Muslim Organizations Must Base Policy on Research: Here’s Why
Muslim organizations serve a diverse and evolving community. They play an important role in the lives of Muslim Canadians, fulfilling needs not met by non-Muslim organizations and services. As such it is essential that these organizations be responsive to their communities and keep their programs and policies current and relevant. Relevant, original academic research supports organizations in remaining responsive and current.
Rigorous, independent research helps organizations maximize their impact by supporting evidence-based policymaking. Evidence-based policymaking has two key aspects: using existing knowledge from program evaluation to improve policy, and building new knowledge to better inform future decisions. While most organizations regularly evaluate their own programs, they may not have the capacity to build new knowledge through research. Instead, they can rely on recent and relevant research produced both within academia and by independent research institutions like I-RSS. This kind of research can also inform program evaluation by providing a big-picture perspective on the effectiveness of certain types of programs.
Research should be used to identify new policy issues and inform policy content and direction. Using evidence derived from research ensures that new policy items are relevant, and that policy content and direction will be accurate and effective. Organizations of all sizes grapple with challenges like slim resources, attracting volunteers and members, and scaling their operations to meet demand – on top of daily administration and providing services. Under these pressures, it can be easy to fall back on anecdotes, ideology, and inertia when making decisions and developing organizational policy. Unfortunately this can lead to loss of relevance and impact, unintended outcomes, and even negative impacts – all of which will further strain organization resources and undermine the organization’s mission.
Muslim organizations are often small, grassroots and community based organizations. Yet, they are often tasked with responding to difficult – even harmful – national debates and with fulfilling a wide variety of social, cultural, and spiritual needs that are neglected by non-Muslim organizations and mainstream services. Referring to high quality research can help these organizations identify the best ways to organize, grow and act for the best interests of their communities. When organizations base their decisions in evidence and research, it places them in a strong position to respond to both internal and external criticism, weather transition periods, and resolve conflict through informed discussion. Research allows organizations to develop clear strategies, effective tactics, and well-supported decisions.
I-RSS is dedicated to producing relevant and original research on Muslims and Islam in North America and believes in the practical application of research findings to policy affecting Muslims and Islamic organizations. We bring together academics, Islamic organizations, community leaders, activists, and experts for discussion around our research to ensure that it is impactful for the wider community.