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This paper takes stock of current thinking about the nature and distinctiveness of faith-based organisations (FBOs) in development. Since the 1990s, public policy-linked scholarship from the USA has sought to define and categorise FBOs. More recently, many donors have increasingly chosen to work with and fund such organisations, giving rise to discussions about how FBOs working in development should be defined and classified, and how their contribution to development should be assessed. While many of the available studies portray FBOs as having comparative advantages over so-called secular organisations, this paper concludes that such a generalisation over-simplifies reality, particularly in the absence of convincing evidence. Further assessments of the characteristics, roles, and activities of all types of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are needed to assist in the choice of development partners and to test claims of distinctiveness and comparative advantage.

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