International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP)

Dear SISR Colleagues

We would like to take this opportunity to introduce the International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP). You can find more about the IPSP and its ways of working here: You will see that it exists to ‘harness the competence of hundreds of experts about social issues’ and to ‘deliver a report addressed to all social actors, movements, organizations, politicians and decision-makers, in order to provide them with the best expertise on questions that bear on social change’.

We Grace Davie (University of Exeter, UK) and Nancy Ammerman (Boston University, US), are the Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs) for the chapter on religion, entitled ‘Religions and social progress: Critical assessments and creative partnerships’. Altogether we are a team of twelve. Here is our Abstract:

This chapter starts from the premise that some 80 percent of the world’s population affirms some kind of religious identification, a proportion that is growing rather than declining. Emphasizing the significance of belief and practice in everyday lives and local contexts, we analyze the impact of religion and its relevance to social progress in a wide variety of fields. These include the family, gender and sexuality; differences and diversity; democratic governance; violence and peace-making; health and economic well-being; and care for the earth.

We argue that researchers and policy makers pursuing social progress will benefit from careful attention to the power of religious ideas to motivate, of religious practices to shape ways of life, of religious communities to mobilize and extend the reach of social change, and of religious leaders and symbols to legitimate calls to action. All of that, however, can be put to either good or ill, for which reason assessment of particular religions in specific contexts is essential.

Running through the chapter are five interconnected themes: the persistence of religion in the twenty-first century; the importance of context in discerning outcomes; the need for cultural competence relative to religion; the significance of religion in initiating change; and the benefits of well-judged partnerships. The continuing need for critical but appreciative assessment and the demonstrable benefits of creative partnerships are our standout findings.

The IPSP process – see – mirrors that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and includes a period of public comment in the autumn of 2016. The ‘Commenting Platform’ is now open – see It would be hugely helpful if members of SISR could take part in this. The IPSP website will indicate how you access our chapter and how you make your comments. Or if you prefer you can simply send us (; an e-mail.

The Religious Studies Project

**The Religious Studies Project: Podcasts and Resources on the Contemporary Social-Scientific Study of Religion ** (Apologies for cross-posting)
The Religious Studies Project<>, in association with the British Association for the Study of Religions<> and with some support from the University of Edinburgh<>, launched in January 2012. This is a website and podcasting project, featuring a weekly audio interview<> (of around 30 minutes) with leading scholars of Religious Studies (RS) and related fields. So far, these have featured James Cox, Armin Geertz, Carole Cusack, Donald Wiebe and Graham Harvey speaking on topical issues, novel approaches and important scholars and methodologies of Religious Studies in the 21st Century. Future interviews include Grace Davie, Jay Demerath, Callum Brown, Linda Woodhead and many more. In addition, the website also features weekly articles<> from postgraduate students and other scholars on the themes of the interview that week, in addition to other useful resources and articles<> relevant to teachers and students of religion in the modern world. If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute please contact<>
Twitter: @ProjectRS<>
Facebook: The Religious Studies Project<>
iTunes: The Religious Studies Project<wlmailhtml:iTunes>

Christopher Cotter, David Robertson, Louise Connelly (editors)
University of Edinburgh ———PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh Editor & Co-host,