Engaging in social and economic development

True prosperity has both material and spiritual dimensions. The spiritual and material aspects of life need to advance together in order for a community to progress. 

The Baha’i community’s efforts in social action seek to promote the wellbeing of people of all walks of life, whatever their beliefs or background. Such efforts are motivated by the desire to serve humanity and contribute to constructive social change. 

Social action is pursued with the conviction that every population should be able to shape the path of its own progress. Social change is not a project that one group of people carries out for the benefit of another. Every member of the human family has not only the right to benefit from a materially and spiritually prosperous civilisation, but also an obligation to contribute towards its construction. 

Issues of social and economic development can be complex, and the efforts of Australian Baha’is to engage in social action to date are, by comparison, modest. Initiatives often emerge out of the consultations about local conditions in youth groups or at community gatherings. Most begin as simple projects with a fixed duration, carried out by small groups of individuals residing in a locality. Some become sustained and gradually grow, sometimes reinforced by the work of an established Baha’i-inspired organisation. They may be related to any one of a variety of fields, such as health, education or environmental protection. Whatever their nature, they aim to improve some aspect of the life of the local community. 

Social action cannot focus solely on the provision of goods and services. Far more essential is the accompanying rise in the capacity of individuals to contribute to social progress. This involves not only specialised knowledge and skills, but also spiritual capacities such as fostering unity in diversity, promoting justice, participating effectively in consultation, and accompanying others in their efforts to serve humanity. 

Projects and efforts

Baha’i efforts in Australia in the field of social and economic development comprise a spectrum of activities, and to a large extent, reflect the degree to which the process of community building  has taken root in various localities. The vast majority of efforts are simple grassroots endeavours of limited duration, such as community clean-ups, visits to the sick, and neighbourhood campaigns to raise awareness of important issues. Some efforts evolve into projects of a more sustained nature, such as community gardens, parenting courses and tutorial assistance. In a couple of instances, projects have developed further and taken the form of non-profit, nongovernmental organizations. Central to the hundreds of efforts undertaken in Australia each year, is a process of learning through an ongoing process of study, consultation, action, and reflection on action at the grassroots, among a growing number of like-minded people who share a vision of collective transformation and recognize the contribution they can make to the betterment of society.