine called university administation.

For much of the past three months I was far from certain we would get this far, to the start date for research work planned in the project application. Once Roy stepped in and applied his expertise and creativity to the vision, things started to fall easily into place.

It's fortunate he shares the passion for the issues involved, and has the ability and resources to drive things forward.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Second Steering Group meeting

At this meeting we were able to consider overall planning of the research, how it should be approached. We approved an overall timetable that begins with the formal appointment of team from 1st July, to spend two months preparing, then three months intensive fieldwork, including mailed surveys and select in-depth interviews. The use of case studies on religious communities in their relationships with local government was considered to be worthwhile, and members were invited to submit possible themes or stories for working on.

We also looked again at possibilities of appointing additional members, since our first attempt at bringing in people with direct personal experience of other faith community life in Cardiff was unfruitful. Roy proposed inviting two people he knew. Dr Keshav Singhal is a surgeon and a leading member of Cardiff's Hindu Temple. Mr Muhammad Jabbar is a Customs Officer, of Bengali descent, raised in the UK, who belongs to the Crwys Bridge Mosque.

Our next meeting is with the research workers.

Meeting minutes here

Friday, 1 June 2007

FCCB fund holders get-together

Meeting at Cardiff Bay's Norwegian Church of current FCCBF funding recipients, convened by Anna Allan a member of the headquarters funding team. John Martin Evans was there, plus three others.

This proved to be a useful exchange, reassuring about the level of detail required by their administration in our reporting.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Enter the research team

Met today with Dr. Bob Smith director of the University Social Science department's Regeneration Institute, and Rebecca Siân Edwards, a post-doctoral fellow, proposed to take on our research, to interview them and give them my version of the project. It seems the project is attracting interest from faculty members, and that's an encouragement. I think we're in good hands.

My only concerns are that the University bureaucrats will take endless amounts of time drawing up a contract, and that by the time the project is fully mapped out, it will require more time to do well than we can really afford from the grant. However, seeing the prospect of some additional mileage for the Institute in this kind of research, the possibility of them looking for additional funding - something also mentioned by Roy - emerged in conversation.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

First Steering Group meeting

First proper meeting of project Steering Group tonight.

We adopted our terms of reference and a broad action plan.

Roy reported on his negotiations with the University Sociology Department's Regeneration Institute research team. This was the body commissioned to undertake a piece of social and economic research about aspects of life Cardiff in its centenary year as a city, published it as a souvenir contribution to the celebrations. Surprisingly or not, there was no chapter in the book on the contribution of religious communities to the life of the city. It was not part of the briefing the team received.

It seems there is a post-graduate researcher who would be interested in taking on our project, under the supervision of one of the senior staff. It remains to interview them both, and draw up a contract.

The next task is to produce a web-page containing a general description of our project and all involved in it, plus relevant contact details.

Meeting minutes here

Friday, 25 May 2007

Gweini on the case

Met with John Martin Evans today, working for the Evangelical Alliance's council for voluntary service in Wales (aka Gweini). He is researching the social contribution of Christian voluntary organisations across the Principality, under the heading 'Counting our Communities'.

His brief is similar to ours in that it seeks to assess the contribution of religious bodies (in the economic sense) to civil society, but it's much broader in covering all of Wales. He is about to put out a questionnaire to a thousand religious organisations in Wales (Christian and other faith). He's been preparing for a year, and also has FCCBF funding.

There may be ways in which we can collaborate at a later stage, as we are covering one of the denser areas of religious enterprise, roughly a quarter of the contact list for the whole of Wales.

It's interesting the impulse to ask questions about religious bodies and society is stimulating such a response amongst evangelical communities and the historic mainstream churches at the same time. It's a little disconcerting that CDF made no effort to guide these initiatives towards each other and challenge their advocates to work together.

But it's interesting to see how reluctant civil society is to challenge religious bodies to work at reconciling and harmonising their contribution the society. Meanwhile individual secularising campaigners to make their attempts to discredit religious communities and exclude their participation in public life. It's left to religious bodies to assert their own value to society, if not defend themselves from disinformation and downright abuse.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Website created

Designed and posted a first basic web-page to advertise the nature of the project, and display some information about it, to which casual enquirers can be referred. <> is the registered address.

It's an acronym for "Social Appraisal of Religious Communities in Cardiff", which attempts to summarise the task in hand. No doubt we'll think of different straplines and a different catch phrase with which the promote the product, as we go along.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Inspection Time

Roy and I met today with Irene Everson, a FCCBF consultant from a Welshpool based organisation called 'Resources for Change', tasked with evaluating funded projects from an organisational point of view to see if there are any areas in which FCCBF can help grant recipients pursue their objectives.

For various administrative reasons, FCCBF has not yet released any of the promised grant money to us. No doubt our delays in getting organised at the outset have not helped at all, but as we've got to the point where we're going to need money to pay our way, with PTP. and the Regeneration Institute making agreements to work on the project, not having cash in the bank to cover any emerging needs, is a bit nerve wracking. So it was good to have someone official to beef about this to in person.

Irene seemed to be fairly satisfied with our proposed method of operation, and our plans, so hopefully her report will be reassuring to CDF, and set us in motion soon.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Project Steering Group born

Roy Thomas is a commercial lawyer who works for the Cardiff based Public Trust Parternership. He is also a member of St John's church congregation, and we share a great interest in the value of Christian presence and activity in the world of business and government. Unlike yours truly, Roy has done a course at the famous St George's College in Windsor, and knows all about courageous leadership. Last year he led the Welsh National Botanic Garden project out of danger of death from its debts, as interim CEO.

He accompanied me tonight to the meeting of Cardiff City Centre Churches Together council to explain his ideas which, having heard them, I am happy will provide us with a way forward

Roy proposed that the research be handed over entirely to a professionally competent organisation within a University, which would be offered a fixed fee to produce a report according to the briefing established by a project steering group. His role will be to manage the research team and eventually to publicise its findings and organise the conference.

This was well received, and appointments to the project steering group were made, including Mr Malcolm Thomas, secretary of Ebeneser, Mr Chris Daley of St David's Metropolitan Cathedral Council, Prof. Paul Ballard, Cardiff University's professor emeritus of Pastoral Theology, Revd. Monica Mills, Chaplain of Cardiff Bay active in the work of Cardiff Inter-Faith, Roy and myself.

Monday, 7 May 2007

New light in the tunnel

My possible volunteer to handle the employment of a reseach worker has expressed misgivings about what is proposed, thinking that the costs of advertising and setting up are going to be far in excess of what was originally proposed in our grant application budget, with no guarantee of sucess given the short time-scale - we need someone to start by end of June if we are to stick to a timetable that concludes the research by the end of the year. Not good news.

However, a conversation about the management with another member of the congregation yesterday morning took me by surprise. Without realising, I have someone whose day-job is managing projects, consultations and development processes. So I sent him all the documents I'd prepared and had a positive reply before retiring to bed. I must now wait to hear more fully what is on offer.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Welsh ecumenism and Inter-faith

Meeting this morning with Gareth Foster, the Diocesan Social Responsibility Officer, to brief him on the project and explore possibilities of using his administrative capacity to employ our research worker. He is willing to offer us this support, as a solution to our lack of capacity.

He introduced me to Brigid Bowen who has been employed for the past year by CYTUN, the national ecumenical body for Wales, to work on inter-faith networking across the Principality with funding from FCCBF under last year's Round One programme. She has developed an Inter-Faith Wales website and has been involved in organising interfaith events related to the Senedd.

Both were interested in the prospects of seeing a research worker in place, working on inter-faith affairs. However, that's not quite what we are about. We want to enquire of every kind of faith community group about their relationship to civil society. How they do and don't succeed in contributing to it. Talking better to each other about this should be a fruit of the process we've started, but really, the research outcomes should really stimulate a dialogue between our secularised public administrative culture and religious communities that they are meant to serve.

Monday, 26 March 2007

A way forward?

Confirmation today that using DBSR to administer our funding is not acceptable to CDF. The time spent arranging this is wasted, except that the complexity of involving another organisation in the process has been highlighted, so this may be just as well.

Where do we go from here? Well, I have discovered someone in our congregation with many years of H.R. experience who would be willing to manage the employment of our researcher, and that will include the recruitment process. I have formulated a fullsome project briefing and a job specification, and even produced application forms based upon an old CofE job application form I found in my archives.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Dead end

The response to my enquiry was more questions about the relationship between the Parish and the Diocesan Board of Social Responsibility.

The view from CDF is that the Parish is the recipient, and cannot simply make use of the services of another diocesan agency to administer the funds on our behalf, unless there is a prior 'service level agreement' in place.

Even though the DBSR is a perfectly respectable body holding and managing funds and grants made for its own projects, we will have to find another way of doing this.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Project ownership

Tonight's meeting of City Centre Churches Together council welcomed the award of the CDF FCCBF grant. and was happy that St John's should be its appointed recipient. The proposal that it should be managed by the Diocesan Board of Social responsibility was entirely acceptable. This meant that the proposed way of handling CDF requirements is acceptable to both local stakeholders involved in the application.

Wrote off to the grants administrator Martine Davies, to relay our decisions, and ask if they was an acceptable way to proceed.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Promise of funding

A letter arrived at St John's Church today advising me of the awarding of a Grant applied for in great haste last November, from the Community Development Foundation's Faith Capacity Community Building Fund. CDF - FCCBF

We have the promise of £30,000 to spend on our project between 31st March 2007 and 31st March 2008. It's enough money to employ a research worker, mount a conference and produce a decent publication. But it all requires a lot of management.

The project grant application was made in the name of St John's City Parish with the full support of the City Centre Churches Together. However, the grant is to St John's as the lead partner in this venutre.

Immediately, there's paperwork to be read, signatures to be acquired, in order to manage the money, a lot to be organised in a relatively short space of time, to ensure we put in place the appropriate employment mechanisms, and the means to handle the finances.

As St John's doesn't have any administrative staff, this could prove something of a problem. There's now some talking to be done with the Diocesan Board of Social Responsibility, and with the Churches Together council, which meets, fortunately, next week.