The role of faith-based organisations in poverty alleviation in South Africa: challenging Putnam's conception.
Day, Julie Vyvyan.
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The number of South Africans that fall beneath “a commonly accepted poverty line” has risen from 17 million in 1996 to 23.5 million in 2008 (CDE, 2008: 6). The escalating poverty levels and the critical shortage of state-driven poverty alleviation programmes have led to the expansion of a space in which civil society organisations are attempting to address South Africa's development deficit. Given the potential and actual influence of such organisations, specifically faith-based organisations (FBOs), in poverty alleviation programmes, coupled with recent debates on the dark side of associational life, this research examines FBOs in terms of Putnam's conception of bonding and bridging social capital. Examining one particular FBO, in which no evidence of bonding social capital or exclusion is found, the research questions Putnam's rather narrow perception. However, strict gate keeping exercises on the part of the FBO, a lack of empirical data and the presence of complex social realities prevent a comprehensive evaluation of the FBO. Unable to prove whether this FBO provides a suitable model for the government to implement or whether the FBO is an appropriate candidate for government to partner with in the fight against poverty, it is proposed that a more wide-scale investigation of the programme and its participants, be conducted.